Mexican and U.S. church leaders to lead immigration conference here Jan. 18-19

Mexican and U.S. church leaders to lead immigration conference here Jan. 18-19

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and Bishop Raul Vera of Saltillo, Mexico, will be featured speakers at a binational conference on immigration that will be held Jan. 18 and 19, 2007, at the University of St. Thomas.

The conference, “Together on a Journey: Building Bridges,” will be the first binational conference on immigration to be held in the Midwest. Mahony, Vera and other speakers will examine a range of immigration-related issues in the context of Catholic social tradition.

The conference, which will be held in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center on the university’s St. Paul campus, will open Thursday, Jan. 18, with a 7 p.m. discussion with Mahony and Vera. The discussion, which will be conducted in both English and Spanish, is free and open to the public; no registration is required.

A series of workshops and talks will be held Friday, Jan. 19. Registration is required for this portion of the conference, and a $25 fee includes the cost of lunch. The registration deadline is Jan. 5. To register or for more information contact Dr. Deborah Organ, the conference coordinator, at (651) 962-5792 or Organ is a faculty member and director of the Multicultural Ministry Program at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity.

Introductory-level as well as advanced workshops will examine issues and myths surrounding immigration as well as how parishes and congregations can respond to the issue both locally and nationally.

“Immigration is a central issue for people of faith,” Organ said. “It is an issue here in the Twin Cities, which in recent years has received between 4,500 and 8,000 refugees annually, in addition to many other immigrants who continue to arrive and make their homes in Minnesota. It is an issue nationally, especially with the new Congress in Washington. As the public debate continues over whether and how to fix our broken immigration system, we must be involved.”

Among the Friday speakers will be Archbishop Harry Flynn, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who has had a longtime interest in immigration reform.

“Taking action in favor of fair and comprehensive reform of the immigration system gives us an important opportunity to stand for the rights of all people in our community – whether citizen, permanent resident, refugee or undocumented immigrant,” Flynn said.

“We as people of faith are called to not only believe in the dignity of every human being, but to act in ways that foster that dignity,” he said. “Action in favor of comprehensive immigration reform allows us to do that.”

Mahony, a priest since 1962, is fluent in Spanish and began ministering to Hispanics and migrant farm workers in 1975. He chaired the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, which helped settle disputes between the United Farm Workers and growers in California. He also served on many committees with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, including those dealing with migration, refugees and farm labor.

Vera was named bishop of the Diocese of Saltillo, Mexico, in 2000. He previously worked with the indigenous people of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico.

The conference will end with a 7 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul on Friday, Jan. 19. All are welcome.

The conference is sponsored by the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas, along with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and its Office of Hispanic Ministry, Office for Social Justice and Office of the Archbishop. It also is being presented with support from the American Immigration Lawyers Association.