St. Philip Benizi Parish, Fullerton, CA, USA – As elsewhere, the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States came as a surprise to many / most of our parishioners. However, with the parish being 70-80% in number Hispanic and almost EVERY family knowing at least someone who is undocumented, surprise here was accompanied with palpable concern. Working closely with the Diocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace (the head of which is a Parishioner at St. Philip’s), our Servite Community has worked very hard to accompany and prepare parishioners fearing the worst.
As the one responsible for operation of the parish (as Pastor) I have made known to the Parish staff that I DON’T give permission to the Civil Authorities to enter our Parish grounds pursuant to an Immigration or otherwise Legal matter without a Court Order and even if they did come with a Court Order, since Church / State issues are involved, I still DON’T give permission for them to enter our grounds until I have spoken with my Superiors both at the Province and Diocese and receive counsel from their lawyers regarding the specifics of the Court Order and the situation at hand. (My letter, signed and with the parish seal, is hanging in a prominent space in our Parish office for our parish staff to take down and bring to the Authorities should they come). Our staff has prepared a prioritized list of media and legal contacts to call should the Authorities come knocking, And everybody on our staff, mostly quite young, know how to operate their cell phones to video anything that were to happen in such a situation.
Further, we distributed some 2000 “know your rights” cards (one side in English, the other in Spanish) to parishioners, so that they know what to do (mostly remain silent and ask for a lawyer) should they be stopped by the Authorities. The text of these quite handy cards was prepared by the Diocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace.
Finally, we held an all night prayer vigil with the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the night before President Trump’s inauguration, an event that was attended by hundreds of people throughout the night both from the Parish and beyond.
We don’t know what will come, but in as much as we can be, we are prepared.
Fra Dennis Z.M. Kriz, OSM