Editor’s note: On Jan. 4, 2020, Bishop Medley presided at the opening Mass for National Migration Week at St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro. The text below is based on his notes from his homily, which was given in Spanish and in English.
From January 5-11, 2020 the Catholic Church of the United States celebrates National Migration Week.
The theme is “Promoting a Church and a World for All.”
We call upon Catholics – and all people of goodwill – to be inclusive and welcoming to all of our sisters and brothers.
It is a call for unity and solidarity with and care for who are excluded or marginalized.
Pope Francis has been the voice for inclusion and justice in the world. As this New Year of 2020 takes hold there are refugees and migrants across the globe. Virtually every country is impacted as they are a nation where people are being forced to flee or a nation hesitant to welcome the troubled.
Pope Francis has spoken of our obligation as Children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus to welcome, protect, promote and integrate all – especially immigrants and refugees.
Welcoming means, above all, “offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally.”[i] We must nurture societies that aim as much as possible to include, rather than exclude. A culture of encounter that emphasizes humanity and human dignity best counters anti-immigrant sentiment. We can do this on a personal and local level – but we must call our nation to its founding values.
Protecting immigrants “may be understood as a series of steps intended to defend the rights and dignity of everyone – regardless of their legal status.”[ii] Being undocumented does not mean that one forfeits basic human rights. We might call this accompaniment – being with people in their need.
Promoting means a “determined effort to ensure that all migrants and refuges – as well as the communities which welcome them – are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings…”[iii] Of importance here is our obligation to institute practices and policies that will promote and preserve the integrity of the family, reaffirm family reunification, and make allowances for family members to work following their arrival to a new destination country.
Integrating emphasizes the “opportunities for intercultural enrichment brought by the presence of migrants and refugees.”[iv] Although the initial act of welcoming migrants is an important step, it is imperative that we go further and take the necessary steps that will help them to become active, participating members of our communities. Church communities must be the first community to model this integration.
Points for all the Church to remember:
- Catholics are called to stand with immigrants and refugees. This is who we are. This what we do.
- Immigration is about real people who are trying to find a better life and new beginning. It’s about more than statistics; it’s about families. Pope Francis reminds us: every migrant has a name, a face and a story.
- Welcoming the stranger is a part of ancient Biblical tradition.
- Welcoming the stranger is a part of the fabric of American history. We are and always have been a nation of immigrants.
- The U.S. has the most rigorous screening process for immigrants ever. The system works – if we allow it to work.
- But our culture has been persuaded by negative political and media images.
- As a Church we Catholics speak the Gospel – the Good News.
- Let this National Migration Week and beyond be an occasion of opening wide our hearts to the Christ to be found in the least among us.
[i] Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018 (14 January 2018)
[ii] Ibid. See also Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 62
[iii] Ibid. See also Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 14
Originally printed in the February 2020 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.
Copyright © 2020 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic