GREEN BAY — The tense mood around the country, brought about by presidential promises to crack down on undocumented immigrants and the flow of refugees, has rallied communities to stand in support. On Feb. 16, one such event took place around the city block surrounding St. Willebrord Church.
Between 500 and 700 people turned out for an evening “stand in solidarity” vigil that began on Jefferson Street behind St. Willebrord Church. Participants walked around the four blocks surrounding the church, holding candles, flashlights and small signs inscribed with “dignity,” “respect” and “unity.”
According to Norbertine Fr. Andy Cribben, pastor of St. Willebrord Parish, the event was planned by local citizens.
“It was a number of men and women from the local community who came and asked, ‘Father, what do you think about organizing something on the block around St. Willebrord without advertising it as a St. Willebrord event’ and I said, I think that’s a good idea.”
He said around 70 percent of his parish consists of Hispanic Catholics.
“There are lots of firsts here,” he said regarding the peaceful protest. “No one’s told me how to do things or has written a book on this. ‘Have a march around the block?’ OK, why not? I give the folks who organize these things credit.”
Fr. Cribben said parents come to him telling him about children who are afraid. “‘My kids can’t sleep at night. They wake up with images of someone at the door.’ … I said to a TV station that, rational or irrational as the fears may be, they are real. People actually are really afraid. Let’s recognize that it exists. That’s part of our community right now, living in anxiety.”
Fr. Cribben said the parish will host a second community listening session on immigration issues Feb. 24, 5:30 p.m., in the Fr. Ken DeGroot Community Center. The public is invited.