Current Issues



In The Word

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.  I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Words of Emma Lazarus engraved on the Statue of Liberty


In Our Contemplation

Sanctuary, an ancient religious tradition, can be found in the Hebrew Scripture where temples and even whole cities declared themselves places of refuge that allowed persons wrongfully accused of a crime or facing unjust punishment to escape pre-emptive retribution until the matter could be resolved.  In the late Roman empire as well as in the Christian medieval period, churches were recognized as legal sanctuaries for accused wrong-doers for a temporary period.  Modern examples of sanctuary in the United States include the Underground Railroad and  the refuge given to conscientious objectors drafted into the Vietnam war in the 70’s.  The contemporary Sanctuary Movement emerged in the 1980’s when more than 500 churches in the U.S. offered safe space to political refugees to prevent their deportation to the Central American countries where death squads awaited them.   Because of their prophetic witness, Sanctuary Churches eventually got Congress to include Central Americans in U.S. asylum laws revisited in the immigration reform law of 1986.

As those churches opened their doors to newly arrived Central American refugees in the 1980’s, today communities of faith once again see the need to practice sanctuary because the federal government’s  deportation practices  will shatter the lives of undocumented immigrants and separate families who are often long-term members of our communities – our neighbors.   In keeping with our recent declaration that the Sisters of Saint Joseph “will create safe space and offer assistance to those (immigrants) whose personal and family security are threatened“, we are studying what circumstances  might lead us to offer physical sanctuary to undocumented immigrants facing deportation.  We are in collaboration with other communities of faith on Long Island in considering this.

In Our Response

Three basic underpinnings help us answer questions about why we are standing with our immigrant brothers and sisters:  our faith, our commitment to international human rights and our responsibility for U.S. democracy.

Our Faith

Whatever form it takes, be it the Hebraic dignity of the person, Christianity’s unconditional love, the Qur’anic attribute of mercy, or Buddhism’s loving kindness, all religious traditions have been charged to care for the vulnerable, not just their own members.  It is important to stand with our immigrant neighbors today in faithful witness to this tradition of protecting the vulnerable in our society.   Faith communities regard offering sanctuary as a reflection of their obligation to minister in a pastoral way.   Not only is this important for our neighbors’ well- being but for ours as well.   In the face of the heartbreaking and graphic images of their human suffering and desperate escape, we still need to be reminded that this could be any of us.  Where your family tree branches away from American soil, you will find that we are all immigrants.

Our Commitment to International Human Rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) enshrines the right and freedom of migration and the right of everyone to seek in other countries a place of asylum from persecution.  The Declaration only recognizes  legal restrictions on this right if situations create necessity for a nation to protect its national security, public order, public health, morals, or the rights and freedoms of others

Our Responsibility for U.S. Democracy

We rightfully laud the image of the U.S. as the “land of opportunity” for people who come seeking religious freedom, asylum from harm, economic and educational opportunities and a hope-filled future for their children.  Several amendments of the Constitution have long been interpreted as guaranteeing constitutional rights to non-citizens within the United States.  The 14th Amendment declares that “no State shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any personwithin its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”.  The 5th Amendment applies the same principle to the Federal Government by  requiring its exercise of due process to prevent the deprivation of a person’s life, liberty and property.  The 4th Amendment declares “the right of people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures.”  The significant implication of the term “person” is its indication that both citizens and non-citizens have these rights while in the United States.

We Are One

Sanctuary is a response in faith and nurtured by prayer and conscience.  Offering sanctuary involves many different contributions and approaches but the important thing is that it is solidarity work – building of relationships with people most affected by injustices.  Solidarity encourages us to turn as a group towards those who have been historically marginalized and excluded by policies that have not impacted us in the same way.   The vision of solidarity is rooted in principles of democracy, faith,  basic human rights and dignity, and the determination that humanity not be over-ridden by injustice and fear.

Some groups use the word “hospitality” to convey the broad range of options for solidarity.    Sisters of St Joseph are already doing many things that reflect our hospitality and solidarity.  Consider that we  display signage so people know we are welcoming, available and safe; we visit our public officials; we voice our concerns at civic meetings; we protest with solidarity groups; we witness solidarity by accompanying  undocumented persons to proceedings that may involve detention or deportation,  we host interfaith / interdenominational prayer services regularly; we offer space to organizations that want to hold meetings / trainings; we reach out to families of detainees; we remember specific people who are in detention or facing deportation; we participate in  fund-raising efforts.

In Our Prayer 

May I be a guard for those who need protection, a guide for those on the path, a boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood.  May I be a lamp in the darkness, a resting place for the weary, a healing medicine for all who are sick, a vase of plenty, a tree of miracles.   And for the boundless multitudes of living beings, may I bring sustenance and awakening, enduring like the earth and sky until all beings are freed from sorrow and all are awakened.
Daily Prayer of the Dalai Lama

Everyone Can Make a Difference    Care for one another and care for the earth are inter-related.  Make that case by signing this petition.   Stop the deportation proceedings of the mother of 2 U.S. citizen children by signing this petition.



How To Be A Sanctuary Congregation on Long Island.  A Collaborative Project of Long Island Jobs with Justice and the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC

A Menu of Hope.   A Resource Guide for Standing with Immigrants in NY. Rural and Migrant Ministry






Peace Demonstration

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    Nourished by prayer, supported by community and energized by ministry, we are constantly addressing the needs of these times.