Welcoming Refugees

With the more than 60 million people considered refugees and migrants in the world, one of the major issues of the church has been to find ways of opening the hearts of people to welcoming the stranger among us. As the programmatic letter of the General Administration has stated, this welcoming of today’s poor is one of the priorities of the Congregation in the next six years. Because Canada is not faced with  refugees at our borders, pressing for entry, we have been able to develop a more peaceful process of welcoming refugees. We do not have to deal with the crisis that is affecting the European Union or, for that matter, the United States. For Canada the appeal is moral, and less political.

All the communities of the Region of Canada have listened to the appeal of the refugee crisis in the Middle East.  The Montréal community will be welcoming a Syrian family together with a committee of the parish unit of Visitation, Antoine Marie Claret, and Martyrs Canadiens. Through the work of Becoming Neighbours and the ministry and plans of St. Thomas More parish, the Toronto Community is constantly in touch with the migrant and refugee question. They too are developing plans to welcome refugees. The parish of Resurrection in Ottawa has just welcomed its third refugee family. Four years ago the parish welcomed an Iraqi family, and then two years ago they welcomed a Burmese (Myanmar) family and on January 10, this year they welcomed a Syrian family.

New PictureOn Friday February 26 some members of the Ottawa community met with Karen Mahoney who heads the Resurrection refugee committee to plan the sponsorship of another Syrian refugee family together with the Ottawa community. During the meeting with Mark Peters last November, the community had indicated a desire to participate in a sponsorship working together with the parish and the Sunday group of Dehon House. During the meeting a decision was made to sponsor a family (a mother with a son and a daughter and the daughter’s fiancé). Karen Mahoney had the details of the family and their request to be sponsored to come to Canada.The family is still in Syria, but desperately in need to leave. In order to become refugees they plan to go to Lebanon from where they will come to Canada as soon as the paper work has been completed.

Just recently, we received a notice from the General Administration that reflects their desire to have the members of the Congregation become involved in the refugee crisis. It is clear that their faces, as E. Levinas would say, make us responsible.

A letter of Carlos Enrique Caamaño SCJ, the Vicar General, reflecting on the refugee and migrant appeal on us.

Migrants and refugees: a never-ending appeal

We began Lent, and the Word of God does not stop reminding us that charity is at the center of God’s revelation. That the needy hunger and thirst for charity and solidarity.
Is not this the fast that I choose … Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Is 58. 6-7
It is like the Gospel says: “… I was a stranger and you welcomed me” Mt 25.35.
Pope Francis told us in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 2015: “A Church without borders, Mother of All”, who, confronted with the globalization of the phenomenon of migration, knows how to counter with a globalization of charity and cooperation and so  humanize the conditions of migrants.
This appeal is not the first one of the Pope, his is the voice of one who in the light of the Spirit has taken on one of the greatest problems facing humanity today.

Lent in the year of Mercy
In this year of mercy, to hear the Word of God clearly say: “bring the homeless poor into your house,” is a reminder of Sunday, September 6, 2015, when at  the Angelus prayer, the Pope, seeing the nearness of the Jubilee Year of Mercy,  called upon all religious communities to welcome a family of refugees, as a concrete response to this human tragedy that has affected thousands of people fleeing from death caused by war and hunger.

Mercy . On the evidence of God
The General Government, wanting to be faithful to the Gospel, has chosen to focus on the poor  generated by the process of migration and contemporary globalization:
“As children of Father Dehon we want to give real answers and real help to the needs and necessities that are the result of the current phenomenon of migration and globalization”.
This statement must lead to a concrete commitment of mercy:
“Make sure that every entity responds concretely to the challenges of migration”
Committee of migrants and refugees in our house in Rome
At the beginning of the academic year 2015 – 2016, our Generalate (Rome I) and the International College (Rome II) began a process of reflection and research to realize this difficult challenge. We know that hope always carries with it an element of struggle.
As a first step, we created a committee with members representing the total make-up of the community of Rome (General Curia, staff, students). In this committee there are representatives of all the continents where we are present today.

What are we doing?
We started with a search for information with a number of organizations and communities who are already engaged in this field (the Community of Sant’Egidio with its movement: People of Peace  and  Humanitarian Corridor; Caritas of the diocese of Rome, and a number of religious congregations such as the Scalabrini) . We would like to know what others are doing for refugees and immigrants so that we may learn what could help us in our reflection and in the discernment toward a decision on what we can do.
We would also like to remind the whole congregation the appeal of the program of the general administration which includes an invitation to all the entities to do something, “making sure that every entity makes a concrete response to the challenges of migration.

  1. Carlos Enrique Caamaño SCJ  Vicar General
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