Catholic Charities sponsoring film viewing, immigration educational discussion at the Belcourt

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Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville is putting a new twist on its spring donor event.

On Thursday, March 2, at the historic Belcourt Theatre, Catholic Charities is bringing donors back to the very beginning with a showing of the “When Pedro Pan Came to Nashville” film, directed by Jon Kent.

The film, originally created as part of the non-profit’s El Festival de Esperanza event last April, tells about Catholic Charities’ efforts in 1962 to resettle 43 Cuban children who fled their home country to escape the Communist regime led by Fidel Castro. The resettlement of the children was part of a nationwide effort known as Operation Pedro Pan.

“The film reveals the compelling story of a trio of young brothers, Pablo, Carlos, and Luis, traveling as unaccompanied minors. Catholic Charities paired them for 18 months with a family in the Belmont-Hillsboro neighborhood,” according to the event website on Catholic Charities’ official website. “Catholic Charities then facilitated reunification of the boys with their family in Miami. Recently, Catholic Charities brought together both families in person to celebrate the remarkable, positive impact that each had on the other, and the bonds of love and care that have never been broken in 60 years.

“‘When Pedro Pan Came to Nashville’ poignantly captures the vital work Catholic Charities does supporting immigrant and refugee families,” the site continues. 

After the video, there will be a panel discussion featuring five university and government experts who will “share thoughts on the cultural and political landscape of migration and the history of public opinion on the topic,” according to the event website.

Panelists include:

• Karla McKanders, JD, M.T.S., clinical professor of law at Vanderbilt University, associate director of Vanderbilt’s Legal Clinic, and founding director of the Immigration Practice Clinic. She is an expert on the efficacy of immigration policies, laws, and legal institutions charged with processing migrants. She currently serves as chairperson of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration.

• Mariano Sana, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University. His main area of research is international migration, including causes of international migration, migration of the highly skilled, migrant incorporation, refugee migrants in the United States, and public opinion on refugees and Americans’ attitudes toward immigration reform. Professor Sana is a native of Argentina.

• Fernando Segovia, Ph.D, an Oberlin Graduate Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Vanderbilt Divinity School. As a theologian, his interests include non-Western Christian theologies, especially Latin American and the Caribbean. As a cultural critic, he explores postcolonial studies, minority studies, and diaspora studies. Professor Segovia fled Cuba in 1961 as a young boy, along with his mother.

• Mohamed Shruki-Hassan, M.A., director of the Mayor’s Office of New Americans, whose goal is to engage immigrants and empower them to have a voice in government and community affairs. He fled civil-war-torn Somalia as a baby, along with his family, migrating first to Kenya, and later, as a teenager, to the American South. An entrepreneur, he started the management consulting company Daban Group, was a managing partner of venture capital firm Premier Ventures, and founded the New American Development Center, a nonprofit that helps immigrants learn entrepreneurial skills and start companies.

• The panel discussion will be moderated by Jose Gonzalez, D.B.A., an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at Belmont University College of Business Administration. He co-founded Conexion Americas at a time when the immigrant community had begun to grow exponentially in Nashville. His work to integrate immigrants into the economic, social, and civic dimensions of the city was recognized by the Tennessee State Legislature in 2022.

Kent, a two-time winner at the 2020 Nashville Film Festival for his film “You Don’t Know Me,” telling the story of former Tennessee death row inmate Abu Ali Abdul-Rahman, will also be at the event to answer any questions about the film.

“The sudden and rapid evacuation of Afghanistan in the fall of 2021 galvanized U.S. public opinion favorably regarding refugees, as Americans supported those who had fought alongside U.S. troops to defeat the Taliban,” said Judy Orr, Catholic Charities executive director. “Images of Ukrainians suffering dominate the American media. Displacement, loss of everything that is familiar, forced migration. This is what we see in the current conflict a world away.

“And yet these crises occurred repeatedly in the recent past as well as over the long trajectory of war and conflict,” she said. “Disagreement about who to allow into our country, and how many of those ‘other’ people to allow in, has been a part of the dialogue among citizens in the United States for more than 100 years.”

“I have been deeply and personally touched by immigrant and refugee family stories such as the Fernandezes,” Orr concluded. “It has inspired me to bring them to a wider audience, to fulfill the advocacy role that is inherent in Catholic Charities’ work. We are entrusted with a sacred privilege to help our neighbors, whether from near or far.”

Event doors open at 7 p.m. with the screening of the 30-minute film beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale at

Cost is $25 for general admission and $10 for students. Snacks are included with ticket admission. The concession stand will also be open.

Sponsorships are also available to help Catholic Charities cover the cost of renting the theater. Sponsorship includes name recognition in the event program and free tickets.

To become a sponsor, visit and select the box labeled “Belcourt Theatre Event Sponsor.”

For more information, visit or call 615-352-3087. 

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