Before, during and after the meal, participants responded to questions like "When and why did your first immigrant ancestor arrive in the U.S.?," "What does the traditional food you brought tonight mean to you?" and "How have events related to immigration affected you personally?" Facilitators from OCSJM and members of the event planning team reminded them that the purpose of the conversation was to understand each other better, not to debate issues or persuade anyone about a personal point of view.
Those who participated used words like "solidarity," "supported," "enlightened," "opportunities" and "hope" to describe their feelings after hearing personal immigration stories, learning about the Church's teaching on immigration and OCSJM's involvement in addressing the challenges of the immigrant community.
The Catholic Church has long advocated for compassionate immigration reform. Recently Pope Francis stated, "Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity." Dialogues like this one have an important role to play in helping the faithful to bridge gaps of understanding and forge relationships across the divide often fueled by media and other forces.
In solidarity with immigration reform leaders, many Catholics took part in the "Fast for Families" in November. The purpose of the fast was to "touch the compassion and sensibilities of our elected leaders to address the moral Crisis of an immigration system that fails to comport with our national values, our creeds and belief in justice." In addition to this nationwide fast, the Vatican has set the next "World Day of Migrants and Refugees" for January 19, 2014.