“Raise your hands, raise your voice, for comprehensive immigration reform now!”The exuberant chant was proclaimed loudly and proudly the morning of June 15 by hundreds at South Central Los Angeles Ministry Project (LAMP), which serves economically-poor women and their families, at the close of a highly-anticipated visit by religious sisters.This was just one of many similar stops for the “Nuns on the Bus,” whose 6,500-mile, 40-city, 15-state tour was aimed at raising awareness and support for “common sense” immigration reform that ensures family unity, protects the rights of immigrant workers, and provides a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people who currently reside in the U.S.“Our whole nation is affected by immigration, and immigration reform is the way to heal,” said Social Service Sister Simone Campbell, one of the “nuns on the bus,” executive director of NETWORK, and one of the founders of LAMP, addressing the crowd of clients, board members, friends and neighbors of LAMP gathered for the brief visit.“We need an earned path to citizenship, and the 11 million folks have been earning that path for a very long time. It’s about time we lift the gate and say, ‘Welcome.’”Among those immigrants is Mexican-born Leticia Larios, who joined LAMP 16 years ago — a decision that changed her life. Larios took parenting courses and ESL classes at LAMP, and slowly gained the knowledge and confidence to become an advocate not only for her children’s education, but also for her own. Today, Larios has her G.E.D., is studying to earn her A.A. in child development, and is a teacher at LAMP. This coming fall her oldest son — who was just two when she arrived at LAMP — will be starting college, where he will major in engineering. “Why did we come to this country? To succeed, [and] since we all have the opportunity to succeed, why not try?” said Larios, a parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Los Angeles. After going through the program, Larios became a volunteer and later began teaching at LAMP, always with the goal of helping fellow moms “grow as people and mothers” by giving them and their children — as well as her own — the tools and knowledge they need to triumph over adversity, break negative cycles, and create and pursue their dreams. “I want to nourish their desire to triumph, to get ahead,” Larios told The Tidings.Originally launched by eight congregations of Catholic sisters following the civil unrest of 1992, today Lamp provides parenting courses, early childhood education classes for children through age five, adult ESL courses, and more, serving mostly immigrant families.“One of the reasons I really like this organization is because it reminds me of my own family, specifically my mom, who came into the United States not really understanding the system but also wanting to succeed, and I see that a lot in the women we work with; they just want the best for their children,” said Diana Pinto, program director for LAMP.According to Nancee Lee-Allen, LAMP executive director, the families they serve were overjoyed to welcome the Nuns on the Bus, especially Sister Simone Campbell.“It was amazing to have Sister Simone come back — as one of the founders of South Central LAMP, this was like a welcome home for her,” she said. “It was wonderful to see all the nuns on the bus. I greatly admire what they do. To have them here in our community shows our moms and our families how we all support them, and that we appreciate what they are doing for their families and we appreciate what they are doing for our communities.”During the site visit to LAMP, Sister Campbell discussed the importance of family unity and community, which she described as key goals of immigration reform — to keep families together and to empower people to utilize their gifts to make their communities flourish.“Our constitution doesn’t say, ‘We, the ones who got here first.’ It says, ‘We, the people.’ And we the people make a more perfect union,” she said. “We’re based on community… It is all of us standing together and having each other’s backs that make us safe as a nation.”Sister Campbell encouraged supporters to text NUNS to 877877. Participants will receive a recorded message from Sister Campbell featuring talking points regarding immigration reform, as well as timely contact information for reaching the office of their local senator. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0621/nunside/{/gallery}