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Chicago parish blesses the feet of newly arrived migrants for Easter

For migrants, who are often deeply religious, the symbolism of this humble act was heartening.
Chicago parish blesses the feet of newly arrived migrants for Easter
Posted at 2:31 PM, Mar 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-29 14:33:09-04

The Bible says one of Jesus Christ's last acts on Earth was washing the feet of his disciples. Christians worldwide reenact this act on Holy Thursday, prior to Easter, as a show of humility. 

In that spirit, volunteers in Oak Park, Illinois, wanted to cleanse the feet of the hundreds of migrants they have helped and come to know this past year to honor their immigration journey. 

"Realistically, we can't wash their feet. We get over 100 people coming today," explained 70-year-old Celine Woznica, the lead coordinator and volunteer at the Catholic Parishes of Oak Park’s Migrant Ministry. 

So, she came with an alternative: giving every migrant a pair of new socks with a note explaining the parish's desire to bless their feet. 

“You are our heroes because you walked 3,000 miles through seven countries, you crossed the Darién Gap, you crossed the mountains and the rivers and the deserts," Woznica told migrant families in Spanish in a morning ceremony, during which two local priests blessed a few baskets full of new socks.  

Shortly after, Woznica and other volunteers started handing out the socks and the accompanying notes to asylum seekers while holding their hands “to create a human connection.” 

For migrants, who are often deeply religious, the symbolism of this humble act was heartening. 

"I started crying because the message really touched my heart,” said Colombian national Aline Maria Ortiz Cassiane, adding that she walked all the way from Colombia in three months with “blisters and blood all over my feet.” 

In biblical times, it would have been the job of the lowest servants to wash the feet of guest. So when Christ decided to wash his disciples’ feet, it was “unbelievable,” Woznica said. 

Listening to stories of migrant families she got to know this past year, she says she kept thinking “I want to honor their feet, I want to honor their feet,” as a way to bless them and “to find Christ in one another.” 

The socks are a special Easter gift. But the volunteers here have much more to offer to the migrants. 

Twice a week, they transform a former Catholic school into in Oak Park into a giant donation center and cafeteria for migrants who get to try on and take home whatever they want. 

"This is a Catholic parish effort, but it is very interdenominational, and it is very interfaith," Woznica said. 

Still, for her, going above and beyond to help those in need, is a meaningful way to answer the Gospel's call to action. 

"This is faith in action. And this is what brings meaning to our life," she said. 

SEE MORE: Prices of eggs, cocoa rise as consumers spend less on Easter


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