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st rose kids 2601Rosca de Reyes with Niño Dios, or Baby Jesus, insideNEW HAVEN – St. Rose of Lima parishioners celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord on Jan. 6 with a prayer service and gathering to express opposition to the federal government’s pre-Christmas deportation of children and families from Central America. 

The worship service, which included eucharistic adoration, prayers and hymns, coincided with National Migration Week, designated Jan. 3-9 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

According to Sister Mary Ellen Burns, director of Apostles Immigrant Services in Fair Haven, U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement has announced a roundup of Central American minor children and adults who fled Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador because of violence, crime and extreme poverty in their countries.

The deportation story began appearing in news outlets on Christmas Eve. Since then, Congressional Democrats, among others, have confronted White House officials for spreading fear through immigrant communities during holiday-season raids.

“It’s important to look at the story of the Epiphany along with that of these strangers coming to visit strangers in another strange land,” said parish leader Angel Fernandez-Chavero. “There’s something extraordinarily touching about it.”

A press release said the gathering was intended "to call the community together to act upon our Christian values and reject the increasing fear of immigrants and the 'other,' and specifically the deportation of children and families who fled Central America's indiscrimate violence."

Father James Manship, pastor of St. Rose Parish, spoke along the same lines.

“Tonight’s celebration is like a little Bethlehem,” he said. “It shows us how we can come together in solidarity with people from 18 countries. We want to let it be known that we’re organized and connected to a larger community.”

He noted that parishioners have worked on a number of immigration issues over the past five years, including issuance of identification cards for those unable to obtain a driver’s license, calling for change in the East Haven Police Department following civil rights abuses against Latino residents and seeking tuition assistance for college-bound students who have undocumented status.

“Faith is not passive,” Father Manship stated, “but rather it causes us to come together in solidarity.”

Parishioner Armando Morales said, “We have to set our own fear aside to show others that we’re not afraid to worship and come together as a community.
“We are also taking this as an opportunity to get to know each other better, because when we are close, we are stronger together,” he said.

The evening also included a reception that offered hot chocolate and Rosca de Reyes Magos, a traditional cake offered on the Epiphany in which a small figurine of the Niño Dios, or Baby Jesus, is baked inside the cake.

According to tradition, the person who finds the Baby Jesus presents the family’s Niño Dios on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas), known as Candelaria, on Feb. 2.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.