US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Read: Jesus Was a Migrant

By Meinrad Scherer-Emunds | Print this pagePrint |
By Deirdre Cornell (Orbis, 2014)

In her latest book, Jesus Was a Migrant, Deirdre Cornell makes biblical stories and faith practices come powerfully alive by reflecting on them through the lens of the painful and joyful experiences of the migrants she has accompanied and served for two decades. In the process, Cornell builds bridges between the struggles, hopes, and faith of the Mexican farmworkers with whom she ministers in upstate New York, her family history of Irish and Italian immigrants, and her own and her family’s experiences with hospitality in the Catholic Worker movement and as Maryknoll lay missioners in Mexico.

For the past nine years I have had the privilege of teaching English as a second language to mostly Mexican immigrants, and like Cornell, I often have to marvel at the heart-wrenching challenges so many of them have had to overcome. By retelling, among others, the stories of Rosa’s quinceañera and subsequent deportation, the burial of Susana and Pedro’s newborn twins, a Christmas in a Florida trailer park, and José’s unjust imprisonment, Cornell offers fresh perspectives and gives deeper meaning to core biblical stories and faith practices.

Ever since volunteering as college graduates for a year in Mexico, Cornell and her husband, Kenny, have been passionate about reciprocating the generosity and hospitality they experienced there by working both in social service and in ministry with migrant farmworkers. That work, Cornell says, has opened her eyes to the fact that through the centuries—and reaching back into biblical times—migration has been “a source of blessing.”

With this book, Cornell shares that blessing in the hope that her reflection on why migrants matter will rekindle and strengthen commitment in the Christian community “to look for the image of Christ in our sisters and brothers” who live and work as migrants among us today.

This article appeared in the July 2014 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 79, No. 7, page 43).