Back from the Prison Vigil & Pope Francis Pilgrimage

This weekend, our leaders prayed and rallied at the Suffolk County jail, and 25 Catholic leaders visited the Pope in Philadelphia. Check out the live posts from Philadelphia on our twitter, and pictures from Friday’s prison protest vigil on our facebook page.

On Friday, our leaders rallied at the Suffolk County House of Correction jail to connect the issue of our work of the Jobs Not Jails campaign to the Pope’s prison visit in Philadelphia. The Boston Globe covered our prayer vigil, led by MCAN leaders from affiliates at ECCO and BIC and partners at Jobs Not Jails. Our leaders were also quoted in the Boston Herald.

A reflection on the holy experience of hearing the Pope from Angela Arce, immigrant leader and ECCO Board Vice President:

“Together with 12 other ECCO leaders, we have returned from our pilgrimage to encounter Pope Francis inspired, transformed, and ready to work for justice.

What we experienced is hard to put into words. As we stood (praying, singing, and dancing as we waited) and then saw and heard the words of Pope Francis, it was as if the sky had descended and there were no distinctions between nationalities or between the laity and clergy. Several of us said that it was like Jesus walking the earth again. Like our Lord, Pope Francis blessed all of us with such abundant love it left us speechless and overflowing with love for all our brothers and sisters.

Being in the presence of Pope Francis taught us humility and responsibility to care for those most in need.

Pilgrimage Overview

We started our pilgrimage in Lynn with a blessing from our Board President, Fr. Brian Flynn. We then drove our van to the Suffolk County House of Correction where we prayed for our incarcerated and detained sisters and brothers. We were moved to tears when we saw one of our brothers put a note in his window asking us to write him. At the prison, we were blessed by Fr. Gerry Souza (Catholic Chaplain the Suffolk County House of Correction) and the Rev. Paul Ford (Executive Director of the Boston Workers Alliance) and also by the opportunity to visit a jail as we knew Pope Francis would do in Philadelphia. After a 6 hour van ride enriched by hymns and the rosary, we arrived.

Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, prepared our hearts for Pope Francis’ message of inclusion at the Faith Matters in America Summit by reminding us that “we are created for coexistence, we are not created for exclusion.” The Pope is calling us to truly see those that society tells us not to. The inmates of Suffolk County made themselves be seen by tapping on the glass – and we saw them.

Proud to be immigrants

In Philadelphia, we responded to hours of standing to get through police security checks and miles of walking with spontaneous song and dance, Dominican style. Each time we heard the Pope speak on Saturday and Sunday, he did so in Spanish, our native tongue. And every time he spoke he lifted immigrants up, acknowledging our dignity. This healed our scars after years of hateful public speech about immigrants. El Papa Francisco made us feel proud to be immigrants!

On Saturday night, el Papa Francisco said, “Families have a citizenship that is divine. The identity card that they have is given to them by God.” These words touched our souls. All of us have family or friends who live in daily fear of being torn apart by deportation because of one family member’s immigration status.

Moved, our group committed itself to getting drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants approved in Massachusetts. Immigrant families in our commonwealth need to be protected and drivers’ licenses are an important first step, already taken by 13 other states in the nation.

Next Steps

“The family is a factory of hope,” el Papa said to us. We have returned from the city of brotherly love filled with the spirit of fraternity and family. In God, we are family. ECCO is family. ECCO is hope for our communities and cities. This fall, in this spirit, ECCO will work on drivers’ licenses, community policing, and just taxation policy.

Your sister in Christ,
Angela Arce

ECCO Board Vice President
Immaculate Conception, Salem”



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