Mercy Sisters 'Dial a Dream' at biennial assembly
CONCORD — Phones in Congressional and Senate offices all over Washington, D.C., were ringing off the hook just before noon on June 22. More than 300 Sisters of Mercy of the South Central Community gathered at their biennial Assembly, June 21-24, setting aside time to "Dial a Dream" to fight for the passage of the DREAM Act and the future of young, undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
The Sisters of Mercy made their voices heard, pulling out their cell phones, calling their representatives in the U.S. House and Senate to urge passage of the DREAM Act.
Pictured: Mercy Sister Bernadette McNamara of Belmont and Mercy Sister Margaret Mary Wharton of Baltimore, Md., call congressional offices June 22 during the "Dial a Dream" campaign to urge passage of the DREAM Act. (Photos by Paul Bond, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas - South Central Community)
Long stalled in Congress, the DREAM Act would give current, former and future undocumented high school graduates and GED recipients a pathway to U.S. citizenship through college or the armed forces. An estimated 1.1 million students across the U.S. could be eligible for legal status under the DREAM Act, including more than 50,000 in North Carolina.
Their efforts came on the heels of a partial move by the Obama Administration towards the DREAM Act. President Barack Obama announced June 15 that he was relaxing deportation rules for young undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children, such as those who would qualify under the DREAM Act.
U.S. Catholic leaders, including the U.S. bishops, continue to advocate for full congressional passage of the DREAM Act.
"These are our brothers and sisters," said Sister Rose Marie Tresp of Belmont, director of justice for the Sisters of Mercy South Central Community, based in Belmont. "God calls us to love them – especially the children, who are here through no fault of their own. Matthew 25:35 tells us, 'I was a stranger and you welcomed me.'"
Sister Rose Marie stressed the importance of bringing about broader lasting change through social advocacy, a focus of the Sisters of Mercy. "For example, helping poor migrant workers who pick tomatoes is admirable, but we can also change systems through advocacy – by getting businesses to agree to pay more to tomato pickers."
She introduced two speakers: Sister Rosemary Welsh, executive director of Casa de Misericordia, a domestic violence shelter for abused women and children in Laredo, Texas; and Regina Moody, president/CEO of Holy Angels in Belmont. Each emphasized the importance of pushing for permanent social change.
Sister Rose Marie has seen first-hand the challenges facing young immigrants trying to build a better life in the U.S. Before coming to Belmont in 2008 to serve as director of justice of the Sisters of Mercy, the Texas native spent seven years as director of ethics at Laredo Medical Center in that Texas city on the Mexican border.
In addition to the social justice dimension, Sister Rose Marie said she wants people to appreciate that passing the DREAM Act makes good business sense for a nation in need of an economic boost, as well as for young people yearning to become citizens.
"They want to become productive members of the community," she said. "And they have the skills and talents to be assets to our society. We need them to become doctors, nurses and teachers. Economically, it's good for our country."
"Dial a Dream" was a highlight of the 2012 Assembly of the South Central Community of the Sisters of Mercy. The private Assembly convenes every two years.
Through the South Central Community, 630 sisters in 18 states, Guam and Jamaica work to serve the needs of people who are economically poor, sick and undereducated, with an emphasis on women and children. Among its ministries are the Holy Angels home for developmentally disabled children and adults; the House of Mercy outreach to those with AIDS/HIV; and Catherine's House, serving women and children in transition.
There are 4,000 members of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in the U.S., Central and South America, the Caribbean, Guam and the Philippines, and 10,000 worldwide, all advocating for social justice while serving people who struggle with poverty and justice. The Sisters of Mercy were founded in Dublin, Ireland, in 1831 by Catherine McAuley.
— SueAnn Howell, staff writer. The Sisters of Mercy South Central Community contributed to this article.
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