CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN
At right, María José, a Dreamer, joins participants at a Feb. 6 prayer service outside the U.S. Capitol to pray for Dreamers and legislators who are working to pass immigration legislation.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN At right, María José, a Dreamer, joins participants at a Feb. 6 prayer service outside the U.S. Capitol to pray for Dreamers and legislators who are working to pass immigration legislation.

A group of priests, religious, young immigrants and their supporters gathered outside of the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 6 to pray for the Dreamers whose lives are in limbo and for the legislators who have the power to change that.

“We’ve done everything else…now we pray,” said Daughter of Charity Sister Mary Ellen Lacy, noting all of the marches and protests that have taken place over the past months. “It really is in God’s hands at this point.”

The prayer service was sponsored by several Catholic organizations, including the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul, the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Network, the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Pax Christi USA, the DREAM Project, the Society of the Sacred Heart, the Franciscan Action Network, and the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

Members of many of those organizations were gathered on Capitol Hill today as a part of the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington. During that conference, they had been discussing social issues of importance to the Catholic Church, and on Feb. 6 were meeting with their legislators to advocate for them.

As the group gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol on a cold afternoon, Sister Mary Ellen thanked everyone there for “sacrificing your comfort because other people have been forced to sacrifice [theirs].”

Following an opening song and Scripture readings, the group prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary. At the beginning of each decade, there was a reflection on the suffering of Dreamers – young immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors – many of whom had been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but are now facing an uncertain fate as the March 5 date for DACA ending is now less than a month away.

During the third Sorrowful Mystery, the crowning with thorns, the crowd reflected on how Jesus’s captors did not find torturing Him to be enough, but also needed to humiliate Him with a crown of thorns. Similarly, stereotypes and other verbal abuses are the thorns that harm and humiliate Dreamers in the midst of this time of uncertainty, the reflection said.

“The burden of carrying the cross was so great that without the help of Simon of Cyrene, Jesus would have been crushed,” the reflection for the fourth Sorrowful Mystery read. “Often Dreamers bear crushing guilt,” because they survived the journey, while members of their family didn’t, the reflection continued, concluding with a request for “the grace to help them carry the burden.”

For the fifth Sorrowful Mystery, the crucifixion, María José, a Dreamer from Sacramento, read the reflection, saying, “We DACA recipients also cried when DACA, our ticket to safety, ended.”

At the conclusion of the rosary, the group prayed for petitions, with the response “We welcome you Jesus.”

“We see you today…in the Dreamers fearing the loss of the only home they’ve known…in the legislators who struggle to make the right decisions,” the group prayed. “Help us to recognize that whenever we welcome the stranger, we welcome you.”

Congressman Juan Vargas, D-California, joined in the prayer service as a fellow Catholic.

“It is beautiful to ask Mary to intercede today, not only for the Dreamers, but for their parents too,” he said, urging everyone to pray for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who is also Catholic. Vargas said he thinks there would be enough votes to pass a DREAM Act if it got on the floor in the House.

“There are good people on both sides who want to protect these young people and their families,” said Vargas.

For María José, a 21 year-old college student who came to the United States from Peru when she was four years old, it was encouraging to see so many people, especially so many people who are not personally affected by the legislation, come together to support her and other Dreamers.

“It brings me a lot of joy to see there are so many people with us,” she said.