“We must shout and say, ‘Here I am for the one who cannot speak, the one who cannot raise their voice, for the one who is afraid, for the one who is not encouraged.’”
As the former president of the lay apostolic organization Asociación Jóvenes Para Cristo/Young Adults for Christ (AJPC), Carmen Ramos is fearless when speaking about her faith, God’s mercy and love, and the call to put our faith into action. So, when she had the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC to take part in the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry’s Advocacy Day, she jumped at the chance. She would be part of a delegation from California meeting with members of Congress and their staff to address the challenges facing migrants and refugees and the need to support them—an issue close to her own heart.
Carmen arrived in Washington eager to share the letters that members of AJPC at the national level had written to their members of Congress, but she hadn’t expected to have an individual speaking role during the day. She was asked to give her own personal testimony the night before the meetings, and she began to feel nervous. Aware of the importance of her task, she offered prayers to the Virgin Mary asking for the right words to express herself. She realized she needn’t have hesitated because God would use her as a channel, as she put it, to speak for, “the needs of each of my brothers and sisters and those whom I come to advocate for.” Their needs, she explains, “made me speak from the heart.”
Being an advocate can sometimes feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar. It may seem easier to share our intentions in private prayer rather than in a public manner. But the more we learn about issues affecting our brothers and sisters around the world, the more we must lift our own voices. By meeting with—or simply writing letters to—congresspeople, joining prayer walks and sharing social media posts, we can work for changes that benefit the common good.
Rick Reinhard for CRS
Carmen looks to the Blessed Mother as a model, comparing advocacy to intercessions. “Imagine if our Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary, would not advocate or intercede for our requests, what would happen?” she asks. “We must shout and say, ‘Here I am for the one who cannot speak, the one who cannot raise their voice, for the one who is afraid, for the one who is not encouraged.’” Even if we are afraid or think the situation is unchangeable or that no one will listen, we must have faith, she urges.
Carmen says that her life is blessed, and she is determined to advocate for others. “If I can raise my voice for them, if I can continue to help them, why not?” she asks. “Here is Carmen,” she continues. “This is what my feet, my hands, my mouth, my words are for … to express that the Lord really wants to speak through me.”
Rick Reinhard for CRS
Now, when an unprecedented number of people are on the move we must be advocates. We must lead the way in cultivating support for policies that help our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters exercise their right to lead dignified lives and ultimately thrive.
As Pope Francis reminds us, “we must […] view [refugees] as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.” When we make the human connection, how can we not respond to others’ needs?
Carmen is clear about her mission. “Advocacy is important,” she says. “It is important that we unite as the body of Christ as we did in Washington. Then we can achieve many, many changes.”
You can join Carmen and a movement of thousands across the US to lead the way to a world where the most vulnerable members of our human family can thrive.