January 31, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – During the January 28, 2020, liturgy for the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas – a Dominican scholar, writer, and Doctor of the Church – Adrian Dominican Sisters and Co-workers in St. Catherine Chapel heard the call to continue to preach the Word of God in a troubled world. They were challenged by a brother Dominican, Bishop José Raul Vera López, OP, Bishop of the Diocese of Saltillo/Monterey in Mexico.
Bishop Vera has extensive experience in ministering in a world of trouble and violence. He was Bishop of Chiapas, Mexico, in 1994 during the Zapatista resistance. That year, indigenous people of Mexico fought the government for their basic rights for everything from land, work, and housing to education and independence.
“Bishop Vera is known for his courageous pastoral support of the indigenous peoples of his diocese,” Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP, explained. “He remains an outspoken advocate for the human rights of migrants and asylees remaining on the Mexican side of the border.”
Bishop Vera came to Adrian to visit his friend, Sister Pauline Quinn, OP, who years ago made private vows as a Dominican Sister and has been living at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian with her service dog, Pax. Her varied ministries included working with Bishop Vera and organizing and promoting a program in which prison inmates are trained to take part in the early training of service dogs.
During his homily – preached in Spanish and translated by Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor – Bishop Vera encouraged the Sisters and Co-workers to continue to preach the Word of God, following the examples of St. Thomas Aquinas and Sister Pauline.
“Today, on the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, remember that St. Thomas did not leave the Word of God to himself,” Bishop Vera said. “He preached with great passion from his great knowledge and his understanding of what the Word of God was for him. … St. Thomas abandoned himself to the Word of God, but he not only abandoned it in study and understanding, but he lived the Word of the Lord.”
Bishop Vera held up Sister Pauline as another example of a Dominican who preached with her life and her connection to other people, as well as her words. “I have seen Sister Pauline working very closely with me for many years, and it has been just a marvel to see all that she was able to do,” Bishop Vera said. “Sister Pauline was with the indigenous people and it was very, very dangerous at the time – and scary.”
Bishop Vera noted the many challenges and difficulties facing the world today. “The Church needs to respond to the Word of God and to all of these challenges with great passion,” he said. “All of us are called to preach the Word of God to all men and women, wherever they are.”.
Feature photo: Bishop Raul Vera, OP, preaches during the January 28, 2020, Mass celebrating the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor, stands ready to translate his homily from Spanish to English.
November 1, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – While the United States is known as a nation of immigrants, recent federal policies have made it much more difficult for today’s immigrants to obtain permanent resident status, for people from Central America to be granted asylum, and for “Dreamers” who may have only known life in the United States to be safe from deportation.
That was the gist of a presentation October 29, 2019, by immigration attorney Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, JD, Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters Immigration Assistance Office. Sister Attracta provided background on a number of specific immigration policies, described their current status, and in many cases suggested actions that the public can take to bring about just immigration policies.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was a policy built on “prosecutorial discretion,” delaying the deportation of young adults – known as “Dreamers” – who had come into the United States at a very young age with parents who did not have the proper immigration papers, Sister Attracta said. Since 2012, when the DACA act was passed, she said, about 800,000 young adults were granted temporarily relief from the threat of being deported. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of DACA on September 5, 2017.“We’re talking about people – many of whom are very wonderful professional people,” Sister Attracta said. “They have gone to school, held down two jobs, and worked really hard. Many of our DACA people are doctors and physician’s assistants, working where most U.S.-born professionals would not dream of going to work.” Many of the Dreamers have only known life in the United States and could face deportation to their parents’ country of origin, which would be foreign to them.
“The fate of DACA will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court,” beginning with arguments on November 12, 2019, Sister Attracta said. “Between now and November 12 we need to pray very, very genuinely from our hearts to open the hearts of the Supreme Court justices so they do what Jesus would do – look at these people as human beings who need to be treated with respect.”
Sister Attracta announced a novena – developed by Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, Director of the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation – that begins on Sunday, November 3, and concludes on Monday, November 11. She also encouraged people who live in the Adrian area to attend a prayer service for Dreamers at 7:00 p.m. Sunday, November 10, 2019, at the St. Joseph campus of Holy Family Parish, 415 Ormsby Street, Adrian.
Sister Attracta noted that asylum seekers – especially those from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua – have been in the news because of changes in the U.S. administration’s asylum policy and its treatment of those who have come to the U.S. border without formal papers.
Asylum is defined by international law as pertaining to “people fleeing persecution in their home country where the government will not or cannot protect them from harm,” Sister Attracta said. Those seeking asylum “must show past persecution or fear of future persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group,” she said.
The U.S. government no longer allows people seeking asylum to wait in the United States for their court hearing, Sister Attracta said. Instead, they must return to Mexico or apply at a “safe” country closest to their home country. But, Sister Attracta said, while the United States considers Mexico and the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to be safe, they actually are not.
It has been the treatment of families seeking asylum that has garnered the most attention, Sister Attracta said. Under the U.S. government’s zero tolerance policy, “all adults crossing the U.S. without proper documentation will be criminally prosecuted,” she said. In the past, such offenses were considered civil rather than criminal violations.
In June 2018, the U.S. policy of separating families at the border and holding children as young as less than a year old in confinement “shocked the world with its cruelty,” Sister Attracta said, adding that the public later learned that this policy had already been in practice a year before it became known. Although the courts ordered that this practice be stopped, many of the children have not yet been reunited with their families, Sister Attracta noted
Sister Attracta encouraged action to bring about immigration reform in the United States:
“Pope Francis urged us to embrace what he terms a ‘culture of encounter,’ face-to-face encounter with others, which challenges us with their pain, their pleas, and their joy,” Sister Attracta said. “The Christian way of life is to pray, be available, and passionately act for the common good. If we respond as Pope Francis calls us, we must look at the root cause of our immigration problem. We must work together to fix our very broken immigration laws.”
Watch Sister Attracta’s complete presentation in the video below.