CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY Daily Feed
Here is the Last Supper painting referenced in Dave Myers's column, in which he tells of the historian Josephus, and how he mentions the fact that Jesus and the Apostles had a pet dog named Winston. Though not mentioned in Scripture, if you squint your eyes and look very carefully, you can see a dog depicted under the table in Da Vinci's Last Supper (above).
May 20, 2018
KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Track meet; Beloved Sinners; Benjamin Martin retires; Smiles; Future of Fortune Telling; Hoisington mission; DofI; Getting Equipped; Spring Social; First Communion; Confirmation
May 6, 2018
KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Archbishop Romero; Seeing, Touching, Tasting; Exhortation; Father Patrick Conroy; Happy Mother's Day; A child on your doorstep; Vibrant Ministries Grant; From the heart of a young father; Love Gives Life; Roman Holiday; Smartphone; retirement
As St. Dominic School celebrates its
half-century anniversary, students asked:
What will life be like in 50 years?
The answers were anywhere from the obvious—"Teachers will retire and there will be different ones”—to the somewhat unlikely: “The schools will be floating!”
And of course, there was the hopeful: “Math will be invisible” [to which a few adults in the room nodded in approval].
The first graders in Amanda Frick’s class at St. Dominic School in Garden City prove that creativity and imagination are gifts given to one and all, no exceptions.
These children were not only born in the 21st century, it’s unlikely that any were born prior to 2010. Yet, many of their predictions were the same as those predicted decades ago: flying cars, robots, etc....
One prediction that no one could deny a half century ago was that in 50 years St. Dominic School would be thriving.
But before taking a look at the past, the pupils took part in an entertaining look into the future, predicting what school life, and life in general, would be like:
“The school will look older.”
“We’ll look older!”
“It will be an electric [dry-erase] board. You’ll say it and it will show.”
“Robots will teach. Then the teachers can have a day off.”
“The swing sets will be different. You’ll be able to go higher.”
“The ceiling will be dark brown.”
“Worm holes will be used for teleportation.”
In a presentation to St. Dominic parishioners and school families on Jan. 28, the first day of Catholic Schools Week, Principal Trina Delgado shared some of the history of the 50-year-old school.
St. Dominic School opened its doors for the first time on Sept. 7, 1967 with 106 pupils in six grades. Bishop Marion Forst dedicated the parish complex (which also included a multi-use auditorium and convent) on May 5, 1968.
At this point, there was still only one church in Garden City: St. Mary.
Why did the diocese build a new school before it constructed a church for the new parish?
St. Dominic had been decreed a parish two years earlier, and ground was purchased for the parish complex. But the money wasn’t there for a new church and school.
Father Lisle Pottorff, pastor, noted at the time, “As the Bishop has indicated, the foundation of a parish is the faith, and the foundation of the faith is a parish school. Due to the lack of funds, an entire parish plant cannot be built at this time.”
On Sept. 6, 1966, ground was broken, and after a year-and-a-half of construction, Bishop Forst dedicated the complex.
Mass, which had been held in the Coop Community Center and later the Knights of Columbus Hall, moved to the auditorium, where it would be celebrated for the next 15 years before the present St. Dominic Church would be constructed.
Lilly Ann Rein was hired as a para at St. Dominic School in 1975, less than a decade after the school opened its doors. At the time, the staff consisted of four teachers (all of whom were Sisters) and two paras—the entire teaching staff for grades one through six.
“My dream was that by the time I stopped working, we would have a teacher for every grade, and a P.E. teacher, librarian and a music teacher,” Rein said in an earlier interview. “Today we have a teacher for every grade. We have gym and music. We have a computer lab. We have a pre-school for three-year-olds, PreK for four- and five-year-olds, and a kindergarten. We have really come far.
“I got so much more than I asked for,” she said with a wide smile.
St. Dominic’s, and other Catholic schools, continue to maintain a strong Catholic presence.
“We’re so lucky that we can go to Mass, speak about God, pray together, and do loving and wonderful things with the kids,” Rein said. “We’ve got a good set of kids. It’s due to the parents and faculty. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK
Delgado, who also is Superintendent of Catholic Schools, said that “it has been a full week of celebration and inspiration for our school community, especially our young students and staff. My thoughts, when we began planning this celebration, were that we needed to educate our young people about the many people that it takes to make (and maintain) a successful Catholic school.
“Our students have learned the many changes that have taken place in 50 years, as well as the reasons behind those changes. We’ve learned about the legacy of people, and the influence that a Catholic education had, and continues to have, on lives; as Catholics, as family members, as professionals, and simply put, on people being a small part of the larger world. Finally, we have learned the meaning and responsibility of being alumni.
“The time spent at St. Dominic Catholic School may be short, in terms of years, but the memories that are made run deep,” Delgado said. “A special bond is created that lasts a lifetime!”
“In memories shared with me by past lay and religious staff, I was told of a young student who lived very close to the school, got homesick midday and climbed out a school window to make a run for home,” Delgado said. “An unnamed religious sister, dressed in full habit, hiked up her skirt and followed him right out the same window, returning him not so patiently through the back school doors.”
Delgado said she “was also told of a certain priest, Msgr. [George] Husmann, who held a pilot’s license, and (the story gets better) owned his own airplane. Every year, for sixth grade graduation—according to Sister Renee Dreiling—he would take the 6th grade students on an airplane ride, not just any ride, but complete with flipping his plane into a spiral, student screams encouraged!”
Allison Doll, a senior at Kansas State University, said that the “aspect of St. Dominic that surprised me the most are the friendships that started there, and that still carry on to this day. After St. Dominic, there were many obstacles that came up, going to different schools, making new friends, not being involved in the same activities, all things that could have easily torn previous relationships apart.
“Though our relationships have changed, it is like we share a certain bond. As I think back on the past week (in my life), and take inventory of all the people I have interacted with, about a quarter of them are former St. Dominic students. That’s incredible considering my St. Dominic class was around 25 total students, and I am now attending a university with nearly 20,000 students.
“Maybe the reason these relationships have endured for so long is that they got their start by being rooted in a strong faith. St. Dominic Catholic School has been a pillar of faith for 50 years.
“The school has helped shape the lives of hundreds of students and educators, and in turn they have shaped the school. Though the faces change, the mission and values stay the same.”
Alum shares heartfelt words with St. Joseph students
By Dave Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic
“Is Jesus really in that piece of bread that he puts in your mouth?” the first-grade boy asked.
“Yes, he is!” replied Rachel Doll enthusiastically. “It’s really Jesus! It’s his body and blood and his soul and his divinity and we get to pray with him. It’s the closest we can get to Jesus on earth. It’s awesome!”
The senior at Ft. Hays State College was paying a Catholic Schools Week visit to her alma mater, St. Joseph School in Ellinwood, when she was asked the question during a presentation to the kindergarten-through-third grade classes. She later met with older students.
The children made a few quick determinations. First, Ft. Hays is not a Catholic school, but that doesn’t mean Doll isn’t growing in her faith every day.
“I have a special group like you guys have here,” she explained. “It’s called the Catholic Disciples. We learn about Jesus just like you. We get to hear from priests and nuns. It’s really cool! They come and talk and teach us about Jesus.
“You never stop learning about Jesus!”
Another determination the pupils made is that Doll thinks St. Joseph School is pretty cool.
“It’s awesome that we get to have this school. It’s pretty cool that we get to go here and learn about Jesus and everything. That’s not always how it is in other schools. In other schools they don’t always get to talk about Jesus, and here you get to learn about Jesus almost every day. We get to learn how to be good people. That’s what being Catholic means: to be a good person and to try to treat others with kindness.”
Rachel is studying elementary education, but just where she teaches and what grade, well, she’s leaving that up to a higher power.
“I would like to teach fifth grade, but I’ll do whatever God wants me to do,” she told the children. “I always make plans, and think I’m going to do this, and then God’s like, ‘Actually, you’re going to do this, instead.’ So, I always try to listen to what God wants me to do. I think I would like to teach fifth grade, but I like all grades. I think you’re all awesome.”
That old notion of Sisters being a bit on the temperamental side has gone by the wayside, but those antique notions still sneak in now and then. When one child asked Doll if the Sisters she encountered were mean, she replied, “The nuns are crazy nice. It’s almost scary how nice the nuns are. The nuns are super sweet and walk around and ask ‘How can we pray for you?” And they are the happiest people I know. I was always asking them, ‘Why are you always so happy?’ And they say, ‘Because we have Jesus!’
“Basically, they are married to Jesus! They spend all their time praying and spending time with Jesus. And they are so happy. They’re not mean at all.”
Doll spoke about the joy of adoration, drawing a similar question to one posed earlier regarding the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
“He’s really there!” Doll responded. “Isn’t that so cool? And it’s hard for us because we can’t really see him. He doesn’t have eyes, does he? There aren’t any eyes on the bread. It doesn’t have a mouth either, but he’s there. At the last supper, he said, ‘This is my body, which I will give up for you.’ We have to just believe and trust!”
Religious women and men honored at Consecrated Life Day Mass, reception
By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register
WRIGHT – Despite the 21-degree high predicted for the day, the warmth created inside St. Andrew Church was a direct reflection of the familial joy of so many gathered in one place to celebrate their “Consecrated” devotion to a loving Lord.
This Mass and reception celebrating the 22nd World Day for Consecrated Life, Feb. 10, celebrated more than a decision that each person made one day to devote their lives to Christ, but the journey that each has taken thus far. For some, the journey has brought them to the jungles of Africa, for others, the shores of China, and for still others, a strange and mysterious place called Southwest Kansas.
At the Mass prior to the luncheon reception, Father Robert Schremmer, pastor of St. Andrew Parish, welcomed all those gathered.
“We also welcome Religious priests Father Aneesh [Parappanattu, MSFS], Father Prakash Kola [MSFS], And Father Maurice Cummings [O. Carm],” he said, noting the priests seated behind the altar.
“And then there’s Father Ted [Stoecklein] and myself, who are not Religious,” Father Schremmer added to laughter.*
In his homily, Father Aneesh, a Missionary of St. Francis de Sales, used India’s national flower as a metaphor for a person “Consecrated to the Lord.”
“The Lotus flower inherits and exhibits a lot of meaning and symbolism and has a number of unique properties,” he said.
“It grows in muddy, dirty water and rises above the surface to bloom with remarkable beauty. At night, the flower closes and sinks underwater, while at dawn, it rises and opens again. It has a quality of self-cleaning and always remains free from dirty particles. Its leaves are such that they remain always dry.
“Untouched by impurity, the Lotus symbolizes purity of heart and mind.”
The flower, he said, “represents beautifully this consecration and offering to the Lord:
“We may grow in the muddy waters of evil, scandals, violence, corruption, yet, can we rise above all this and bloom in beauty, with God’s strength?
“In the night of our life, we may sink and feel dejected, broken, sad, depressed, worried, etc…. Yet, can we open up again, and blossom in loveliness, with God’s graces?
“In our worldly interactions, we may get spoiled with dirty particles of sin, evil, bad habits, etc… Yet, can we free ourselves from all these, by the redeeming power of God’s love?
“Let us hold the hands of Mother Mary, and renew our consecration to the Lord. In the Lord we find strength for our Consecration; we find joy for our Consecration. Yes, we belong to the Lord.”
Following Mass, participants walked amid the Kansas deep freeze to the parish center, where Knights of Columbus waited with drinks and appetizers. Inside the social hall, the Knights and the women of the Altar Society provided a delicious meal served with the help of members of the Vocation Commission.
As participants ate dessert, Father Schremmer suggested to those gathered that they discuss how we might better bring the joy of the Gospel to everyone, including those “on the peripheries.”
Several participants who had attended the Convocation for Catholic Leaders in Orlando, where they addressed this same question, offered their comments. Mike Stein shared an impassioned plea that “we must reach out more effectively to immigrants in a world that is increasingly hostile to them.”
The Catholic Diocese of Dodge City is currently home to 10 different religious orders: four orders of men religious, and six orders of women religious.
* Fathers Schremmer and Stoecklein are “diocesan” priests, and do not belong to a “Religious” order. Therefore they are not considered a Religious. See the Jan. 21 issue for an in-depth article on the subject.
Kansas prelate served most of his vocation in Brazil
Scott City vocation, Bishop Hermes, dies
The Most Reverend Herbert J. Hermes, O.S.B., 84, bishop emeritus of Cristolandia, Goias, Brazil, and religious vocation from St. Joseph Parish, Scott City, Kansas, died Jan. 3, 2018 of complications from pneumonia at the General Hospital of Palmas, Tocantins, Brazil. The funeral Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Wellington Querioz of Cristalandia, and Abbot James Albers of St Benedict Abbey, Atchison, at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Paraiso do Tocantins. Burial was in the crypt of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Cristalandia, Tocantins.
Herbert Hermes was born at Shallow Water, Kans., on May 25, 1933, the son of John and Mary Hilger Hermes. He was baptized in St. Joseph Church, June 5, 1933. He received his elementary and secondary training in Scott City. He was an honor student at Scott Community High School and valedictorian of the Class of 1951.
After two years in the preparatory seminary of St. Benedict’s Abbey, Atchinson, Kans., he entered the Benedictine novitiate on July 10, 1953. He professed his solemn vows on July 11, 1957. He received the major orders of subdeacon and deacon in Dec. 14, 1958, and Dec. 19, 1959, respectively.
The Rev. Herbert Hermes, O.S.B., was among seven Benedictine monks ordained to the priesthood in St. Benedict’s Abbey Church, on Ascension Thursday, May 26, 1960. The ordaining prelate was Archbishop Edward J. Hunkeler of Kansas City in Kansas.
Father Hermes celebrated his first solemn Mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Scott City on May 30, 1960. Father Herman Schulte served as the archpriest; Msgr. George Hussman, deacon; Father Peter Urban, sub-deacon; Father Arnold Tkacik, O.S.B., preached the sermon.
In 1962, he was assigned to St. Joseph Priory in Mineiros, Brazil, a foundation of St. Benedict’s Abbey. He was appointed prior of the foundation in 1985.
Pope John Paul II appointed him bishop of the territorial prelature of Christlandia in 1990. The prelature covers 27,000 square miles. At the time of his appointment there were 245,000 inhabitants of which 80 to 90 percent considered themselves Catholics. There were only 12 priests serving the region.
Bishop Mathias Schmidt, O.S.B., of Barbosa, Brazil, ordained Bishop Hermes to the episcopacy at St. Benedict’s Abby on Sept. 2, 1990. He was assisted by Archbishop Ignatius J. Strecker of Kansas City, and retired Bishop Frederick W. Freking of La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Prior to his appointment as bishop, Father Hermes had served as pastor of several parishes and mission churches in the Mineiros region of the Jatai Diocese.
During the 19 years of his Episcopal duties, Bishop Herbert ordained 16 diocesan priests, created seven parish and subdivided the prelacy into five pastoral regions. He welcomed several religious congregations of men and women religious to minister in the prelature.
Bishop Hermes was active in many organizations promoting the human, social, political and economic rights of indigenous and poor persons, who were often exploited and victimized by powerful alliances of corrupt government and business. He exposed the practice of modern slavery and worked to rescue the enslaved.
His opposition to acts such as these brought threats to his life.
In 1994, he created the Center of Human Rights of Cristalandia and established offshots called Human Rights Nucleos. He received the award, Honorary Citizen of the State of Tocinchins, from the State Congress, on Nov. 11, 2001. In 2002, he received national recognition as a Distinguished Personality in Human Rights.
Bishop Hermes inspired a cousin and a nephew as they sought their own vocations in the priesthood. He ordained Father Michael Hermes, a diocesan priest, and now pastor at St. Paul Parish in Olathe, and Father Alphonsus Hermes, a Norbertine priest of St. Michaels’s Abbey in Silverado, Calif.
Bishop Hermes retired on Feb. 25, 2009, and continued to reside in Brazil. He returned to St. Joseph Church in Scott City on June 19, 2010 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination with a Mass of Thanksgiving. He described his priestly ordination as the “blessing of blessings, grace of graces.”
His ordination, he said, offered to him the “sublime gift of Jesus using my throat, tongue and lips to transform bread and wine into His Body and Blood and to give the blessing of absolution for the forgiveness of sins. Likewise the grace of anointing the elderly, the sick, the dying, of baptizing and of uniting couples in the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, of preaching the Good News.”
He is survived by his twin brother Norbert of Salina; a sister, Lucilla Herman in Oklahoma; nephews and nieces; and his brother monks and priests at St. Benedict’s Abby and the Prelacy of Cristalandia.
(Contributing to this article were Joe Bollig of the Leaven, and Herbert Hermes, columnist for the Register in Salina.)
After 43 years serving in Nigeria,
Sister Rita Schwarzenberger says,
‘The greatest joy for me is to see lives changed’
Editor’s Note: The Southwest Kansas Catholic posed several questions to Sister Rita Schwarzenberger, a Dominican Sister of Peace, via email. The Kansas native serves in Nigeria.
Southwest Kansas Catholic: Where were you born?
Sister Rita Schwarzenberger: I was born in Collyer, Kansas (directly north of Dodge City, just north of I-70), the third of eight children.
SKC: How long have you been a Sister?
Sister Rita: I entered the convent in 1960, made temporary profession in 1963.
SKC: Can you tell me what it was that compelled you to become a Sister?
Sister Rita: I think your word ‘compelled’ is a good description. Not only did I go to Catholic grade school and was often helping the Sisters or Priests with one task or another, I was also very much exposed to the life of a Sister because our family often went to see our aunt, Sister Michael, in Great Bend, and on the way we stopped in Liebenthal to visit our great uncle, Father Francis Uhrich.
So when you use the word “compelled”, I sometimes tell people I did not choose to become a Sister; I was prayed into it. And as you might be aware, I have a sibling whom I followed into the convent, my older sister who worked for some time in the RENEW program in Dodge City Diocese, Sister Francine.
SKC: How long have you been serving in Nigeria?
Sister Rita: I came to Nigeria in 1975 to join the Dominican Sisters from Great Bend who were ministering here.
It was a big change for me to come from a small town in Kansas across the ocean, but it had been a dream of mine to be a missionary.
Initially I was involved in teaching, but later was asked to work for the northern Nigerian Dioceses in works of Justice and Peace. As that was handed over to Nigerians, I took up the work of directing the Hope for the Village Child Foundation. The Foundation was started by a friend of mine who left the country in the year 2000. I was free at that time to accept, and have been working there ever since.
SKC: Are there other Sisters from Kansas working with you? Any Nigerian Sisters?
Sister Rita: Initially I was part of a group of Sisters from Great Bend, but due to a number of circumstances, health issues, aging and sadly, of the death of some whom I met here, I am now the only Sister of the original ones from Great Bend still here.
However, the Sisters left a marvelous legacy in the foundation of a group of Nigerian Dominican Sisters who are doing wonderful work and who will soon take on the work that I am doing.
SKC: How is the faith of the people served? Are they mostly Christian? Muslim? Or a mix?
Sister Rita: Hope for the Village Child Foundation is an NGO, not a faith-based program, as that is defined. The meaning is that we do not proselytize. We work among and with both Christians and Muslims and we have representatives of both faiths on our staff.
Saying we are not faith-based does not mean we ignore religion. It is very important in the life of the people, but as an organization, we try to witness to others that as people of different denominations, different faiths and different ethnic groups, we can work together in harmony. It is a challenge, but I am proud to say that I feel we do that quite successfully. Key to it all, of course, is respect.
SKC: Can you share a bit of what you do with the Foundation?
Sister Rita: Our work is mainly in rural interior communities, though we do have a central clinic.
Health care is a very big issue. In our clinic as well as in outreach programs, we deal with immunization against childhood diseases, child and maternal health, diseases such as malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, sickle cell disease, HIV, meningitis and other common diseases such as diarrhea and vomiting.
Of course, each of these has many different components to treatment, but we are fortunate to have a well-supplied laboratory that assists with diagnosis.
An important part of our health program is our potable water program, i.e., the digging of wells in rural communities. These wells are donated by individuals, families or groups mainly in the United States; the Diocese of Dodge City has not been left out, as there are names of members of the Dodge City Diocese on wells throughout our rural area. In all, I am proud to say that the people of the United States have sponsored well over 200 wells in various communities.
As our name suggests, our main focus is on the child, but we have found out that one cannot focus on the child without bringing in the other members of the family.
With that in mind, we place stress on education, assisting the rural communities in strengthening their schools. We engage in agricultural programs with farmers, both men and women. We also have special programs for women as the primary care-givers for the children.
Some years back I learned about the incidence of rickets, often a crippling disease among children in the rural areas.
Thanks to the generosity of the Catholic Church in Germany, we were able to get assistance for these children, distributing calcium and for those whose deformity was too severe, surgery.
To date we have had more than 400 surgeries carried out. This is linked to another program for children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, post-polio paralysis, etc.
SKC: What are some of the great joys you have encountered?
Sister Rita: The greatest joy for me is to see lives changed. Immediately what comes to mind is the story of a young woman named Lami Tanko. When we met her, she was severely affected with rickets, with what we called bow-legs.
The pain was so severe she could not walk the several miles she needed to go to attend school. She was among the first set of children to have surgery, and that was her first exposure to the English language.
But Lami had a spark inside her, and she pleaded with her parents to go to live in the town where she could attend a better school. Her dream was to become a health worker so she could help others as she had been helped.
Within 10 years she completed, in English, the 12 years of primary and secondary school, graduating with high marks. She is now enrolled in a school of health technology. There are many stories that touch the heart, and I am privileged to be here in the heart of it all.
But I am also privileged to be involved in the Archdiocese of Kaduna where I am a member of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Executive Council. Over the last few years we have been able to produce the revised five-year Pastoral Plan, syllabi in English and Hausa (common local language) for the teaching of religion, special syllabus in Hausa and English for the RCIA program, and other policy documents.
We are involved in other events such as hosting the Archdiocesan General Assembly. And for me, in the small village where I live, there is no resident priest, so daily I am blessed to be able to have a Communion Service with the people here.
SKC: What are some of the challenges?
Sister Rita: Yes, there are challenges. In Nigeria, just one-third again as large as Texas, we are now reported to have 180 million people.
Resources, as in many countries, are not evenly distributed to the people, and thus there is wide-spread poverty and un- or under-employment. This contributes to insecurity and a need that constantly comes knocking for assistance.
But thanks be to God, each day brings its own blessings because in general, I find the people of Nigeria to be highly intelligent, gracious and accepting and open to the workings of God in their lives. It is a blessing for me.
SKC: What could we in southwest Kansas learn from your experiences in Nigeria?
Sister Rita: I believe the same is true of southwest Kansas because I also served in the diocese, albeit for only one year. I know the people there to be generous, gracious, and aware of God’s gifts in their lives. I know that we are united in faith, and I pray that we continue to grow in grace and peace. In spite of difficulties, pain and need, one of the common expressions here is “We Thank God” and for me, it is one of the profound learnings that has affected my life and I hope yours also.
DACA’s demise means discarding some of our most educated
By DAVE MYERS
Southwest Kansas Catholic
The DACA program benefits 800,000 young immigrants, nearly 7,000 of whom live in Kansas. If the DACA program is not renewed on March 5, there is a good possibility that someone you know will be placed on the deportation list.
“You’re talking about attorneys,” Ernestor De La Rosa, Assistant to the City Manager and Interim Human Resources Director for the City of Dodge City.
“You’re talking about nurses. You’re talking about teachers. You’re talking about individuals who have been educated in our school systems.
“You are talking about the brightest and the most talented group that are already here.”
De La Rosa is an advocate for immigration reform and works with the City of Dodge City to navigate legislative issues.
“People will start losing their driver’s licenses; they will be pulled out of the work force; we will see families being separated, which is already happening; you will see people who have literally been in the United States their entire lives being deported to a country that is not familiar to them, where they may not speak the native language, where they may not have any family.”
De La Rosa is a Dodge City High School graduate; he earned his Master’s Degree in public administration from Wichita State University in 2014. He is well spoken and intelligent. And if the DACA program is not renewed, in July 2019, he can be deported to a country he barely remembers.
“My family came to the U.S. through a visitor’s visa 15 years ago after being sponsored by an uncle who is a United States citizen,” De La Rosa explained. “My family was able to obtain a Visa for 10 years, which we thought would allow us time until our green card would be issued.”
The brokenness of the immigration system has been attested to by the U.S. Bishops in their 2001 pastoral statement, “Welcoming the Strangers Among Us,” and in 2013’s, “Strangers No Longer…”. The mountain of red tape is nearly insurmountable. People are on waiting lists for years or decades. It has been addressed by multiple presidents, including Ronald Reagan, who created an amnesty in exchange for tougher border protection and penalties. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama tried to address the system.
Despite their efforts, the immigration code has not been reformed in more than 30 years. So, it was little surprise that, when asked whether or not he ever received his green card, De La Rosa responded, “We’re still waiting.”
Then came DACA, or the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program. Established in 2012, the program sought to bring the immigrant out of the shadows. DACA allowed individuals who arrived here before age 16 and prior to June 15, 2007—and who were able to pass a stringent background check—to receive a protection from deportation, work permits and driver’s licenses.
For two years, DACA recipients can live without fear of being deported. After two years, they reapply. De La Rosa last renewed in July 2017, which means that if there is no DACA fix, he can be deported as of July 2019.
On Sept. 5, 2017, the DACA program was rescinded by President Donald Trump. In January 2018 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel promised that the issue would be addressed before the March 5 deadline. Hopes remain that an agreement will still be reached. Thanks to a court injunction, “they are accepting DACA renewals but they are not taking any new applications,” De La Rosa explained.
Does he have faith that the issue will be dealt with prior to the March deadline?
“That’s one of the things I struggle with,” De La Rosa said. “Last year, McConnell made the same promise that he would address the issue of DACA in December, yet nothing happened, and here we are again with a promise that the immigration debate will take place.
“That’s where dreamers are skeptical and do not trust legislators on either side of the isle.”
In a Jan. 24 statement to the press, President Trump offered a bit of hope: “We’re going to morph into it,” he told reporters. “It’s going to happen at some point in the future. If they do a great job, I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive of, after a period of years, being able to become a citizen.”
But it includes a trade-off. Trump said he would support legal status for ‘Dreamers’ in exchange for $20 billion in funding for the border wall over a period of seven years.
“We’re talking about a group of people who are educated,” De La Rosa said. “Ninety-seven percent of dreamers are college or high school graduates. We are in different professions, mine happens to be public administration.
“We have to pass background checks through the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), assuring that we don’t have any felonys or serious misdemeanors. If you can’t pass a background check, you are not approved.”
If DACA is not renewed, “We will continue to advocate and push our legislators to address or provide a DACA fix, a permanent solution. If not this year, then hopefully after the 2018 election the political spectrum will change, and congress can deliver a legislation with a permanent solution, hopefully with a pass to citizenship.”