A saint who Mexican Catholics revere is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. St. Toribio Romo Gonzalez was a Catholic priest who died during the Cristero War nearly one hundred years ago when Mexico's revolutionary government clamped down on the Church. Faithful Catholics and those who opposed the squelching of free speech fought the Mexican government to a standstill. St Toribio was among the many Catholic martyrs of that war. Some Mexicans who crossed the border into the United States believe they have been visited by the spirit of the martyred priest. Many have come to regard him as the patron saint of migrants.
An ankle bone from the priest, housed in a small wooden statue in his image, is on loan from Mexico and has been taken to various Catholic parishes in southern California for veneration by the faithful. According to VOA News, the visit of the relics was well received. Lucy Castro, a Peruvian, said, “When my children [were] five years old, the immigration took my husband for about one month.” She believes that Saint Toribio helped the family through the crisis.
The relic has drawn those worried about the plight of tens of thousands of migrant children from Central America who have fled to the United States and are awaiting detention hearings. On July 20, thousands attended a mass at the Catholic cathedral in Los Angeles to venerate the relic. Immigrants, including a Honduran woman, described escapes from violence. Jersey Vargas, who has been a U.S. citizen for ten years, described a visit she made to Rome where she spoke to Pope Francis. In March, she told the pope about her father, who was then in detention in the United States. Days later, her father was released, pending an immigration hearing. “I want him to please give us immigrant reform because many families are suffering. And I already suffered the same situation and I don't want it to happen again to anyone,” Vargas said.
Joshua Oliveros, an illegal immigrant from Mexico said he believes in miracles. “Hopefully, Barack Obama he will bring this opportunity, not only for a few people, but for everyone because I believe that people who come from different parts of the world can make a difference,” he said. Catholic leaders have termed the current surge of illegal immigrants a humanitarian crisis.