Since 2009 “World Day of Migrants and Refugees” has been marked on the Feast of Epiphany. This year, however, the Bishops of Minnesota have moved this day to Sunday, September 27th to join with Catholics around the globe. The theme for this year 2020 as dedicated by Pope Francis is: “Forced Like Jesus Christ to Flee.” Pope Francis here, highlights the displacement even the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph experienced when forced to flee to Egypt from the violence and persecution of King Herod until he died and the threat was no more.
If we reflect on our own lives we can all trace back our own family histories and see how they too came to America seeking a better life for various reasons. In my own background of German and Austrian grandparents and great grandparents, they came as immigrants at the turn of the 19th century, looking for land to farm and a living to make as available land had become scarce in Europe and as the civil unrest and threat of WWI developed. Refugee families and immigrants today are seeking the same opportunities as our ancestors did!
This said, it’s important that as Christians and as Catholics we both recognize immigrants and refugee legitimate cause and need and opportunity they seek. We need to support a safe, fair, and legal immigration and refugee policy and system that invites others into this great nation of ours. These people can and do provide goods and skills and services that can benefit us and our overall economy and as well as boost their standard of living. They are real people with stories and personalities that can enrich our Catholic spiritual lives as well.
This year, Pope Francis is placing greater emphasis on the need for Pastoral Care for these displaced people. In his letter he writes: “Displaced people offer us this opportunity to meet the Lord, ‘even though our eyes find it hard to recognize him, his clothing in tatters, his feet dirty, his face disfigured, his body wounded, his tongue unable to speak our language.” In his letter Pope Francis suggests six practical actions we all can take to better serve those who are displaced: 1) You have to know in order to understand. 2) It is necessary to be close in order to serve. 3) In order to be reconciled, we need to listen. 4) In order to grow, it is necessary to share. 5) We need to be involved in order to promote. 6) It is necessary to cooperate in order to build. These six actions, I believe can really help us grow together in Christ.
Around the world we know people are forced to flee their homes due to violence, hunger, poverty and disease. There is always something we can do to help. We can pray. We can become more informed. We can support fair and just political policies that foster immigration. We can get to know those who are our neighbors and have recently come into the United States from another country and who seek to earn an honest living!
For more information you might want to check out:
Immigration Sunday Minnesota - Minnesota Catholic Conference or see information on the website: https://migrants-refugees.va then click on "World Day" and "2020" (source cited in Central MN Catholic magazine, Sept. 2020, page 24), for World Day of Migrants and Refugees. May we, as a People of God, truly have open minds and hearts for those in need. Peace and God bless.
-- Fr. LeRoy Scheierl