“Don Antonio” takes to the streets to support immigrants

NEW YORK – Antonio Mendez, or “Don Antonio” as he is known in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles although he is not a priest, came to the United States from Mexico in the 1980s. remembers having slept in the street with no prospect of shelter, hungry, with only a quarter in his pocket.

So, remembering his own fate, Mendez walks. Each year, he makes a pilgrimage approximately 50 miles from Lake Forest, California, in the Diocese of Orange County, to Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles to raise awareness of the difficulties migrants often face when they arrive in the United States. states.

Mendez first made the trip in 2014 from the Catholic Church of Santiago de Compostela in Lake Forest. The time it takes him varies depending on the number of people accompanying him, but on his own, he said it takes about three days. The date always coincides with the Archdiocesan Mass to commemorate the start of the American Catholic Church’s National Migration Week.

“When you see someone walking up the street, most people are very indifferent to the suffering of the people on the street. Most people, when they see someone on the street, they turn around and walk away. are going,” Mendez said recently. Node. “I know what it means to be on the streets. I know what it means to be hungry. I know what it means to be cold and have nothing to cover up, and it’s hard.

“When you see people suffering, you can’t be indifferent to them,” Mendez said.

Part of what inspired Mendez to make the pilgrimage in 2014 was the church bringing relics of Saint Toribio Romo from Santa Ana de Guadalupe to Mexico. Born in 1900, Romo is the patron saint of immigrants. He was a Catholic priest until his death in 1928, when he was killed during the Cristero War, when Catholics in Mexico fought against the then anti-church Mexican government.

Mendez noted Node that when it comes to Romo “you hear a lot of stories of pilgrimages and making their way and they ask him to help them cross the border.”

As for why Mendez keeps walking every year, the word that kept coming up was empathy.

“I want to do this to empathize with all the immigrants who have had to somehow leave and go live in different places and find a better way to live because of a number of situations – cartels drugs, poverty, lack of work — and you see your loved ones have no opportunity in life, so you look for a better life for their future,” Mendez said.

This year’s mass at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles to commemorate the start of National Migration Week was held on September 19. Archbishop Jośe Gomez of Los Angeles celebrated Mass and encouraged government officials and lawmakers to work for immigration. reform.

Towards the end of the mass, Isaac Cuevas, director of immigration and public affairs for the archdiocese, paid tribute to Mendez for his annual trip, saying “we also want to make a brief mention in recognition of Don Antonio. Don Antonio and a small group of people came from Lake Forest, California, over 50 miles away, on a three-day walking pilgrimage to attend our celebration.

National Migration Week ends tomorrow, September 25, coinciding with the Vatican’s World Day for Migrants and Refugees. The theme for both is “Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees”.

Asked what more the church can do on migration, Mendez noted that the church is doing a lot on immigration, but added that what is needed are social gatherings and everyone doing what they do. he can.

“It’s going to be a big difference being aware of people looking around me and seeing what I’m doing,” Mendez said. “It’s not about walking 70 miles or 50 miles, but it’s about what you can do?”

Mendez made similar comments about politicians and the politicization of immigration policy in the United States. He stressed that in political conversations and in society in general, human beings have a dignity that must be respected at all times, and that immigration reform alone will not end the indifference towards others.

“People are asking for immigration reform so that everyone gets a legal status. I don’t think it will end the indifference towards people. It’s not for a political party,” Mendez said.

“You see empathy and you empathize with yourself with other people. They are human beings like you and me. is not fair.

Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg

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