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Catholic nonviolent action for immigrant children in Newark, NJ 

by Kathleen Kanet, RSHMCategory: Updates

More and more Catholics are engaging in actions including civil disobedience as they are making a moral choice and statement against the increasingly draconian USA immigration policies. The recent Catholic Action for immigrant children took place in Newark on September 4, 2019.

Virginia Dorgan was able to participate with 500 others in this event and 50 of them, including Mary Beth Moore, SC, director of Centro Corazon de Maria, had made the deep discernment and decision to risk arrest as one part of this nonviolent action. RSHM sisters in Marymount Convent were able to watch the prayer service on Live Stream which began in St Mary’s Church in Newark where Cardinal Tobin welcomed those who had gathered. Our sisters prayed together the same prayers with them. This event at Marymount Convent was organized by Susannah Alao and Marianne Walsh of the RSHM Life Enrichment Program.

Submitted by Sr. Virginia Dorgan:

Participants gathering in a church

“I was able to attend the Catholic nonviolent action for immigrant children in Newark, NJ, Titled, Stop the Inhumanity! It was an amazing experience. These are the 50+ people who volunteered to commit civil disobedience as we prayed at St. Mary’s Church in Newark. Each wore a photo of a child who died in US detention at our Mexican border. The 400-500 then walked a mile to the Federal building and were addressed by Cardinal Tobin. Several Catholic organizations, parishes and male and female congregations endorsed the action. In the civil disobedience 5 people at a time lay in the middle of a 4 lane major Newark street in the form of a cross. The rest of us made a circle around them. The group prayed and those who could kneel. The police asked all of us to leave, warned us that we could be arrested and the response was:  With our right for free speech we felt compelled to make known that the policies at the US border are immoral and inhumane. We are freely choosing to state this in a dramatic way despite the consequence of arrest. 

A man and a woman stand in a street where protestors mill about. They hold a large banner that says, "Pax Christi NJ, New Jersey Region of the Catholic Peace Movement. Violence ends where love begins."

Here is Eli McCarthy, who led the action, officially interacting with the police. As soon as this interaction ended Eli was warmed by 6 reporters and explained the rationale for the civil disobedience to them. He, Eli, later reported “The recent Nonviolent Action in Newark has many media articles, including as far as China, the UK, France, Spain, Mexico, Italy, the Vatican, and the Netherlands.” He also spoke of these factors for success of this second Catholic action for Immigrant Children. (The first was at the US Capital building; the next will be in El Paso in October) “In Newark, perhaps some of the key elements unleashing this nonviolent power were: 1) prayer and commitment to nonviolence; 2) presence and blessing of notable leadership from a religious institution with significant reach and resources; 3) significant numbers of those willing to risk arrest; 4) a recognizable, transformative symbol, i.e. the cross; 5) large gathering of supporters; and 6) significant media presence.”

Three protestors hold a vinyl banner that says "Catholics say: Stop the inhumanity, end child detention now."

Learn more

To learn more about this religious protest, see below a NCR article:

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