My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
This weekend in the Diocese we will be celebrating the annual Migration Day Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph. Our celebration this year coincides with the campaign launch of Caritas Internationalis, supported by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, called “Share the Journey” (www.sharejourney.org).
This two-year campaign aims to help Catholics around the world understand the plight of immigrants and refugees today. We are asked to listen to their migrant stories, as the campaign actually encourages people to meet with migrants and listen to their stories so that we can be sensitized.
At that same time, it would be beneficial if we could understand our own immigrant stories even if they are from far generations long ago. Each one of us has come to the United States from somewhere else. Knowing the immigrant stories of our families could be of great assistance in understanding the stories of others.
I, myself, am very fortunate to have known my four grandparents, each of whom emigrated from Italy to the U.S. I know intimately their stories, the hardships they endured, the difficulties they had in adjusting to life here. Each one of my grandparents came from a different part of Southern Italy, met in Newark, N.J. and married. Each had a unique story that, once it is known by their descendents, can make a great difference in understanding the plight of newcomers to our society.
This campaign reminds us that once we know the stories of others and their difficulties, we should open our arms to welcome them and encounter them as fellow travelers on the journey of life. For some, the journey begins in far away places, for others the journey seems closer to their places of birth. All of us, however, are on a journey because this world is not a lasting habitation for us. Rather, the migration story of each one of us is important to all of us.
The Share the Journey campaign reminds us that we must act once we understand the plight. We then can understand the story of our new neighbors and refugees. There is much to speak about today. As I have mentioned in the past, we are facing a crisis in our own City of New York regarding those who are on Temporary Protective Status (TPS), a portion of the U.S. immigration law that allows people who come from areas that have civil unrest or natural disasters to remain in the U.S. for a period of time. Unfortunately, the law has never had an end game where situations are deemed for a safe return.
The current administration has declared some areas safe for return which, during a recent trip by members of our U.S. Bishops’ Conference, were found not to be safe, such as areas in Haiti where still the devastation is felt after the earthquake, where the lack of housing and jobs is still prevalent, or the situations are – as in El Salvador and Honduras – where civil violence still rages. We must let our elected officials know that we support allowing these long-term, now legal residents of the U.S. to remain. A recent report compiled by the Center for Migration Studies reminds us that these people have houses with mortgages and American-born children who are well integrated into our society. It serves no purpose to force them to return to still unstable areas.
As we look to our own Catholic Migration Office, daily immigrants and refugees are resettling here in the U.S. We recognize that what once was the fate of our ancestors is now the fate of newcomers to the U.S. The Church today is much better organized to assist these newcomers than we were in the past. We look into our own past to create a better future for those who follow us on the migration journey from all over the world.
Our own migration celebration brings together all of our 29 established migrant apostolates here in Brooklyn and Queens. Each apostolate is directed by a priest or deacon, assisted by an advisory committee. Our annual Migration Day Mass gives us an opportunity to pray together. This year, we will join the Share the Journey campaign by praying and pledging to act on behalf of those who are now coming to the U.S.
As we look forward to Thanksgiving this coming week, we give thanks for the blessings of our Nation, which has always been a beacon of hope to so many in the past. It would be a tragedy if we were to dim the light of opportunity and freedom for the immigrants and refugees coming to our shores today. They put out into the deep, hoping for a better future. We who have achieved this because of the courage of our ancestors must be ready and willing to welcome the newcomer as we would have wished our own ancestors were welcomed. Perhaps this was not as pleasant as we would have wished. Join with me this weekend in giving thanks for our great country and for the newcomers who continually add to our vitality as a Nation.