Urging prayer, pressing for action

Diocese joins thousands across country in raising voices for separated families

(PHOTOS from the Rally)

By Dave Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic

It was an appeal to the better angels of our nature, an urging that more than 3,000 immigrant families who have been forcefully separated at the border in recent months be quickly and safely reunited.

On June 30, dozens of people gathered in a grassy, tree-lined area next to the Dodge City Medical Center to voice their opposition to family separations, to urge those in power to expedite the rejoining immigrant families, and to pray for the families affected and the policy-makers.

It was one of scores of rallies that took place across the country.

“As people of faith, we know that we must speak and act on behalf of those who have no voice,” said Georgina Paz, an employee of the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City, and one of the organizers of the event. “Every person has a fundamental right to life and dignity. We believe every person is precious.”

The rally was organized by the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City with the support of the First United Methodist Church of Dodge City and St. Catherine Hospital. Speakers included Rev. Jerre Nolte of First United Methodist Church, who gave the invocation, Rev. Juan Espinoza, also of First United Methodist Church, and Father Robert Schremmer, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese.

Dennis McKinney, former Kansas State Treasurer, gave a particularly impassioned address:

“… I think the vast majority of us agree that our country has to do things to protect us from violence and acts of terrorism,” McKinney said. “We have to have a secure border. We have to have a conversation about how we bolster other nations so that people don’t have to flee here. It’s essential to understand that safety and security can be achieved.”

But it must be achieved, he said, without separating families and violating our most basic values and traditions.

“I think we’re alarmed because we see our nation ... taking children away from their parents. … And these actions are being taken against people, many of whom have been fleeing some of the most dire circumstances known.”

 McKinney continued: “…In the 9th chapter of Luke, Jesus reminds us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, with all of our strength, and the that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

“…It’s imperative that we shout from the highest rooftop the words that God gives us from the apostle John: If you do not love, you do not know God, because God is love.”

Rev. Nolte prayed that God would “turn our eyes to the other that we may see you, and see you in our neighbor.

“Help us to see each other as beloved children, eternally with you,” he said. “Turn our ears to the other that we may hear their cries as you hear ours—with compassion, and tenderness that draws us closer in the midst of suffering. Help us to hear the other as your beloved child. … And Lord, turn our hearts to you and to the other, that those things that might divide are abandoned….”

Before praying a litany of intercession, Rev. Esponiza said, “As people of God, it’s our responsibility to seek justice for our neighbors….”

As cars zoomed by on Central Ave., David McHugh, youth minister at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Dodge City, and Diane Ramirez, performed “God Bless America,” and the “Prayer of St. Francis,” their voices booming across loud speakers.

Many people sat in the shade on lounge chairs, while others stood throughout the gathering, at times breaking into applause.

Coleen Stein of the Catholic diocese offered a stark reminder of the vision of America’s founders when she recited “The New Colossus,” the poem written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 that is emblazoned on the Statue of Liberty. 

The closing song became at once a song of hope as well as a tribute to a day that drew together young and old, and people of various races and religions. After the benediction by Father Schremmer, everyone stood and joined in singing “America the Beautiful.”