A windy day and threatening dark clouds didn’t damper the spirits of nearly 3,000 people who descended on the outdoor patio at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove Nov. 16 for prayers, songs and action for compassionate immigration reform.Orange Diocese Bishop Kevin Vann was joined by Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar, director of Ethnic Ministries and the Office of Life, Justice and Peace, and parishioners from the Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino dioceses. Religious community members and representatives of other Christian churches also were present to show their solidarity for the cause.“This is our first big event from our office to be held at the new cathedral,” said Greg Walgenbach, director of Life, Justice and Peace for the Orange Diocese who added that his county has a huge population of immigrants. “This is not an issue for someplace else, this is our community that is being affected. We want to stand with our brothers and sisters to make active and positive changes to the system.”Indeed, the theme of joining together in prayer and action was ever present during the service which, before it officially began, had a tone of a rollicking rally with upbeat joyful music, hands clapping and arms waving. Young children danced before their parents, some who were wrapped in blankets against the chill of the day. Attendees were encouraged to fill out postcards advocating for immigration reform which would be gathered to send to House Speaker John Boehner.“This is very important for all of us,” said Raul Ramirez, a parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Santa Ana. “We have to have more freedom and we come together to be heard.”La Habra Mayor Rose Espinoza, a lifelong member of St. Philip Benizi Church in Fullerton, said she remembers her parish starting a tutoring program and realized that “if we wanted to support the children, we need to support their parents. We need to support the families. That’s why we are all here today.”As if on cue, the sun broke through the dark clouds just as the procession began, marking the start of the service.The crowd heard Scripture readings and personal testimonies from two young local young people, Jesus and Maria, who with the help of Catholic Charities were able to secure their status in America.“I am not here to talk about myself,” said Jesus, a thriving university student. “I want to speak up for the families of one million undocumented brothers and sisters who are in need. Congress needs to act and vote now. We cannot rest until we get justice for all immigrants.”Maria’s story was more personal, explaining how growing up, her family lived in constant fear of deportation. “In the past four years, more than two million of us have been deported,” she told the crowds. “This is wrong and must stop. Are we not all citizens in God’s family?”Bishop Vann shared his experience of his own Irish ancestors who suffered not just on the journey to America but once here were persecuted and demonized. “But they kept the faith and kept going,” he said, comparing that chapter in history to today’s immigrants.“We are one family of God united and we cry out that our voices will be heard,” added Bishop Salazar. “The time is now. The next steps to keep this work moving forward and to urge for a vote now.” The bishops’ comments set the stage for the final commissioning ceremony where ministry leaders gathered at the front to receive special blessing from the crowds to continue their work. Hands of all sizes, shapes and colors were raised for the blessing, a moment united not just in time, but with each other. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1122/immigration/{/gallery}