Barbara Maynard, SCN, is apart of this effort as well as other justice issues. Sister Barbara also works one-on-one with immigrant students.

By Ann Rodgers / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sister Susan Merrie English was talking with other Catholic sisters about how to get Pittsburghers concerned about immigration reform and was certain that they just needed to hear the stories that parallel those of their great-grandparents.

“We were casting around for ways to get people to think more compassionately about immigration, and I had learned to use a little MP3 recorder. So I said, ‘Let’s interview a couple of people and use it in presentations or maybe a radio spot.’ And it grew from there,” she said.

Two years later the sisters are premiering a 30-minute video documentary, “We Are All Immigrants,” at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Heinz History Center. The event is free but requires advance registration by contacting or 724-869-2151, ext. 6247.

The film includes interviews with people who immigrated to Pittsburgh from 10 nations over a 50-year period. Local broadcast journalist Lynn Cullen did the interviews and the narration. Dennis Woytek, an assistant professor of journalism and multimedia arts at Duquesne University, was the videographer and film editor. But the project was spearheaded by a committee of the Tri-Diocesan Sisters Leadership Conference.

The immigrants in the film range from well-to-do professionals who came with all the proper documents to impoverished laborers who risked their lives to make an illegal crossing in the desert. The DVD, for which the sisters are asking a donation of $10, will be available at the premiere and at

It comes with a discussion guide that includes suggestions for advocacy. But the sisters said they intended the video to steer clear of policy debates.

“Our approach has been humanitarian. It’s not to learn all the ins and outs of the politics. Its about how we look at our neighbors who are immigrants in a compassionate way,” Sister Susan Merrie said.

Many Pittsburgh families have immigration stories within living memory, and the film is intended to be a touchstone for those, said Sister Jeanette Bussen, coordinator of justice and peace for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden.

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