Megan Sweas

Writer, Editor, Student of Life



Is the Pope’s Concern for Immigration Just a “Numbers Game”?

Published by Religion Dispatches, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, September 24, 2015

Pope Francis may differ greatly in tone from Pope Benedict, but on many social issues Francis can expect the same pushback his predecessor received in the United States.

When Pope Benedict brought up immigration on his 2008 trip to the United States, for example, conservative voices argued that his support of immigrants was self-serving. Continue reading “Is the Pope’s Concern for Immigration Just a “Numbers Game”?”

Could Pope Francis Change Hearts and Minds on Immigration on a Global Scale?

Published by The Washington Post, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, June 11, 2015

A few months into his papacy, Pope Francis took his first trip out of Rome to Lampedusa, the Italian island through which many migrants enter Europe after a treacherous journey across the Mediterranean.

Noting that shipwrecks of migrant boats happened “all too frequently,” Francis blamed “the globalization of indifference.”

“We have become used to the suffering of others. It doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!” he said.

Continue reading “Could Pope Francis Change Hearts and Minds on Immigration on a Global Scale?”

Migrants find welcome with Italian church

Published by National Catholic Reporter, January 27, 2015

ROME AND SICILY — August in Italy is a usually a time for rest and relaxation. But on one Saturday in the summer of 2013, beachgoers in Catania, Sicily, found a boat full of migrants that had crashed off the city’s shore. Continue reading “Migrants find welcome with Italian church”

Italian convents act as safe houses in trafficking portal

Published in Global Sisters Report, January 12, 2015

The girl was waiting at the sisters’ gate one morning in August.

Before her 18th birthday, Elizabeth had already traveled across the Sahara and the Mediterranean on her way from Nigeria to Europe and spent six months in a brothel in Denmark. She was being prepared to start working on the streets of Italy when she found her way to Casa Rut, a safe house for trafficking victims. Continue reading “Italian convents act as safe houses in trafficking portal”

Ministering to unaccompanied immigrant children

Published by Global Sisters Report, June 19, 2014

Eight shelters in the Chicago area hold 450 immigrant children who crossed the border illegally and without a parent or guardian.

Once a month, an interfaith group visits one of the shelters to present a program with a theme like home or gratitude. The children draw pictures and sing a simple song. The adult leaders invite the children to light a candle. “You can tell that some of them really make that a time when they are praying,” said Benedictine Sr. Benita Coffey, one of the volunteers.

But the ministry is momentary. Volunteers are not to form personal connections with the children, and by their next visit, most of them will have moved on. Most likely they have been sent to live with family while they await their deportation proceedings.

As lawyers, social workers and volunteers, women religious and their partners help care for the growing number of unaccompanied alien children entering the United States. Their access to children, however, is increasingly brief. With thousands of immigrants overwhelming an already broken system, people of good will do what they can do to serve each individual in front of them. …


National Catholic Reporter also published a story on policies toward unaccompanied alien children on the same day.

How to treat unaccompanied immigrant children at center of policy debate

Published by National Catholic Reporter, June 19, 2014

The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati first found out that children were crossing the U.S. border alone in the early 2000s, when their mission took three Central American girls into their El Paso home.

The girls crossed the border when Immigration and Naturalization Service handled “unaccompanied alien children,” as the government refers to them. INS separated out minors, but they were still put in handcuffs, foot shackles and a waist chain, Sr. Janet Gildea said. “They treated them just like criminals.”

Yessenia Vásquez, a Guatemalan teenager who stayed with the Sisters of Charity, was not unlike the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the Southwest border of the United States this year. She was escaping an abusive situation and feared for her life. Continue reading “How to treat unaccompanied immigrant children at center of policy debate”

Immigration officials call on churches, nonprofits to help detained families

Published by National Catholic Reporter, June 10, 2014

As more Central American migrants cross into the Southwest United States, the Department of Homeland Security wants community organizations to help care for detained families.

Two planes carried 270 detained immigrants to El Paso, Texas, for processing over the weekend. The immigrants, all members of families, are being released while they await deportation proceedings.

Churches and nonprofit organizations are working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ensure that the families have access to food and services upon their release, said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, at a press conference Monday.

Immigration officials reached out to Annunciation House, which serves migrants, to warn of the influx of immigrants into El Paso, Garcia said, praising the collaboration. “We need your help; we want your help,” he said they told him. “We want these people to be treated like human beings.”

ICE has been releasing families from custody because of a lack of detention facilities, but it has come under fire in recent weeks for its treatment of released migrants. …


Tibetan refugees fear India’s crackdown on activism

Originally published on RIGHTS blog, March 31, 2012

NEW DELHI — India has hosted the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan followers for 53 years, but new strains between the Tibetan refugees and their hosts became evident this week with the arrest of more than 250 activists ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to New Delhi.

Indian police also placed the entire Tibetan community in Delhi on house arrest, closing down the refugee camp Majnu Ka Tilla following the self-immolation of a 27-year-old Tibetan exile. Continue reading “Tibetan refugees fear India’s crackdown on activism”

Life on the line

Photo story published in U.S. Catholic, December 2010

Along with Karl W. Hoffmann’s photographs, an introduction and captions describe the many sides of border life—migrants’ hope, activists’ care, and residents’ concerns.

At the Kino Border Initiative on the Mexican side of the border in Nogales, Jesuit Father Peter Neeley prays with migrants deported from the United States. On Sundays he frequently presides at Mass on the U.S. side of the border, where many of the parishioners work for homeland security. “Most of them say that’s what you should do,” he says. “ ‘You’re doing what you’re supposed to do; we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.’ They don’t see a contradiction there.”

Fear, hope, tension, and solidarity all coexist in the midst of ordinary life at the border. …

PDF of “Life on the line”

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