Prayer Service Spreads Message of Solidarity
Messages of acceptance and respect were on the agenda at Sacred Heart University’s service, “Welcome the Immigrant and the Refugee: In Solidarity with Our Muslim Students,” Tuesday at SHU’s Chapel of the Holy Spirit.
“Today is an opportunity to come together in prayer,” said SHU President John J. Petillo to the hundreds of students, staff and faculty who gathered. “This is not a political event.”
Petillo said the University is deeply rooted in the Catholic intellectual traditions of welcoming, dialogue and respect for differences. “Today’s theme is to the core of our mission,” he said. “All of us Americans are of immigrant heritage over the decades either by choice or by force.”
Petillo became emotional when speaking of his father’s journey to America. “My father, over 90 years ago, immigrated to this land in his teens, alone. He did not speak the language and came with a fourth-grade education, as that was all that was afforded to him.”
Petillo’s reflection was followed by readings from the Bible and the Qur’an. The Liturgical Choir sang, and Fr. Anthony Ciorra, interim vice president for Mission and Catholic Identity, made the final remarks.
“It’s good to see the chapel so full today,” Ciorra said. “It speaks volumes.” Referring to the President’s recent executive order that denies entry of citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen into the U.S., Ciorra said the order is not a Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu issue; it’s a human problem.
“We welcome every human being without exception,” Ciorra said. He quoted Catholic leaders who echoed his statements and encouraged everyone to do their best to respect and welcome each other. He pointed out that these basic values are etched in stone here at SHU, referring to the Corporal Works of Mercy etched on the side of the Chapel.
When he asked the crowd to extend hands of love, the congregation offered handshakes and words of peace to those around them. “This is a time to put aside fear and join together,” Ciorra said.