ORLANDO | National Migration Week was celebrated during the week of January 6 and scheduling conflicts pushed the closing Mass to Sunday, January 20. But, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, falling the night before Martin Luther King Jr. Day and with readings about the vindication of Zion, the diversity of the Church though she is “one spirit”, and the Gospel for the Wedding at Cana.
Bishop Emeritus Bernard Harrington of Winona, Minn. was the celebrant at Holy Cross Parish and his homily surrounded this year’s Migration Week theme “Building Communities of Welcome”. “If we are truly to be evangelizers,” Harrington said, “we must have a spirit of hospitality. In Scripture, God concerned himself with three things. He concerned himself with widows, orphans, and the strangers in our midst.”
Noting that immigration is the merging of communities, Bishop Emeritus Harrington invited all in attendance to become communities of hospitality that reach out to those who are marginalized. “That’s a part of who we are as a Catholic community,” he explained.
After the homily, Deborah Vega shared information about the work of the Comprehensive Refugee Services offered within Catholic Charities of Central Florida. The program assists immigrants whot are trying to adjust to their new community. Through a partnership with St. John Vianney School, Refugee Services provides evening English classes to those needing to learn the language. Services also include case management, employment, adult and vocational education, legal status assistance, and child care services.
“I’m encouraging you to encounter a person who comes from somewhere you’ve never been before,” Vega said. “And, really have the courage to release all of your inhibitions and just get to know that individual and know them for who they are, another child of God.”
Vega recalled the moment when she knew that she wanted to help refugees. Through eyes welling with tears, she remembered her first meeting with refugees from Bosnia and other countries back in 1998. She told those gathered that she loves what she does and lives it every day. “We don’t do them [these services] because it’s an agency that provides services,” Vega said. “We do them because a lot of us feel this is a vocation.”
To learn more about the Comprehensive Refugee Services or to get involved, call 407-277-1938 or visit them online at www.cflcc.org.
By Rachel Bulman, Florida Catholic correspondent – January 21, 2019