A Vincentian parish in Charlotte, North Carolina, recently offered thousands of flowers as symbols of prayer that President Trump will have a change of heart and turn away from his plans to get tougher on undocumented immigrants.
Father Vince Finnerty, CM serves as pastor for over 5,000 parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. He was recently joined by Fr. Greg Gay, former Superior General of the Congregation of the mission.
The church, whose members are immigrants from all over Latin America, has procured 4,000 carnations and 200 roses for the occasion.
Our confrere Vince Finnerty said the church is acting partly because “people here are anxious to do something” in response to the executive order and stepped-up arrests by federal immigration agents, also known as ICE. He added,
“it’s a way that we, as a church, can show that we are on the side of immigrants. It’s a fragile population. and Jesus was always with the fragile. They are good people who simply want to make a living, have a future and live in peace.
In addition, the church will pass out 5,000 cards of spiritual encouragement to its members. Many of them are afraid in the wake of a new executive order from Trump that expanded the definition of criminal immigrants targeted for deportation to include those who entered the United States illegally.
The cards feature words from Pope Francis as well as the image of a 17th century painting of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus as refugees fleeing to Egypt.
The pontiff’s words, which will be in his native Spanish on the cards, are addressed to migrants and refugees. He says they have “a special place in the heart of the Church.”
The pope also urges immigrants and refugees to “not lose your faith and hope. Let us think of the Holy Family during the flight to Egypt. … God would never abandon them. So in you may the same hope in the Lord never be wanting.”
Prior to this weekend, I spoke with Fr. Greg Gay, our former Superior General. who is on assignment in the parish.
Fr.Greg believes this is a thoroughly Vincentian parish. He has been moved to tears by his experiences with these people especially when he visits them in their homes. He is struck by the collaboration of the parishioners in meeting a wide variety of needs.
He is also impressed with the extent of the lay formation program. On any given night there may be ten separate classes being offered to people of all age levels.
The weekly bulletin features formational material for understanding the relevance of the life and works of St. Vincent. The parish has been inspired by the Vincentian Family and especially by the statement of the Sisters of Charity Federation.
The Sisters of Charity Federation stands in solidarity with faith leaders in opposing the Executive Orders of President Trump that have created fear and anxiety among immigrants and refugees, including both our Southern neighbors and our Muslim sisters and brothers. We will respond with urgency and compassion to the needs of immigrants and refugees while also supporting our nation’s right to protect its borders.
Based upon the spirituality of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, we embrace the call to “welcome the stranger” (MT 25:35) and there find the face of Christ. We commit to continue our ministries and public actions to welcome immigrants and refugees in light of the unprecedented global refugee crisis that has displaced 65 million people, especially women and children who are fleeing violence and persecution.
With the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, we commit to protect our brothers and sisters of all faiths, and we oppose regulations that deny access to refugees based upon religion, race or country of origin. With Pope Francis, we see that immigrants and refugees “are appealing for solidarity and assistance…God is good; let us imitate God. Their condition cannot leave us indifferent.” (Pope Francis, May 2013, Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People)
In addition to personal conversation, this story draws on two recent articles in the Charlotte Observer by national prize-winning journalist Tim Funk.