NEW 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.