August 1st-15th: 142-Mile Pilgrimage to the Northwest Detention Center

A pilgrimage is planned from Bellingham to Tacoma to raise awareness about the need for sane, humane way to treat immigrants. Pilgrims will begin at the Church of the Assumption in Bellingham on August 1st and walk 142 miles, ending at the notorious Northwest (Immigration) Detention Center in Tacoma. The pilgrimage is scheduled to start Aug. 1 and end Aug.15, with participants staying overnight in Catholic churches along the way. During the pilgrimage, participants will be praying for comprehensive immigration reform, hoping to bring attention to the need for a fair, just, family-centered approach to U.S. immigration laws.

The pilgrimage is a parish activity of Assumption parish, supported by Whatcom Pax Christi and the Bellingham JustFaith Community. Organizers say all 15 parishes that were asked to participate agreed to give the walkers a place to sleep. About two dozen people currently are signed up to participate and coordinators hope to attract many more.

“A number of people, of my friends, were making pilgrimages in Europe,” said Mary Mele, an Assumption parishioner and a member of Whatcom Pax Christi, “and I thought, ‘Gee, why does Europe have the corner on pilgrimages?’”

Mele added, “I thought, ‘Oh yes, we need a miracle for immigration reform.’ So why not walk and pray? It’s going to take a miracle.”

Mele said the pilgrimage is open to people of all denominations and anyone who wants to join in the effort to promote comprehensive immigration reform.

The pilgrimage is expected to cover 142 miles using the urban trail to avoid the I-5 freeway. Organizers of the pilgrimage said the event will involve walking about nine miles a day broken into three shorter daily treks. Mele said participants are welcome to participate “for an hour, for a day, for the entire walk.”

A difficult issue

Father Scott Connolly, pastor of the Church of the Assumption, said Mele originated the idea because she wanted to highlight the issue of immigrant rights, and how we as Americans need to struggle with the difficult issue of immigration reform.

He noted that the pilgrimage will end on the feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15.
Lee Langdon, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Bellingham and Whatcom Pax Christi, will be among the pilgrims.

“I think the pilgrimage is important because many people believe myths about immigrants, and these myths are dangerous to us all,” she said. “Ignorance can fuel actions that are very unChristlike in very ordinary people.”

The daily pilgrimage will include prayer, food and rest after each section and at the end of each day. Other ways to support the effort, organizers said, include bringing supplies, making meals and praying.

Coordinators said organizations are welcome to publicize, support and walk in the pilgrimage, which will end with a prayer service at the detention center, asking for “a sane, humane way” to treat immigrants.


For more information about the immigration reform pilgrimage and how to help, go to the pilgrimage blog .

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