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A Voice for the Voiceless — Taking a Message of Inclusion to the Streets

Fr. Jim Flynn Continues Providing Advocacy for Immigrants and Refugees

Fr.+Jim+Flynn%27s+advocacy+for+immigrants+and+refugees+continued+at+Presentation+Academy+on+Feb.+26.
Fr. Jim Flynn's advocacy for immigrants and refugees continued at Presentation Academy on Feb. 26.

Fr. Jim Flynn's advocacy for immigrants and refugees continued at Presentation Academy on Feb. 26.

photos by Robert Lewis

photos by Robert Lewis

Fr. Jim Flynn's advocacy for immigrants and refugees continued at Presentation Academy on Feb. 26.

Gus Boyer, Staff Reporter

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Today is like any other day. Today is a day when I take any attack against me and ignore it. Today is a day of fear of my neighbors, that they will persecute me for who I am. Today is a day of caution, of avoiding people who dislike the color of my skin or the way I talk. Today is a day of struggle, of attempting to overcome every challenge I meet, wary of the consequences. Today is a day of mistreatment, not because of my personality or my intelligence but because of my ethnicity.

Today is every day, because today I am an American immigrant.

“I am not always welcome. I had a sign in front of my house, and I did not want to put it on, but my wife insisted, and the sign was out for six months. Two weeks ago, some children took it and put it in the trash. I picked it out and saved it, but this scared me.”

Immigrants like Luis de Leon, quoted above, often feel out of place and mistreated as outsiders in the United States. Luis speaks of a sign that declares, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in English, Arabic and Spanish. Even though this sign can be seen all over Louisville decorating front yards, there are still people who think this sign, and the ideals it professes, belong in the trash (sometimes literally).   

He is a brave man, but on the street, one does not know who he will meet and who could react violently.”

— Mr. Luis de Leon about Fr. Jim Flynn

Fortunately for Luis and other immigrants, many are appalled by this treatment.  One such strong advocate is Father Jim Flynn, an elderly retired priest who is a strong believer in the rights of immigrants in the U.S. He strives to raise awareness by holding a sign on busy streets, specifically outside four Catholic high schools in Louisville.

Starting in July of 2017, Flynn has stood on streets multiple times a week, only stopping for bad weather.  On Mondays he goes to Trinity, Tuesdays to Sacred Heart, Wednesdays to Assumption, and Fridays to St. Xavier.

Flynn keeps track of the responses he receives, such as drivers honking their horns in support. Outside Trinity he has received an average of 60 favorable responses, like honking horns, and two unfavorable, like being cussed out.

Why does he do this?

“To try to give a voice to DACA, to DREAMers, to immigrants everywhere,” Flynn said.

Many immigrants are afraid to speak out, so Flynn speaks for them. He also believes that raising awareness of the problem starts solving it, and his hope is that onlookers are either reinforced if they have a positive view on immigrants or converted if negative. Many immigrants are supportive of his work, including Luis de Leon.

Flynn has been to Latin American countries, among them Nicaragua, where he has seen the poverty and why they had to leave their countries. Flynn’s ancestors were Irish immigrants as well.

“In one way or another, we are all immigrants,” Flynn said.

No task is without challenges, however. Often Flynn is alone on the streets, which can be frightening. While people are mostly positive, he occasionally receives harsh words or cussing, and prays that nothing escalates to physical violence. Luis said, “He is a brave man, but on the street, one does not know who he will meet and who could react violently.”

The Catholic stance on immigrants is to welcome them with open arms. Jesus told the story about the sheep and the goats, where people who help others (the sheep) are welcomed to the Kingdom of Heaven, while people who don’t help (the goats) are not.

In this parable, Jesus says, “I was a stranger, and you let me in,” which can be interpreted as Jesus advocating the welcoming of immigrants.

Trinity theology teacher Mr. Scott Holzknecht said we need more people like Flynn, especially in the Catholic Church, to be vocal about immigrants. He said, “There is a danger in the belief that priests stay in the church and preach about how to pray. If someone was to really do what Christ did, then they would be very socially engaged.”

A “socially engaged” life is the life Flynn leads.

What can anyone do to help, especially as a Trinity student?  Holzknecht said, “If you’re doing the right thing, then that’s enough. We can’t be only focused on consequences or results; we have to be focused on what is right.”

There are organizations Trinity students can volunteer for, among them Casa Latina, a daycare center, but the most effective and simple plan would be to take part in Flynn’s protests of awareness and be a voice for the voiceless in the lunchroom, in class, at practice — everywhere.

*****************************************************************************

Retired Archdiocesan priest Father Jim Flynn, a Trinity Peace Medal recipient, has taken his advocacy for immigrants and refugees to the streets near Trinity, Presentation Academy and two other Catholic high schools during the past month. Presentation students and others gathered with Fr. Flynn to hold signs and proclaim their support on Feb. 26.

photos by Robert Lewis
Fr. Jim Flynn's advocacy for immigrants and refugees continued at Presentation Academy on Feb. 26.

 

 

Fr. Jim Flynn’s advocacy for immigrants and refugees continued at Presentation Academy…………………..videos by Robert Lewis

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