Acts of worship and civil disobedience merged on Tuesday, and culminated with the arrest of dozens of Catholic protestors in Washington, D.C. From the Catholic News Service:
Dozens of Catholics, including men and women religious, were arrested near the U.S. Capitol Feb. 27 in the rotunda of a Senate building in Washington as they called on lawmakers to help young undocumented adults brought to the U.S. as minors obtain some sort of permanent legal status.
Some of them sang and prayed, and many of them — such as Dominican Sister Elise Garcia and Mercy Sister JoAnn Persch — said they had no option but to participate in the act of civil disobedience to speak out against the failure of Congress and the Trump administration to help the young adults.
The protestors included nuns and Catholic clergy. From Sojourners:
Sister Tracy Kemme, a justice advocate and a Sister of Charity, began the event, calling the movement “a moral moment of truth.”
“We are here today to call on our legislators, especially our Catholic legislators, to pass a Dream Act that supports and protects our immigrant youth,without harming their families or communities,” she said. “There is no time left. We need a breakthrough for Dreamers today.”
The protestors sang and prayed, says CNS,
and many of them — such as Dominican Sister Elise Garcia and Mercy Sister JoAnn Persch — said they had no option but to participate in the act of civil disobedience to speak out against the failure of Congress and the Trump administration to help the young adults.
“I have never been arrested in my life, but with the blessing of my community, I am joining with two dozen other Catholic sisters and Catholic allies to risk arrest today as an act of solidarity with our nation’s wonderful, beautiful Dreamers,” said Sister Garcia. “To our leaders in Congress and in the White House, I say ‘arrest a nun, not a Dreamer.'”
Sister Persch, quoted by CNS:
“As a woman of faith, I am called to be wise … courageous, a prophetic voice,” she said. “That is a challenge to every person who says they are a Catholic, a Christian, a person of faith. And this applies to Paul Ryan as well as all those in Congress.”
House Speaker Ryan, R-Wisconsin, is Catholic and many said they took issue with what they see as his lack of action on several issues involving immigrants. At various moments, including one near the U.S. Capitol, the crowd chanted, “Paul, Paul, why do you persecute me?” referring to the speaker.
In the rotunda, many of those who risked arrest, began by joining hands, singing hymns and praying “Hail Mary.” They included Father Reese, along with Sisters Garcia and Persch. U.S. Capitol Police began warning them repeatedly to stop or be arrested. Of the 30 or 40 arrests, eight were Mercy Sisters.
This is not the first time for such a protest, and arrests. From Sojourners:
The action Tuesday, organized by several groups including the Franciscan Action Network and PICO, was the latest in a series of religious demonstrations on the Hill in defense of Dreamers. In September, shortly after Trump’s announcement rescinding DACA, faith leaders washed the feet of Dreamers at the Capitol Building. And in January, 82 Jewish rabbis and allies were arrested at a protest to extend DACA, while faith leaders and Dreamers held a candlelit vigil.
While many gathered expressed frustration and urgency, they framed their calls in hope of concrete action.
“Giving legal status to Dreamers is not a political issue. It is a moral issue,” said Father Tom Reese, a Jesuit priest and popular Catholic columnist. “It is time for the people who worked in that building [pointing to the Capitol] to realize this is a moral issue, this is a justice issue. And the political gamesmanship must stop.” He was arrested shortly after.
Photo from posting on the Ignatian Solidarity Network