Scores of Holy Names Sisters marched on Saturday in support of refugees legally seeking asylum in the United States.
Scores of Holy Names Sisters marched on Saturday in support of refugees legally seeking asylum in the United States.
Scores of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary took to Portland’s streets Saturday, July 7, in support of immigrants and refugees legally seeking asylum in the United States.

“What has happened to our moral compass as a country?” asked Holy Names Sister Maureen Delaney, provincial of the U.S.-Ontario Province, in a recent public statement. “What has happened to the family values that the White House says it upholds?” She was referring especially to the Trump Administration’s short-lived policy of separating the children of refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers from their mothers and fathers.

The sisters walked silently down NE 82nd Avenue to NE Airport Way, stopping there to pray, calling upon U.S. leaders to respect the human rights of all people, especially the families of desperate asylum seekers. They also called upon the U.S. government to immediately reunite the children still separated from their parents by ICE on the border. The Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the children, says the number of children in its care who were separated from their parents is unknown but estimated to be between 2,000 and 3,000.

On Saturday, the Trump administration handed over a list of nearly 100 children under 5 years old, many of whom have been separated from their families for weeks. US District Court Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego had instructed the list to be handed over while he determines whether to extend the July 10 deadline to reunite those youngest children with their parents.

As some of the women religious walked on Saturday they dabbed at their eyes.

The sisters say they have repeatedly called on their members of Congress to abide by the teachings of Jesus and to heed the word of God in the Bible: “You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Lev. 19:34)

“Our faith requires us to welcome the stranger and to offer compassionate care to those who are forced to flee their home countries because of persecution or violence,” their statement read. “We call on Congress to do the same.”

On July 7, the long column of women religious prayed as they stood at the corner of NE 82nd Avenue and Airport Way, many drivers honking as they passed by.

Afterward, Sister Maureen blessed the many Catholics who had stepped forward to say they wanted to help heal the tragic situation, and perhaps foster a child. “But we need to work to have the system change,” she said. “The ultimate goal is to reunite the families who have been separated, and to stop the separations.”

As the sisters made their way back from the streets, Sister Carol Ann Kemp pointed to a birch tree, its limbs barren amid the early summer greenery. “It’s like our country,” she said. “Not dead, but barren. It’s still beautiful in its barrenness, but we want to see it green and healthy again.”

Sister Carol Ann also said that the sisters had been struck by the similarities between the refugees on America’s borders and the holy family, who were forced to flee their home and take refuge in Egypt. “These families aren’t murderers or rapists,” she said.

Nearly 300 members of the Holy Names community were attending a major meeting of their order in Portland.