INTERVIEW WITH MARIANNE:
What made you decide to walk El Camino?
I want to walk alongside those who struggle as immigrants, for whom this walk is dedicated. I want to listen and learn about people around the world who face such extreme challenges and persecution in their homeland that they would give up all that is familiar to them, even risk their lives, to migrate. Because that could be me.
How do you personally relate to the issue of immigration?
One hundred years ago, it was my grandparents, leaving a hard life in Sicily and making the journey to the United States as immigrants. Though poor and uneducated, they were able to build a wonderful life here, and contributed greatly to their community. They wanted to work hard, and be sure their children and grandchildren had every opportunity for success.
What lessons did you learn from your immigrant grandparents?
I learned so much from them, but I am most grateful for the lesson of hospitality. We were taught to make others welcome. Italians always want to feed you, there is always room at the table! As a follower of Jesus, and a granddaughter of Antonio and Mary, Onofrio and Annie, I count it a privilege to practice hospitality, especially to those that others ignore or look down on.
How do you practice hospitality in the way you live?
A few years ago, my family had the opportunity to host two young men who wanted to work and study in Chicago. Both of them were college graduates, yet “Dreamers”- undocumented young people brought to this country at a very young age. They were kind and appreciative, and a blessing to us. They eagerly served us in whatever ways they could. Both are now working in community development, one just finished a Masters degree, the other is a youth pastor. We are so proud to keep in touch with them and follow their journeys.
What message do you want people to hear about immigration?
Immigrants today want the same things my grandparents did. They want to work, they want to contribute, they want peace and safety for their children. In showing hospitality, we can demonstrate the love that Jesus has for everyone, including the poor and marginalized, including immigrants.
Let’s practice hospitality. Let’s welcome immigrants again.
“I was a stranger, and you invited Me in…” Matthew 25:35
Marianne Nicastro was raised in a Roman Catholic Italian-American family in Huntsville, AL. While in HS she became a serious Christ follower through the influence of Young Life. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN with a degree in economics, she pursed full-time vocational ministry on Young Life staff, eventually focusing her work with urban youth.
In 1984, she married Noel Castellanos, and moved to San Jose, CA where they both served on the Urban Young Life staff. In 1990, Marianne and Noel relocated to the Mexican barrio of La Villita to help establish a CCD ministry. They have lived in Chicago for 25 years, and now help to lead CCDA.