This past weekend, on Palm Sunday, the Catholic community begin celebrating Holy Week. Common events include witnessing bishops wash the feet of priests, similar to Pope Francis’ Maundy Thursday action in 2016 celebrating immigrants, or attending mass to honor Jesus’ arrival to Jerusalem. Believers around the world also set off on pilgrimages as a way to engage in prayer, sacrifice and reflection.
A religious pilgrimage is said to be a journey for the body and the soul. In New Mexico, Native Americans and Hispanic people of different cultures and religions are known for migrating to the healing grounds of El Santuario de Chimayo in Taos more than 200 years ago. Today, more than 30,000 pilgrims from all around the world take that same journey.
The organizers of the Holy Pilgrimages of Northern New Mexico say that, “a pilgrim is not a tourist who only touches, for a fleeting moment, the land and the people that they visit. Rather, [they] seek to understand the essence of time, place and people that they meet on their path”.
In honoring that spirit and following the words of Matthew 25:35, “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,” parishes along the route have welcomed countless pilgrims. Like many immigrants and refugees, those on their religious journey have made sacrifices to create a better life for themselves and their families. In turn, they believe immigrants and refugees too are a vital part of communities across the nation and it is everyone’s duty to welcome them.
In North Carolina, an advocacy organization for immigrants and refugees offers an annual pilgrimage for their community members as a way to stand in solidarity with their foreign-born brothers and sisters. The journey begins in Asheville on Palm Sunday and the pilgrims travel through different cities before stopping in Raleigh just before Easter.
Ultimately, Holy Week is an opportunity for the community to take a journey together, to reflect on the sacrifices they have made over the past year in honor of their faith, regardless of race, ethnicity and preferred language.
How are you celebrating immigrant integration during Holy Week? We want to hear from you! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share how your parish welcomes immigrants with diverse seasonal celebrations.
Photo credit: Roderico Y. Diaz, www.rodediaz.com, supplied by Witness for Peace Southeast.