Praying for Refugees, Immigrants, and Ourselves

by Melannie Svoboda SND on July 9, 2018

On Friday, June 29, an interfaith prayer-walk for immigrants and refugees was held in Painesville, Ohio, a few miles north of where I live.  Although I did not attend the event, I spoke with two friends who did. One shared the prayer handouts with me.

First, the prayer-walk was organized by five different local faith communities and their representatives:

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Mentor – Rev. Lisa O’Rear

St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Painesville – Sister Dolores Mikula, SND

St. James Episcopal Church, Painesville – Rev. Vanessa E. B. Clark

Am Shalom Temple, Mentor – Renee Blau, lay leader

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Cleveland – Humera Khan

To get five diverse faith communities to come together and plan such an event I think is quite remarkable. I also noticed that all the leaders were women.

The walk began at St. Mary’s Church and ended at St. James Church. Brief stops for prayer along the way were made at the Youth Detention Center, the Adult Detention Center, Jobs and Family Services, and City Hall. Here are a few of the prayers used. I thought you might be interested in seeing them and even praying them:

Opening prayer:

We gather together today as one family under God, to pray for the ancient quest for liberty and freedom for all people. We also pray that we shall become infused with renewed spirit, inspiration, and understanding. May the problems of all the downtrodden be our problems; may the concerns of all who strive for liberty and equality be our struggles. We pray with them and for them, that the coming days and years will bring with it the promise of a better life.

Priestly Benediction: (This was given in both Hebrew and English.) “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May God’s presence be with you and grant you peace.”

Prayer for healing: (This was sung in Hebrew): “May the Source of strength who blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.”

Interfaith compline: (This prayer at the end was prayed in English, Spanish, Hebrew, and Arabic. A few of the readings were these:)

“There are none worthy of worship besides You. Glorified are You. Surely I am from the wrongdoers.” (Quran 21:87)

“Oh Allah, forgive me all my mistakes and my sins. Oh, Allah, forgive me for what I have done in the past and what will come, for what I have done in secret and in the open, for what you know about better than I.”

Psalm 68 was prayed in Spanish.

A reading from Mt. 2:13-15:

“Now after they had left, and angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went into Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.”

A reading from Leviticus 19:33-34:

“When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as a citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Petitions: response: Lord, hear our prayer.

For all those who have been deported or fear deportation, that they may be protected from harm, find strength, courage, and comfort in their ordeal…

For families torn apart by detentions and deportations; and for those whose precious time together is filled with anxiety and apprehension…

In time of too little compassion, too little courage, too little decency, transform our hearts and make us witnesses of Your love, prophets of justice, and warriors for peace…

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage, we humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will…

Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy name we entrust the authority of government…

In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail… Amen.

 

What are your thoughts and feelings on this important issue? Do any of the words of this reflection stand out for you?

The song today is “Open My Eyes, Lord.” This version, by Jesse Manibusan, is sung in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. It seems fitting that we honor three native languages of U.S. immigrants. (Yes, English was the language of some of the earliest European immigrants to this country.)

I welcome your responses below:

 

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Magiera July 9, 2018 at 6:31 am

Sr. Melannie,

Thanks for sharing the Ohio prayer-walk for immigrants and refugees. The song brought tears to my eyes. I shared it on my FB page.

I have been looking for ways to turn my anger and outrage at what has happened at our southern border to peaceful responses. Many of the children separated from their families have been placed in New York State where I live. I am so glad the our American bishops are coming out against these inhumane immigration policies. May God give us the insight to respect all immigrants and refugees.

Kathleen

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Ed Johnson July 9, 2018 at 6:51 am

A great nation, our country. And yet, this theme of exclusion has bee part of our history since its founding. Still is today. Beautiful to read and hear of diverse people’s coming together to march, pray, and demonstrate the power of INCLUSIVENESS in our land! These actions, too, are a strong theme in our nation’s DNA. May we always have the courage to rise against hate, terror, and ugliness. FYI for those interested…..PBS recently aired (American Experience) a most compelling program on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and was the law of the land until 1943. It may still be available on local PBS stations, or via streaming. As always, Thank You, Sister.
Ed J.

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Carol McHenry July 9, 2018 at 7:29 am

I am especially moved by the reading from Leviticus. We can’t forget our tent of hospitality, always ready for weary travelers.

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Mary July 9, 2018 at 9:20 am

Dearest Sister Melanie,
Thank you for making this world a better place with the gifts you share. Sometimes in this crazy world, I feel so helpless, but you have reminded me that we are not helpless – we have the power of prayer. I am grateful for the prayers you have shared.
Mary

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Linda Sanders Coughlin July 9, 2018 at 10:52 am

Thank you, Sr. Melanie, for this meaningful and important message about immigrants and refugees. I was privileged to be part of the Painesville interfaith prayer-walk. It was an uplifting experience in the midst of the terrible things that are happening to immigrant families in our country. It was good to be a part of an interfaith and multi-cultural group of people all praying together as one family for the liberty of our immigrant families. I am especially grateful to you for printing the words of the prayers to share with everyone. I was also privileged to pray together yesterday at Bishop Perez’s Mass for Justice for our Migrant Community at Sacred Heart Chapel in Lorain. Bishop Perez blessed our Migrant Brothers and Sisters saying, “You are our brothers and sisters We accompany you on this journey. We welcome you to our house.” In his blessing for Parish Companions, Bishop Perez prayed, “To accompany you along the way. To listen with the heart. To love, support and pray for and with you.” Let us listen with our hearts and pray for and work for liberty for immigrant mothers, fathers, and children.

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Jean Canatsey July 9, 2018 at 10:53 am

This past week, my husband and I went to see the documentary on Mr. Rogers, who always ended his show by saying, “You’ve made this day a special day, by being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.” If only we could have this attitude towards everyone we meet, we would no longer need peace marches.
Coincidentally, I used “Open My Eyes” for the Offertory hymn yesterday at San Pedro Retreat Center in Winter Park, FL.

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Joan M. July 9, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Thank you Sister Melanie for a hope filled message today. We need to know that people do care about the immigrants, those seeking freedom from war and poverty, here and around the world. God loves us all, just as we are. We should do no less than love one another, too.

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Debra Tomaselli July 9, 2018 at 1:04 pm

Your writing is inspir and makes a difference! Thank you!

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Dolly July 9, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Thank you, Melanie, for spreading this prayer even further. It was an honor for me to work with the other women from diverse faiths, and it is an honor to walk with my immigrant and suffering brothers and sisters. Let us all surround them with love and lift them up on this long, frightening Good Friday walk.

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Melannie Svoboda SND July 10, 2018 at 8:10 am

Thank you, Dolly, for the wonderful ministry you are doing in Painesville–especially for “our immigrant and suffering brothers and sisters.” (Readers: Dolly is “Sister Dolores” referred to in my reflection.)

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Celeste Albers July 9, 2018 at 7:57 pm

Melanie, what a gift it was for me to hear about the interfaith prayer service that you sent us today. Yes, our hearts ache for the immigrants and refugees who desire so much to have a place to live with their families and have work to do. The prayers you sent us are profound. Let us continue to hold them in love and prayer.

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JoAnn Welch July 10, 2018 at 1:41 pm

Sr. Melannie…My friend, Lorna, called and asked if I would go with her to Painesville for the March. I am so happy to report that I went and it was great…very peaceful walk. It all brought to mind that Sr. Laurie Divoky and I walked in Painesville a few years ago. I was especially happy that the Jewish Community was represented…I think that was the first time I was in the presence of their faith and prayers in an ecumenical service. The evening was great! Thanks for your thoughts!! We need to continue praying and acting on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters!!

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Barbara D. July 10, 2018 at 6:31 pm

Sr. Melanie:
I don’t know if you can reply to this or not, but what about the legality of immigrants? Is it fair to have immigrant people go through the process of becoming a citizen legally and then allow all immigrant people in this country? I do have a problem with that. I know we should not turn our backs on anyone, but they have to go through a process. What are your thoughts on this?

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Roseann July 10, 2018 at 6:42 pm

Yes, Barbara, I do agree. Let’s pray that all who enter this great country will continue to contribute to its prosperity through continued innovations, gifts, and talents that they will ultimately bring. God Bless America ➕

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Melannie Svoboda SND July 11, 2018 at 6:44 am

Dear Barbara and Roseann, Yes, we need immigration laws. At the same time my prayer is that these laws be humane, just, and compassionate. If they aren’t, that they would be rewritten. May we devote adequate personnel and resources to work with immigrants, remembering that the vast majority of us trace our lineage to courageous ancestors who were once refugees in this country… Thank you, for your responses. Sr. Melannie

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