WASHINGTON, D.C. — Standing before Congress, Pope Francis issued a ringing call to action on behalf of immigrants Thursday, urging lawmakers to embrace “the stranger in our midst” as he became the first pontiff in history to address a joint meeting of the legislators.
Referencing the migration crisis in Europe as well as the United States’ own struggle with immigration from Latin America, Francis summoned lawmakers “to respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.”
Hearing the pope’s message from outside the Capitol building was Fort Hays State University President Dr. Mirta Martin. She described the scene from outside to KSN News Thursday afternoon over the phone.
“It was a sea of people in the Capitol Mall, and when the Holy Father came out on the balcony at the Capitol, the cheers just went on, and the emotion of faith,” explained Dr. Martin. “The air was just filled with this incredible feeling of good will,” she continued.
Dr. Martin told KSN News her experience was “incredible,” saying she will never forget it.
Dr. Martin said the pope’s message to Congress about embracing migrants was a special one because of her own experiences, particularly her upbringing.
Martin was born in Cuba, but escaped the Communist regime with her grandmother and sister. Martin was raised in a convent in Spain, hoping the rest of her family would be allowed to leave Cuba. That’s when she came to the United States.
“For me, it was very touching. I came to this country with nothing and because of education, because of hard work, and because of sacrifice, I now have the privilege to lead one of Kansas’ greatest institutions at Fort Hays State University,” said Dr. Martin.
Martin said she brought prayers from her university family with her to Washington, gaining from the experience a renewed effort to lead FHSU with compassion.
A message, she said, centered on the Golden Rule to achieve the American Dream.
“[Pope Francis] asked us to remember that we were all immigrants of this great nation, once,” said Dr. Martin. “[He told us to] take care of each other because, at the end of the day, we are all brothers on this earth, after God.”
Achieving the American Dream, for Dr. Martin, is through education.
Before Martin left for Washington, D.C. she released this statement in a university media release. It said, in part:
“It’s a pilgrimage to fill my soul with faith, inspiration and discernment to guide the Fort Hays State University family in these, our new beginnings,” she said. “There is a resurgence of enthusiasm on campus, and I’m thankful for that. This pilgrimage will recharge my batteries to continue to lead this university, and I have great faith that when two or more are gathered in His name, God hears our prayers.”