Dreamers across the United States are taking prominent leadership roles in the Church and in their communities. Their contributions have a lasting impact and continue to shape our faith. They lead and serve despite an uncertain future. The Diocese of El Paso nominated three dreamers—Efren, Mariana and Sebastian—young immigrants who exemplify service, action and the perseverance of all Dreamers.
Efren is a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church, one of the oldest parishes in the diocese, just yards from the border, which serves farmworkers and newly-arrived immigrants to the United States. Its neighborhood, Segundo Barrio, has historically been one of the poorest areas in the country. Efren, 20, is a committed leader in the parish where he teaches English classes, coordinates the religious education program and is a catechist for youth.
He teaches 130 young people in his religion classes. Many of them, like himself, are Dreamers. He wants them to know that they are not alone. As a Lumen Christi finalist, he said, “I am honored to be chosen to be a voice for those teenagers who are silenced.”
“The Church has always been a champion and an advocate for Dreamers,” he added. “The Church believes in teenagers and welcomes us.” He is a student at the University of Texas at El Paso, studying education. He wants to be a teacher.
Mariana, 17, attends Our Lady of Assumption Church and is a youth minister, altar server and catechist. “Faith helps me to push through every problem—at home, school or with friends.” She says the Church helps Dreamers and other immigrants, who daily face fears for themselves and their families. “The Church is a strong voice for hope,” she said. “It is a place I can go to talk to God. I know He is listening to me.” She plans to be a police officer.
Sebastian, 22, works with Hope Border Institute’s Leadership Academy to inspire young immigrants through faith. “Immigrants in this country are suffering,” he said. “They don’t have the legal rights, tools or resources they need.’”
“As Catholics we are called to serve,” he continued. “We need to be active in public life and involved in our communities. It is our mission.”
Even in our country’s polarized political climate, Dreamers have changed public opinion about immigration and shown talent in organizing communities. A new generation of leadership is showing that young people can be protagonists of a different future and part of an inclusive, participatory Church. These three Dreamers represent a young, active and engaged Church who are changing the face of El Paso faith communities.