New Jersey Immigration Reform Pilgrimage: 9 Days, 130 Miles, 1 Message

In 1889, an Italian Catholic nun named Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini went to visit Pope Leo XIII to ask for permission to go to China as a missionary.

“Not to the East, but to the West,” he replied. Pope Leo wanted her to go to the United States to serve the Italian immigrants there, who were struggling with poverty and persecution. Accepting his invitation, Mother Cabrini took six of her sisters to New York City almost immediately. The bishop in New York wasn’t expecting them so soon, and suggested they return to Italy. Mother Cabrini refused; the Pope had sent them, after all. They spent their first night in a dingy tenement in an Italian ghetto.

Mother Frances Cabrini, Patron of Immigrants

It didn’t take the sisters long to get started. They opened an orphanage in 1890, which is still in operation as a youth treatment center today. They followed that up with a free school on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where the poorest Italian immigrants lived. Mother Cabrini was just getting started, and ended up founding 65 more organizations throughout the United States, South America, and Europe, all dedicated to serving those who were poor, sick, abandoned, or uneducated.

Canonized in 1946, the first US citizen to become a saint, Mother Cabrini’s Feast Day is this week: November 13. Because of her work with marginalized, immigrant communities, she is the patron saint of immigrants.

There is no better time, then, to announce an exciting project about to begin that is meant to carry on Mother Cabrini’s legacy.

On Monday, November 18, a small group of pilgrims will embark on a nine-day, 130-mile pilgrimage through South and Central Jersey to advocate for just, comprehensive immigration reform. They will stay at partner churches and meet with congressional staff members.

But mostly, they will walk.

Our Catholic tradition of pilgrimage dates back to the church’s earliest years, when disciples would undertake long, physically challenging journeys meant to honor God, and sometimes to request a particular blessing. So this immigration reform pilgrimage, organized by PICO New Jersey in collaboration with Catholic leaders, is an opportunity to use an ancient form of faith expression to raise awareness about one of our most pressing contemporary crises.

The pilgrims departing on Monday will use their journey as a way to pray for our leaders, entrusted with the care of all. They will pray for immigrants here in our country, those with documentation and those without it. They will pray for our church, and that we might always be people of welcoming and healing, as Mother Cabrini was.

There are plenty of ways you can get involved in the effort:

  • Join the team of pilgrims. Walk all nine days, a journey you will never forget.
  • Walk just a leg of the journey. For more information, email, or…
  • Fill out the prayer pledge form below. Include a prayer greeting, which will be delivered to the pilgrims as they travel.
  • Come to Mass on Monday, November 18 to bless the pilgrims and send them off. Here’s a flyer announcing the Mass:

NJ Immigration Pilgrimage Flyer

As this year’s legislative session approaches its end, it’s essential to keep up the momentum and do all we can to make comprehensive immigration reform a reality.

Call your congressman in the House of Representatives and urge him to pass immigration reform. Here is contact information and a basic script you can use:

Congressman Rob Andrews: 856.546.5100
Congressman Frank LoBiondo:  609.625.5008
Congressman Jon Runyan: 856.780.6436

Script: “Hi, my name is n., and I’m from (name of parish and city). I’m calling to urge the congressman to support comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants here in the country. It should also include strong provisions to preserve family unity. Please let the congressman know that Catholics across his district are calling for compassionate reform. ”

It’s that easy to make your voice heard.

Don’t let these chances to put your faith into action pass by. Honor the legacy of Mother Frances Cabrini today.


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