Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso has a new pastoral letter, released Tuesday, encouraging the faithful to go beyond politics in the immigration debate, to actually encounter the immigrants around them, to hear their stories and to view them as humans and not as a mere political debate. The document, entitled Sorrow and Mourning Flee Away, ocuses in a large part on the “power of ‘encuentro’”. “While the teaching of the Church on migration is rich and persuasive, sometimes nothing can substitute for personal experience.” He goes on to describe his own encounters with migrants, arguing that for us, similar “moments of encounter with our migrant brothers and sisters can be occasions for conversion.” He concludes forcefully,

There may be those who question whether in these reflections I am not substituting politics for the teaching of the Church. I answer that as a payor, my duty is to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our migrant brothers and sisters, those who worship in our churches, minister in our parishes, study in our schools, labor in the fields, serve in our armed forces . . . each of them today is living in a desert of anxiety and isolation. For many of those who continue to come to our order, they are not just seeking a better life, but life itself. Our Christian community is called to journey with them in their anxiety and pain on the road to liberation, away from sorrow and mourning and on the road to a future of joy and gladness. God wishes to save his people today, by making a new history. We are called to action!

This is a powerful letter that Catholics need to read and take to heart.