Bishop to migrants and refugees: ‘You make America the beautiful even more beautiful’

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A hat, a pair of shoes, and a bottle of water. These are a few of the symbolic objects that were offered at the beginning of the Eucharistic Celebration for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees Sept. 29, representing the reality of the people forced to migrate, leaving their home countries behind.

The special Mass that incorporated elements from various Catholic cultures around the world was held at Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Wheat Ridge and was celebrated by Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez.

Bishop Rodríguez started his homily acknowledging the reality of migrants and refugees around the world and the struggles they go through when they arrive in an unknown land.

Bishop Rodriguez urged the faithful to be grateful for the many benefits received from this country and to pray for those fleeing poverty and persecution.

“Men and women have been displaced from their own countries, cultures, and families, by war, poverty, oppression, persecution, and danger so they look for refuge and a new life in more affluent and safe countries,” he said. “Most of us here can define ourselves as migrants and refugees… You my brothers and sisters, migrants and refugees, you make America the beautiful even more beautiful.”

At the same time, he recognized that the United States is a country of immigrants and asked the migrant community to be grateful and pray for this country that has opened the doors to many migrants and refugees.

“As immigrants and refugees, we owe gratitude to the United States of America, because in one way or another, it has allowed us to prosper and offer a future to our families and our children,” Bishop Rodriguez continued. “We have to correspond with loyalty and appreciation to the American people… American people have opened their cities, schools, and homes to receive us, may the Lord bless America, because this is America.”

Several communities from different parts of the world were present at this celebration, including the Hispanic, Pakistani, Vietnamese, African, and American communities, among others who also received the bishop’s blessing.

Catholics of different ethnic backgrounds united in the Eucharistic celebration for the 105th Annual World Day of Migrants and Refugees at Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs Sept. 29. (Photos by Vladimir Mauricio-Perez)

“The Mass was a tremendous start to what will hopefully become an annual tradition here in Denver,” said Hung Pham, Director of the Office of Liturgy. “Having lived and worked in California for most of my life, large multicultural Masses were very common and it’s great to see one here in Denver where many cultures got to bring their unique expressions to the celebration. It showcased both the unity and diversity within our church here in Denver.”

During the Mass, Bishop Rodriguez quoted and reflected on former President Ronald Reagan’s last speech as President: “Thanks to each one of those waves of arrivals to this nation of opportunity, we are a nation that is always young and always full of energy, new ideas, and always renewing. And this quality is vital for the future of our nation… If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would be lost.”

“But the church wants us to be aware that there is something going on in a different direction,” the bishop said. “Borders are closed, dividing walls are raised, and people fleeing from war, poverty and persecution are kept out. Many have lost their lives looking for a way in. From 2014 to 2018, more than 17,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to cross from northern Africa to Europa, and in those same years, 1,476 have died in the Rio Bravo or were dehydrated in the desert while trying to enter to our country.”

A cultural celebration in the parish hall following Mass featured different cultural performances by some of the attendees.

One of the most emotional moments of the celebration was experienced when the bishop asked the attendees to pray the Lord’s Prayer in each of their native languages, demonstrating that the Catholic Church is universal and that we worship and are loved by the same God.

After the special Mass, guests attended a festival at the church’s hall where people from different parts of the world shared their traditions, music, dances, and a variety of dishes from their respective countries.

“Migrants and refugees are a message from God to the world and a gift from God to the United States of America,” Bishop Rodriguez concluded.

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

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The Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, Jorge Rodriguez, will celebrate a Mass in Spanish for 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.