At special Mass, LA Archbishop tells immigrants “our country needs you”

Amid the country’s escalating immigration crisis, Archbishop José H. Gomez encouraged Catholics at the June 24 Mass for All Immigrants not to be “discouraged by voices of fear and ugliness,” but to be “coworkers in renewing the soul of America.”

“God will never leave his people alone,” Archbishop Gomez said, reflecting on the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist before faithful from the dioceses of Orange and San Bernardino gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for the Mass.

“In every time and place, he raises up prophets like Isaiah and John the Baptist — to call out injustice, to point out the way for us to go.”

Among those present were 30 pilgrims who walked 60 miles from Lake Forest beginning Friday morning in solidarity with migrants. They were joined Sunday morning by Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell at Dolores Mission Parish in East LA, and later, by Archbishop Gomez during the final leg of pilgrimage from La Placita Olvera in downtown.

Archbishop Gomez greets a massgoer. (PABLO KAY / ANGELUS)

In his homily, the archbishop condemned the government’s failure to address the “broken immigration system” for “breaking up families and hurting children — and doing it in our name, in the name of America.”

Despite the Trump administration’s reversal of the “zero-tolerance” policy ordering immigrant families to be detained separately, the Mexican-born prelate reminded the faithful it will take months to reunite the thousands of children in facilities with their parents.

He also called on politicians to put political calculations aside to work towards meaningful immigration reform, especially for DACA recipients whose legal status is in question.

“For years now, we have been asking our leaders to fix our broken immigration system. Year after year, they keep telling us, ‘Mañana, mañana,’” the archbishop said.

“Brothers and sisters, we need to tell our leaders — no more ‘mañanas,’ no more excuses. The time is now.”

Before the Mass, two local immigrants shared their stories. Adán, an unaccompanied minor from El Salvador, shared his story of how he reunited with his mother in Los Angeles after three attempts to seek asylum in the U.S. UCLA graduate and DACA recipient Paulina Ruiz, shared her account of living with cerebral palsy and working on her Master’s degree while her fate in the U.S. remains unclear.

“We are living in tough times,” said Ruiz, speaking from her wheelchair before the Mass. “My story has reached many, and I have the duty to stand here with all of you today to ask you to protect our immigrant community.”

Adán said that he often thinks about other migrant children who have been separated from their parents. “A few days ago, I prayed to God to bless all the kids that are not with their parents,” he said.

The community of faith gathered at the Cathedral prayed for all migrants and refugees around the world, civil and ecclesiastical leaders, and for families separated by international borders in various languages including Vietnamese, Tagalog and Spanish.

At the end of Mass, Bishop O’Connell asked all people of faith at the Mass and those tuning in via livestream to call their local representative on July 10 and ask them to support a bipartisan bill like the USA Act or make it a priority to work on a piece of legislation that will be a fair and just compromise for immigrants.

Following the Mass, faithful venerated the relics of St. Junípero Serra, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini and St. Toribio Romo, all recognized as patrons of immigrants.

Those attending the Mass also wrote prayer requests for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe that they left in the Shrine of the Relic of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Cathedral. Archbishop Gomez will present the prayers at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe during a Mass for the second yearly Archdiocesan Pilgrimage with Archbishop Gomez to the Basilica in Mexico City on July 7.

Full text of Archbishop Gomez's homily

Most Reverend José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, June 24, 2018

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Again, I want to welcome you to our Eucharistic celebration to recognize all immigrants.

As we know, America has always been exceptional in the family of nations. Because from the beginning, this was not a nation defined by territory or by a specific race or people. America, from the beginning, was about a dream.

We all know that beautiful Latin expression, e pluribus unum. “Out of many” races, languages, traditions and beliefs — we form one nation, one family. All of us children of God.

This is the dream, the vision we are celebrating today.

This is also a special day in the Catholic Church. Because today is the “birthday” of St. John the Baptist.

And, as I am sure you noticed, the three readings that we just heard from Sacred Scripture talk about children and family.

Our first reading today describes the birth of the prophet Isaiah, and the second speaks of Abraham’s children and the descendants of David. Finally, the Gospel tells us the drama that surrounded the birth of John the Baptist.

We also heard that wonderful psalm today: “Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.”

The beautiful truth is that — every life matters to God! Your life and mine, every one! He is with us in the joys and struggles of every day.

As we heard in the Gospel today, God delights in a mother’s love for the child in her womb. He wants to see mothers and fathers united with their neighbors and relatives.

In the Church, we are God’s people, his family. And he gives us the duty to take care of one another. He calls us to speak out against injustice, to make things right when they are wrong.

That is why we fight for the life and dignity of every child who is trying to be born. And that is why we all are so concerned right now for the children that our government has separated from their parents at the southern border of our country.

We have thousands of children in facilities that are hundreds of miles away from their parents. Our government says it will take months —months — before these little ones are reunited with their mothers and fathers.

We need to pray today for those little ones and their parents. And especially we need to pray for our politicians and for all citizens of goodwill. May all of us open our hearts to the voice of God — who reminds in the first reading for today’s Mass that we are all his children:

“The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.”

Migrants and refugees built America and they are still making this country great. And the truth is that America needs more immigrants, not less.

My brothers and sisters, our country needs you. America needs your immigrant spirit of hard work and faith in God. We need your spirit of self-sacrifice and the way you place the highest value on your children and families.

So, we cannot be discouraged by the voices of fear and ugliness. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus. We need to keep listening for his voice.

God will never leave his people alone. In every time and place, he raises up prophets like Isaiah and John the Baptist — to call out injustice, to point out the way for us to go.

And God is calling us in this moment to be his servants, to be his coworkers in renewing the soul of America. His hand is with us. He is calling us to be a light to our nation, to help make this country what it was meant to be.

In today’s passage of the Gospel, we heard about the birth of St. John the Baptist, the precursor, who was the first to proclaim the coming ofJesus. It is interesting to hear that people were surprised by his birth and they said:

“What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

My brothers and sisters, the Word of God is a word of hope.

And in this moment when we are so worried about these children that our government has taken from their parents — we need to remember that they are children of God and that he is with them always.

We need to pray that they will be treated with mercy and compassion. And we need to work hard so that these little ones will be set free and reunited with their parents — so together they can dream the American dream and do great things in this country.

And there are nearly 2 million more children who have been living inside our borders for almost their entire lives. Some are now in their 20s and 30s. They are “Dreamers,” too. And my brothers and sisters, we need to help set them free, too.

For years now, we have been asking our leaders to fix our broken immigration system. Year after year, they keep telling us, “Mañana, mañana.” Next year. It makes no difference which political party is in power, there is always some excuse.

Our leaders in Washington are about to do it again — they are about to let another Congress close without taking action.

Brothers and sisters, we need to tell our leaders — no more mañanas, no more excuses. The time is now.

There is compromise legislation in Congress that the Catholic Church supports. It is called “the USA Act.”

This bill has broad bipartisan support. It would permanently protect the Dreamers from deportation and provide them a path to become citizens. It would also strengthen security along our nation’s borders.

We need to insist that our leaders in the House of Representatives allow a debate on this bill.

And we need to talk to our neighbors. We need to help them understand that the “status quo” is morally wrong.

We cannot ignore this any longer. And we cannot pretend that we are not all implicated. The inaction of our government is breaking up families and hurting children — and doing it in our name, in the name of America.

This injustice has been going on for a long time. It did not start with thisAdministration. But it will not stop until good people end their silence and speak up for what is right.

So, my brothers and sisters, let us keep praying for our nation and working hard for immigration reform in the weeks to come.

Let us ask St. John the Baptist to help us to follow his example in proclaiming the love and mercy of God in these times when so many people feel angry and afraid.

And let us keep working for a new spirit of compassion and love —especially for the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

May our Blessed Mother to be near to every child and every parent suffering separation along our borders this day. And may she help everyone of us to share in the dream of America.