PROVIDENCE — Bishop Thomas J. Tobin paid a pastoral visit to St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Providence, on Sunday, presiding and serving as homilist at the noon Spanish Mass. The church, known for its vibrant Latino community, was filled to standing room only as Bishop Tobin offered a message directly to those parishioners who were born outside the United States.
“I know that many of you have come to this country as immigrants, either recently or perhaps years ago,” he said during his homily, which was translated into Spanish for the parishioners. “We know that in our country right now these are challenging times, maybe even frightening times, for immigrants and refugees. I want to assure you today that the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Providence is standing with you.”
Bishop Tobin’s words came three days after a federal appeals court upheld a ruling blocking President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration. The order, which suspended the full U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and banned the entry of all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days, was blocked by a temporary restraining order issued by Seattle federal Judge James Robart on February 3. Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the ruling, ensuring that, for the time being, refugees approved for resettlement and visitors from majority-Muslim nations may continue to enter the United States.
Federal immigration officials also made headlines over the weekend following reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested and detained more than 600 people in at least 11 states last week. Though it remains unclear whether the arrests signify an increase in deportations of undocumented immigrants or a routine action by federal officials, many in the immigrant community, particularly Latino immigrants, worry about the continued elimination of safeguards for undocumented immigrants who have established lives in the United States. Bishop Tobin, along with other U.S. bishops, has been vocal in his support of comprehensive immigration reform that also takes into account the needs of undocumented immigrants.
“We welcome you and we embrace you with the love of Jesus,” he assured the parishioners of St. Charles Borromeo, speaking on behalf of the Diocese of Providence. “We want you to share fully in the life of the Church. Side by side we will walk with you in good times and in bad. We will pray with you and serve with you. Our home is now your home.”
St. Charles Borromeo has served as a home for Latino immigrants since the 1980s, when it began hosting a Spanish Mass to serve the needs of the growing Providence community. Pastor Father Jaime Garcia, a native of Guatemala, has served at the parish for seven years and was one of the first Hispanic priests ordained in the Diocese of Providence.
Yahaira Rosado, a parishioner who immigrated to Rhode Island from the Dominican Republic, said following the Mass that Bishop Tobin’s message was welcome among the parishioners of St. Charles Borromeo.
“I think it was something positive that the immigrant needs to hear,” said Rosado, who works as a school bus driver in Providence. “I also work with a lot of immigrants and I can feel that they are afraid. I work with the youth and I hear them talking. With this, that the bishop is saying, the ones who come to Mass will feel more secure.”
The parish also hosted visitors on Sunday from St. Thomas More Parish in Narragansett, including Pastor Father Marcel Taillon and a group of 19 parishioners who will travel to the Dominican Republic on a mission trip next week. According to Father Taillon, the visit is an annual tradition between the two parishes during which the parishioners of St. Charles Borromeo, many of whom have Dominican heritage, offer their blessing and formally send off the missionaries.
“It’s an annual event, the Sunday before we leave we always come here,” he explained, adding that Father Garcia previously served as assistant pastor at St. Thomas More.
On Sunday, Bishop Tobin offered a blessing over the missionaries, which included 11 parish youth as well as chaperones and Father Taillon. Following the Mass, the group gathered in the St. Charles Borromeo parish hall, where Yahaira Rosado spoke to the missionaries about her experiences growing up in the Dominican Republic and immigrating to the United States.
“As an immigrant, I didn’t ask to come here,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t know what was the United States. I just was a child.”
Rosado, who came to the United States with her father, said that in the U.S., she was able to obtain her GED and create a better future than she would have if she had stayed in the Dominican Republic. She encouraged the members of the mission trip to share their love as well as their material support with the orphans they will serve at Hogar Immanuel orphanage in Puerto Plata.
“Now as an immigrant, I have something that I can share because God gave it to me,” said Rosado.