Hearing the voices of immigrants

Barb Arland-Fye
Jaky Torres talks with her son, Isaac, and Father Rudolph Juarez during a presentation at the Vision 20/20 Convocation workshop on immigration in June at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

The diocese is currently home to seven parishes that provide the sacraments in Spanish, a response to the growing number of immigrants from Central and South America, said Father Rudolph Juarez, diocesan vicar for Hispanics and pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City.

Fr. Juarez offered a presentation, “Hearing the Voices of Immigrants,” during a session at the Vision 20/20 Convocation in June at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. He and Kent Ferris, diocesan director of Social Action, spoke about the needs of Spanish-speaking immigrants, the services available to them, and the ways English-speaking Catholics can accompany them.

The speakers noted that the Diocese of Davenport has a rich history of welcoming Catholics from different lands. Formerly ethnic parishes (Irish, German, Czech, etc.), now have a blend of membership with ancestries from many continents. “In large part, immigrants come to the United States for the same reasons our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents came to this country,” Fr. Juarez said. A majority of Latin American immigrants comes for a better life or to avoid dangerous and deadly situations, the speakers said.


During the presentation, Honduran refugee Jaky Torres told her story. She left her country after gang members killed her husband, she said. Assistance from the Catholic Worker House in Iowa City provides her and her young son, Isaac, a safe place to live as they wait for an asylum hearing.

Fr. Juarez said it is important to hear immigrants’ stories instead of making generalizations or assumptions based on stereotypes. “It isn’t easy to get out of our comfort zone, especially when we have language and cultural differences,” he said. However, he thinks it is wonderful that this diocese has experience in including people, reaching out to them and giving them the tools they need to serve the community.

This presentation on immigration is available online via podcast at https://diocese-of-davenport.simplecast.com.

Most of the presentations from the Vision 20/20 Convocation are available for viewing and/or listening.

Topics include, sharing faith stories; reaching out to families; evangelizing youths and young adults; evangelizing the “churched;” evangelizing in an age of secularism, atheism and scientism; hospitality; evangelizing in small parishes; and church teaching on sexuality and sexual identity.

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