Preparing the Way for National Migration Week (January 8th to 14th, 2017), from the New Sanctuary Committee of St. Vincent de Paul

Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.

Pope Francis “Migrants and Refugees: Towards a Better World,'” 2014

In the last three inserts in the Bulletin you have read Pope Francis’ letter to us on immigrant and refugee children. The Church in the United States has a rich history of caring for immigrants and refugees at the grass roots lei el. In key moments, the U.S. bishops have also spoken prophetically on the issue. For many years, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has considered immigration a key pastoral concern of the Church in this vast nation. Its Migration and Refugee Services Office includes a program boldly titled “Justice for Immigrants.” The program’s website explains:

Why does the Church care about immigration policies?

The Catholic Church has historically held a strong interest in immigration and how public policy affects immigrants seeking a new life in the United States. Based on Scriptural and Catholic social teachings, as well as her own experience as an immigrant Church in the United States, the Catholic Church is compelled to raise her voice on behalf of those who are marginalized and whose God-given rights are not respected.

The Church believes that current immigration laws and policies have often led to the undermining of immigrants’ human dignity and have kept families apart. The existing immigration system has resulted in a growing number of persons in this country in an unauthorized capacity, living in the shadows as they toil in jobs that would otherwise go unfilled. Close family members of US citizens and lawful permanent residents must wait years for a visa to be reunited. And, our nation’s border enforcement strategies have been ineffective and have led to the death of thousands of migrants.

Two years ago, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, wrote to Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson opposing the detention of families because “it is inhumane to house young mothers with children in restrictive detention facilities as if they are criminals.” But detention continues very near us in the Berks Detention Center that houses twenty Central American women and their children who seek asylum. In their efforts to be released, these women have undertaken two hunger strikes, to no avail. Bishop Elizondo considers this kind of detention a violation of human rights.

We end with the last two paragraphs of a Christmas letter that Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the USCBC, issued last week:

We discover the fragile innocence of hope in the eyes of a newborn baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Mary and Joseph welcomed this young hope, for Jesus made known, in his very Person, the promise of “great joy that will be for all people.” We can nurture that same hope today. We do this by greeting one another in love and charity, embracing civility and not letting our differences hide the dignity and beauty God has given each of us as his children.

Allow me to say a special word to our sisters and brothers who find themselves immigrants and refugees on Christmas Day. In you, we see the very struggles of the Holy Family. From the angel of the Lord, Joseph hear d the call to “rise and flee” in order to keep Mary and Jesus safe from violence at home. The Catholic Church in the United States is praying for you and is working to welcome you as we would the Holy Family.

Merciful God our Father:

As Yahweh you asked your chosen people to take care of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, defining our responsibility to those who are unprotected by family or community.

Through your own son Jesus Christ you taught us the value of stretching the definition of who belongs to your people.

In the revelation of your love for us, you gave us the great command of loving each other and becoming mirrors of your love. Grant that in this time of concentrated awareness of the plight of immigrants and refugees in our midst we may open our hearts to embrace them, to stand with them, to proclaim our common humanity with them, and to support new policies that welcome them, as we decry those practices that harm them and harm our own society. Grant that, as we join the struggle for the dignity of undocumented immigrants, we also remain engaged in opposing the discrimination, violence, poverty, incarceration, and the death penalty that many people have suffered in this country.

We appeal to your mercy to keep this parish united and faithful under your loving gaze. Amen.