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What can the Church do for migrants?

Carlos Ferreira

February 2, 2012
There are a lot of reasons to leave the land where one was born. Today the economic crisis is probably the main reason, but there are many others: war, natural catastrophes, or just the search for a new lifestyle. How do Catholic communities deal with this new reality of ministering to migrants in places where the faith is lived in a different way from what they're used to.
For Catholics, migration implies two main challenges: the first challenge is that the newly arrived needs to understand and adapt to a new form of living the faith. The second challenge is that the new community needs to make the newcomer feel welcomed and at home.
Having been through this, I think living in a new community implies adapting to the new reality while trying to help revitalize your new community by sharing your way of living the faith.
For the entire community involved, the whole experience of migration can be a lesson in the mercy of God.  For the migrant, the new reality is so different from what they're used to that being able to feel like part of a community is more important than ever. Making someone in that position feel welcomed is a form of living out what Jesus meant when he said if you help one of my little brothers, it is me you help.
While the receiving communities help migrants adapt, they too receive a gift in the process. In coming migrants need to be aware of how they can help renew and revitalize the faith life of their new community. Integrating Catholic traditions of newly arrived immigrants is the most obvious example of this. The Our Lady of Guadalupe procession in Los Angeles along with many Guadalupe celebration across North America show how new immigrants can inject life into a community that perhaps hasn’t seen that type of joy in faith in a long time.
Because migrants enter the country in many different ways, there are some new questions to deal with: Is it right for a Catholic help a illegal immigrant? Is right give for a Catholic business man give work to a illegal immigrant? Those are some questions we’ll deal with on this week’s edition of Perspectives Weekly with our guest, Most Rev. John Wester Bishop of Salt Lake City and former Chair on Committee on Migration and Refugee Services of the USCCB.
Join us for this discussion, Friday on Perspectives Weekly at 7 and 11pm ET / 8pm PT. In the meantime, take part in the discussion on Facebook.
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Photo courtesy of CNS/J.D. Long-Garcia, Catholic Sun