A sculpture of the Virgin Mary is a sign of welcome on the U.S.-Mexico border

(Photo: CNS)

Two parallel fences line either side of the Tijuana river. The southernmost barrier roughly marks the international boundary between the United States and Mexico, between San Diego, Calif., and Tijuana, Baja California.

The area is patrolled 24/7 by U.S. Border Patrol agents in S.U.V.s and helicopters. Cameras monitor the area to spot anyone who might try to cross the border illegally.

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But it was not always this way, according to Deacon José Luis Medina, the administrator of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in San Ysidro, a San Diego neighborhood just north of the border. Deacon Medina was born in Tijuana.

“We have a good relationship between Mexico and San Diego,” Deacon Medina told America. “A lot of people come from Tijuana to go shopping here. We’re not very happy with the wall.”

“The president wants to build the wall, and we want to build a bridge,” Deacon Medina said. “We are Christians. Our faith tells us that everyone is a human being.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel will be the site of a 40-foot “Welcome the Stranger” sculpture. The monument to the Virgin Mary, which will be surrounded by a meditation garden, was inspired by the Statue of Liberty and commissioned by theSan Diego Organizing Project. Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego supports the project.

“The president wants to build the wall, and we want to build a bridge,” Deacon Medina said. “We are Christians. Our faith tells us that everyone is a human being.”

The sculpture will stand in stark relief to the increasingly militarized border. During his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump vowed to build a “great border wall.” Earlier this year, thepresident visited San Diego to see eight border wall prototypes, but community members say the “Welcome the Stranger” statue is not meant as a political statement.

“This has nothing to do with politics,” said David Gonzalez, who has been a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel for 20 years. “This is who we are and what we believe in. We welcome people.”

It is personal for Mr. Gonzalez, whose mother was born in Mexico. He also has undocumented friends in the community who “are doing very well, helping the economy and everything,” he said. Some of his family members are immigrants and have also integrated into their communities in the United States.

“I feel a love for two countries. I believe there is so much culture that can be shared,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “People are coming to find liberty and to have a better life.”

The California Endowment, a private health foundation, has already donated $1 million toward the $2-million goal, the Los Angeles Times reports. In addition to crowdsourcing, memorial bricks are also being sold to raised funds.

Parish and community members like Mr. Gonzalez gathered with artist Jim Bliesner to collaborate on the sculpture’s design. Mr. Bliesner, who has been involved in what he called “advocacy by design” in the past, has had work exhibited around the world. He produced several pieces of public art in San Diego and Tijuana.

The “Welcome the Stranger” sculpture may be the most complex. It is meant to be a beacon of hope, a welcoming hand and a memorial to international immigrants, he said.

“The experience of the migrant is a hard one,” Mr. Bliesner said. “That experience cuts across cultures. The motif starts as religious, but it is a universal statement.”

The “Welcome the Stranger” sculpture may be the most complex. It is meant to be a beacon of hope, a welcoming hand and a memorial to international immigrants, he said.

The challenge will be to go from the existing four-foot model to something 10 times as large, Mr. Bliesner said. They wanted a taller monument, but it would have been in the way of two flight paths. The project is scheduled to break ground in January.

“Fundamentally, people of our culture welcome the stranger. We’re all from somewhere else and we’ve learned to get along,” Mr. Bliesner said. “That’s part of what makes this country what it is. We might fight, but in the end, we work it out.”

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Randal Agostini
2 weeks 5 days ago

Is the statue going to be erected in Mexico?

Greg Heck
2 weeks 5 days ago

Okay, retards.

Doug Kelchner
2 weeks 4 days ago

As I travel the neigborhoods of South San Diego (near the site), and those of downtown San Diego, I see the extreme poverty. There is so much good that could be done with the $2,000,000 cost of the statue. Sadly, this is more a 'political' statement than a work of charity. There are so many truly beautiful statue representation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; I doubt many will characterize this hunk of metal as 'beautiful.' Then looking forward, considering the ensuing scandal in the Church and impending financial crisis, when OLMC is sold off to the highest bidder, what happens to the statue? Sorry, I'm a local and I'm not in favor.

tacronicus.cornelius@gmail.com
2 weeks 4 days ago

Yeah, the diocese should save that money for the hefty lawyer fees they'll no doubt have to pay as the DOJ investigation kicks into high gear.

Dominic Deus
2 weeks 4 days ago

Dominic Deus here,

Once again, I repost a piece that I wrote just moments ago to the Catholic Spirit, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I don't plan to make a practice of this but the issues are being forced upon me by the base nature of the times. Immigrants are front and center in the national consciousness and will be until next week Wednesday. My piece is referential to welcoming statues and migrants. Charles is my frequent fellow discussant and we are most often far apart in our analyses. I love him dearly. We have never met. Here goes:

Dear Charles,

You are very kind to compliment my writing. I share the same admiration for yours: concise, heartfelt, making good use of reason, opening and closing arguments wielded with the facility of a surgeon removing a gall bladder. (Remember, in my circles, that is high praise.)

I am only a surgeon when pressed into such by emergency circumstances and I tremble, not at the excitement of the moment, but the fearful realization that I am not sure of why *I* am doing this. ("Because you are there, stupid," sayeth my God.)

i suspect neither of us is entirely up to the task of illuminating the reasons why human beings should ignore ancient instinct, the survival value of tribalism, and the tremendous act of faith it takes to literally welcome the stranger and shelter them for a generation, more or less, until they become "us" instead of "them."

I think part of the difficulty is that we look for arguments and answers in prose when we should be writing and reading in verse.
Our salvation lies in the power of poetry.

At the very end of this essay I have posted a piece by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Her prose, on occasion, rises to the level of poetry and this is one such occasion.

This is a woman who can WRITE. If I ever meet her, my instinct will be to kneel on the ground, the better to touch the hem of her garment. I probably won't do that because she would have to help me up, but I would think it.

What the bishops or popes have done or not done no longer pertains. What they and we do next is what will remain, the testimony to our testing, witnessed by the rest of humanity, determining whether America will endure or fall into ruin.

We are confronted not by a caravan, immeasurably small when compared to the Exodus of tribes of Israel, the Native American forced migrations, the Japanese American internments, but by human beings walking to what they believe is the promise of America:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

That they do this when the American experience is embracing ignorance celebrated as virtue and defended as unassailable orthodoxy, when patriotism is held to mean exceptionalism, devoid of of all appreciation for or recognition of the sacred humanity of all.
They believe Americanism is better than its basest instincts.

In America, neither the Bible (Hebrew or Christian) is law. The same is true of the Koran, Talmud, the teachings of the Buddha and other religions. They all have their scripture and find that it speaks to a collective soul. In our country, too many blind themselves to that fact and insist, to the point of belligerence, that the One Way to salvation is Their Way and they have no need for the scripture, wisdom, or collective soul known by others.

Instead, they vivisect other persons' humanity, declaring them to be less than themselves, less human. They render others nameless dark faces, not mother, not child, not families, but criminals, idlers, deceivers, pestilence and plague, and, taken as a whole, invaders.

How many is too many? I suppose, if characterized as above, one is too many. If they are the huddled masses referred to on the Statue of Liberty, the answer is we must have the faith and courage to welcome those who made the journey. It is not for us to examine numbers lest we become distracted from our own examen.

Then there is the question of law. True, we must be ever mindful of it. Good law brings good order to human affairs which are otherwise inclined to become chaotic. Law, however, is not an end in itself. It is a human creation, the purpose of which is to bring about justice and remind us that, in the scriptures mentioned earlier, justice is always dispensed with mercy. Indeed, justice and mercy have much to do with the common soul. Law without mercy is not justice, but tyranny.

I will be merciful now and stop bending the readers ear. I am fortified by macaroni and cheese, cheap wine and applesauce. It probably shows in my writing.

Please read Clarissa below.

"We Where Made for These Times"

"My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for."

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of "Women Who Run With the Wolves."

Off to bed,

Dominic

William Bannon
2 weeks 4 days ago

Ecuador by UN figures has a murder rate of 5.85 per 100,000....almost identical to the USA but...far better than the poor areas of the USA which in the big cities can be exactly like Guatemala...27 per 100,000. The caravan folk would find more safety in Ecuador since 42% of them end up living in five cities...D.C. being the most dangerous but the poor sections of New York City are no bargain.. They are coming to the USA for primarily other things than safety...tales from relatives already here are about schools being free due to a 1982 Supreme Court decision and they can get the free breakfast and lunch programs in the schools and not the adults but the children can get food stamps ( Snopes fact checker ). Catholic pundits will push the safety narrative but that’s not it. Guatemala and the poor areas of D.C., NYC, and LA have similar murder rates. NJ has financial aid for illegals for college...blue state. If a Bishop cares about the actual physical safety of illegals, he needs to google crime stats for the big cities of the usa’s poor areas...and notice that they are Quatemala like. Ask the widow Yupa of Irvington NJ...next to Newark. Google “Yupa murder Irvington December”.

tacronicus.cornelius@gmail.com
2 weeks 4 days ago

If they are truly refugees, why didn't Mexico offer them sanctuary? As strangers in a strange land, they would find the assimilation process far easier in another Latin American country, wouldn't they?

tacronicus.cornelius@gmail.com
2 weeks 4 days ago

Not a fan of the art style. Looks more like a depiction of a "Transformer" than anything else.

Alan Martin
1 week 6 days ago

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Alan Martin
1 week 6 days ago

This article is actually a nice one it assists new web viewers and people who are wishing to learn blog writing. I have one top recommendation for best writing services for Essay Writing Service UK and Nursing Dissertation help

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