Monday, January 14, 2008

Tim Chavez: Our Lady of Guadalupe church fulfills moral obligation to immigrant past

"I sat in the pews with my brothers and sisters from another country"

"Others were here to help the Poles, the Italians and the Irish"

Tim Chavez has written about Nashville's newest Catholic church, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Chavez is a former columnist for the Tennessean who has not been able to return to that paper after a bout with leukemia (story here).

In this new column, which appeared on the Scripps News wire via Hispanic Link, Chavez focuses on the importance of Nashville's Our Lady of Guadalupe church as more than just a house of worship, but as the fulfillment of a moral duty to welcome. Chavez draws on his parents' experience at a similar church in Topeka:
My mother married my father more than a half century ago in a church dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was located in a Topeka, Kansas, barrio populated with a growing number of Latinos recruited to fill meat-packing jobs and keep the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad running across this nation.
Such deep faith has always been a defining characteristic of Hispanics. That faith has been recognized now in Nashville with the opening of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Amid the ongoing onslaught against immigrants -- particularly in the South -- this bodes well for more sane discourse and decision-making in 2008.

A spectacular dedication mass spotlighted our rich culture and history in this city. Our children clutched bouquets of roses to put before a giant painting of the Mother of God. Our families showcased the youthfulness of a workforce that will increasingly serve this country's welfare and defense as Baby Boomers retire. I sat in the pews with my brothers and sisters from another country who risked so much to come here and put their futures in God's hands. At no time has this kind of faith been more needed.
Father Joseph Patrick Breen continually preaches about our immigrant history. He reminds his parish -- and Nashville -- that others were here to help the Poles, the Italians and the Irish to set up their own churches and institutions.
My father is gone now. When he returned from World War II, Mexicans were still segregated in a roped-off section of pews in the Catholic church of his rural Kansas hometown. But an Our Lady of Guadalupe church in nearby Topeka welcomed my parents and offered them simple respect as they began their union and family.
Our Lady brings hopeful momentum into 2008 and a reminder to this nation of a moral obligation to its immigrant history.
The Tennessean first reported here about the opening of the church, and a subsequent story focuses on the church's growth plans (story here).

Photo of the Our Lady of Guadalupe opening procession by Loraine Segovia. Used with permission.

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