January 6, 2019

Building Communities of Welcome

National Migration Week 2019

January 6-13, 2019

 

For nearly a half century, the Catholic Church in the United States has celebrated National Migration Week, which is an opportunity for the Church to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking. The theme for National Migration Week 2019—Building Communities of Welcome—emphasizes our responsibilities as Catholics to engage and welcome newcomers on their arrival and help to ease their transition into a new life here in the United States. Welcoming communities do not emerge by chance but are established through the hard work and conviction  of people on the ground through direct service, shared experience and faith, advocacy, and institution building.

 

During this National Migration Week, let us take the opportunity to engage migrants as community members, neighbors, and friends. We can find opportunities to engage migrant communities in our local community through our local Catholic Charities and other community organizations. Opportunities to encounter and accompany can include: becoming foster parents to migrant children who have been separated from family members, participating in a local Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees (POWR) program, launching a new initiative that will support migrants and their effort to become Americans, engaging in advocacy with local, state, and federal leaders to ensure that resources are in place to support refugees and immigrants during their transition and beyond.

 

Immigration Reform:

USCCB Position: The Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Church support humane immigration reform. We must reform our broken system that separates families and denies due process.

FACTS:

--During the last decade, more than 7.4 million immigrants have been welcomed into the United States as naturalized citizens.

--Undocumented immigrants also pay a wide range of taxes, including sales taxes where applicable and property taxes—directly if they own and indirectly if they rent. Estimates are that undocumented migrants pay $11.74 billion every year in state and local taxes., and the1.3 million young undocumented immigrants eligible for DACA alone contribute an estimated $1.7 billion per year.

--In many cases, it can take over a decade for legal permanent residents to reunify with immediate family members from Mexico, the Philippines, and other countries (See Congressional Research Service).

 

Refugee Protection:

USCCB Position: USCCB supports protection, humanitarian support, and durable solutions for refugees and other forcibly displaced people. USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services in collaboration with local Catholic Charities across the United States form the largest private, U.S. refugee resettlement network, and has helped welcome and resettle over one million refugees since 1975.

FACTS:

--Only the most vulnerable refugees are considered for third country resettlement beyond those neighboring host countries. Refugee resettlement is a rarely used protection tool: on an annual basis, less than 1% of refugees worldwide actually receive resettlement.

--The United States has historically led the world in terms of refugee resettlement. Since 1975, we have accepted more than 3.3 million refugees for permanent resettlement.

--However, in 2018, the President set the lowest refugee admissions goal since the resettlement program began in 1980, admitting only about 20,000 refugees. For comparison, the average number of refugees admitted to the U.S. from 2010-2017 was approximately 67,000/year.

--According to the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees, in June 2018, 68.5 million persons were forcibly displaced worldwide.

 

Unaccompanied Children and Families from Central America:

USCCB Position: The United States should provide child and refugee protection, and safe, human durable solutions for unaccompanied children arriving at our borders without their parent or legal guardian. In recent years, many of these children have been from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Most are fleeing grave, life-threatening violence and gang recruitment and are seeking to reunify with family in the United States.

FACTS:

The number of asylum seekers worldwide originating from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador (often called the Northern Triangle) reached 110,000 in 2015, a five-fold increase from 2012.

--Unaccompanied minors accounted for much of this increase, with 41,435 children apprehended in FY2017, down from a high of nearly 70,000 in FY2014.

--As violence and gang issues continue to affect the Northern Triangle, more children are targeted and look to flee. We must look to address root causes in home countries.

 

Immigrant Detention:

USCCB Position: The United States needs to build an immigration system that affords due process protections, honors human dignity, and minimizes the use of immigrant detention—particularly for vulnerable populations such as families, children and torture survivors. Immigrant detention is a growing industry in this country, with Congress allocating over $2 billion a year to maintain and expand the existing system. While immigration detention is necessary in certain instances to ensure community safety and enforcement of our immigration laws, there are many vulnerable individuals who should not be detained. For vulnerable populations as mentioned above, there are alternatives to detention that are more humane, more cost-effective, and more consistent with American values.

FACTS:

--Immigrant detention in the United States has reached record levels. In Fiscal Year 2001, the now defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) detained 204,459 people. In FY2017, 323,591 people were detained in an ICE facility (Department of Homeland Security).

--Currently, for-profit contractors operate 73% of the entire immigrant detention system, including nine of the ten largest detention centers.

--Community-based alternatives to detention programs cost taxpayers on average $4.50 per person per day, as compared to $133.99 per person per day for detention.

 

Human Trafficking:

USCCB Position: The United States must not only hold human traffickers accountable for their crimes but also work to prevent trafficking and provide protection and healing to human trafficking survivors. Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjecting that person to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. The Catholic Church has long condemned this practice as an affront to human dignity.

FACTS:

--Estimates vary, but as many as 17, 500 persons are trafficked into the United States annually.

--Although sex trafficking remains a serious problem, the two largest trafficking cases in the United States involved labor trafficking, in Guam and in New York (Long Island).

--The number of victims identified has grown from 151 in 2003 to 1,424 in 2016—a843% increase.

 

We will be celebrating National Migration Week at St. Peter’s by incorporating migration themes into our homilies this weekend and throughout the coming week. I would also call your attention to a special Mass presided by Cardinal Blasé J. Cupich on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2019, at Holy Name Cathedral at 5:15 P.M.

 

THE SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

 

Epiphany is one of the oldest feasts of the Christian calendar, and as its name suggests, it is a celebration of the manifestation of Christ to the world. The Greek word epiphaneia means “manifestation,” especially as it relates to the manifestation of a deity.

 

Today’s First Reading is about the reestablishment of Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. The prophet issues a double imperative. He tells them to arise and then to allow their light to shine, because God’s glory has dawned on them and radiates forth in the city to such an extent that they become the light to the nations. The Hebrew word kabowd, translated here as “glory,” is also used to describe God’s presence in the Holy of Holies. During the exile, God’s glory left the Temple, but now it will return in full radiance! Compare this song to the Gospel that tells the story of the Magi who come from the East, perhaps Persia or Arabia, to seek out the newborn King of the Jews. According to scholars of the esoteric sciences (for example, dream interpretation and astrology), these men also represent the Gentile nations who come to see this great king. However, this manifestation is also fraught with danger as we see in Herod’s treacherous activity.

 

The Magi’s gifts of gold and frankincense are also mentioned in today’s First Reading, but myrrh is a strange gift to give a mother and baby, since it was used as a painkiller and for burial. Is it an omen for the future?

 

In the Second Reading, we are told that God planned from the beginning that the nations would be coheirs of the one body in Christ. Thus, we celebrate the manifestation of Christ to the world.

 

The Magi followed the light of the star as they looked for Jesus. As members of the Church, we look toward the light of Christ. Lumen gentium points out that God has gathered the faithful as the Church to be a visible sacrament to all. The document from the Second Vatican Council states: “All those, who in faith look towards Jesus, the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace, God has gathered together and established as the church, that it may be for each and everyone the visible sacrament of this saving unity. In order to extend to all regions of the earth, it enters into human history though it transcends at once all times and all boundaries between peoples” (#9).

 

Paul informs the Ephesians that they are to act as Jesus did when he tells them that they are “of the same body and copartners in the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Pope Francis draws on this as he speaks of the communities that Paul formed. In The Joy of the Gospel, the Holy Father states: “To his communities, Paul presents the Christian life as a journey of growth in love; ‘May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all’ (1 Thessalonians 3:12)” (#161).

 

For Your Reflection: How do you allow the Lord to light the way for you? What does it mean to you to be “a copartner in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel, as Paul tells the Ephesians in the Second Reading? This coming year, how can you manifest Christ better to the world?

 

WITH GRATITUDE

 

We friars want to thank everyone who graced us with gifts and good wishes over the Christmas holidays. So many people were generous in what they gave us and in what they said about us and our ministry at St. Peter’s. As this New Year begins to unfold, we pray that you will be given good health, many friends, God’s blessings, and the grace to continue to grow in your love of God and neighbor.

 

We also received the following note from the Franciscan Friars in Brazil which I want to communicate to you:

 

Dear Friends of St. Peter’s Parish:

 

On November 13, Bro. Romulo and I had the opportunity to spend the day at St. Peter’s and to share with you our experiences and life in the Amazon region of Brazil. We would like to thank Fr. Kurt, the friars, and all of you parishioners for your support of our missionary work through your prayers and very generous donations. This generous support gives us the opportunity to continue the Franciscan presence in the Amazon and also our mission of evangelization to the people we serve. Thank you so much, and we hope to be able to visit St. Peter’s once again next year.

 

If you would like to learn more about our Franciscan presence in the Amazon, you can follow us on our website where donations can also be made: www.friarsamazonia.org.

 

Fr. Greg and Bro. Romulo

 

A CHUCKLE FOR THE NEW YEAR

 

Because our new refrigerator was taller than our old one, I told my wife I’d have to cut away part of an overhanging cabinet to make it fit.

 

Not wanting to mess it up, I called a local radio home-fix-it program for advice. I was in the middle of getting the instructions when my wife burst into the room.

 

“You won’t believe this,” she said, “but there’s a guy on the radio with the same problem!”