The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia issued in early March the following Statement of Support for our Immigrant and Refugee Brothers and Sisters.
As Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, a group of 425 Catholic women religious who have a corporate stand on immigration, we write to urge our president and members of Congress to consider the words from Matthew 25: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me … as long as you did it for the least among you, you did it for me.”
We urge you to rethink the recent executive order and DHS memos calling for massive deportation of immigrant people. We join with others who believe this order directly contradicts our principles as a nation, the values of diverse faiths, and the values that we hold as Sisters of St. Francis.
Throughout its history, our nation has always welcomed immigrants and has been a refuge to people fleeing violence and oppression in their home countries. Anti-immigrant and anti-refugee executive orders are inhumane and do not respect the rights and dignity of those coming to our borders seeking asylum or who have lived here as aspiring citizens, contributing to our society in many ways.
Since 1855 our sisters have taken the words of Jesus to heart and acted upon them in whatever way we could. Our Commitment Statement declares, “We are willing to take the necessary risks to be a healing, compassionate presence in our violent world, especially with women, children, and those who have no voice.”
A number of our sisters are immigrants themselves. Some sisters have served in countries beyond our borders and some minister with immigrant communities in this country. We have a six-year friendship with a Muslim community not far from our motherhouse in Pennsylvania that has been a blessing. In welcoming the stranger as our faith challenges us to do, we have been enriched by other cultures and religions.
Fear and suspicion are common whenever we deal with the unknown. Pope Francis lays before us the suspicions we as a nation might have toward immigrants and refugees when he says, “migration gives rise to suspicion and hostility… prior to any knowledge of the migrants’ lives or their stories of persecution and destitution. In such cases, suspicion and prejudice conflict with the biblical commandment of welcoming with respect and solidarity the stranger in need” (message for the 2015 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Sept. 3, 2014).
Desiring to be a compassionate people, we try to place ourselves in the shoes of migrants. Pope Francis tells us, “(migrants) trust that they will encounter acceptance, solidarity and help, that they will meet people who will sympathize with the distress and tragedy experienced by others, recognize the values and resources the latter have to offer, and are open to sharing humanly and materially with the needy and disadvantaged” (message for the 2013 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Oct. 12, 2012).
May their hope and their trust be met with open hearts and may we as a nation move beyond our fears and suspicions. Like our forefathers and foremothers, may we respond with openness and love.
We, the Sisters of St. Francis, hold in prayer those who come to our borders and stand in solidarity with them. We also pray for our government leaders — that they act with wisdom and compassion toward refugees and immigrants in accord with our country’s Constitution and deeply held values of “liberty and justice for all.”