Prayers on the path to citizenship


PROVIDENCE — Catholics from across Greater Providence walked, took a car or rode on a bus to converge on Cathedral Square Monday night, Oct. 7, to join in a candlelight Prayer Service for Immigration Reform.

Please click here for more photos. Undaunted by rain showers that sprouted umbrellas in the gathering before the Chancery building, young and old prayed and sang for immigration reform.

“We came down because we are happy to support immigration reform,” said Jeffrey Acosta, 14, a student at La Salle Academy, who with his brother, Jorge Acosta, 15, who also attends La Salle, were part of a musical group that accompanied the St. Edward Church, Providence, Youth Choir at the service.

“Both our parents are immigrants. If they didn’t come here we wouldn’t have the opportunities that we have.”

Jorge said later, “Our parents came here and now we have the opportunity to go to a good school and have a chance to build good lives in America.”

The Office of Community Services and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Providence sponsored the event in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration has called upon Congress to pass a bill that provides undocumented persons a path to citizenship.

Msgr. Albert A. Kenney, diocesan vicar general and moderator of the curia, welcomed the pilgrims to the service, noting that 11 million immigrants in America are awaiting a path to citizenship. Some 250 attended the service, joining a nationwide effort that saw similar rallies and prayer services in more than 150 other cities over the weekend. Saturday was designated by immigration reform activists as a “National Day for Dignity and Respect” to re-energize the issue, which has been overshadowed by the federal government shutdown and the looming debt authorization.

Supporters of immigration reform are aiming for passage of the legislation before the end of the year, however, Congress is currently focused on the budget and the upcoming debt ceiling debate.

Several held signs that were written in both Spanish and English with pleas for immigration reform.

The service opened with a reading from Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

A podium in front of the chancery was flanked by the statue of Mary, Our Lady of Providence, and an American flag. Five of the individuals gathered led those gathered in praying the five decades of the rosary. Three led the prayers in Spanish, one in French and one in Portuguese.

Damari Recillas, 10, an altar server at St. Edward Church on Branch Avenue, recognized the significance of the event, giving thanks to God for the blessings she has in her life.

“We prayed to the Lord to thank him for giving us so many good things,” she said.

Stella Carreira, director of the diocesan immigration office and the organizer of the service, was overwhelmed by the turn-out.

“With this weather, people still came, it was beautiful,” she said.

Rev. Jaime Garcia, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church, Providence, joined his parishioners at the prayer service and remembered his experience when he emigrated from Guatemala.

“I know about the need for prayer for immigration reform more than anyone, and the importance of support from the bishop and the staff here,” Father Garcia said. “When I came here 27 years ago, I found my vocation and I found support from the church as a priest and as a human person.”

Through its office of Catholic Charities and Social Ministry, the diocese provides a number of services to the immigrant community in the state. These include tutors for refugee students and classes on citizenship and English as second language. The office also assists with family petitions, religious visa petitions, adjustment of status, naturalization, work permit renewals, photos and other consultations relative to the immigration process. The diocese also provides refugee resettlement services.