Healing Liturgy for Reunified Families Separated by Immigration Policies or Other Circumstances

Healing Liturgy for Reunified Families

Separated by Immigration Policies or Other Circumstances

By Cindy Rassi, January 29, 2021


I decided to create a Healing Liturgy for reunified families, as I personally have felt extremely hurt by the situation all these parents and caretakers had to live with their children. The cruelty of their separation and detention, in addition to all the trauma that it caused, calls for physical, mental and spiritual healing.

I decided a park would be a great space, especially during summer, because it could be done even if we the pandemic is still going on, it’s an open space, with sunshine and the children and caretakers could spend time in there after the liturgy ends. There is a playground and sprinklers for the kids to play with water. Also is within closing distance from a train station and there is plenty of parking as well. I planned an interfaith Healing liturgy in Spanish because as far as I understand many reunited families are from South America but there are also from Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa. Interpreters in that case could be needed and schools might be able to support such needs.

I start with the reading of Mark 9:36-37, that captures the importance Jesus knew children have in the kingdom of God and declared for everyone to know, accept and follow. [1]

This follows a purpose for gathering which acknowledges the reasons for the liturgy, how wrong the separation of families is, and how the healing liturgy and the community[2] are trying to support the reunified families. The first prayer, the prayer of intercession, is oriented towards the caretakers. I wrote it in Spanish and then translated it to English and then back and forth until I ended up with something that worked in both languages. I did the same with all the prayers.

The anointing of oil, I thought would be a beautiful way for parents and children to strengthen their bond and a playful way to give children their proper place within the liturgy as healers commissioned to heal[3] and also as the receivers of healing. I also did it because I was thinking about the pandemic and the possible discomfort with strangers. A prayer being repeated as the oil is being anointed reminded me of a ritual that could capture a space of liminality for these families, from the difficult memories they have from their separation to the creation and celebration of new ones.

The roses that the children can easily pick up and bring back to the caretakers, seem to me a way for children to thank them. Usually, children do not have access or possibilities to give adults gifts. Sometimes a little prompt” ceding power”[4], gives children a role that signifies their important participation in the liturgy, it reminds them and the adult of how beneficial this interaction is, for both of them. This is accompanied by the Litany of Thanksgiving, written as the children/teenagers thank God for their caretakers.

In another act to promote healing, and transform[5] their relationship, reading a book together in the middle of a Healing Liturgy, is an intentional act of caring for one another that helps growing the bond between child and caretaker.

The closing prayer alludes to the transformative work the Holy spirit does in healing.

I decided Colossians 1:11 was the appropriate blessing to close the Healing Liturgy as it does not promise everything will be perfect, but it follows the petition of strength that has been a theme along the liturgy.

The balloon or ball at the end, when the families are leaving was part of the park theme and something, I understand is not likely to happen in other setting, but in the context of a fun and spiritual nourishing day it seems appropriate.

The music along the liturgy is intended to be related to families with children and/or to healing. Not particularly Christian. “Que canten los niños” is about children’s rights and pleas for them, “Won’t you be my neighbor” might be recognized today from Mr. Rogers and Daniel the Tiger. Hymn of Healing is from a group that does a lot of chanting.

The liturgy of Healing tried to encourage the participants to engage in prayer and see the different activities as moments that capture the possibilities of transforming/healing their pain that God is delivering.



Healing Liturgy for Reunified families living in New England.

Please adapt to your own context and setting


This liturgy is designed for parents and their children or caretakers and children, who have been separated by immigration policies or other circumstances. (Welfare agencies) These families are now in the process of strengthening their bond and addressing the trauma and pain caused by their separation.

The healing liturgy is organized in collaboration with the city, the public library or a literacy program, the local WIC office, and the public schools. It will be done in Spanish, but translators would be available. No police invited.


Interfaith Liturgy


Location: Piers Park East Boston

Furnishing/objects: Poles to hold colored ribbon.

Colored ribbon

Folding chairs available for those who cannot seat on the ground

Oil in small containers

Books in different languages for different ages. If the parent/caretaker  cannot read, a book with images will be given, if the child can read for  them, they will choose the book.

Small table for Liturgy leader to hold a vase with one flower,  a small container with oil and a children’s book.

Musical Accessories needed for worship: Keyboard, Guitar, Four microphones, XLR cables, extension cords.

Translators: contact volunteer translators

Setting: 3 concentric circles, inner circle for children, middle circle for parents, outer circle for friends and community.

Date: Summertime, Covid time: masks on – social distance

Past- Covid – closer configuration- still keeping some distance.

Number of families: 10 (adults + children) aprox 20-36 depending if there are 2 caretakers per

family or more children per family

Number of friends/people from the community: 20

Two people will be greeting the participants and organizing a line for them to enter the circle. Adults are given a container with a small amount of oil, a book of their choice to read to the kids.

Friends and community will be gathering in the outer circle on their own. Once the gathering music ends. There will be silence for a minute or two. Music will start again, and the procession of parents and children will begin.

Two Leaders: Man and woman will be in the circle.


Prelude music: “ Won’t you be my neighbor” by Fed Rogers, music with lyrics.




Procession Music:  “Que canten los niños”  by Jose Luis Perales


Procession of caretakers and children begins

The parent/caretaker and the children enter the circle walking. The music will continue until the procession of parent/caretakers will be in the middle circle and their children right in front of them in the inner circle. They will be following the circles marked by the poles and the colored ribbon.

Everyone will sit on the grass, or if needed a chair will be provided and at the start of the liturgy, they will be prompted to hold the ribbon.


Music stops.


Welcome- Leader 1 says:

Welcome everyone, the adults can sit down, the children stand up and if they need to move, we will all help keeping an eye, so the children remain inside the circle. It’s perfectly fine if they need to move, we have young people among us and that’s wonderful!! We are here for the children and their caretakers and we will try to accommodate as we go.


This a reading from Mark 9:36-37:


36 “Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”  

Let’s all make sure we welcome these children and their caretakers in our lives and in our communities.


Purpose of gathering:


Hoy nos reunimos porque tenemos en común un propósito muy especial. Hoy, estos niños con sus cuidadores están juntos y por ello estamos muy felices, pero también sabemos que han pasado por momentos que han traído dolor a sus vidas. Las normas de inmigración que ordenaron la separación de familias han dejado huellas de destrucción en el corazón de todos los involucrados. Unas medidas crueles, injustas, discriminatorias, que debieron haber recibido toda la atención del mundo y debieron haber sido repudiadas desde su comienzo.

5 minutos sin saber donde están nuestros niños es aterrador, muchos tuvieron que pasar meses, años sin poder estar reunidos. Algunos aun no se han reunido.

Silencio por un momento.

Les pido a todos que participemos tomando la cinta en frente de nosotros. La cinta es una manifestación de todo el amor y la compasión que es inherente a todos por naturaleza y que nos une.

Todos los que estamos aquí, ofrecemos nuestras oraciones y nuestro apoyo. Nos reunimos para pedir a Dios por toda su gracia, compasión y sabiduría para guiar a todos los niños y niñas, y a todos sus cuidadores en el camino para reforzar el amor que sienten el uno por el otro, y para que sanen las heridas que no vemos con los ojos pero que llevamos en nuestro espíritu.

En nombre de todos los que están presentes y en nombre de Dios que ha sido testigo de todo lo que ha ocurrido. Oremos.


We are gathered today because we have a special common purpose. Today, these children and their caretakers are together; however, we know they have been through experiences that have brought a lot of pain to their lives. The immigration policies that order the separation of minors from their caretakers, have left undeletable prints in their hearts of all who were involved.  These cruel, unjust, and discriminating measures should have captured the attention and repudiation of the entire world from the very beginning.   Five minutes without knowing where our kids are can be terrifying. Many children and caretakers spent hours, days, months, years away from each other. Some are still separated.

Silence for a moment.

I ask all to participate holding the ribbon in front of you. This ribbon is a symbol of all the love and compassion that is inherent to our nature and that unite us.

All of us here, we are offering our prayers and our support. We are together to ask God to cover these children and their caretakers with grace, with compassion and with wisdom.

We ask God to guide them in the path to reinforce and grow the love they have for each other and to heal all the wounds that we cannot see with our eyes, but they carry in their spirits.

In the name of everyone who is present and in the name of God who has witnessed everything that has occurred.

Let’s pray.


Original Prayer of Intercession


Caring Guardian of the World,

Under this sky and over this earth,

You gave us life; you gave us infants,

children and adolescents to take care of.

Faithful God,

you were there with us in the darkness that our days turned into,

in the cold place where our heart froze,

in the despair we felt being separated from them.

We are back together, and we cry

Wise God,

Grant us the strength to face the fears in our hearts

And the fear in our children’s faces,

Enable us and our children to enjoy once again our life together,

Give us patience when our little ones cry and we do not know what to do,

Shut our dismissing manner and guide our hands to embrace them with love,

When our teenagers complain because they are feeling lost as we do,

Silence our anger and wash our heart with compassion for them and for us too.

Keep the world safe from all these separations.

For with You is all grace and glory. Amen.


Spanish translation


Guardián(a) Cuidador(a) del Mundo,

Debajo de este cielo y sobre esta tierra

Tu nos diste vida, nos diste infantes,

Niños y adolescente para cuidar.

Dios Leal,

Tu estuviste con nosotros en la oscuridad en la que se convirtieron nuestros días,

En el lugar frio en el que nuestro corazón se congelo,

En la desesperación que sentimos estando separados.

Ahora estamos juntos otra vez, y sin embargo lloramos.

Dios Sabio,

Danos la fuerza para afrontar los miedos de nuestro corazón

Y en miedo en los rostros de nuestros niños,

Permítenos a nosotros y a nuestros niños disfrutar una vez más de nuestra vida juntos, Danos paciencia cuando nuestros pequeños lloren y no sepamos que hacer,

Cambia nuestra disposición de rechazo y guía nuestras manos para abrazarlos con amor, Cuando nuestros adolescentes se quejen porque se sienten perdidos como nosotros, Silencia nuestra ira y deja que nuestro corazón se llene con compasión por ellos y también por nosotros.

Mantén al mundo a salvo de todas estas separaciones.

Porque contigo esta toda la gracia y la gloria. Amén.


Leader 1:

Before we continue, let’s allow some time for the children and the adults to express in paper some of what we bring today, the emotions, the ideas, the hardships, and the joys that we have in our hearts. We will be passing the crayons and the paper if you wish you can share the drawings and we will be hanging them in our background in the clothesline we have.

Volunteer will be providing support as caretakers help the smaller children and when they are done hanging up the drawings.


Leader 2:


In the container you have, there is oil for you to anoint your child in their hands or in the forehead, and for them to do the same to you. I’ll prompt the words, and everyone will repeat them to them while you re anointing them with the oil, you will say their name when is time. Then we will repeat them once more as the children/the ones who can, repeat them to you while putting some oil on your hands or forehead, you can guide them, if they do not want to do it, you can just play with them or let them move.



Original Prayer for healing:

Absorbing Love


Protective Nature of the Earth,

May the oil I pour “ ____  “’s head or hands

Carry all Your love and mine as well.

May the loneliness, the fear, the sadness,

be transformed into hugs that shelter our Spirits,

into courage to listen to each other’s deepest truths,

into joy every time we look into each other’s eyes.

God, may we absorb Your love and presence every moment we share.

May this be so.



Absorbiendo Amor


Naturaleza Protectora de la Tierra,

Permite que el aceite que pongo sobre  la frente o las manos de”____”

Lleve todo Tu amor y el mío también.

Que la soledad, el miedo y la tristeza,

Se transformen en abrazos que abriguen nuestros espíritus,

en coraje para escuchar las verdades más profundas del uno al otro,

en alegría cada vez que nos miremos a los ojos.

Dios, Permite que podamos absorber Tu amor y

Tu presencia en cada momento que compartamos juntos.

Que así sea.


2 people bring containers with roses to the center of the circle and stay there to help the children when they come to get one for their caretakers.


Leader 1:

Adults you can sit down, and let the children and teenagers come and get a flower to give to you, caretakers. We are going to start on both sides next to me, you can start coming to the circle and get a flower for your adult.


Music begins.

Music in low volume in the background: “ Wont you be my Neighbor” by Fred Rogers,  Instrumental version by Christopher Joel Carter


Children who can walk, go to the center and get a flower to give/take back to their caretakers.

Music stops once the containers have been removed from the center.


Leader 2:

It’s in these small moments that we can recreate, renew and strengthen our bonds with the people we love. Children and teenagers (adults do it for the infants) join us by replying:

We thank You God.


Original Litany of Thanksgiving:


For our caretakers


Infinite Source of Loving Hugs and Known Faces,

Who guards all children, while sleeping or playing.

Today, we thank You for those who are taking care of us,

thanks for their presence, thanks for their love,

for their persistence, for their prayers.

Keep them in our lives.

We thank You O God.


For the day they hugged us again,

For asking us “are you hungry?”,

For saying “good night my love”,

For their tears while saying “I am sorry”.

Keep them in our lives.

We thank You O God.


You carry us all to this day, we do not forget, we thank You O God.

For when they read us books,

For when they buy us food,

For when they tell us “No”

Keep them in our lives.

We thank You O God.


Our path has not been easy,

Your mercy has brought us together,

Let us grow by their side,

Keep them in our lives.

We thank You O God.


For in your name God everything is possible.



Para nuestros cuidadores


Fuente infinita de abrazos amorosos y rostros conocidos,

Quien protege a los niños, mientras duermen o juegan.

Hoy te damos gracias por quienes nos cuidan,

gracias por su presencia, gracias por su amor,

por su perseverancia, por sus oraciones.

Por mantenerlos en nuestras vidas.

Te damos gracias, oh, Dios.


Por el día que nos volvieron a abrazar

Por preguntarnos “¿tienes hambre?”,

Por decir “buenas noches, mi amor”,

Por sus lágrimas mientras decían “lo siento”.

Por mantenerlos en nuestras vidas.

Te damos gracias, oh, Dios.


Nos guías a todos hasta el día de hoy,

no lo olvidamos, te damos gracias oh, Dios.

Por nuestros cuidadores

Por cuando nos leen libros

Por cuando nos compran comida

Por cuando nos dicen “No”

Por mantenerlos en nuestras vidas.

Te damos gracias, oh, Dios.


Nuestro camino no ha sido fácil,

Tu misericordia nos ha unido.

Déjanos crecer a su lado.

Por mantenerlos en nuestras vidas.

Te damos gracias, oh, Dios.

Porque en tu nombre Dios, todo es posible.



Leader 1:


We invite you now to spend a few minutes reading to the children the book that you chose or inviting them to read it to you. You can also just look at the pictures together and name what you see.


Background Music:  “Hymn of Healing” by Beautiful Chorus


3 minutes


Music stops.


Leader 2: Let’s pray together.


Original Closing prayer



Restorative Holy Spirit,

Who with your invisible hands mends all souls,

Ease our hearts when we feel exhausted,

So that our homes become shelters of love and understanding,

In the name of Your son Jesus, Amen.



Espíritu Santo Restaurador,

Que con tus manos invisibles reparas todas las almas.

Alivia nuestros corazones cuando nos sintamos agotados,

Para que nuestros hogares se conviertan en refugios de amor y comprensión,

En el nombre de tu hijo Jesús, Amén.





Leader 1:

Before we go, adults you can remain seated, children please stand up one more time and place your hands over your adult’s head or shoulders. Let’s all remember how our lives can be transformed in the healing light that our faith shines into our spirits.


Reading from Colossians 1:11

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God’s glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully”



Children and adults, you can leave the circle first. Friends and community follow after.


As they leave the circle, children can take a balloon or a ball with them as a gift from the community and organizers.


Liturgy Design:

Healing Liturgy idea for set up


Sketch of Set up for Healing Liturgy



[1] Michelle A. Clifton-Soderstrom, David D. Bjorlin., “Incorporating Children in Worship: Mark of the Kingdom”., (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2014)., 23.

[2] Abigail Rian Evans., “Healing Liturgies for the Seasons of Life” 1st ed., (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004)., 2.

[3] Ruth C. Duck.,” Worship for the whole people of God: Vital worship for the 21st century”., ( Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013).,237.

[4] Michelle A. Clifton-Soderstrom, David D. Bjorlin., “Incorporating Children in Worship: Mark of the Kingdom”., (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2014)., 129.

[5] Ruth C. Duck., 235.