Hundreds filled Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon for a prayer vigil in honor of migrants and refugees Wednesday.

  • Diocese: community experiencing 'fear and anxiety'
  • Bishop Parkes: Vigil not for political reasons
  • Parkes: "Our hope is that our prayer vigil will bring about change."

In a news release, The Diocese of St. Petersburg said many in its community "are experiencing fear and anxiety in response to President [Donald] Trump's recent and proposed executive orders concerning the status of migrants and refugees" in the country.

Parishioner Denise, who didn't wish to share her last name, was one of those people. She said prayer seemed to be the "only recourse" in some situations.

"The power of prayer, especially united prayer, is very important and it gets results," Denise said.

Denise said her grandparents immigrated to the United States from eastern Europe.

"I feel a real connection to people who are seeking asylum and migrating to this country for the freedoms it’s supposed to represent, which I feel are being threatened," Denise said.

Bishop Gregory Parkes mentioned several times during the vigil that it wasn't being held for political reasons. Instead, the vigil was meant to show support for those who are marginalized, or feel threatened or persecuted.

Photo: Stephanie Claytor, staff

“The hope is that our prayer vigil will bring about change," Bishop Parkes said. "But also, as I mentioned for those living fear, violence war torn countries, that they realize that God is with them, and that we are with them and they will have some peace because of that.”

The prayer vigil came five days after President Trump issued his executive order on immigration and refugees. The order temporarily barred immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, and suspended admission for all refugees for 120 days, and Syrian refugees indefinitely.

In the executive order, the president said the temporary measure was needed in order to allow the affected government agencies time to review their policies.

Despite protests across the country, and the firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she advised officials not to defend the executive order, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly did just the opposite.

“We cannot gamble with American lives. I will not gamble with American lives," said Kelly. "These orders are a matter of national security and it’s my sworn responsibility as secretary of Homeland Security to protect and defend the American people.“