Springfield Dominican Sisters confirm corporate stance on migration

By Sister Beth Murphy, OP
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Dominican Sisters of Springfield gathered in general assembly Aug. 6-7, 2020, and affirmed a statement in support of migrants that “heralds justice and non-violence” and that “speaks the urgent need for social equality and economic parity, for compassion and for reconciliation” of the world’s peoples on the move.
The full text of the corporate stance reads:
We, the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Ill., express solidarity with those individuals and families who find it necessary to leave their homes or homeland in order to secure their safety and future. We commit to welcome, support, and protect all migrants: immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons. We commit to assist in their integration. We advocate for policies that protect their human rights, including family unity.
In her presentation of the statement to the sisters gathered at Sacred Heart Convent and around the Western Hemisphere via teleconference technology, Sister Sharon Zayac answered a rhetorical question about why more words were necessary on this topic. “In a world inundated with words that deny others their rights to life, liberty, and the means to provide for the needs and the future of their families, we need more words,” she said. “We need alternate words, words that herald justice and non-violence, that speak the urgent need for social equality and economic parity, for compassion and for reconciliation.”

(Left) Dominican Sisters of Springfield have been migrant advocates since their founders arrived in Jacksonville, Ill., on Aug. 19, 1873. Pictured: Springfield Dominican Sisters rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) legislation in 2017. Left to right are Sister Judith Hilbing, Veronica Espina (a Dominican associate), Sisters Elyse Marie Ramirez, Ann Clennon and Marcelline Koch. (Photo courtesy of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield)

The process of affirming this new corporate stance, the twelfth since 1994, began earlier this year with a period of communal study by the sisters on issues facing migrants in the U.S. and around the globe.
“When our founding sisters arrived in Jacksonville in 1873, they came to teach the children of the Irish immigrants whose fathers made a living doing back-breaking labor on the railroad,” said Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, the congregation’s prioress general. “Many of our own sisters were also immigrants. This statement affirms our commitment to continued concern for, ministry to, and advocacy on behalf of immigrants so deeply rooted in our own story.”
The sisters work to fulfill Pope Francis’ goal of making the Catholic church a welcoming place for migrants. In a video statement from the pope viewed before their vote on this corporate stance, the sisters heard Pope Francis say “Unfortunately, in many cases people are forced to move by conflict, natural disasters, persecution, climate change, violence, extreme poverty, and inhuman living conditions. Our shared response can be expressed by four action verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote, and to integrate.”
The Springfield Dominican Sisters now work to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants in a multitude of ways. They serve migrants at the Dominican Literacy Centers in Aurora and Melrose Park, Ill. and at Bethany House, a Chicago shelter facility for women and children seeking asylum or awaiting adjudication of their human trafficking cases.
Sisters engaged in parish ministry often serve migrants in those parishes, and migrants attend the congregation’s three sponsored high schools. Migrants are served by Springfield Dominican Sisters at counseling centers in Illinois and are among those cared for in health care facilities where our sisters work.
In many instances, Springfield Dominican Sisters volunteer time in service of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and can often be found advocating for more just immigration policies in the seats of government. In Springfield, many sisters are engaged with the work of the Springfield Immigrant Advocacy Network (SIAN), an all-volunteer non-profit that provides service and advocacy for immigrants in central Illinois.
To learn more about how you can join the Dominican Sisters’ work in support of migrants contact Sister Marcelline Koch at 217-787-0481.