Every December, besides the Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration, the Milwaukee Voces de la Frontera New Sanctuary Movement organizes or participates in a “Posada” liturgy to commemorate the biblical story of Mary and Joseph traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem where Jesus would be born. The theme is the sacredness of the family. This year’s event was a cooperative program sponsored by Voces – Sanctuary, Gesu Catholic Church, Ascension Lutheran Church, MICAH (Milwaukee Interfaith Congregations Allied for Hope) and Nativity Jesuit Middle School. Such cooperation is a result of Vatican II.
What is the difference in solemnity between the “Posada” and Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations? Guadalupe Romero and Eva Gomez, both Mexicans, say that the Guadalupe celebration is done with intense emotion, and it is prayerful. The “Posada” is prayerful but more festive.
The re-enactment of the journey to Bethlehem was a four block trip from Ascension Church to the Nativity Jesuit Middle School with four stops with Mary and Joseph asking for “Posada” – a place of refuge where the baby would be born. The bible story became real.
The journey began at Ascension Lutheran Church. All gathered in the Sanctuary for an introduction and an explanation of the “Posada” liturgy. It was raining and cold so two of the four stops of the procession would be in the Ascension Church building. From the pulpit in the Sanctuary the narrator explained:
“The Posada is a Mexican tradition to commemorate the journey that Joseph and his wife Mary had to make to find a place for her to give birth. The road was very long, it took many days. They are the true migrants who looked for the best for their child Jesus. The story of Mary and Joseph is the story of all humanity: always seeking a better life. It is the story of all who live in the United States. It is the story of Francisco and Gabriela from Guatemala. It is the story of Cecilia who comes from Columbia. It is the story of Jackie’s family who are from Mexico and Ireland. It is the story of many Mexicans who have crossed the border looking for a better life. Tonight we live our story as in the story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.”
The first experience on the journey was at the border. The dramatic liturgy began with singing and dialogue in Spanish and English. Mary, Joseph and the group with them were confronted by a border patrol agent. The program prepared by Francisco Martorell of MICAH and Nikki Meinrose of Sanctuary states:
We will now start the journey with Joseph and Mary. Upon leaving their home and town, relatives and friends fill them with well wishes. It is very difficult to be separated from loved ones.
Narrator: After a journey full of problems, Joseph and Mary finally arrive at the border.
Joseph: Officials, please, see that we have left our land and our family members, our animals and the small corn crop we had. We have taken great risks to come to this country for the well-being of our children. Won’t you let us through?
Officials: Are you crazy? You don’t have any documents. We don’t want you here, get away.
Joseph: Don’t worry, Mary. I know you can get through this. Let’s trust in God.
The Angel, who was leading the procession, slipped by the Guard. “Let him go,” the border guard said, “we need someone to pick the strawberries.”
The Second Experience: Work – The Palermo Pizza Factory
Narrator: Migrants often come to this country with just one purpose: to improve their lives, to work in any way to maintain their families and send money back to the grandparents.
Joseph: My job is very hard. I work in a factory. They don’t give us breaks and they treat us poorly. If we are injured, they don’t help us. If we miss a few days for being sick, they fire us. But I have no other option- jobs are hard to get. Some of my co-workers and I are starting the process of forming a union to be our voice and ask for better work conditions. Soon there will be a vote to decide if the majority are in favor of forming the union.
Employer: I cannot allow them to form a union in my factory. They’re going to demand high salaries and conditions that I don’t want to provide. I want everything to stay how it is. I will do everything possible to prevent that vote!
Mary: Keep your spirits up, Joseph. Once I give birth I will also look for work and you can look for something different. God will give us strength.
The Congregation then processed with lighted candels three blocks, in the rain, to the Nativity Jesuit Middle School. Ninty-two year old Father Bill Brennan, S.J. also walked. Father Brennan was recently disciplined by the Roman Catholic Church for concelebrating a Mass with a woman priest.
Third Experience – at the school: Lodging -housing discrimination.
Narrator: The migrant clashes with the diversity of cultures and customs and often is discriminated against. This almost always happens when they look for a house or apartment.
Joseph: Mary, let’s see if they will rent us a room. (Joseph knocks on door)
Owner: How can I help you? Who are you looking for?
Mary: We are looking for a place to stay. Look, I am very close to giving birth and I need a roof over my head where I can do so.
Owner: Where are you from? Are you Mexicans? I’ve heard that Mexicans are dirty and fighters. You better go look for a house somewhere else.
Joseph: Ma’am, my wife is a good woman, loving and hard-working. Sorry to bother you.
Narrator: There’s no place for you here. We don’t know you.
Fourth Experience: The stable:
Narrator: Mary and Joseph are very tired. They are looking for any little spot to settle, where their baby can be born.
Joseph: (Joseph knocks at the door). Good evening. I am Joseph and this is my wife, Mary. We are traveling migrants. We don’t have any money. We don’t know the language. But we have the dream of creating a healthy, strong family that will do good for others.
Mary: I am Mary, a migrant as well. We have walked a lot looking for the best for our child who will soon be born. I have the intuition that this child will do great good and I am willing to give him all of my love and attention so that he will be strong and able to fulfill his mission. Hopefully Joseph will find a good job. I will also get work and supporting each other we will get through this. I am about to give birth. Would you allow us in just for the night so that I can give birth to my baby? I know that my child will do great good.
Owner: I just have a stable. You will at least feel a little warmth alongside my animals. Do you want to stay there?
Joseph and Mary: Yes, thank you very much.
Owner: OK then, come in.
Narrator: Although migrants face obstacles, discrimination, and hardship, there are many people in the United States who care deeply about their struggle and are waiting with open arms to welcome them and share life together. Good migrants, you are welcome.
Everyone- in Spanish: Buenos migrantes, sean bienvenidos.
Let the party begin. Over two-hundred celebrants participated including kids with lots of energy. We started with supper and the musicians played and sang traditional Christmas music. There were plenty of tamales, prepared by the Palermo strikers, tacos and champorrado provided by Nativity Jesuit School parents.
Before the piñatas were lowered for the kids, we received a sober reminder from the principal of Nativity School. He noted that although we were celebrating the festival of hope, it was a sad day for all of us because of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents in Newtown, Connecticut. He prayed for the children and the survivors. How do we continue? He cited the Prophet Micah. “Seek Justice, love tenderly, and walk humbly with God.” (Micah 8:3)