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Hometown Immigration Immersion

 Sister Anitawa (Ann) Fearday, ASC

By Sr. Ann Fearday, ASC

Cuban Olympic cyclist, Lisandra Guerra, with her son

The day after the rush to the tomb, Dani Brought and I made our way to St. Joseph, MO. There, we joined 13 others from the Precious Blood family for a five-day “Hometown Immersion” experience with immigrants. While there, we had ample time to see how so many entities, like the parish of St. Francis Xavier, businesses, and other institutions and organizations of St. Joseph (population 70,000) collaborate to engage, encourage, and empower immigrants and refugees to achieve success and integration.

We listened firsthand to immigrants as they shared their fears, struggles, challenges, and dreams. Our response was often one of awe as we took note of their resilience. 

Lunch with the owners in the Chin Burmese Restaurant 

Among our experiences was a visit to one of the factories where many immigrants are employed. BMS Logistics Inc. is only one of many in St. Joseph in the food or animal food production industry. Another big employer of immigrants is Triumph Foods where 2,400 people work to process 21,000 hogs daily.  

A St. Joseph police sergeant shared information and issues he deals with involving immigrants. There were presentations which helped us to better understand the processes and legal realities for immigrants of various status. In the parish we witnessed the welcoming spirit of the faith community. We also visited and ate with the students who were studying English as a second, third, or fourth language.  

Even mealtimes provided an opportunity to connect and learn. One day we ate in a Chin Burmese restaurant where we heard the owners’ story.  Another lunch was at the Open-Door Food Kitchen. Several meals were in Mexican restaurants. One evening we heard the testimony of Cuban Olympic cyclist Lisandra Guerra, learning how she, her husband, and young son fled Cuba and endured a horrendous journey to the states where they have found entry level jobs.

Every night the 15 members of the Immersion experience met in the rectory living room for prayer and reflection. This helped us bring together in our minds all we had witnessed during the day.  

We left St. Joseph on the last day, grateful to the U.S. Precious Blood family for the opportunity to learn how to better welcome the strangers among us in our own hometowns.

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