Living Hope: A Voice for the Vulnerable

Noe Ramirez of Living Hope Wheelchair Association receives the Sister
Margaret Cafferty Development of Peoples Award in Houston, TX.

Noe has been a quadriplegic for more than twenty years, ever since a drunk driver knocked him off his bicycle as he rode to work in Houston. Without a trace of bitterness, he told us, “I thank God for putting me in a wheelchair.”

Despite his struggles to get help—perhaps because of them—he and nine other people with spinal cord injuries came together to address their immediate need for medical supplies. The local public health district had stopped providing catheters, adult diapers, and urine collection bags to people with irregular immigration status. At first, the members of Living Hope focused on raising funds to buy supplies for fellow wheelchair users. Then the organization began to address the root causes of marginalization and poverty for immigrant workers with disabilities.

Today Living Hope is a strong voice for the rights of both immigrants and people with disabilities.

After Hurricane Harvey devastated south Texas in August 2017, Living Hope’s network helped identify and aid people with disabilities who were stranded. Its post-hurricane work has reflected Living Hope’s consistent call to community. Without their assistance and outreach throughout the year, many people with mobility concerns would be physically and emotionally isolated. The group uses Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) funds to train quality-of-life promoters to help reintegrate people facing debilitating injuries back into the community and ultimately help them return to full participation in society.

We were honored to present our 2017 Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of Peoples Award to Living Hope Wheelchair Association in November and at this year’s Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. The group embodies the criteria of the award with its community-based self-help model that helps poor and low-income people improve their situations and change the structures that keep them and others in poverty.

Living Hope members are strengthened by their faith in God and help from one another to advocate for basic rights and respect for their human dignity. Because of their persistence in engaging elected and appointed officials and speaking publicly about their plight, Living Hope has won small but significant improvements to health care access, transportation, and public safety.

Living Hope is a tangible example of how the preferential option for the poor translates from concept to action.

Thank you for helping CCHD address the needs of the vulnerable and poor through its support of people like Noe.

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD.

Going Deeper
Learn more about Living Hope in the latest edition of the CCHD quarterly newsletter Helping People Help Themselves. Visit PovertyUSA.org to learn more about Living Hope and hundreds of community groups that receive funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Photos Courtesy of Living Hope Wheelchair Association

Celebrating Hispanic Catholic Leaders for Justice

As we approach the V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (Sept. 20-23, 2018), we celebrate the leadership and gifts of Hispanic Catholics in the United States.  The USCCB Dept. of Justice, Peace and Human Development is celebrating the contributions of Hispanic Catholics through our sponsorship of and participation in the V Encuentro and our ongoing work to invest in missionary disciples who put faith in action in their communities. Ana Chavarin, a mother of four and community leader in Tucson, AZ, is one such leader. Ana offers this testimony about responding to the call to missionary discipleship:

My name is Ana Chavarin. I am an immigrant from Mexico. I came to this country 14 years ago. I am a single mother of four children and I’m a parishioner at Saint John the Evangelist in Tucson, Arizona.

Right now, I have two part-time jobs and I take classes at community college, where I am studying to be a psychologist. Four years ago, I went back to school to get my GED. That’s where I discovered one of my passions: helping others. I got involved in the student council and organized service projects, but these ways of helping were not enough. I saw all of the need in the community but I did not know how to do more.

Then, one day the priest at my church invited us to read The Joy of the Gospel. Around the same time, I was invited to a leadership training. What I learned in training was just what Pope Francis said in The Joy of the Gospel. In this apostolic exhortation, the pope invited us to be a light to others and to walk the extra mile. He talked about how we should involve ourselves in the community, vote, protect those in need, and be a voice for people who are oppressed. It was amazing how everything I read in the document connected with the leadership training! Shortly thereafter I was offered a part-time job as a community organizer. This was a blessing to me because apart from working to help make changes in my community, I had another source of income for my family.

Now working as a community organizer, I have trained leaders in different parishes. Together we have fought drugs, we have done immigration forums to educate our brothers and sisters about their rights, we have met with the police department to make sure they do not do racial profiling, and we have organized a voter information project to educate people and encourage voting.

All of these things I connect with Matthew 25:35: “I was hungry and you gave me food.” Then Christ tells them, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” I see Christ in every person that we help empower. In every step in my work, I see Christ, and my love and faith grow day by day.

I invite you to put your faith in action and walk the extra mile. Our Lord sends us to pray but he also needs hands and bodies that want to walk the road to Jericho.

Going Deeper!

20180814_115921

Ana Chavarin

Listen to Ana’s testimony as part of this webinar on missionary discipleship by the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development for the National Catholic Association of Diocesan Directors for Hispanic Ministry. Use this handout to consider how social justice and Hispanic ministry offices can collaborate in your diocese.

Solidarity and the Shipwreck: Transformative Education in Action

Bill Scholl, Social Justice Consultant for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

The prophet Nathan knew the power of a well-told story to transform.

After King David sinned against God and neighbor by sending a man to die in battle so that David could marry the man’s wife, Nathan realized that David needed to be told of his error in a way he could hear.  Nathan wisely petitioned the king, who loved justice, with the case of a poor man who was robbed of his only beloved lamb by a rich man with many livestock. Outraged, the king declared this rich man must die and make four-fold restitution. Nathan teaches towards transformation with the words, “you are that man” (2 Sam. 12:7). Placing ourselves in the story has the power to transform, and this is why Jesus so often taught through parable.

I have personally witnessed this power of story to transform from an exercise I developed to teach about immigration called “Solidarity and the Shipwreck.”  Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to an auditorium of Benedictine college students on the subject of immigration reform to kick off their Social Justice week. We did an abridged form of the exercise.  I invited ten students to come up and stand close together.  I then encircled the ground around their feet with a rope so everyone knew there was room for all inside. Next, I asked seven students to step outside the circle and set this scenario: the group within the circle become passengers on a luxury cruise near the Antarctic that comes upon a massive shipwreck.  The group outside the circle become drowning sailors trying to prevent their deaths by getting onboard.  Because the passengers have paid a lot of money for the trip, the captain lets them decide whether to save them.

I then asked the passengers on the imaginary ship what they decided. The faculty of this Catholic college will be glad to know that these students unanimously agreed to let all the drowning sailors on board, to much applause from the student body!

So, like Nathan, let me explain: as Americans, we are the ship; the drowning sailors are those who flee poverty, violence, or environmental devastation in their home countries seeking opportunities elsewhere; and it is this story that can open our hearts to the Church’s teaching on immigration.

The Catholic Church teaches that since all human beings are created in the image of God everyone has a right to pursue those things required for basic human decency (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) within their own country.  However, when someone cannot acquire those things needed for human decency in his or her home country, be it for reasons of a depressed economy or well-founded fear of persecution, then that person has a right to migrate. The Catholic Church upholds the rights of sovereign nations to secure their borders but insists that this right is not absolute.

Nations, particularly wealthy nations, have a moral obligation to accommodate immigrants in dire circumstances in ways that still maintain the common good of their own country; preservation of wealth alone is not sufficient cause to keep people out. Just as the captain of a ship coming upon the wreckage of a vessel much larger than his would have an obligation to take on as many survivors as he could, but not so many that his own ship would sink, so also should nations look upon preserving the rights of immigrants. Consequently, the bishops of the United States encourage all Catholics, all people of good will, and particularly U.S. officials to look at the immigration issue in humanitarian terms.

I have presented this scenario to many groups and it never fails to transform the discussion from a partisan perspective to a solidarity lens that looks to how we can pragmatically love our neighbor.  If you’d like to learn more or arrange such a dialogue go to www.archkck.org/socialjustice. Learn more about the Church’s teaching on immigration, and other ways to respond, at www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

Bill Scholl is the Social Justice Consultant for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

 

Analyzing Catholic and Muslim relations

“Today I wish to emphasize that the problem of intolerance must be confronted in all its forms: wherever any minority is persecuted and marginalized because of its religious convictions or ethnic identity, the wellbeing of society as a whole is endangered and each one of us must feel affected,”

– Pope Francis’ Address to the Delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

My ancestor, Christian Schmidt, was a German immigrant, arriving in the United States with permission neither from his home nation nor his adopted one. His immigration was not the only challenge he and many more like him faced in the United States.

With the onset of World War I, anti-German sentiment in the United States spread like wildfire, spurred on by the president, governors, and citizens alike. Thousands of Germans were interred in camps with no due process. Per the Smithsonian, nearly half a million immigrants of Germanic descent were required to register, carry registration papers on them at all times, and could be detained and interrogated on a whim. Over half a billion dollars’ worth of finances and property were confiscated, most often on scant to no evidence of wrongdoing. In the State of Iowa, German and other foreign languages were prohibited from use over the telephone and in public places, even in church services. Churches were spied on and Christian ministers attacked who did not comply. As many as 18,000 Midwesterners were arrested under the “English only” laws during WWI. German was even banished from being taught in schools and resulted in book burnings of German texts.

The Catholic faith of so many immigrants did not help make their presence any more hospitable. Americans saw Catholics as foreign invaders owing allegiance to a foreign prince, the pope, adhering to a foreign rule of law with canon law, Roman customs, and the like.  How could Catholics possibly be trusted? They were considered incompatible with American values, according to the greater society.

This was the reality into which my own grandpa Eddie Schmidt was born in 1917. A world at war and a war at home against his people. My loved ones were guilty by association and considered enemies by the larger society.

I am reminded of these stories of my own family and German ancestors when I hear of reports about proposed laws that would outlaw the religious attire of Muslims, require Muslims to register with the government, government spying in mosques, and the many stories of fear, hate and violence directed at our Muslim brothers and sisters. There have been reports of women and girls having their headscarves torn off, women in the hijab being set on fire, and sadly, a Muslim college student was beaten to death in Wisconsin. A good friend of mine has shared with me over the years the many times he has himself experienced Islamophobic hate-speech, harassment and violence, even by public officials. Much of this stems from a lack of understanding and a great deal of misinformation about Islam and Muslims.

When such misunderstanding and lack of trust are so prevalent in our society there is no peace in our own nation, let alone our world. It is important for us as Catholics to recognize our relationship to our Muslim brothers and sisters, our neighbors. It is true that we have a very different understanding of God but the Second Vatican Council reminds us:

“The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth (Cf. St. Gregory VII, Letter III, 21 to Anazir [Al-Nasir], King of Mauretania PL, 148.451A.), who has spoken to men.”

Pope Francis, at Holy Thursday in 2016, washed the feet of people of various faiths, including a Muslim and reiterated the church’s teaching that we are all “children of the same God.”

Not only children of the same God, but Muslims have been a part of our nation’s history since its inception, even serving in the United States military in every war that America has been engaged in, including the Revolution and the current wars on terror. Though there are people committing heinous acts of terror in the name of Islam, Muslims themselves are not to be feared simply because they are Muslim.

Pope Francis in August 2016 said the following: “I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy… and these are baptized Catholics! … If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence … I believe that in pretty much every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists … I do not believe it is right to identify Islam with violence. This is not right or true.”

Each human person made in the image of God is capable of great love and devastating evil, for we are fallen creatures. Even now there are Christian terrorists slaughtering innocents in the Central African Republic. We also recently heard the Rwandan Catholic bishops apologize for the church’s participation in the Rwandan genocide that happened a few decades ago. This allows us perspective when it comes to violence by Muslims.

Where is the violence coming from, then, if not from Islam itself? Islam is not a hierarchical faith like the Catholic Church with one single authority at the top. Islam is more closely related to rabbinical Judaism or evangelical Christianity than the structure of the Catholic Church. There is no universally accepted Muslim Magisterium. Much of the ideology of those who commit terrorism in the name of Islam is traced to an 18th century figure who sought to present a version of Islam that would serve the purpose of raising up a new dynasty on the Arabian peninsula. Over time, with the backlash against colonialism and shifting political realities, this new interpretation of Islam was manipulated for political ends by a small group and gaining adherents and becoming more militaristic. Even so, these strains of terrorism are in the minority within the Muslim world and are condemned throughout the world by Muslims, Sunni and Shia alike, not least of all because the overwhelming majority of victims from these groups are Muslims themselves.

Though not well reported here in the United States, Muslims are leading the call against terrorism. Muslims across the world have repeatedly denounced violence in the name of Islam. After Sept. 11, the people of Iran held a candlelit vigil in Tehran in solidarity with Americans and those lost to terrorism. Government leaders, religious leaders, and the Muslim faithful have condemned terrorism in the name of Islam time and again.

Let us help to build peace in our communities with our Muslim brothers and sisters by going out of our own comfort zones and meeting them in theirs. Many mosques and Islamic centers offer tours and invite guests to come and learn about their faith from the perspective of those who practice it, not filtered through uncharitable propaganda. Perhaps, attend programs like those that have been organized in the Dubuque area called “Children of Abraham” which has the goal to bring Christians, Jews, and Muslims to mutual respect and understanding. Reach out in charity to coworkers or others around you who practice Islam and get to know them on a personal level, then engage in discussion about faith with an open ear and heart. Stand up against speech and actions that attack people of different faith traditions when you encounter them, offer companionship to someone who may be attacked. In doing some of these things we can dedicate ourselves to ensure that our brothers and sisters who practice faith traditions besides our own, particularly our Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters who share our lineage in Abraham, know that they are welcome in our communities, know that they are loved by us, know that they are our brothers and sisters.

Mark Schmidt is Director of the Office of Respect Life and Social Justice in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

This post was adapted for ToGoForth and posted during the holy month of Ramadan celebrated by our Muslim brothers and sisters around the world. Read the original version at The Witness.


Going Deeper!

Visit WeAreSaltAndLight.org for resources on reaching out and collaborating with other faith traditions. Learn how Catholic faith communities are encountering our Muslim brothers and sisters through prayer and action, dialogue, and pen-pals relationships.

Accompanying Immigrants in the Archdiocese of Washington

Thousands of immigrants—mostly from Latin America—and their families gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in late 2016 to participate in the annual Walk with Mary celebration. In his homily, the Most Reverend Mario E. Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, echoed the palpable feeling of uncertainty that weighted heavily in the hearts of those in attendance following a vitriolic election season that left many immigrants fearful about their futures. With this in the background, we gathered to place ourselves under the protective mantle of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

A year later, on December 9, 2017, thousands of immigrants—this time including a significant number of non-Hispanics—at once braved the freezing weather and Walked with Mary. In a celebration that included the recitation of the rosary using seven languages, a special Chinese song dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the recitation of the Universal Prayers in multiple languages, Bishop Dorsonville once again shed light on the plight of immigrants today. Together, close to three thousand immigrants left the Basilica feeling the closeness of God and knowing that their Church stood with them.

To say that 2017 was a difficult year for immigrants would be an understatement. The travel ban, the rescinding of the DACA program, the changing deportation priorities, ending the TPS programs, and the troubling rhetoric that dominated immigration negotiations, all increased the anxiety among immigrants in the United States. Many of our immigrant brothers and sisters in our pews felt some consolation learning that bishops across the country lifted their voices to defend and protect them. But what made the protection of Mary’s mantle truly visible was the pastoral work undertaken at the local level.

In the Archdiocese of Washington, our first response to initial indications of distress in the immigrant community was combating fear with knowledge. Catholic Charities and its partners provided legal clinics in various parishes to teach people about their rights and to explore paths to normalizing their legal status. We also jumped into the V Encuentro process, which sent thousands of Catholics to reach out to our brothers and sisters on the peripheries. It was through these early interactions that we saw distress and anxiety overwhelming immigrant communities. Then, in September, young people became the target of the anti-immigrant sentiment. Yet, instead of taking a step back, young people stepped up and began to organize and galvanize support for their cause.

To express our closeness with young people, the Archdiocese of Washington hosted a retreat for young dreamers. Titled “Your Dream is God’s Dream,” the retreat provided young people with an opportunity to share their stories and to pray and support each other. It also demonstrated the Church’s desire to accompany them. Through tears and smiles, our young people realized that they are not alone. They felt the consolation that Mary offered Juan Diego: “Am I not here, who is your mother? Are you not under my protection?” But above all, they committed themselves to accompany each other and seek out those who have yet to experience the consolation of Christ.

Walking with the immigrant community is an experience of kinship. While we might not be able to solve all their problems, we can certainly love them unconditionally, the same way that God loves each one of us. By walking with them in the midst of uncertain times, we express our closeness to God who has a special predilection for those on the margins, and it is by walking with them that our brothers and sister can experience the closeness of God.

Javier Bustamante serves as Executive Director of the Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach in the Archdiocese of Washington.

 Going Deeper

Visit the USCCB Justice for Immigrants website to connect with the Faces of Migration and take action to urge Congress to work for an immediate solution for Dreamers.

Migrants, Refugees, and an Invitation to Metanoia

Jesus Christ wants to change your life. Before you change your life, you have to change your mind.

A key concept for the life of Christian discipleship is metanoia.  Derived from the Greek word meta, for “beyond” and nous, for “thinking” or “mind,” metanoia means thinking beyond. Thus, the term metanoia was coined by early Christians as a way to describe how encounters with Christ necessitate thinking beyond what was previously thought. This term also highlights how the Holy Spirit urges a life of conversion.

If we are to follow and worship the crucified God-Man we must be open to heart and mind paradigm-shifts. The call to metanoia is made by our Lord in his Beatitudes.  For example: poverty is a blessing, meekness is strength, and persecution for righteousness is glory.

Bottom Line:  You can’t be a disciple of Jesus unless you are prepared and open to changing how you think about things. Most often, this thinking will be opposed to the thinking of the world.

Recently, the Office for Social Justice in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas was blessed to work with a great team of people to help Archbishop Naumann organize and celebrate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees with a special Mass and multicultural festival.  Catholics from the various immigrant and ethnic communities of the archdiocese came together in a liturgy that reflected the multi-national, universal identity of the Roman Catholic Church by utilizing different languages and musical styles. The Mass was followed by sharing a potluck meal and fellowship as families who had immigrated from Asia, Europe, Central and South America shared their food and culture with one another. People who weren’t accustomed to worshipping with each other came together to pray for all the migrants of the world.

It was a time for metanoia, to rethink how our Catholicity calls us to recognize that ultimately we are called to share a common home in Heaven. Pope Francis reminded us, in his message for that day,  “Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43).”  Each person is precious; persons are more important than things, and our institutions must be measured by how well they support the life and dignity of human beings, particularly when they are vulnerable, as in the case of child migrants.

As our government wrestles with its immigration and refugee policies, especially on the issue of DACA, let us as Christians be open to a metanoia on immigration that sees people not as enemies at the gate that we ardently resist, but persons of inherent worth that we desire to prudently welcome.

Bill Scholl is the Social Justice Consultant for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and Diocesan Director for their local Justice for Immigrants Campaign.

Going Deeper
Visit USCCB’s JusticeforImmigrants.org for materials and resources to encourage encounter, learning and action for and with immigrants and refugees.

 

 

Pastoral Letter “Strangers No Longer” Still Strong 15 Years Later

Each week’s news seems to bring new attention to the migration crisis: the Rohingya fleeing Myanmar, child migrants escaping violence in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America, refugees from war torn areas in the Middle East, and others.

The migration of peoples from one country to another is hardly new to the modern age, but the sheer numbers of people being displaced in recent decades—due to violence, economic need, environmental causes, and other reasons—has challenged governments to take stock of the various crises giving rise to migration and to find ways to respond in responsible ways.

Following the massive displacement of people that coincided with World War II, Catholics sought to better understand ways in which their own tradition could inform their understanding of the phenomenon, and how best to respond to it. Perhaps one of the most prominent efforts in the early post-World War II period was the publication of Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution, Exsul Familia, which explicitly held up the Holy Family as an archetype for refugees.

Subsequent popes continued to explore the question of migration, and in doing so addressed the responsibility of receiving countries toward migrant communities, the responsibilities of migrants living in a new homeland, and the importance of providing protections to marginalized populations. The Migration Day messages that are issued every year by the pope are a very useful resource to better understand the teaching of the Church on migration.

In 2003, the bishops of the United States and Mexico made an important contribution to this effort with the publication of their joint pastoral letter, Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope. This letter, whose principles are still current, aimed to clarify some of the unique challenges confronting their respective countries with regard to migration, understand the application of Catholic teaching, and provide guidance to policy makers as they try to respond. An important part of this letter consists in the bishops’ effort to provide guiding principles that should inform policymaking. These include:

  1. Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland.
    All persons have the right to find in their own countries the economic, political, and social opportunities to live in dignity and achieve a full life through the use of their God-given gifts. In this context, work that provides a just, living wage is a basic human need.

    2. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.
    The Church recognizes that all the goods of the earth belong to all people. When people cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right.

    3. Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders.
    The Church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their territories but rejects such control when it is exerted merely for acquiring additional wealth. More powerful economic nations, which can protect and feed their residents, have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows.

    4. Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection.
    Those who flee wars and persecution should be protected by the global community. This requires, at a minimum, that migrants have a right to claim refugee status without incarceration and to have their claims fully considered by a competent authority.

    5. The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.
    Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity that should be respected. Often, they are subject to punitive laws and harsh treatment from enforcement officers from both receiving and transit countries. Government policies that respect the basic human rights of the undocumented are necessary.

On the pastoral letter’s tenth anniversary, I helped to edit a volume that reflected on many of the themes of the letter, and highlighted some of the important developments that occurred since its publication. Just five years later, as we celebrate the pastoral letter’s fifteenth anniversary, we find ourselves in a new set of circumstances as efforts to restrict migration in the United States are in full force.

Given these changed conditions, it is as important now as ever for Catholics to understand Church teaching on migration and in doing so push for legislation that respects the human dignity of migrants. The Justice for Immigrants Campaign, launched partly in response to the publication of the pastoral letter, is an important mechanism that Catholics can take advantage of in this regard. I urge you to visit the website and sign up to the listserv, so that you can receive regular updates on migration related phenomenon, and better understand what the Church is doing in this field.

In addition, the recently initiated migration campaign, Share the Journey, is an effort on the international level to educate Catholics on migration issues and Church teaching. In the U.S., the campaign is being implemented by USCCB, CRS, and CCUSA. On the website you can find a variety of useful resources to educate and inspire others to take action in defense of migrants and vulnerable populations.

Todd Scribner, PhD, is the Educational Outreach Coordinator for the Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs, at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Going Deeper
Visit www.wearesaltandlight.org and find dialogue resources to address difficult issues on immigration. Also, find inspiration by learning how a diocesan Immigration Team Fosters Participation and Respect for Human Dignity.

“Rise, Take the Child and His Mother” and Flee to Egypt: A Scriptural Refrain that Echoes with Today’s Migrants

A family was in flight from a brutal regime. Not knowing where to turn for safety in their own land, they packed what they could carry and fled to a nearby welcoming country, where they waited, protected until a change in national leadership finally made it safe to return home.

The story is familiar to Christians. The Gospel of Matthew (2:13-23) tells the story of the Holy Family escaping the brutal rule of Herod the Great. They fled to Egypt, where they were safe from what Matthew describes as Herod’s order to kill all boys younger than age 2, in order to eliminate the Messiah whose birth had been announced to him by the Magi.

But it also is the story of many of the contemporary 65 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced from their homes, whether to safer parts of their own countries or to adjacent nations.

The Holy Family’s flight to Egypt, observed on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, just after Christmas, is the second Scriptural story during the season to focus on their status as migrants – the first being Mary and Joseph’s trek to Judea to register for the census just before Jesus was born.

The experiences of Mary and Joseph resonate with today’s immigrants and refugees. Sometimes people leave their homelands with every intention of returning quickly: “as soon as I earn enough to buy my family a house in my country;” “as soon as the soldiers and rebels stop fighting in my city;” or “as soon as the police can get rid of the gang tormenting my children.”

Others flee situations so difficult they assume it’s a one-way journey. Wars, famine, environmental destruction, crime, political and religious oppression or inescapable poverty can all compel someone to permanently leave home.

People in all of these situations are served by the 330 nonprofit immigration organizations that make up the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC. The members of the network range from one- or two-person operations like the Crosier Community in Phoenix, to large, archdiocesan Catholic Charities agencies with numerous staff attorneys and accredited representatives who assist thousands of immigrants a year.

The last year brought a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety for many immigrants. Among the major unsettling actions and proposals were: the cancelation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA; the termination of Temporary Protected Status for several countries and impending decisions on cancelation for several more; changed priorities for deportation and other enforcement; increased use of detention for people who had no criminal records; changed criteria for visa approvals; reductions in the number of refugees admitted; and proposals to eliminate a foundational principle of American policy, family-based immigration.

Through it all, the members of the network established by the U.S. bishops in 1988 to serve low-income immigrants have stepped to the fore.

In the Archdioceses of Miami and Boston, that has meant significant efforts to help Haitians whose TPS status will expire in 2019 to figure out their options. Is there a relative living in the U.S. whose legal status would allow them to sponsor their TPS-holding family members?

In dozens of cities, that has meant legal services agencies gathered staff and volunteers on evenings and weekends to help screen thousands of immigrants from around the world, to evaluate whether they might have overlooked a path to legal residency in the United States. In a project to screen 3,000 immigrants in southern states last spring, 15.4 percent of the people whose applications were reviewed were found to have a likely path to legal status. Several people turned out to already be U.S. citizens—derived from having a citizen parent, typically—but were unaware of it.

And throughout the country, reaching out to vulnerable immigrants has been as essential as sharing know-your-rights materials, teaching families what documents they should prepare in case someone is unexpectedly taken into custody for deportation and as simple as providing a card to carry with an immigration attorney’s phone number. Meanwhile, in response to inquiries from parishes and other faith communities about how to help immigrants, we’ve developed resources to guide discernment for shaping a community response.

The year ahead will likely be even more difficult for millions of immigrant families, as policies changed in 2017 are fully implemented. As we begin our 30th year as CLINIC, we will remain vigilant and attentive.

Patricia Zapor is Communications Director at Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)

 

 

Going Deeper
Visit www.sharethejourney.org to find inspiring stories of hope and to learn about ways to take action in support of refugees and immigrants, such as resources for parishes, and how to send a letter to your legislator. Take action by being part of the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG) in Washington, DC, February 3-6.

Prayer for Immigrants/Oración por los inmigrantes

Join us in praying for families of mixed status, victims of racism, migrant laborers, young people brought to the U.S. as children, and all who are in the shadows.

Hear Us, O God

“Know that the LORD is God,
he made us, we belong to him,
we are his people, the flock he shepherds.”
– Psalm 100:3

Hear us, O God.  Hear our families of mixed status. Hear those who wait in fear of separation, burdened with anxiety.

Hear us, O God. Hear all who are called “foreigner.”  Hear us when we experience cold stares or mistrust because of the color of our skin or the language we speak.

Hear us, O God. Hear our brothers and sisters who sweat in the fields. Hear those who work long, backbreaking hours growing food, serving us at restaurants, and cleaning our homes.

Hear us, O God. Hear those young people who were brought to this country as children.  Hear their dreams for a future of hope.

Hear us, O God. Hear vulnerable women and children. Hear those who have fled domestic violence, rape, or gangs to seek safety in this country.

Hear us, O God. Hear those who work in the shadows and are exposed to exploitation and harassment. Hear those for whom just pay for a just day’s work is always uncertain.

Hear us, O God. Hear us as we raise our voices. Hear your people as we seek laws and policies to protect the vulnerable and welcome the stranger.

Standing together—a single yet diverse body of Christ, we pray:  Shepherd of the flock, hear us. Be with us, restore us, and strengthen us, for we belong to you.

May your kingdom come and your will be done.  Amen.


Escúchanos, oh Dios

“Reconozcamos que el Señor es Dios,
que él nos hizo y a él pertenecemos,
que formamos su pueblo y su rebaño”.
– Salmo 99:3

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escucha a nuestras familias con estatus migratorios mixtos. Escucha a los que esperan con temor la separación, cargados de ansiedad.

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escucha a todos los que son llamados “extranjeros”. Escúchanos cuando experimentamos miradas frías o desconfianza debido al color de nuestra piel o al lenguaje que hablamos.

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escucha a nuestros hermanos y hermanas que sudan en los campos. Escucha a los que trabajan largas y extenuantes horas cultivando alimentos, sirviéndonos en restaurantes y limpiando nuestros hogares.

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escucha a esos jóvenes que fueron traídos a este país siendo niños. Escucha sus sueños de un futuro de esperanza.

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escucha a las mujeres y niños vulnerables. Escucha a los que han huido de la violencia doméstica, la violación o las pandillas para buscar seguridad en este país.

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escucha a los que trabajan en las sombras y están expuestos a la explotación y el acoso. Escucha a aquellos para los cuales una remuneración justa por un día de trabajo justo es siempre incierta.

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escúchanos cuando alzamos nuestras voces. Escucha a tu pueblo en nuestra búsqueda de leyes y políticas que protejan al vulnerable y acojan al extraño.

Juntos de pie, un solo pero diverso cuerpo de Cristo, oremos: Pastor del rebaño, escúchanos. Acompáñanos, restablécenos y fortalécenos, porque te pertenecemos.

Venga a nosotros tu reino; hágase tu voluntad. Amén.

Turning a “contemplative gaze” toward our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters

Building on his September launch of the “Share the Journey” campaign in support of migrants and refugees, Pope Francis’ Message for the 51st World Day of Peace (Jan. 1) invites Catholics to embrace those who endure perilous journeys and hardships in order to find peace. He urges people of faith to turn with a “contemplative gaze” towards migrants and refugees, opening our hearts to the “gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their houses, in their streets and squares.”

In his Message, Pope Francis echoes St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, pointing to war, conflict, genocide, ethnic cleansing, poverty, lack of opportunity, and environmental degradation as reasons that families and individuals become refugees and migrants.

Four “mileposts for action” are necessary in order to allow migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and trafficking victims the opportunity to find peace. These include:

  1. Welcoming, which calls for “expanding legal pathways for entry” and better balancing national security and fundamental human rights concerns;
  2. Protecting, or recognizing and defending “the inviolable dignity of those who flee”;
  3. Promoting, which entails “supporting the integral human development of migrants and refugees”; and
  4. Integrating by allowing migrants and refugees to “participate fully in the life of society that welcomes them.” Doing so enriches both those arriving and those welcoming.

How can we, as Catholics, respond to Pope Francis’ powerful words in this year’s message?  What are we called to?

Here are three ideas.

  1. Pray with a “contemplative gaze.” Pray for the grace to approach issues around migrants and refugees from a starting point of faith and prayer.
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    Encounter the stories of migrants and refugees on this handout and at ShareJourney.org and then pray for those families and individuals.
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    You may also try one of these prayer practices to enrich your experience of prayer for our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters.
  1. Learn. Visit ShareJourney.org to read the stories of families and individuals who are migrants and refugees and to learn how you can respond. Visit WeAreSaltandLight.org to learn how faith communities are answering the call to welcome migrants and refugees.
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  2. Act. Join tens of thousands of Catholics to advocate for policies that support migrants and refugees in the U.S. and those experiencing poverty or conflict around the world. For current action alerts, visit ConfrontGlobalPoverty.org and JusticeForImmigrants.org.

Together and with God’s help, we can seek peace for all people, including those who are migrants and refugees.

This text is excerpted from the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development handout for the World Day of Peace 2018, which is also available in Spanish.