I found myself sitting near the altar of Holy Trinity Anglican Church at the Eaton Centre in Toronto. Local 75 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union had gathered to remember and pray for their brothers and sisters who had perished in the disaster at the World Trade Centre on September 11th in New York city.
As I sat with others representing religious faiths and pondering what I was about to say, I recalled a piece of News I had heard earlier in the day. The mayor of New York city had asked all those who lost family members or loved ones in the disaster to please come forward and register the lose. It dawned on me that some would not. Some members of Local 100 New York of the Hotel and Restaurant employees union were undocumented people living in the United States. For family members or loved ones to come forward would have put in jeopardy their status in the United States. The mayor said in his announcement that it would not. Some did not trust the moment. They would come forward maybe only if an amnesty were declared.
I became aware that some families and lovers would not have a body to grieve nor be able to name the one they lost. As I rehearsed in my mind a few words of reflection and prayer, I recalled that our Christian tradition is celebrated in sacrament. The sacrament that gathers Christians is the Eucharistic Meal. It invites hospitality and divine feeding.
When we are away from home and a family cooked meal, we often stay in hotels and eat in restaurants. It is the members of the hotel and restaurant union who feed us and offer us hospitality. These workers are often the lowest paid in our society and their work is often that of new immigrants, refugees and the undocumented. They are often the working poor and the marginalized, members of our society that Christians are invited to recognize and see as a moment of the call of our God to be discerned.
The memorial service was short, simple and prayerful. I found myself later walking through the Eaton Centre on my way to a meal with friends. As I walked I continued to think of those who could not name publicly their loved ones who died in New York on September 11th. The human family has suffered a great loss.
Paul E. Hansen