Paul Ouderkirk was on retreat in Dubuque on May 12, 2008, when someone tapped him on the shoulder and asked him why he wasn’t 75 miles away in Postville. The Catholic priest did not know that earlier that day, federal authorities had launched the nation’s largest ever single-site immigration raid on the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville and arrested 389 people. The Spanish-speaking Ouderkirk had served St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Postville—a quiet community of 2,400 people—before his retirement. When he heard about the government’s action, he returned immediately to Postville and resumed his role as parish pastor.
When hail wiped out 70 percent of the 2006 apple crop at Broetje Orchards, Ralph and Cheryl Broetje and their management team had a decision to make. The insurance company would pay on the business’s policy only if no further harvesting of the orchard’s fruit were done. If they agreed, the Broetjes would recover some of their costs. But hundreds of their year-round workers would lose their jobs, and migrant workers would be left unemployed.
During the testimony portion of a worship service at Central Park United Methodist Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, “Karen” walked to the front and confessed for the first time that years earlier she had killed a woman while driving drunk, had served five years in prison, and had then begun drinking again. “I was a menace to society,” she said. When she finished, she waited anxiously for the congregation’s response. Immediately some moved forward to embrace her; then the service continued and Karen joined other volunteers in serving communion.
When Tim King organized a sleep-out in Chicago last year, 300 students from across the Midwest came to raise awareness of homelessness by gathering signatures for a petition, holding up signs and even “sleeping out” on the Magnificent Mile.