Influx of immigrant children: Reminiscent of ‘orphan trains’

A group of immigrant children who rode an “orphan train” is pictured in this undated photo. — Credit: CHILDREN’S AID SOCIETY

The humanitarian crisis on our southern border — where more than 60,000 children have crossed into the U.S. since October — has parallels to the plight of largely Catholic children who were shipped across America between 1854 and 1929 on so-called “orphan trains.”

Today's crisis involves unaccompanied minors, principally from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Some are being sent north by parents striving to protect them from violent gangs and drug cartels. Others are children heading to the U.S. in a highly risk-filled attempt to find and join their parents who are working in communities across our country.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, prior to any substantial social safety nets, more than 200,000 orphaned, abandoned or homeless Irish, Italian and Polish Catholic youngsters were sent packing from large East Coast cities to the heartland of the U.S.

A common denominator between the migrant youth of old and today's youth is their Catholicism. Another parallel is that then, as now, these children did not know where their journey would take them or what experiences awaited them.

The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul in New York strived to place as many of the 10,000 children homeless at any time on the streets of New York with Catholic foster families in the Midwest. But far too many on the "orphan trains" found exploitation, abuse and 'life' as indentured servants.

Presently it is unclear what awaits the projected 120,000 unaccompanied minors expected to enter the U.S. in 2014. In the meantime, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services and our U.S. Bishops are stepping up and addressing this humanitarian emergency just as it has done through our country's history.

Archbishop José Gomez' valuable book, “Immigration and the Next America: Renewing the Soul of Our Nation” (Our Sunday Visitor Press, 2013), chronicles the contributions of church leaders such as John the Baptist Scalabrini, Vincent Pallotti, Frances Xavier Cabrini and the first American-born saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who ministered to immigrants during the "orphan train" era.

An initiative sponsored and supported by Catholic Charities of Los Angeles with the nonprofit Crittenton Services assists many dozens of unaccompanied minors in Southern California, where these youngsters from Mexico, Central America and elsewhere are lodged, cared for and schooled.

Our current challenges demand more than political infighting and anti-immigrant tirades. We need more Scalabrinis, Pallottis, Cabrinis and Setons ready to put faith into action for the life and dignity of today's immigrants, in particularly the masses of unaccompanied minors.

The status quo is unacceptable. Catholics have big shoes to fill in order to follow in the better traditions of spiritual and material care of our immigrant forbearers.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Dioceses of Orange and San Bernardino, led by their bishops, will gather at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles for a Procession and Mass for Immigrants on July 20 at 3 p.m. All parishioners are welcome.

 

Mike Clements is director of Advocacy and Training, and “Justice In Education” volunteer organizer for the Office of Life, Justice and Peace, Diocese of Orange.


Voices

In our time

Archbishop José H. Gomez

As I write, I’ve just read the sad news that 90 Christians have been kidnapped from two villages in Syria. Of course we were all shocked earlier this month by the news that 21 Coptic Christians were executed in Syria — killed, as Pope Francis said, “for the mere fact of being Christians.” 

The Holy Father visits the Holy Land

Events

March 2015
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31

March 1, 2015

  • Sunday, March 1

    Special Needs Mass, 10 a.m., Father Maguire Council Hall, 4315 N. Vincent Ave, Covina.Mass for persons with physical and intellectual disabilities, their families and caregivers. For more information, contact Elizabeth, (909) 599-9833, ebinerfamily@gmail.com.

    Don Bosco Tech Spring Open House, Mass: 10 a.m., Open House: 12-3 p.m., Don Bosco Technical Institute, 1151 San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead. (626) 940-2000. www.boscotech.edu.

    Third Order Lay Carmelite Community Q & A Meeting, 1-4 p.m., St. Jane Frances de Chantal Church, 12930 Hamlin St., North Hollywood. The Order is located throughout the Los Angeles area and open to new membership.  If interested in the ancient tradition of contemplative prayer, community and service, come and have your questions answered. For moreinformation, contact Regional Director Herman Briones, (818) 521-6564.

    Stations of the Cross, 2 p.m., Calvary Cemetery, 4201 Whittier Blvd., East Los Angeles. Every Sunday through March 22. (323) 261-3106. 
    http://catholiccemeteriesla.org/stations.

    “Who is this Jesus you see?,” 2-4 p.m., Master Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, 700 N Sunnyside Ave., Sierra Madre. Presented by Dr. Michael Downey. Freewill donation. 

    Families to the Max: Be a Catholic Family, 2-5:30 p.m., Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata, 531 East Merced Avenue, West Covina. For more information, contact Ann O’Donnell, (626) 917-0040.

    Rosary and Mass for Life, Rosary: 4:30 p.m., Mass: 5 p.m., St. Cornelius Church, 5500 E Wardlow Rd., Long Beach. Contact Sylvia Aimerito (562) 429-1965. Audiogirlministries.com.

The Tidings - Home Delivery 300x100

Get our news by email

Together in Mission 300x250
Bob Smith BMW 300x250
Bob Smith Toyota 300x250
Bob Smith Mini 300x250