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A Former Catholic Worker, Now a Teacher, Shares with Students How the Infancy Narratives Relate to Immigrants’ Stories

Hey, Mark and Louise!

Just wanted to check in and once again thank you for everything you and all of the Catholic Workers do there at Casa Juan Diego. I cherish the time I spent serving there, and in new ways I am constantly coming to find how what I learned there is being lived out in my life now that I have moved on. In my first year of teaching, I cannot tell you how much of the time I spent there has come into discussions, thoughts and prayer. I shared the picture of Christ of the Breadlines [by Fritz Eichenberg] with my students before asking them to think about who Jesus is to them. When we began discussion about the Infancy Narratives I related is to the plight of the immigrant today. Through our discussions about Christian service and Matthew 25 I cannot help but be reminded and inspired by Casa Juan Diego. I am constantly drawing parallels from what I learned there in ways I would never have imagined.

I was worried when I decided to accept this job in DC because I knew that Casa Juan Diego was a place I cherished and would greatly miss being able to build relationships with volunteers and guests there. It was a place that brought me joy. I knew I was fulfilling God’s plan for me while I was at CJD. When I left I questioned if I was making the right choice, if teaching was my vocation. However, while I have physically left Houston, the spirit of CJD is still with me. Even though I can’t stop in to help sort donations any more, I have found ways to continue service in the spirit of Casa Juan Diego through prayer and educating and inspiring those I teach. Thank you once again for everything you do there, and for the impact you have had on my life and the lives of so many.

Erin Vranish

(Erin worked as a CW volunteer as a summer placement during her studies at Notre Dame and continued to volunteer when she worked at St. Theresa’s parish Houston as part of her studies toward her master’s degree in divinity from Notre Dame.)

I wanted to share some student reflections with you. I gave the students stories of the immigrants from the newspaper. They then were instructed to reflect and draw parallels between the immigrant’s story and the Infancy Narratives.

The Student’s Reflections

“The Story of My Journey to the United States”

After reading this article, I realized that if I saw Jesus, Mary and Joseph I would not take anything from them. Instead, I would help them, even if it would mean people hurting me too. It is worth it. To save many lives it is sometimes worth risking your own. I think that to turn away from immigrants and treat them wrongly is like turning away from God.

I think that people migrate for good reasons, but we just do not seem to understand that. Maybe it is because I am not old enough, but I doubt that there is still a just enough reason why people should be torn down by others.

From this article God calls us to take care of everyone no matter what our race may be or how we may look. As Christians we are called to treat everyone as if they are family. Families stick together, they may have their ups and downs, but it does not mean that they don’t show love and care for those around them.

Reflection Based on “A Day in the Life of a Catholic Worker”

Flight to Egypt

I think that based off this reading that people would not treat the Holy Family better than most immigrants today. I think that immigrants are important to our life because we are all immigrants. That is one of the best things about America. We are not of the same origin. This is why I find it hard to believe how some people act toward immigrants.

Casa Juan Diego, House of Miracles

Before I read this article and assignment I thought all immigrants were bad people just sneaking into other countries. Now I look at them in a whole different way. I did not realize that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were in a similar situation as other immigrants today that are escaping persecution and torture in their own countries. I now have learned to treat EVERYONE the same way because the Holy Family were too immigrants.

“A Tragic Journey”

If Jesus, Mary and Joseph were exiled to this country I would like to say that I would treat them with respect and acceptance and do my best to help them in whatever way possible, but it would also be very hard for me.

Although it is sometimes easier to blame undocumented immigrants for the problem being faced by the US today, these problems could be considered miniscule to those being faced by the immigrants in their own country. We should accept these immigrants with open arms and offer refuge to them.

As Christians we are called to take in these immigrants who are facing hardships in their own country, and do our best to help them, not hurt them. In the New Testament there are numerous accounts of Jesus helping those who were the outcasts of society, and we are called to follow in his footsteps.

Casa Juan Diego Family

Following an angel’s order and facing the massacre of all boys under two years old, Joseph takes Mary and Jesus to Egypt to protect them from Herod’s threats [Matthew]. Just as the immigrants today, the Holy Family went to seek help for their safety. As I imagine Jesus, Mary and Joseph exiled, I can picture them being welcomed into the Casa Juan Diego family with warm hugs. They would be treated with respect. I hope and pray for the immigrants that pass through the doors of CJD today. I hope that they know the Holy Family is with them, and I wish them the best life possible.

Towards those whom we call undocumented, as Christians, whether they are here legally or illegally, we are to love them. God taught us to love our neighbors and one another especially those in need. Just as it says in the article I read, we all come together as a family and because of our individual strengths shining through, we thrive. Christians should be known for their open hearts and equality.

The Story of My Journey to the United States Begins With Poverty

I think this story can be easily paralleled to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph’s exile. They faced numerous insurmountable challenges along their journey, but their faith in God remained intact. If I were in Egypt when they were exiled I would have treated them with respect and care.

Many people come to our country to escape abusive policies of their own country, poverty, and other turmoil to try to create a better life here. I think there should be a process to consider everyone fairly. I openly embrace people of all cultures, whether legal or undocumented. Many of us live in abundance and should be willing to share with others.

A Tragic Journey

This story shows the terrible trials that many immigrants have to endure to get to this country and even after they arrive. If Jesus, Mary and Joseph were exiled to this country I would not treat them as immigrants to this country are often treated. Even though immigrants deserve respect, as do all people, we do not always treat them with it. We often view them as invaders and think that they are going to do us harm. The truth is they ran away from their country for legitimate reasons and are now making refuge in ours.

When I assess the immigrant situation, I think that both legal and undocumented immigrants deserve to be here. First of all if they are legal immigrants, they automatically have the right to be here because they are legal residents of this country and should be helped and encouraged to become citizens. This, however, does not mean that undocumented immigrants should not be here. If they have come all the way from their home country to be in ours, they deserve a chance to stay here and be a part of our society. They are willing to do almost anything to stay here and survive, and most of them work in jobs that many of our citizens would not take.

Even though God does not want us to break the law or perform an illegal act, there are certain cases where people have no choice. For example, when undocumented immigrants come to our country. In most cases they have no other choice than to come here in order to save their life. In dire situations like that, God understands. His mercy and love reign.

Immigrants are often unwanted in his country by many people. Some people even go to the extreme lengths of showing that these people are not welcome—by not hiring them, kicking them out of their homes, abusing them or even murder. As shown in the Infancy Narratives, even before Jesus was born, he too was unwanted by many. When Mary and Joseph entered Bethlehem they were rejected. As soon as Jesus was born, he was also unwanted. King Herod was jealous of the ‘new king’ and had every baby less than two years of age killed. Once Mary and Joseph heard this plan, they fled to Egypt. When Jesus was older, many people opposed his teachings. These examples from the Bible teach us that we should view immigrants in this country with respect and compassion, as Jesus deserved to be treated, and as he taught us to treat others.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXX, No. 1, January-February 2010.