It was billed as an evening of education and advocacy at St. Raymond de Penafort Parish in suburban Mount Prospect, organized by members of its Racial Justice Learning Group. They invited Fr. Corey Brost, CSV, Br. Michael Gosch, CSV and attorney Kelly Albinak Kribs to share ways to support young asylum seekers in the surrounding community.

Fr. Corey Brost opens the evening at St. Raymond’s.

Yet it was also a homecoming of sorts for Br. Gosch, who with his siblings grew up in the parish and attended St. Raymond School. He recalled fondly the religious sisters who taught them and the parish priests that administered the sacraments.

But he and others came to share stories that night of the young men who had fled their home countries as asylum seekers — 98 so far — and found safety and support at Viator House of Hospitality. And parishioners filled the place.

Organizers scrambled to set up more chairs, as more than 100 people turned out on a bitterly cold evening, to learn more about the asylum system in this country, what asylum seekers go through to make it to the border and how they land at Viator House.

More than 100 people turned out to hear them.

“I cannot stress enough how critical Viator House has been to these young men,” said Albinak Kribs, of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, and a board member of Viator House.

“These men are by and large thriving,” Fr. Brost added, “because they live in a home that is filled with hope, healing and opportunity.”

Br. Gosch started by describing the difference between refugees and asylum seekers, as well as the three types of trauma many of the men experience, and the range of services available to them Viator House.

“It’s so important to let them control their lives,” he said, “because so much has been taken away from them.”

Br. Gosch shared many of these same stories in a recent podcast episode, of Viatorian Voices: Conversations on the Way. In it. he gives a glimpse of their months-long journey, mostly by foot and often through the dangerous jungle in the Darien Gap. Listen to his description here: