Prayer service kicks off Undocumented Student Week of Action
Luciana Thomas | Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Notre Dame students gathered for a prayer service led by Campus Ministry and DreamND Monday evening by the statue of the Holy Family on Bond Quad to kick off Undocumented Student Week of Action.
The service was the first in a series of events aimed at supporting students who are undocumented or who are part of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This is the first year the prayer service has been hosted as a collaboration between DreamND, Campus Ministry, the Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy (SCIA) and the Institute for Latino Studies.
In a speech, director of Campus Ministry Fr. Pete McCormick talked about the language often used to refer to immigrants and about the respect they deserve.
“I want us to be careful and cautious about the language that we use,” he said. “The term ‘undocumented’ speaks as if the primary mover or indicator of a human being is whether or not they have or do not have documents … If we allow that language to carry over into our own lives, it then, therefore, reduces a human being to who they are based upon what paperwork they have.”
McCormick then shared the story of Jesus’ infancy, recounting when King Herod was searching for Jesus after he’d been born. The Holy Family had to flee to Egypt, becoming refugees. They not only entered a new place, but they had to adapt to different customs and new language, and they also had to find a way to work.
McCormick compared the story of the Holy Family to immigrants trying to find new hope, while emphasizing the importance of sympathy and dignity toward undocumented immigrants.
“I think for us, as people of faith, we do not stop or start at the word ‘document.’ We start and stop at ‘dignity’,” he said. “And we remain rooted in that word, and we continue to look for moments in which we encounter a lack thereof — of dignity — and we seek to draw attention to it.”
After a performance by the Coro Primavera de Nuestra Señora — the Spanish liturgical choir — service attendees listened to a speech by sophomore Jennifer Moreno Mendoza.
“Our faith causes us to accompany our immigrant neighbor and advocate for the issues that are pertinent to their identity, their safety and their well-being on this campus, in this country and in our Church,” Moreno Mendoza said, after reading a passage from the book of Ezekiel.
McCormick also mentioned graduate student Majd “Jude Ash” al-Shoufi, whose death was announced Friday evening. al-Shoufi was born in Syria but grew up in the United Arab Emirates. He had moved back to Syria in 2005.
“He went to Turkey, which shares a border with Syria, and began to care for those refugees who were coming across the border,” McCormick said. “To care for them, to love them, to seek to empower them.”
After briefly sharing al-Shoufi’s story, McCormick added that “What Jude so beautifully recognized and saw is that each person has difficulties, the same thing that Mary, Joseph and Jesus recognized — but it’s a modern-day understanding. Jude tended to and cared for those who were coming across the border.”
Attendees listened to excerpts from different immigrant stories from students. First-year Irasema Hernandez shared a quote from an undocumented immigrant who went to school in the United States.
“In high school, I didn’t have papers and couldn’t get a job,” she cited. “But as long as I had a chance for education, I thought I should get all the skills I possibly could.”
Hernandez said she wants people to realize the number of immigrant students in the United States and the impact they have today. After a moment of sharing immigrant stories, Becky Ruvalcaba, assistant director of outreach at Campus Ministry, offered some closing remarks.
“As we pass by this statue, let it not just be some picturesque reminder of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Let it not just merely be ‘the Holy Hand-off’,” McCormick had said at the end of his speech. “Let it be a call to action, a reminder that each person has inherent dignity and we do not — we will never start with documents.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article included the misspelling of Majd “Jude Ash” al-Shoufi’s name. The Observer deeply regrets this error.