Catholic leaders and advocates protest the handling of detained immigrant children on July 18 in the Russell Senate Office Building. (Photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
July 22, 2019 — Hundreds of Catholics, including many from the Jesuit network, gathered outside the U.S. Capitol on July 18 to protest the inhumane treatment of immigrant children at the border for the "Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children."
Protesters at the rally, held on the lawn of the Capitol building. (Photo: Doris Sump)
At the end of the rally, 70 people were arrested inside the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda, including Jesuit scholastic Billy Critchley-Menor, currently in studies at Saint Louis University.
“We’re here because the treatment [migrant children] are receiving is completely incompatible and contrary to the message of Jesus Christ...” -@billymenorsj, who was arrested today for participating in nonviolent civil disobedience at the #CatholicDayOfAction #Catholics4Migrants pic.twitter.com/SY6X14O2et— Jesuit News (@jesuitnews) July 18, 2019
(Photo: Doris Sump)
“Grace-filled moments include looking at a long line of people, including a 90-year-old Sister of Mercy, an 80-something Franciscan Friar and a young Dominican, as I was being arrested,” Critchley-Menor reflected. “I felt like I was in the right place and standing with the right people.”
#Jesuit William Critchley-Menor, S.J., is arrested at the #CatholicDayofAction for #Immigrant children at the US Capitol. Over 70 have been arrested—including priests, nuns, and lay leaders. #EndChildDetention#Catholics4Migrants @JamesMartinSJ @ThomasReeseSJ pic.twitter.com/GOgpJX4Ni6— Ignatian Solidarity (@IGsolidarityNET) July 18, 2019
Critchley-Menor said he engaged in civil resistance because it must be made clear that the Catholic Church is against what is taking place at the border. “I believe it is important to use our voice, and our bodies, as Catholics to illuminate where the ways of the world do not match up to the ways of the Gospel and call for a measuring up.”
Jesuit scholastic Billy Critchley-Menor at the rally with clergy and other supporters. (Photo: Doris Sump)
“It is a difficult and confusing task — aligning a governmental structure to the values of the Gospel — and I'm not even exactly sure how it is done,” Critchley-Menor said. “I'm certain, however, that it is not through the detention of immigrant children.”
Caitlin-Marie Ward, senior advisor on migration for the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States Office of Justice and Ecology, also took part in the protest.
“This was my first time participating in a protest where people were also engaged in civil disobedience. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but in the end, I found the experience to be extremely moving,” said Ward. “I really admired the conviction in the speeches, prayers and songs of the protesters. As I looked on from the side as protesters reciting the Our Father and Hail Mary were led away by the police, I remember feeling an incredible sense of solidarity — solidarity with my fellow protesters, the broader Catholic community, migrant children and all those struggling to uphold human dignity.”
A mother from El Salvador spoke at the Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children. (Photo: Doris Sump)
In addition to the Jesuit Conference, representatives from a number of Jesuit network organizations and institutions were present, including the Ignatian Solidarity Network; the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities; Xavier College Preparatory in Palm Desert, California; Jesuit Refugee Service/USA; Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University; and Saint Joseph’s University. [Sources: CNS, ISN]