Witnesses share stories of discrimination, urge peace
“It is hard to understand a traumatic experience unless you go through it. So said Grace Calvelo-Rustia of the Catholic Community of Christ Our Light, Cherry Hill, as she explained how in the matter of one day, her whole life changed. Having gathered her family together for the Paschal Triduum, she awoke Good Friday to a panicked scream. “For 35 years, three generations have lived beautiful and peaceful lives in our house,” she said. She continued, “In one day, feeling safe and thinking that I belonged in the fabric of our neighborhood became a huge doubt. Calvelo-Rustia was one of four speakers to give witness testimony during the Multi-Cultural Concert for Peace and Racial Harmony held May 22 in Saint Charles Borromeo Church, Sicklerville.
After each talk, choirs from throughout the Diocese representing different cultures performed. There were talks by Jude Ukam of Sacred Heart Parish, Camden, who spoke on being a Nigerian in America, and Msgr. Laura Herrera-Mateo, a young adult from Sacred Heart Parish, spoke of coming to America at age 9, where “being the new kid in the classroom can cause anxiety, let alone not knowing the language. “It can be as simple as not knowing your name anymore,” she said, explaining that the Spanish pronunciation she was used to hearing was replaced with an English version of her name. Such confusion continued when, at the end of 11th grade, she noticed her peers preparing letters for scholarships with the guidance of school counselors. “I insisted whether there were forms I could fill out or letters I could write for scholarship benefits,” Herrera-Mateo said.
In her fourth semester, Herrera-Mateo became a recipient of DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which gives children of undocumented immigrants protection from deportation. “To all the kids, to all the youth, to all the young adults and to all the adults: Do not let anything stop you. Father Vincent Guest, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish and coordinator of the Black Catholic Ministry Commission and the diocesan Racial Justice Commission, acknowledged how both of the U. “The message I think we need to leave with today is that racism is not just politically incorrect or socially unacceptable, but at it’s heart, racism is a sin,” he said.
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