Migration Week focuses on the stories of immigrant families

Bishop John Noonan celebrated with the faithful at the beginning of the USCCB’s National Migration week with a Mass on January 7th, the Feast of the Epiphany, at Holy Cross Parish in Orlando.

“With this Mass, we hope to create awareness and community among people,” said Lydia Britton, Director of Music at Holy Cross, who helped coordinate the Mass. “There is great diversity in our diocese, we need to find ways to bridge people to create one body in Christ. The migrant, the person next door to you or next to you in the store may be in great need. It is easy not to see them.”

The migration week theme this year, which ran from January 7-13, “Many Journeys, One Family” highlights the fact that every family has a migration story, some recent, others from generations past. This theme is also part of a global effort initiated by Pope Francis in September 2017, called ‘Share the Journey,’ to show love and support to our migrant and refugee neighbors, inviting members of the Church to engage migrants in a meaningful way, so that they are no longer seen as strangers.

Bishop John Noonan addressed the crowd before Mass asking for a show of hands as he called out different countries where people may have migrated from. “In the mystery of life, we recognize who we are,” said Bishop Noonan. “In our cultures, we celebrate who we are. This [Mass] reminds us that we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. Unfortunately, too often we politicize people who are not like us, from our neighborhood, or our country, and that is not right. We are all made in His image and likeness.”

During Mass, Deborah Cruz, Director of Comprehensive Refugee Services at Catholic Charities of Central Florida, spoke on behalf of the immigrant and refugee clients they serve, in particular, a family of 7 who recently arrived from Congo. “Many of our clients have lived in refugee camps for years.  They travelled hundreds of miles on foot to find safety, to find a place to live in peace. This family spent 17 years in a refugee camp. One of the women in the family was pregnant and gave birth shortly after arriving. She gave birth in a place of safety, where she could get water whenever she needs it, and can easily cook and have enough food,” described Cruz. “There are millions like them needing hope. We are honored to be able to help a tiny bit, to be the arms that extend and bring that hope.”

“When we arrived to this country, we didn’t believe we could do it,” said Romelia Petit, who came from Argentina with her family 18 years ago. A cancer survivor, Petit shared that she would not have overcome her illness if she had not travelled to the United States. Her niece Isabella and nephew Enzo were part of a group of children who brought up the gifts wearing special clothing from their countries of origin. “I am so proud to be a part of this country,” exclaimed Petit.

“The migration issue is not a problem to be solved, it is a call to each of us to embrace one another as one human family,” explained Deborah Shearer, Director of Advocacy and Justice at Catholic Charities. “We have a responsibly to work to make the system fair and just, so that others have the same chance that we do to have a better life; to make something happen.”

In his homily, Bishop Noonan shared “There is a deep concern that we are losing our Catholic identity, our relationship to one another. When we politicize others based on race, color, or where they are from. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must seek for justice. Sometimes laws are not just, they are complicated. But you must listen to your heart, be aware, and ask our officials to make it fair and just, so that we can truly make our country good.”

For ways to learn about and welcome refugees please visit the following websites: cflcc.org, justiceforimmigrants.org, sharejourney.org

By Jennifer Powers, Florida Catholic Correspondent – January 8, 2018