|More than four years ago, on the day the Cleveland Catholic diocese closed St. Casimir’s Church, the Polish Madonna -- Our Lady ofCzestochowa – came to one parishioner in a dream. |
“She says, ‘Don’t leave me!’ recalls Joseph Feckanian. And the next day, the dreamer "started calling people. He said we gotta have a prayer vigil outside the church next week.”
The weekly vigils went on for nearly three years in front of the church until the diocese announced St. Casimir’s would reopen.
Now, Feckanian says that kind of miracle is playing out again for Ricardo Ramos, a married father of three who’s lived and worked in the U.S. for 16 years. He’s also an undocumented worker who’s been facing deportation since he was caught driving without a license two years ago. Recently, representatives of HOLA, a Latino advocacy group, visited the church.
“They came to us right before Christmas and they asked for intersession. And they prayed, and we saw their faith, and it meant so much to us. And nothing really happened until they came here. There’s no borders at our church and everyone’s accepted.”
A culture clash
Since then, the Polish congregation has had an influx of Mexican immigrants coming to pray to the Polish Madonna. And late Friday afternoon, Ramos was preparing for his deportation when his attorney received word that the Immigration and Naturalization Service had agreed at the last minute to review his case. After Mass at St. Casimir’s on Sunday, Ramos recalled how thrilled he was.
“I didn't expect anything and I didn't know what to expect. I felt very happy and I gave thanks to God and to all the people who have been helping me.”
Ramos’ attorney, David Leopold, says the delay could be the window his client needs to eventually apply for legal immigrant status.
“We are on the cusp of immigration reform in this country. The Senate has passed a bi-partisan bill. The House is going to pass something; we don’t know what or when yet. It is patently unfair to remove a guy who will qualify for immigration reform that may be here in a matter of weeks.”
Leopold was among the hundreds of people gathered last week for a 20-mile march to St. Casimir’s in support of Ramos, and to bring attention to the larger issue of immigration reform. On Sunday, Ramos’ son, fifth-grader Ricardo Jr., served as an altar boy for the first time at St. Casimir’s, and he was overwhelmed by the fast changes in his father’s status over the past week.
“It’s a miracle that my Dad’s staying. I can’t explain it.”
A new battle
On the eve of the Martin Luther King holiday, Ramos’ battle echoes the civil rights struggles of the 1960s for nurse Carla Johnson of Medina.
“He was fighting for something he believed in, that his family believes in, that was so important. And the same with Dr. King: he fought for something he
believed in. And it just shows that all different backgrounds have their own struggles and they come together for one good cause.”
But Ricardo Ramos’ struggle is not over, yet. His attorney says immigration officials have not said how long the stay of Ramos’ deportation will hold, nor what the next step may be.