PILSEN — On Ash Wednesday, three Catholic priests in Pilsen are signing up U.S. citizen parishioners to care for children if their parents are detained or deported.
The move aims to protect families in Pilsen and other neighborhoods where immigrants are a significant percentage of the neighborhood's population.
"As Catholic parishes, we recognize that some of our families are in very real danger," the parishes announced in a statement.
Adults who sign up to care for kids will be screened after mass as possible host families, according to the nonprofit Resurrection Project. Participating Pilsen priests include the Rev. Jose Santiago at St. Pius V Parish, the Rev. Gary Graf at St. Procopius and Providence of God and the Rev. Michael Enright at St. Paul and St. Adalbert Catholic Church.
Families interested in volunteering can sign up:
• at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. Paul Catholic Church, 2127 W. 22nd Place
• at 7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Procopius Catholic Church, 1641 S. Allport St.
• at 8 p.m. Wednesday at St. Pius Catholic Church, 1919 S. Ashland Ave.
The Pilsen churches also are organizing a rapid response team in each parish that will help ensure immigrants have access to legal protection and know their rights; lead protests against arrests; alert the neighborhood about deportations; and communicate with the media.
In a statement, the parishes said the holy season of Lent is a time to reflect on our love for God and our neighbors. Catholics are called to "welcome newcomers in their neighborhoods," the priests said.
"Here in Pilsen, the failure of our politicians to resolve immigration issues is being felt personally by us in our families, with our friends, our neighbors, and our churches. We in Pilsen have always been a community of immigrants, and we are proud of our history," the statement read.
The Trump administration released guidelines to immigration agents last week outlining the procedure to make good on the president's campaign promise to expel millions of people who are in the country without permission.
On Tuesday, Archbishop Blase Cupich told Chicago's Catholic priests not to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on to church property without a warrant.
Chicago Public Schools officials have announced that immigration agents are not allowed on school property without warrants either.
Chicago will remain a sanctuary city, and prohibit police officers from cooperating with federal immigration officials — despite threats from President Donald Trump to yank all federal grants from the city, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said.