I spent Tuesday reporting on the fear undocumented immigrants in and around Charlotte are feeling in this Age of Trump.
I also found that some Catholics in this mostly Latino community are offering prayers at their Spanish-language Masses for President Donald Trump, who won election on a pledge to get tougher with immigrants here illegally.
At Charlotte’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, where up to 4,000 Latino immigrants worship, congregants can offer a spontaneous prayer during a part of the Mass called the Prayer of the Faithful. The rest of the congregation then responds, “Lord, hear our prayer.”
“One of the constant prayers lately,” Pastor Vincent Finnerty told me, “is that God would touch our president and change his heart.”
At Wednesday’s daytime Mass, reported the Rev. Greg Gay, the church’s assistant pastor, a woman offered a prayer for all immigrants and for the president and the new government to have a change of heart, to know that “we’re not here as delinquents, we’re here to make a life for ourselves and our families. That’s not possible in many of the countries we came from.”
For those who might be surprised that undocumented immigrants would pray for Trump rather than, say, curse him, Gay said that “they are trying to be faithful to the teaching of Jesus, who said that people with hardened hearts might look to God to soften their hearts and see the reality of the people, especially those in need.”
Added Finnerty: “They believe in the power of prayer and that God can really do something to change our president.”
Finnerty, a native of upstate New York who has ministered to Hispanics in Charlotte for 22 years and for years before that in Mexico and Panama, also told me about another trend he’s seen.
To make sure they don't drink and drive, an increasing number of his parishioners are pledging an oath to Our Lady of Guadalupe – a favorite name for Mary, the mother of Jesus, in Latin America – that they will stop drinking for a period of time.
The oath, or “juramento,” is taken before a priest and is preferred by some Latinos to attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Taking the oath, which can also be a pledge to stop smoking or taking drugs, is usually associated with New Year's resolutions.
But, Finnerty said, “I find more of those happening” lately, when many undocumented immigrants are feeling a heightened danger of deportation if they are stopped while driving by law enforcement.
“It’s about being more prudent,” the pastor said.
Finnerty’s church – called Iglesia Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Spanish – flies the flag of the United States, but also the flags of Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose Catholic feast day is Dec. 12, is associated with the image enshrined at a basilica in Mexico City that’s among the most visited sacred sites in the world. It’s also a memorial to the Catholic belief that an apparition of Mary appeared four times in 1531 to a Mexican peasant named Juan Diego.