The Episcopal Latino Ministry Competency Course is an innovative nine-day intensive training event designed for diocesan staff, clergy, lay leaders, and seminarians to learn cultural competency for Latino ministry. The Rev. Nick Lorenzetti from St. Paul’s, Modesto, reflects on his experience as a participant at the June 11-18 training held at Bloy House, Episcopal Theological School at Claremont, California.
When one considers not the reality of past, current or future human-made laws regarding immigration, there remains a more worthy, more noble, more human, more essential reality that trumps all – it is God’s law; it is the commandment of love. We must repeat it over and over again as people of faith, as members of the Episcopal Church, that our focus is on what is Biblical. It is precisely from that focus I share with you my heart-rendering experiences during the week of June 11th. For the most part, I will not be using real names herein.
He fled Honduras because his life was threatened by drug lords when he refused to allow his little shop to be used for the trafficking of illegal drugs. He sought asylum in Mexico, where he hoped to stay, but was denied. The long arm of the drug lords discovered his location, and sought to kill him. For no other reason than to save his life, he came to us. He was imprisoned in the Adelanto Detention Center, which the ICE official we interviewed insisted was the equivalent of the LA Hilton. It was from there he was hospitalized due to internal bleeding from repeated rapes. He eventually found sanctuary in an Episcopal Church in the Los Angeles area, where fellow sisters and brothers from the parish care for him, love him, and are working to help him heal from his physical, emotional and spiritual wounds. During the time he was strapped with an ankle bracelet, he was to pay $450.00 per month for it, but he was not then and is not now allowed to work. He is a young man who is seeking asylum here and wishes to get a job. Juan wants to be able to support himself, and hopes someday to study medicine. A criminal? An animal? I think not. It was my honor to meet and speak with him.
In a previous article for the Task Force you read Wilson Colón’s story about another immigrant who lost a leg, an arm, and three fingers of his remaining hand trying to come here to find a better life. Meeting Fredericko broke my heart! A criminal? An animal? I think not! His commitment is to help others like him who love the church, love people, love America.
We visited a refugee center in L.A., where the walls in the common room contain some 200 doilies on which are written the names of the children who find shelter, food, and hope there. More recently, the center has been taking in young mothers who accompany their children. These children and their parents are not criminals, nor are they animals! I just can’t get that statement out of my head. While there, my husband Wilson met a young boy, about 4-5 years old, named Wilson (real name), alone with no parents. His father, also Wilson, was killed while attempting to enter the U.S. His father died in 2016, the same year both of my husband’s parents died. Wil was wearing a solid gold crucifix and chain with great sentimental value, something he wore since he was 15 years old. In front of our entire group visiting the center and in front of some of those living there, he called little Wilson over, took off his precious possession, and placed it around the neck of little Wilson, a gift of love to symbolize our call to “be” for others! A lot of people cried that day! Little Wilson – should his life matter? To whom? To us?
This is just a smattering of stories. Permit me to conclude with this last one. Joylene is a of two who escaped tremendous violence at the hands of her father. Fearful for herself and her youngest child, she came to the U.S. seeking refuge and safety. While the reason was not explained to us, she left her country with a broken heart because she left her son behind. She cries for him every day. She is in the refugee center with her little girl. She wears an ankle bracelet, which she says hurts, and which often goes off at night keeping her
awake. She wishes to seek asylum, but the refugee center has no money to pay the $1500 retainer for a lawyer who would begin the process. She is very willing, but not allowed, to work. She is fearful, downtrodden and demoralized. She is not a criminal. Her life also
matters. St. Paul’s, Modesto, in the name of our Lord, will be sending the monetary retainer to help this woman and her child.
It really does all come down to Matthew 25! “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people,
that you do unto me!”
Fr. Nick Lorenzetti