The Sunday after Thanksgiving took on special meaning for the immigrant community in northern Colorado. On the solemnity of Christ the King, Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez celebrated a Spanish-language Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for all immigrants, their families and those who support them.
The feast of Christ the King holds a special meaning for the Mexican community, since during the religious persecution at the beginning of the 20th century, many Christians bravely proclaimed the motto, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”), before being killed.
Around 1,500 faithful participated in the Eucharist. They arrived early – some in buses chartered by their parishes – united in community to remember that Christ reigns in their hearts and to lift up their petitions to the Almighty.
“Many of our brothers and sisters hold a deportation order in their hands,” said Bishop Rodriguez in his homily. “They can’t sleep thinking about the moment the order will be executed and about what might happen to their families.”
The bishop spoke to the many youth who “see their dream of a good future turn into a nightmare,” and to those adults who “fear to be sent back to the places they fled because of the violence of drug trafficking or of gangs that destroy their children.”
The prelate then reflected on a passage from the Gospel of the day in which Jesus says, “I was a foreigner and you welcomed me.” He highlighted how “Jesus identifies himself with the immigrant and receives, as if done to himself, whatever is done to the immigrant: welcome or rejection. In the immigrant, Christ is welcomed or rejected.”
Bishop Rodriguez also united his voice to that of all the bishops who ask for a law that grants the youth not only a temporary pardon of deportation – as is the case with DACA – “but a full possibility of remaining in the country, without having to be separated from their families.”
Likewise, he pointed out the need of an extension of the Temporary Protected Status permits for the brothers and sisters of El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, and requested a comprehensive reform that allows a way of legalization for immigrants: “May families not be separated, may the kids that come alone be protected; and may the migration system be revised with justice to fully respect the dignity of the human person and the family.”
After Mass, two women who have benefited from the DACA program gave their testimonies. Aline Cervantes, 19, said: “DACA gave me the opportunity to attend college. But before being a dreamer, I’m a daughter of God. He gave me DACA, only he knows what will happen. Jesus understands our distress and pain. We must have hope and faith.” She also encouraged the youth present to not fill their hearts with resentment against their non-Hispanic brothers and sisters.
Meanwhile, Michelle Fierro, 24, said that on the same day she thought of buying her ticket to return to Mexico on June 12, 2012, she was surprised to find that an executive order could temporarily improve her status as an undocumented immigrant. “I felt that God was speaking to me, telling me that this was the place for me,” Fierro told the Denver Catholic en Español. “I began to see many differences since I was very young. I felt that I was less, and I wondered why I should remain here if I couldn’t have a good future.” Although the end of DACA was announced, she holds a conviction: “We must have faith. It is God who governs us, we should say, ‘Jesus, I trust in you,’ and follow the plan he has for us.”
At the end of Mass, the faithful sung fervently and effusively the hymn “Tú reinarás” (“You will reign”), waving white flags. They then began to yell, as many fellow countrymen did on the verge of death, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” to the King who, as bishop said, “invites us to trust, and watches over us: for those on one side and for those on the other; since for his love, there are no walls. And he invites us, above all, to maintain hope: He will reunite those who are dispersed.”