‘¡Viva Cristo Rey!’: Auxiliary bishop to celebrate Mass for immigrants and refugees

The Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, Jorge Rodriguez, will celebrate a Mass in Spanish for the prayers of all immigrants and refugees at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Nov. 26, on the feast of Christ the King.

The Church walks with the immigrant

Bishop Rodriguez affirmed that the growing attention that the archdiocese has given to immigrants is primarily a response to Jesus’ calling in the Gospel.

“Holy Scripture is very clear about the care and hospitality toward the immigrant,” he told the Denver Catholic en Español. “‘The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’ (Lev. 19:34). Also, Jesus commanded us to do the same when he called us to love our neighbor.”

The urgency to walk with the immigrant community is also a response to Pope Francis’ invitation. He said in his visit to the United States in 2015, “Now you are facing this stream of Latin immigration which affects many of your dioceses. Not only as the Bishop of Rome, but also as a pastor from the South, I feel the need to thank and encourage you. Perhaps it will not be easy for you to look into their soul; perhaps you will be challenged by their diversity. But know that they also possess resources meant to be shared. So, do not be afraid to welcome them.”

“No, we don’t have financial or secondary intentions, as someone has said – probably intending to silence the voice of bishops regarding the support for the immigrant community,” Bishop Rodriguez explained. Instead, “[this initiative] is born out of our personal love for our immigrant brothers and sisters in our parishes.”

On the Feast of Christ the King

The Mass will be celebrated on the feast of Christ the King, highlighting the historical significance this feast carries for many Hispanics. During the religious persecution of last century’s “Cristero” War, many Mexicans gave up their lives proclaiming, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ, the King!”).

“This chapter in history allows us to recall God, the Father’s providential care for each one of us, and the assurance that the final victory belongs to Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Rodriguez.

The auxiliary bishop sees the importance of this message of hope to the immigrant community, as it faces many difficulties in legal processes.

He assured that the trials aren’t few: “many of our youth see their future dreams threatened… siblings and friends, who came to work honestly, face deportation… [and] parents, couples and families are torn apart.”

Amid such difficulties, the Church accompanies the immigrant community.

“We want to lift up the intentions of the immigrant community in this Mass,” said Bishop Rodriguez. “For the Psalm says, ‘Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (37:5).

Bishop Rodriguez calls the faithful to participate

The auxiliary bishop asked all the faithful to “listen, in the depth of their hearts, to the voice of Christ: ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you’” (Jn 13: 34).

“The Church doesn’t ask the faithful to break the law,” he continued. “Rather, it asks for a just law to be passed – a law that serves men and not vice versa.”

He requested that Denver Catholics support the U.S. bishops in the fight for a comprehensive immigration reform.

Bishop Rodriguez also persuaded the faithful to seek accurate information regarding these topics, and to find good perspectives on social issues, such as Msgr. Jose Gomez’s “Immigration and the Next America: Renewing the Soul of Our Nation.”

Finally, he encouraged them “to consider this ‘problem’ not as a mere social, political or economical issue: we are speaking of men and women with human dignity and fundamental rights,” he said. “They are beloved children of God.”

Mass for Immigrants and Refugees
Presided by Bishop Jorge Rodriguez
Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Nov. 26, 2017
12:30 p.m.

COMING UP: Bishop Rodriguez to migrant farmers: You are not alone

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Denver Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez had a message for migrant workers and their families during a special Mass Sept. 24 at St. Nicholas Parish.

You are not alone.

“My message was for them to be aware there is God,” Bishop Rodriguez explained after the Migrant Farm Workers Mass. “There is a loving father who is not far away from what they are living, so they can feel all the time that they are not by themselves. Whatever comes their way, God is with them.”

About 100 attended the Mass, including migrant farm workers and those who came to show support in this farm community with a large Hispanic population.

“The workers need assurance from their fellow Catholics,” said Sister Molly Munoz, who works in several rural Eastern Plains parishes. “It would help them to know we are conscious of their situation, and concerned about it. They are suffering a lot.”

At a dinner following Mass, families shared concerns about the president’s promise to deport undocumented workers.

“Mom worries about him breaking up families,” said a 15-year-old brought into the country from Mexico at age 1, by parents who work in Colorado farm fields. “Mother just wishes the president would stop threatening families. It worries her. She wishes they would give more opportunities, for the ones who work out in the fields. She would like a chance to study, and learn skills.”

The boy’s mother leaned her forehead on her hands and spoke in broken English.

“Food every day is more expensive,” the woman said. “The rent. We pay more and more and more. It is just a struggle for 14 years.”

Pray for them, said Bishop Rodriguez.

“We as Catholics must ask the lord for a blessing for them,” he said. “We know they live in hard conditions, and they need God’s blessing more than ever. We have to become more aware of the reality these people face, and have to be more aware that they are our bothers in need help.”

Catholic volunteers from metro Denver have long brought Mass to the fields of the Eastern Plains, where migrant workers are an essential component of the economy. The bishop’s Mass was planned for the fields, but moved to St. Nicholas because of rain.

“This is the first time we’ve had a bishop give the Mass,” said Marie Ramos Beeler, a volunteer from the Spirit of Christ Migrant Ministry at Arvada’s Spirit of Christ Catholic Community.

Beeler and other volunteers bring food, clothing, blankets, fans, sheets, pillow cases and other donations to migrant workers three or four times a week. The ministry receives donations from parishioners, Panera Bread and Costco. Her and three other members from Spirit of Christ Migrant Ministry met with Bishop Rodriguez earlier in the year to discuss how the Church is addressing the immigration issue.

“Do Catholics do enough to help? Up until we met with Bishop Rodriguez in July, we did not think the church was doing enough,” Beeler said. “But since our meeting, Bishop Rodriguez has been wonderful. He has been out to the fields with us visiting with migrants at their housing. He has told us he wants to become more involved with this community, and have the church become more involved.”

Beeler worries Coloradans won’t appreciate migrant workers until they are gone, and can no longer enter the country.

“I talked to a farmer right here in this area,” she said. “He ran an ad in the local paper for two months to hire help at the farm, and he got absolutely no response. I do not know any American who would do what these people do. In the summer, all I do out here is get in and out of my truck and deliver food to them, and I’m exhausted. I cannot imagine how they work like that in 90-degree heat.”

Since the last election, Beeler said migrants have gone further underground.

“People here are very afraid,” she said. “They have started covering their windows. When [the president] was first elected, they were not opening their doors to us because they were so afraid.”

Some avoided the bishop’s Mass for fear of deportation, a migrant explained.

Beeler and other volunteers have heard all the controversy regarding the legal status of most migrant workers. They aren’t up for a policy debate. The migrants live and work here regardless of those who don’t like it. Most are Catholic, and all are human.

“As Catholics, we need to treat them like we would want to be treated,” Beeler said. “They are God’s children as much as we are God’s children.”

Featured image by Brandon Young | Denver Catholic