Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
1 Corinthians 1:17
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.
Sister Melanie Grace D. Illana knew she wanted to be nun from the time she was a child in her native Philippines. She also knew that doing so would mean leaving her family, friends, and life behind. It was her deep faith in God that allowed her to see beyond those requirements.
“I believed my service to God would go beyond my small world, where I could find families other than my own, more friends, more challenges and learning, more hopes, love and joy.”
She first learned about the religious order she would eventually join through a magazine a Jesuit priest loaned her.
“When I read that the Scalabrinian charism is evangelical ‘service to the migrants and refugees,’ my heart leaped. The order’s missionary work and its global service to migrants brought me to enter the Scalabrinian congregation. As I look back on my vocation story, God was really working with me to embrace this mission.”
Sister Melanie Grace went on to become a member of the Scalabrinians in the U.S. and they eventually sponsored her application for permanent residency. An assignment to Brazil almost jeopardized her immigration status, but a CLINIC attorney helped her maintain it. She returned to the United States in 2014 and applied for citizenship.
“It was exciting to prepare for an interview, by learning more about the U.S. history and system of government that had inspired me to pursue citizenship. Even more exciting was when I received the news six days later that I should begin preparing for the ceremony to take my naturalization oath. I said only: ‘Wow! Thanks, God, we made it!’”
Sister Melanie Grace became a citizen on September 17, 2015, Citizenship Day. Upon receiving her citizenship, she said: “I can now live my religious life as an American, to better serve God and the United States of America.”
- We do not often think of religious workers when we picture immigrants, yet frequent travel and migration is a common aspect of life for many called to their vocation. Consider the difficulties of moving from faith community to faith community. What makes the experience more comforting?
- How has immigration played a role in the Catholic Church’s expansion across the world (consider religious workers and worshippers alike)?
O God, Father of all mercies,
Provider of a bountiful harvest,
send your graces upon those
You have called to gather the fruits of your labor;
preserve and strengthen them in their lifelong service of you.
Open the hearts of your children
that they may discern your holy will;
inspire in them a love and desire to surrender themselves
to serving others in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ.
Teach all your faithful to follow their respective paths in life
guided by your divine word and truth.
Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary,
all the angels, and saints, humbly hear our prayers
and grant your church's needs, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for Vocation (Courtesy of USCCB)
Call to Action
The immigration program that allows non-minister religious workers (e.g. religious brothers and sisters) to apply for permanent residence must be renewed annually. Contact your legislators and ask them to make the program permanent.
Use the samples on this page to draft your own version and send it to your members of Congress.
Visit this page to learn more about the program for non-minister religious workers and how a sunset clause affects potential applicants.