Twenty two branches of the Vincentian Family and four universities sent representatives to the North American Vincentian Family Gathering to explore the 400th Anniversary theme of Welcoming the Stranger. On the first evening, the 213 participants engaged in table processes around their own experiences of being welcomed and welcoming others.
On June 10, an immigrant from Guatemala and a refugee from Eritrea shared their personal experiences of leaving home and navigating the U.S. immigration system.
A series of workshops explored the reality of the experience of immigrants and refugees in the Unites States:
- Edith Tapia and Andres Lopez from Hope Border Institute in El Paso, Juarez and Las Cruces talked about the border as a multi-cultural political and social reality between migrants and non-migrants as a laboratory for other parts of the country with immigrant and refugee populations. HBI seeks to give voice to all people in the area, prepare leaders, investigate issues and educate civic leaders and elected officials.
- Sister Michelle Loisel DC described the reality of the 65.3 million displaced persons world-wide, of whom 53% come from Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria. She focused about the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as a place of homicides, gender-based violence, and organized crime that propels people to flee. Worldwide, 70% of migrants are victims of human trafficking. There are 45.8 million slaves alive today in 167 countries, and 68% of them are in forced labor.
- Rev. Craig Mousin of DePaul University described how Vincentians might participate in living the Gospel narrative in response to a broken immigration system. He described basic immigration law and highlighted how a ministry of healing and advocacy for legislative reform can be faithful responses.
- Justin Tullis of RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Services) described the policies of the U.S. immigration system which withhold safety from families, people who arrived in the U.S. as children, refugees and survivors of domestic violence. The public discourse is often distorted but there are ways that groups and faith communities can use legal rights to reclaim safety.
- Sisters Francely Perez DC and Marge Clifford DC from the Vincentian Family Office in Philadelphia introduced our Vincentian Family relatives from around the world and described efforts to Welcome the Stranger in many contexts.