Our CICM Parishes are leaders in social justice work in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. One of the COPS-Metro coordinators once asked me, "What do CICM priests have in their formation which make them involved in the work of social justice?" It made me think of how people see the works that we do and made me humbly recognize that most confreres in San Antonio, both in the past in the present, have been and are active collaborators of the COPS-Metro work for social justice.
Indeed, this is a legacy that has been handed on to us by confreres who were here before us. They remind us that the work for social justice is an integral part of our identity as religious missionary priests. Indeed, mission is not confined to doing parish works but extends to journeying with our people. At times, it is necessary to walk in their sufferings and to help in whatever way we can do as community leaders.
While Fr. John Teguh works on the protection of the low-income home owners in St Patrick Church due to the non-sustainable economic development of the city, the San Antonio CICM priests are also working to protect the most vulnerable ones in their respective communities in many different ways. In Divine Providence, for example, some parishioners in the Sunday pews are in need of protection due to the broken immigration system. This led us to create the COPS-Metro Parish ID Vision 2020 Project.
The project of having a parish ID is to extend help to those who need it most. Sanctuary cities like San Antonio accept any proof of identification which include electricity invoice, foreign government documents and so forth. Yet, there are instances when these proofs of identification are not enough to validate their identity or to prove their residence. Some government policies and the broken immigration system have resulted to many injustices and discriminations. Members of our communities run the risk of being detained and deported by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Perhaps, some would say that they should not be here because they are not legal. This would be a topic for another day. However, for now, I have seen how the broken immigration system had broken-up many families. They are families of a father or a mother or a child or someone who escaped from violence in their own countries or was brought to this country by human trafficking. Each of their story helps us to understand that they are like all of us, human person with dignity.
The parish identification card is one of the ways that community leaders take a stand for these vulnerable members of our communities. The execution of the ID project entails meeting with San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, M.Sp.S, with the Chief of Police and with Bexar County Sheriff. The process now is in the hands of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, hopefully, to be implemented in the parishes. We, CICM missionaries in San Antonio, did our part to show our strength in what we can do when united. We believe that the parish ID will build our parishes. As for me, the most fulfilling part is to hear from parishioners their appreciation that the Archbishop, the Chief of Police, the Bexar County Sheriff and ourselves as pastors stand with them. It gives them confidence knowing that the religious leaders whom they look up to are in solidarity with them.
Divine Providence is blessed in many ways. Our parish ministries and religious formation are two areas of the parish that have grown so much. Also, there were two significant events in the life of the parish that called for a celebratory moment during the first months of 2020: first, the Run For Human Need has reached 400 participants, the most since this event began, and second, the gathering of the Basic Christian Communities to celebrate the first Word of God Sunday where we prayed that the Lord may continue to strengthen the life of the church in our homes.
By Father Ryan Carnecer, CICM