Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 30, 2013 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez and local political leaders have held a 24-hour fast to pray for immigration reform and to remember families who are separated from each other at Thanksgiving.
“Today we are standing up for those who won't be sharing Thanksgiving dinner with their families and loved ones – those who are suffering because of our broken immigration system,” Archbishop Gomez said Nov. 25 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
He called for a “conversion of hearts” to fix U.S. immigration law.
The archbishop was joined in the Nov. 25-26 fast by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, labor leader Maria Elena Durazo, L.A. Chamber of Commerce Chairman Alan Rothenberg and other religious, civic and business leaders.
They announced the Los Angeles Fast for Families, an effort which joins other national action to support changes in U.S. immigration law as immigration bills have stalled in Congress.
“We can't remain indifferent to so much suffering. And we can't let our leaders avoid the issue for another year,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We need immigration reform now.”
The archbishop lamented the deportations in the last four years of nearly two million people, 25 percent of whom are taken away from their families.
“These aren’t statistics. These are people. These are kids left without a mom or a dad. These are parents who may not see their children again for years,” he said.
“Millions of our brothers and sisters are suffering – and they have been for years now. People are dying in the deserts outside our border. Millions of workers are living without rights.”
Archbishop Gomez affirmed the importance of fasting, noting that it is a sign of penance and a way to show “solidarity with those in need” for both Jews and Christians.
“What we are doing here today is very little. We know that. But we do it with love – love for God and love for those he loves, the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters,” the archbishop said.
“Our little acts of acts of sacrifice and self-denial have great spiritual power. So we’re inviting everyone to fast and pray for immigration reform. Let us share our bread with the hungry. And let us make our voices heard for those who have no one to speak for them.”
Archbishop Paul Coakley invited the more than 120,000 Catholics of his archdiocese to take part. He said Nov. 22 that the project provides “an opportunity to support our brothers and sisters who are caught up in this impasse.”
“I want to help move our great nation toward a more just solution to the situation that keeps so many of our brothers and sisters living in the shadows of our society,” he said.
A group of young adults from the group Dream Act Oklahoma will eat only one meal each day for 11 days, marking the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. They will also engage the public at Oklahoma City’s Holy Angels Catholic Church through information workshops, movies, and discussions. They will host open mic nights for immigrants to share their stories of detention and deportation as well as stories of hope.
Father Tim Luschen, pastor of Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Oklahoma City, said Nov. 22 he hopes the project will make people aware of the need for immigration reform and help them “see that those who suffer from the broken system are people who are here and seeking the same life that all people seek.”
“They are all our brothers and sisters in Christ and they have a human face,” he said.
Archbishop Coakley prayed a novena for immigration reform from Nov. 23 to Dec. 31. On Nov. 24, he blessed a prayer procession from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to Holy Angels Catholic Church.
On Nov. 25, Archbishop Gomez asked Our Lady of Guadalupe to protect those who are “forced to live at the margins of this great country.”
“Friends, as we give thanks to God this week with our families, let’s pray for all those who can’t be together on this holiday. Let's pray for a new spirit of welcoming and generosity – so that everyone can join us in the promise of America.”