California Catholics to observe 9 days of prayer for immigrants

During weekly living-room prayer meetings, parishioners of St. Mary Magdalen Church in Camarillo gather to offer prayers of intercession. Recently, their petitions to God have been directed toward undocumented immigrants.

“We are praying for them,” said Olga Dennis, president of the church’s 15-member Grupo Guadalupano prayer circle. “It’s very sad what is happening with the children.”

Like Dennis, Catholics and other Christians in the county and around the country are praying that the Trump administration reverses its policy of separating children from parents who are caught crossing illegally into the United States at the southern border.

On June 15, parishioners of Catholic churches in the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese’s jurisdiction of Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties were asked to begin observing a novena, a nine-day period of prayer, focusing on the plight of immigrants, refugees and human trafficking victims.

The novena will culminate in a special Mass at 3:30 p.m. Sun., June 24, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles, presided over by Archbishop José Gomez.

The novena “aims to unite Catholics in spiritual preparation for the Mass,” the archdiocese announced last week in a news release.

Calls made to officials at several Catholic churches in eastern Ventura County seeking comment for this story were not returned by press time.

In his message to Catholic parishioners in the archdiocese, Gomez said that the family separation policy is wrong.

“Our leaders have a solemn duty to secure our national borders and enforce our immigration laws. No one questions this. But we must find a better way,” Gomez wrote in his weekly column for the archdiocese’s magazine, Angelus.

“As Christians, we are called to help our neighbors and leaders rediscover the capacity for empathy— to once more be able to feel compassion for the common humanity and destiny we share with one another, including our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

Catholics are not alone in calling for an end to the family separation policy. The Southern Baptist Convention and the Religious

Action Center of Reform Judaism have both been critical of the policy.

Evangelical leader Franklin Graham, son of the late Rev. Billy Graham and a prominent Trump supporter, made headlines last week when he told the Christian Broadcasting Network that the family separation policy is “disgraceful . . . and I don’t support that one bit.”

But he also criticized lawmakers in Washington for not working “together in a bipartisan effort to solve this.”

“Some just want to use the situation for their own political gain,” he said.

Closer to home, this Sunday’s Mass in Los Angeles will include comments from undocumented immigrant children who have been separated from their parents, the news release from the L.A. archdiocese said. Refugees and expatriates from different nationalities also will speak.

On Thurs., June 21, a group of worshippers from Orange County are due to begin a four-day, 60-mile walk from San Juan Capistrano to the cathedral in Los Angeles for the special Mass, the release said.

Called Siempre Adelante (Always Forward) in honor of St. Junípero Serra, the pilgrimage follows part of the same route the Spanish priest traveled as he founded the first nine missions in California, the release said.

In Camarillo, Dennis and her fellow Grupo Guadalupano members will continue praying for immigrant families separated at the border.

“I was watching the news last night,” Dennis said. “I nearly started crying when I heard the children crying for their parents. We have to pray for them. It’s very sad.”

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