Advocates for migrants in Arizona, Sonora gather at border for 'posada'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec

By Nancy Wiechec

NOGALES, Mexico (CNS) — Kenia
Salas, about to play the role of Mary in a Christmastime commemoration popular
across Mexico, said she imagines Mary as a woman of strength.

“I think she was worried
about her baby,” Salas, 17, said before participating in the “posada”
along the U.S.-Mexico border. “I think she probably was a little scared
because she was about to give birth and she was in pain. But I also think she
was happy. She knew what she was doing was for God, and that made her strong.”

Advocates for migrants gathered
for the traditional re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter before
the birth of Christ. The roles of Mary, Joseph and an angel were played by
Salas and other members of Kino Teens, who work with the Kino Border Initiative
in its ministry to migrants.

Joining the procession along the
border fence were Bishops Jose Leopoldo Gonzalez of Nogales and Gerald F.
Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona. Their dioceses include the area of “ambos
Nogales,” the separated American and Mexican cities of Nogales.

The crowd included the Nolan
family from Incarnation Parish in Palos Heights, Ill. Elizabeth Nolan, 17, had
taken part in a Kino Teens border immersion program in the summer. She said she
wanted the rest of her family to see firsthand the border city and be able talk
with migrants and to hear their stories.

“Seeing the border and
crossing over shows how close we are and yet how far apart we really are,”
she said.

Along the “posada”
procession route, the group heard recordings of migrants telling their accounts
of separation and struggle.

In one recording, a woman weeps
for her children as she tells of her Arizona workplace being raided by sheriff
deputies. She was jailed and deported, separated from her husband and 11- and
18-year-old sons.

“They took away our spirit,”
she said. “You feel like you can do nothing. It’s not easy being separated
from your children and your family.”

Following the testimony, the “posada”
group reflected on what it means to be family.

Someone read a quote from Pope
Francis: “The family the Catholic Church defends is a reality wanted by
God. It is a gift of God that brings to people, as well as to societies, joy,
peace stability, happiness.”

The posada, which began near the
DeConcini Port of Entry, ended at the “comedor,” the kitchen and
dining hall of the Aid Center for Deported Migrants run by the Kino Border

Deported men, women and children
are fed hot meals there each night. This night was no exception.

After helping serve the meal,
Bishop Kicanas reflected on what it means for people of faith to come together to
support each other regardless of borders.

“This time of year is a
beautiful time for families on both sides of our border to come together, to
walk together, to share together, to pray together,” he said. “That’s
what this ‘posada’ has been, an opportunity for us from Nogales, Sonora, the
new diocese, and the Diocese of Tucson and the Diocese of Phoenix to walk
together. That’s what the Lord is calling us to do and what this beautiful
season reminds us about.”

Like so many migrants and
refugees today, he said, Mary and Joseph were poor people, and they simply
desired a place of comfort and safety for their child.

“The people who are seeking
a better way of life remind us of ourselves. Every parent wants to care for
their child, every parent wants to have opportunity for their child. That’s
really the driving force of migration.

“It’s important for nations
of the world to find ways to welcome the stranger, to welcome those who are
fleeing violence, to welcome those who are trying to find a better way of life,”
he said.

The bishop said a message of
solidarity is one people can expect to hear from Pope Francis when he visits
Mexico’s Cuidad Juarez along the U.S. border in February.

“I think he will surely
remind us that in the church, in God’s family, there are no borders … we are
one family in Christ,” he said.

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