LOS ANGELES – A dozen pilgrims from southern California’s Catholic began a three-day pilgrimage on Thursday to call for support for immigrant families detained or facing deportation, a fear increased by the policies of the Trump administration.
“Faith is the only thing that no law or president can take from us. It is time to unite and show that we are strong and ask that we are treated as human beings,” Emiliano Leonides, who participated in the pilgrimage, told EFE.
Convinced that his prayers and the three-day walk under soaring temperatures that plague southern California will serve the cause of immigrants like him, Leonides left his job to join the pilgrimage.
The call was made by the Santiago de Compostela Church in the city of Lake Forrest, 60 miles (96 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles.
“Almost no one makes these efforts, but if we all give up then those who failed were us, not those who persecuted us,” said the Mexican who arrived in the US in 2002.
The pilgrimage, which bears the slogan “Always Move Forward,” started the journey on Thursday morning and will culminate in a Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles on Saturday.
The pilgrimage is part of the effort of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the dioceses of San Bernardino, Orange, San Diego and Fresno counties, who joined in prayer to celebrate the immigrant spirit of the US and to recognize the contribution of this community ahead of a celebration of Hispanic heritage.
In a statement sent to EFE, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said that as in previous years, the Catholic Church of Southern California joins to celebrate immigrant communities and “to thank the gifts and talents that foreigners continue bringing to the country.”
The events began on Aug. 29 with a simultaneous novena held by the churches of the Archdiocese of Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles where prayers were held for refugees and victims of human trafficking.
For pilgrim Rosario Espinoza, a prayer is sometimes the only tool that a detained immigrant has in order to face their situation.
“It is easy to collapse, so you have to look into your faith for the strength to stay standing,” the woman said as she sang in Spanish with a rosary in her hand in front of the offices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Santa Ana, California.
Archbishop Gomez emphasized that in light of the tensions the country is facing and the August mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, which left 22 dead – mostly Hispanic, this year they will pray especially for the grace to help society see that all are children of God.
“(We are) destined to live together as brothers and sisters, regardless of the color of our skin, the language we speak or the place where we were born,” he reiterated.
Daniela Luna Perez, 20, who entered the country as an unaccompanied minor, will attend the great Mass on Saturday.
The young woman will give her testimony of how she managed to reunite with her mother after years of being separated, in addition to how she was able to overcome, along with her younger brother, the obstacles imposed by immigration authorities.
“I am very excited to be able to participate and share my experience, which could serve as an example to other young people,” Luna said in a statement.
Archbishop Gomez added that on Saturday they will display the relics of Saint Junipero Serra, the US’ first immigrant saint from Latin America; of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, the patron of immigrants; and of Saint Toribio Romo, who was in charge of protecting migrants who cross borders.
“I believe in the legacy of San Junipero Serra, who said ‘always move forward,’ that is why I am not going to stop in this fight. I hope that my brothers in faith will not do that either,” the pilgrim Leonides said.