Highlandtown parish plans July 23 refugee-themed ‘Way of the Cross’

UPDATE: The Way of the Cross has been postposed to July 23, 7 p.m., due to excessive heat on the originally scheduled day.


Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, a bilingual parish in Highlandtown, plans a public display of support for the immigrant community July 23, when it will take to the surrounding streets at 7 p.m. to pray the Way of the Cross, with a theme of “Jesus, the Migrant and Refugee.”

“It’s an adapted form of the Stations of the Cross,” said Redemptorist Father Bruce Lewandowski, pastor. “We’ll be focusing on different moments in the life of Jesus that speak to us clearly (in) what we’re seeing today in the lives of migrants and refugees.”

According to Catholic News Service, Baltimore is one of 10 cities nationwide in which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers were to begin carrying out deportation orders for some immigrants July 14.

Residents of Tecun Uman, Guatemala, and migrants from Central America cross the Suchiate River June 10 to enter Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico. (CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters)

“Here at Sacred Heart of Jesus, as I am sure throughout the country where there are high concentrations of immigrants, we have just a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety,” Father Lewandowski said. “People are not going to work. People are not coming to church. People are not doing their usual routine; their ordinary everyday activities have been interrupted by fear because of the announcement of ICE raids.

“We don’t know of anybody who’s been arrested and detained. People are afraid it was a scare tactic.”

He said that a main objective of the July 19 gathering, which will process from the church, located at 600 S. Conkling St., through streets in the neighborhood, is to alleviate that fear, which, he said, extends to a parishioner in her 80s who came to East Baltimore from Ukraine “when she was 10 years old and she’s been trying desperately to find her citizenship papers because she’s afraid.”

“We need to get outside and be present in our community, and the thing we do best as a church is to pray,” Father Lewandowski said. “We’re going to pray the prayer that a lot of us go to in times of need and suffering. We pray the Stations of the Cross knowing that Jesus understands our pain, anxiety, fear and suffering.

“Nobody becomes a migrant because they want to. People become migrants and refugees because they’re running away from something toward something that’s better.”

Father Lewandowski invites all in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to join his faith community as it offers prayers in English and Spanish.

“Hopefully many people who want to do something, but don’t know what they can do, will come and pray with us,” he said.

He noted that the Vatican’s theme for World Day for Migrants and Refugees Sept. 29 is “It’s not just about migrants,” and pointed to Pope Francis’s teachings on the subject.

Archbishop William E. Lori speaks on behalf of immigrants June 23 at Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sagrado Corazón de Jesús in Highlandtown. (CR File)

“The most economically advanced societies are witnessing a growing trend toward extreme individualism which, combined with a utilitarian mentality and reinforced by the media, is producing a ‘globalization of indifference,’ ” the pope said in May. “As a consequence, migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking experience exclusion and hardship and are sometimes considered the source of all society’s ills,” he said.

Last October, Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sagrado Corazón de Jesús was the site of a media conference announcing a Parish ID program. As the Review reported, organizers of that effort claim that many undocumented immigrants in the city remain hesitant to report crimes against them, for fear of their own arrest, and possible deportation and separation from their families.

On June 23, after President Donald Trump announced that ICE raids were imminent, Archbishop William E. Lori offered words of support in Spanish before 12:30 p.m. Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sagrado Corazón de Jesús.

“That had an extremely powerful effect,” Father Lewandowski said. “It was very helpful for people to know that Archbishop Lori is thinking of them and praying for them.”

Email Paul McMullen at pmcmullen@CatholicReview.org

Paul McMullen

Paul McMullen

Paul McMullen has served as the managing editor of the Catholic Review since 2008.

The author of two books, Paul has been involved in local media since age 12, when he began delivering The News American to 80 homes in his neighborhood. He began his journalism career with the Capital-Gazette Newspapers in Anne Arundel County, and spent more than 25 years as a sports writer for The Sun in Baltimore. His favorite writing assignments have included the Summer Olympics in Australia and Greece, the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and “Feet for Francis,” a 2015 walking pilgrimage from the Baltimore Basilica to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis.