By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published March 31, 2016
ATLANTA—A Holy Week pilgrimage focusing on those being held in immigration detention centers and on their families crossed through the Archdiocese of Atlanta and stopped at several Catholic churches on March 23 and 25.
Nearly 40 people, some joining mid-route, participated March 23 in one segment of the eighth annual Holy Week Pilgrimage for Immigrants beginning at Plaza Fiesta on Buford Highway, NE, in Atlanta and ending at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on Briarcliff Road.
Throughout the event, which began in Macon on March 20, participants carried a bilingual pilgrimage banner and two wooden crosses, which were handed on to the next group. Mark Bracken co-organized the IHM pilgrimage with Sarah Mancini.
PJ Edwards, founder of the El Refugio hospitality house near the Stewart Detention Center, in Lumpkin, brought one of the crosses to the Plaza Fiesta and then took it to a Cartersville segment of the pilgrimage later that day.
“It had already been on one or two previous walks and was inscribed with the names of many men who are currently in detention centers awaiting deportation hearings,” said Bracken.
El Refugio offers a place of rest for families and loved ones of those awaiting deportation hearings when they come for the brief visits permitted. Stewart is one of the largest immigration detention centers in the United States.
Passers-by seemed supportive of the efforts to raise awareness of the need for family-based immigration reform on the federal level, and special concern for the vulnerable.
“At least two drivers honked their horns to show support, and several people waved. This was my third pilgrimage, and in the past I’ve seen the same thing—people honking and waving,” said Bracken.
He said one young woman came out of an apartment building along the route with two children in a stroller to join the walk.
Immaculate Heart of Mary parishioners donated water for the walkers and supported the efforts with a community welcome.
“When we got to IHM the seventh-grade students put on a Living Stations of the Cross for us, which was really well done, and then we finished with a chili dinner for everyone,” said Bracken.
In Cartersville, St. Francis of Assisi Church parishioners joined others in the community for the pilgrimage. The walk started at 4 p.m. March 23 at the Douglas Street United Methodist Church. The walk ended at St. Francis of Assisi Church with food and fellowship.
The Holy Thursday Pilgrimage for Immigrants March 24 was eight miles in length starting at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Smyrna and ending at the Square in Marietta with washing of the feet. Approximately 500 walkers participated, bringing sack lunches and taking part in a celebration of song and prayer. Weary pilgrims took shuttle buses back to the parish at the afternoon’s end.
Father Jaime Molina of St. Thomas the Apostle Church said the pilgrimage was about prayer for immigrants and showing peace, dignity and service to others.
The cross was passed on to the ecumenical Good Friday pilgrimage that began at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta on March 25.
View a bilingual video of the Holy Thursday Pilgrimage for Immigrants with Father Jaime Molina of St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Smyrna, explaining the event. The view is by Allen Kinzly of the Catholic Communications staff of the Atlanta Archdiocese.
These photos and others are available for purchase: https://gabull.smugmug.com/Events/Holy-Week-2016/