All called to welcome newcomers
Post-9/11 world increases National Migration Week's importance to us
By Crystal Delwiche
Our lives have forever changed since Sept. 11, 2001, but our ministry of helping those who need the same safety and refuge we seek still calls us as Catholics. More than ever, the message of the United States Catholic bishops' pastoral letter, Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity needs to be heard and implemented.
As we celebrate National Migration Week, Jan. 6-12, Bp. Nicholas DiMarzio, chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration, says: "Each of us are called to welcome newcomers, whether it be migrants, refugees, or immigrants, into this country. We welcome them for a simple and important reason. All of these people, from so many different lands, with many different languages, cultures, traditions and religions, are our sisters and brothers. We are all called to share in the same banquet of God's love. It is in this spirit that we have chosen Called to One Table as our theme for National Migration Week 2002, and proclaim Jan. 6 as the 'National Day of Prayer for Immigrants and Refugees'."
In 1980, the U.S. bishops set aside the first week in January as National Migration Week (NMW). It is an opportunity to offer positive reflections on immigrants, migrants and refugees, their contributions to the U.S. culture and church, and to highlight church teachings on welcoming the stranger.
Catholic Charities' Resettlement & Immigration Services offers these ideas to help celebrate National Migration Week and to implement throughout the year:
"Arts and Letters" Contest -- Share what Unity in Diversity means to you. Create a work of art or write an essay, story, poem or song that shares your understanding of the theme Unity in Diversity. All entries must be postmarked no later than March 29, 2002. Prizes awarded.
The National Migration Week Model Projects Grants -- Provides an incentive to dioceses, parishes, schools and other Catholic organizations to develop projects that can serve as models for others seeking to create welcoming communities for refugees, immigrants, migrants, and other people on the move. Since its inception in 1997, the program has provided almost $40,000 in small grants, ranging from $200 to $2,000. The grants provide seed money to Catholic groups with innovative ideas for grassroots service, education, advocacy and communication projects designed to welcome newcomers and raise awareness of their plight. Successful applicants must provide a brief report on their achievements by Nov. 15, 2002. Applications must be submitted by Feb. 1.
Celebrate National Day of Prayer -- Hold a special prayer service honoring refugee and immigrant families in the community.
Form a Parish Advocacy Committee -- Host educational programs on pending immigration legislation, and offer a workshop on how to write a letter to your representative.
Picnic -- Encourage your parish youth group or young adults to host newly resettled refugee children at a picnic or a trip to a local attraction.
"Trick or Treat for UNICEF" -- Encourage children in your community to participate in this campaign and to wear ethnic costumes from around the world for their Halloween costumes.
Lent -- Sponsor a Lenten discussion group on the four calls of Unity in Diversity.
Charitable Drive -- Organize a charitable drive to benefit refugees or immigrants.
Job Fair -- Celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker on May 1 by hosting a "job fair" for newcomers.
Observe U.N. World Refugee Day -- Sponsor a parish forum on June 20. Invite local refugees to speak to the parish about their experiences.
Collect backpacks, lunch boxes or other supplies -- Take them to your diocesan resettlement office to distribute to recently resettled children.
Establish tutoring program -- Establish a parish tutoring program for immigrants or refugees.
Welcome Baskets -- In June, celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi -- the Body of Christ -- by preparing "Welcome Baskets" to greet new members of your community.
Volunteer -- Contact the local diocesan office for ways to help their refugee resettlement program.
(For more information or other ideas, contact Crystal Delwiche, volunteer coordinator for Catholic Charities Resettlement & Immigration Services, at (920)437-7531 or 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8202 or e-mail [email protected].)
For information about services provided by Catholic Charities, write c/o Catholic Charities, P.O. Box 23825, Green Bay, WI 54305-3825. Catholic Charities receives funding from the annual Bishop's Appeal.