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By Meredith Amor
Director of Communications, Barry University
April 8, 2021, Miami, Florida – Barry University formally announced and dedicated its new Institute for Immigration Studies in front of the traveling Angels Unawares sculpture currently on display at Bayfront Park. The March 23, 2021, ceremony celebrated the founding of the academic center dedicated to the study and understanding of the multicultural South Florida immigrant experience.
Participating in the event were Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski and representatives of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, Barry’s sponsoring congregation.
Barry University Chaplain, Father Cristobal Torres, OP, dedicated the Institute during the ceremony attended by a group of Barry University students and invited guests. It is scheduled to formally launch later this year.
The featured speaker was Dr. Giselle Elgarresta Rios, Founding Director of the Institute, whose mother was among the more than 14,000 youth who emigrated to United States as unaccompanied minors during the 1960s’ “Operation Pedro Pan” exodus from Cuba, organized by what is now Catholic Charities.
The Pedro Pan Collection that documents the historic migration is housed in the Barry University archives and will feature prominently in the work of the Institute.
“Visiting the archives and seeing my mother’s file in the collection was incredibly poignant,” Dr. Rios said. “It represented her fear, my grandparents’ courage in sending her to another country, and the opportunities that lay ahead. I am thrilled that the work of the Institute for Immigration Studies will explore and preserve the unique stories and experiences of South Florida immigrants from all over the world, both historic and present-day.”
The Angels Unawares sculpture, which served as the backdrop for the event, is owned by The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and is a replica of the piece in St. Peter’s Square unveiled by Pope Francis on the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 2019. The powerful life-sized work depicts a 20-foot-long boat packed with migrants and refugees from across the globe and throughout history, with angel wings rising from the crowd. Its installation in Miami is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Miami.
The piece is currently touring cities across the United States, before reaching its permanent home at Catholic University. The inspiration for the tour is to open dialogue about immigration in each city that temporarily houses the sculpture.
“I am grateful to Catholic University and the Archdiocese of Miami for making it possible for us to dedicate our Institute in front of this beautiful and impactful work of art,” said Dr. Michael Allen, President of Barry University. “The sculpture’s meaning and the significance of its journey are symbolic of the work we will do at the Institute for Immigration Studies. Building a truly inclusive community that celebrates diversity is a pillar of our Barry University Mission and through the Institute we will continue to realize our commitment to inclusivity through scholarly work as well as community engagement.”
The initial funding for the Institute for Immigration Studies is part of a generous gift to Barry University from Bacardi Corporation.
Feature photo: Dr. Michael Allen, President of Barry University, speaks in front of the sculpture, Angels Unawares, during the dedication of the University’s Institute for Immigration Studies on March 23, 2021.
Photos Courtesy of the Communications Office of Barry University