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July 23, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates joined people throughout the United States who attended Lights for Liberty – local candlelight rallies in support of the rights of immigrants coming across the U.S. southern border.
“It was important for me to be there because I am so angered, saddened, and repulsed by what is going on with children – for all the immigrants who are seeking a better life,” said Sister Aneesah McNamee, OP. “I can sit home and think about why I don’t agree with it, but if I do not go out and do something, then it is pretty pointless for me to even have an opinion.” An immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen, Sister Aneesah was one of several Adrian Dominican Sisters who attended the rally in front of the Lenawee County Courthouse in Adrian, Michigan.
Also attending in Adrian was Sister Maria Goretti Browne, OP, who said she was “appalled at the treatment of the immigrants at the border. Though it is difficult, I feel that I need to do something. Rallying with a group seemed to be at least doing something. It also put me in touch with others in this county who felt the same as I.”
Associate Sherry Goff attended the Lights for Liberty rally in Adrian “because I want to be visible and vocal about the inhumane treatment of people and to protest ICE,” the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Sister Virginia “Ginny” King, OP, attended the first part of a three-and-a-half-hour rally in Detroit, joining others who were standing in front of the ICE building. “I was amazed at the variety of people who came – about 600,” she said, adding that all faith groups were represented. The crowd received support from drivers passing by, who honked their horns to affirm the rally’s message, Sister Ginny said.
Sister Maureen O’Connell, OP, attended a rally in Houston with local Dominican Friars and Dominican Sisters of Houston. The rally was at the site where last year the groups had rallied against the attempt by SW Key to rent their facility to house unaccompanied minors.
“I am personally appalled by the current climate in this country regarding immigration and the total lack of care for children and families,” Sister Maureen said. “If we stand idle there is no end to the possible inhumane treatment people will receive.”
Sister Rosemary Finnegan, OP, attended the rally in Orlando, Florida, for many reasons. “It was the right thing to do, given the desperate plight of our migrant refugees, the squalid conditions in which they are forced to live, and the urgent need to address a solution immediately,” she said. Sister Rosemary also felt compelled by the Gospel message and the Enactments of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ 2016 General Chapter “to be in solidarity with those on the margins, with the least of them, with our sisters and brothers in need.”
Finally, Sister Rosemary was encouraged to attend because of her own comfort and freedom, compared to the suffering and oppression of the immigrants. “The least I can do is get in my car on a Friday night and join with others who seek compassion and justice for those who are denied their due,” she said.
Participants had similar hopes for the outcome of their activism on behalf of immigrants.
“The outcome I hope for is that the collective voice of the people all over the country who got out and rallied in their towns and cities will truly make a difference,” Sister Aneesah said. “We are better than this.”
Sister Maria hoped that if people at least try to do something, “perhaps the cruelty at the border will be alleviated."
Read a report on the Lights of Liberty rallies in the National Catholic Reporter.
From left: Sister Maureen O’Connell, OP, front row, right, and other members of the Dominican family in the Houston area attended a local rally. Sister Patricia Erickson, OP, attended a rally in Laredo, Texas. Sister Pat is spending a month in Laredo as a volunteer, serving migrant families who come from detention centers to La Frontera Migrant Center.
July 5, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters added their voices to thousands of others on June 30 as they participated in Families Belong Together marches throughout the United States. Demonstrations throughout the nation protested the U.S. immigration policy that has separated children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border as the families attempted to enter the United States without formal documents.
Sister Corinne Florek was one of about 2,000 people to attend a rally at Lake Merritt in Oakland, California. “It was inspiring because most of the speakers were young children,” she recalled. “They reminded us of the children’s march during the fight for civil rights. One girl spoke of her father being taken by ICE and how that affected her.”
Sisters Mary Trzasko, OP, and Beverly Stark, OP, were present at the rally in Charleston, South Carolina. Sister Beverly made the connection between the current immigration issue and the history of slavery in the U.S. South. “We gathered on and all around the steps of the Court House in Charleston, South Carolina, which is only a few blocks away from where slaves were bought and sold and families separated,” she said. “It was wrong and cruel then and it’s wrong and cruel today.”
About 20 Adrian Dominican Sisters were present for the rally in Adrian. Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, Director of the Congregation’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, noted that the people of Adrian have been consistently attending rallies calling for social justice – from the Poor People’s Campaign and March for our Lives to the June 30 Families Belong Together March. “There was a lot of enthusiasm,” she said. “It was very encouraging.” The rally began at 11:00 a.m., and by noon, the crowd had grown to 150.
“The rally was very well attended in spite of the heat,” said Sister Annette Sinagra, OP, who also attended the march in Adrian. “It was a great support for the children and families that have suffered so very much under the cruel policies of [President] Trump.”
Sister Esther Kennedy, OP, also joined the Adrian march. “I was grateful for everyone who came. I also appreciated the cars that went by and honked…in support of immigration reform.”
Sister Esther spoke of her own motive for attending the rally. “We can feel overwhelmed in these kinds of situations, like there’s nothing we can do,” she said. “I do not want to be silent. I must put my body, my heart, my spirit, to join with others, and it’s not just in protest, but in remembering the core values this democracy was founded on. There have been times in our American history when we have not protested enough. I don’t want this to be one of those times.”
Sister Kathleen believes the message of the rally in Adrian goes beyond the call for an end to cruel separation of families at the border. The underlying message of the June 30 rally and the other recent rallies is the same. “There’s a consistent message that voting in November is going to be very, very important,” she said. “We need to get out the vote in November because that’s the only way we’re going to make any changes.”
Sister Cheryl Liske, OP, a community organizer, attended the Families Belong Together Rally on July 2 in Saginaw, Michigan. She accompanied members of the Ezekiel Project of Saginaw, one of four organizations that were called upon to speak during the rally. About half of the people who attended the rally then went to the office of Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) to present a cage full of toys for the children at the border. The action was in reference to reports that children at the border had been put into cages.
Sister Virginia “Ginny” King, OP, attended two rallies in the Detroit area, the first in front of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building in Detroit. From there, she attended a related rally at the Hart Plaza in Detroit, traveling with “a small but diverse group,” she recalled.
Feature photo (top): Participating in the rally in Adrian are, from left, Sisters Joella Miller, OP; Maurine Barzantni, OP; Corinne Sanders, OP; Carmen Álvarez, OP; and Sara Fairbanks, OP.
Rally participants gather at the Court House in Charleston, South Carolina