St. Bridget's Catholic Church was filled to overflowing. Several hundred people were gathered - white and Hispanic, young and old, many locals and some who had driven hundreds of miles to be here on May 12th for the solemn anniversary.

One year ago, on May 12, 2008, officials of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) descended on the small town of Postville, Iowa, with helicopters circling menacingly overhead. The officers raided the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant, rounded up some 400 undocumented workers from the plant to a nearby fairground, where some mothers were released on electronic monitoring to care for their young children. The new immigrants were herded like cattle through rapid-fire outdoor trials that most could not have fully understood. Threatened with longer incarcerations, most of the men were persuaded to plead guilty to the felony charge of "aggravated identify theft" (an ICE tool recently struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court) and were whisked off to unidentified prisons, where they served five months and were then summarily deported.

One year later, this is still a traumatized community. Some immigrant families remain, struggling to find work and a renewed sense of safety in their new home. In the church, which had become an impromptu social service center and spiritual haven for the immigrant community following the horrors of the raid, there was a great sense of solidarity, warmth, and respect. The staff of the church received one standing ovation after another, in grateful acknowledgement of the countless hours and heartfelt devotion with which they had served the immigrant community during the crisis.

The service included songs and prayers in Spanish and English, scriptural passages about justice, immigration, and treatment of the stranger, read in English, Spanish and Hebrew. Rousing orations were offered by representatives of the Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist churches. The shofar (ram's horn) was sounded by a rabbi from Chicago, after a stirring address urging all those present to work for freedom, liberation and healing for those oppressed by an unjust immigration system. Two immigrants told their personal stories, which were received with standing ovations from the crowd.

Most moving was the procession of individuals carrying candles to the altar, one for each of the 389 people arrested at the May 12th raid, while the names of the victims were reverently read. A closing litany included the repeated chorus, "Give us courage. . . Give us hope . . . Give us love."

It was a rare and sacred moment of solidarity across boundaries of religion, ethnicity, and class, and a beautiful experience of determination to make social change, all in a tone of faithfulness, caring and dignity. Well worth the drive to Postville, Iowa.