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Coffee Contacts in Painesville

On Thursday, January 9th, we attended a networking session, a presentation about immigration given by a good friend of ours, and the swearing in of a new judge whose election we supported. First, we drove to Mentor for the Painesville/Mentor Chambers of Commerce monthly "Coffee Contacts" where we see old friends and make new ones.

Today we made over 10 new contacts including a person who helped an elderly, disabled woman from Croatia obtain her United States citizenship. This woman had actually lived in the United States most of her life but due to her disability, she was unable to complete the necessary requirements to become a citizen until she received the proper assistance. We also met a person who used to work at Lakeland Community College where she knew quite a few foreign born students. She still hears from some of them and she took our contact information in case one of them needs help on a visa/citizenship matter.

What was very gratifying was when several people approached us with the news that someone who puts together an international festival each year might need the services of an immigration attorney to help some performers from Europe obtain the right visas to come to the United States for a couple of weeks. We obtained this party's contact information and reached out to him. It is certainly nice to know that we have friends in the Painesville/Mentor area who want to help us and are keeping their eyes open for possibilities.

Next, we went to the First Friday Club of Cleveland, held at the City Club, to attend a program titled "Immigration: What Does the Church Say? What is the Church Doing?" by our friend Sister Rita Mary Harwood, SND who serves as Secretary for Parish Life and Development for the Diocese of Cleveland. Sister Rita's presentation was all-encompassing and we could never do it justice in a few paragraphs so we obtained a copy of it which we plan to post on line very shortly.

Here are some of the highlights of it, though:

***"As has been done each year, the Holy Father, Francis, has written a letter to the Church: He speaks of Jesus, the Evangelizer-the Gospel in person who 'invites all of us to care for the frailest and to recognize his suffering countenance, especially in the victims of new forms of poverty and slavery...The mission of the Church, herself a pilgrim in the world and the Mother all, is thus to love Jesus Christ particularly in the poorest and most abandoned; among these are certainly migrants and refugees, who are trying to escape difficult living conditions and dangers of every kind.'"

***Sister Rita cited examples of biblical migrants including Adam and Eve (after they left the Garden of Eden), Abraham and Sarah, and Moses and the chosen people who escaped Egypt and wandered for 40 years before the found the Promised Land.

***She talked about her role concerning "the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and all people on the move and Catholic Charities here in the Cleveland Diocese has a nationally leading office for Migrants and Refugees providing assistance to over 350 people who come each year as refugees for their resettlement, as well as providing immigration legal services to those who need them."

***Sister Rita contends that "the story of immigration is a human story...It certainly has economic, labor, environmental, racial, and political overtones, but we cannot let that distract us-at the heart of immigration is a human story... it is your story and mine." We must never forget that we are all descended from immigrants.

***"The Catholic Catechism in #2241 speaks of a person's right to immigrate and the country's obligation to welcome those who come in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his own country. And further, the same article states that good government has the duty to secure one's border and enforce their laws and all persons must respect the legitimate exercise of this right."

***In 2003 the bishops of the U.S. and Mexico issued a joint pastoral letter entitled Strangers No Longer-Together on the Journey of Hope in which they contended that the following principles be the basis for comprehensive immigration reform: 1. Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland. 2. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families. 3. Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders. 4. Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection. 5. The human dignity and human right of the undocumented migrants should be respected.

And, accordingly, these things were proposed:

1. An earned legalization program for those already here. 2. A program for workers who might come here in the future. 3. Family-based immigration reform. 4. Restoration of Due Process Rights. 5. Address the root causes of the need to migrant to survive. 6 Enforcement and securing our borders.

***In terms of what the Diocese of Cleveland is doing, efforts have been focused on the three areas of education, advocacy and action. We liked it when Sister Rita talked about last summer's Walk for Faith in downtown Cleveland in which we took part. She said a police officer told her that he/she had never experienced such a peaceful and moving public demonstration.

***At the beginning of her presentation, Sister Rita recalled that Pope Francis said that he was concerned about what he termed the "globalization of indifference" when it comes to people's lack of sensitivity when it comes to helping those who are suffering. We should thus make it our purpose to be responsible for the "globalization of charity".

At the program, we visited with several members of the First Friday Club including its new president, Mr. Jack Solpa and Bishop Roger Gries, the Spiritual Moderator, who gave the closing prayer in which he said that he hoped that this matter of immigration reform is "solved in a way that each human being is respected."

Our last event for the day took place at the Old Courthouse where Ms. Shannon Gallagher was sworn-in as Judge of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. We had supported Ms. Gallagher for this office and were very impressed with her performance on the campaign trail so we looked forward to attending this ceremony. When we first walked in we saw so many chairs and so many people that we thought that several judges were being sworn in at the same time but we were happy to find out that it was all for Ms. Gallagher soon to be Judge Gallagher.

Presiding over the gathering was Judge Sean Gallagher, Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth Appellate District who is Ms. Gallagher's uncle. Judge Sean Gallagher said this was a proud day for Ms. Gallagher and her family. He also said that he approved of public swearings-in because it is important for the new judge to stand before her supporters and pledge that she will properly execute her duties.

The invocation was given by Father Martin Polito; Pastor, Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church; who christened both of Ms. Gallagher's young children. Father Polito prayed that Ms. Gallagher would work to achieve truth and justice for all people and that "her spirit be a lively spirit that blesses this court and this city."

The Pledge of Allegiance was given by student representatives of New Tech West located on the Max Hayes High School Campus where Ms. Gallagher has volunteered for the last ten years. Then "Amazing Grace" was sung by students from Berea Midpark High School which Ms. Gallagher, herself, once attended.

The Reading of the Commission was done by Judge John J. Russo, Presiding Judge of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Russo said that he was honored to take part in the ceremony because Ms. Gallagher was a friend of his and soon to be a colleague as well.

Finally, the oath was administered by Judge Eileen A. Gallagher, Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth Appellate District. Afterwards we asked her if she and Judge Shannon Gallagher were related and she replied that they might have a family connection back in Ireland but their connection was based on friendship and Ms. Gallagher's working for her for four years.

It was now Judge Shannon Gallagher's time to speak and she thanked her husband and the rest of her family for all of their support in the campaign. It was particularly heartwarming when she talked of how she was once indecisive about either getting into law or becoming a teacher but her mother, who taught in in the Cleveland schools for years, urged her to go into law. Judge Shannon Gallagher concluded by saying that her goal as judge would be "to make a difference in the lives of those who come before me."

The benediction was given by Pastor Larry L. Harris, Senior Pastor at Mount Olive Baptist Church. He talked about how the song, "Amazing Grace" touched his life when he was quite ill. He said he hoped that "Grace" would support Judge Gallagher as she moved forward with her judicial responsibilities. He concluded by urging Judge Gallagher to "hold onto the Amazing Grace of God Almighty that has brought you safe thus far!"

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