Greetings Sisters and Brothers in the Franciscan Family,

I am really pleased to be part of the newly organized Franciscan Migrant Network and although I cannot be with you in person for the Franciscan Border Experience, I will be a spiritual pilgrim from afar. I spent the first 15 years of my priesthood along the US-Mexico border in Y’sleta (El Paso), Texas.

It was a truly formative experience. The people of that borderland truly formed me as a minister and the border and its people have ever been close to my heart.

It confounds, saddens and often angers me that after decades of advocacy, the plight of the immigrant community remains largely ignored by the US government. Administrations of both parties have come and gone, and both parties have held majorities in congress, and comprehensive immigration reform still has not progressed. One party at least makes an effort, the other blocks it and sets things back further. Now even the Dreamers who enjoy the support of the vast majority of Americans still cannot plan safely for their futures and remains pawns of the powerful.

CNS photo/Catholic New World/Karen Callaway

Thank you for participating in the Border experience to learn about immigration up close. Open your hearts as well as your minds to the families and individuals who are fleeing violence, death and the inability to provide for their loved ones in their homeland and risk everything to come work at jobs that very few in this country are willing to do. Hear the voices and witness the faith of those who are so vulnerable as they arrive at the border, waiting for us to live up to what earlier generations of immigrants have experienced: a land of possibilities and promises.

You will mourn the loss of those who have died horrible deaths in the desert and at the hands of the inhumane and celebrate the boldness and hope of people who trust in God and call upon Our Lady of Guadalupe to protect and shelter them.

Hopefully you will return to your communities eager to welcome the stranger and put the Gospel into practice, celebrating the diversity of God’s family and the richness migrants bring to this land. Know of my prayers and gratitude for all of you.

Paz y bien,
John Stowe, OFM Conv
Bishop of Lexington

John Stowe is a Conventual Franciscan Friar and is the current bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, appointed by Pope Francis in 2015. He also serves as the Bishop President of Pax Christi USA. Among his many past leadership positions, Bishop Stowe also served in El Paso, TX as moderator of the curia and vicar general for the diocese. During that time, he worked on border issues and was present with the immigrant community.