In a new pastoral reflection, the U.S. bishops are once again calling on Catholics "to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States."
The document, "Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times," was released March 22 by the bishops' Administrative Committee. The document, they said, was done "in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands."
"Let us not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life," the bishops wrote. "They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future. As shepherds of a pilgrim Church, we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: 'We are with you.'"
If we truly stand with immigrants and refugees, then we must do something to accompany them. The bishops suggested prayer, as well as contacting elected representatives to "fix our broken immigration system." Most importantly, the bishops urged Catholics to meet people in our own communities who have migrated here. " ... Listen to their story and share your own," they wrote.
When we build relationships with others, we break down fear-based barriers and we develop a better understanding of others on a personal level. If we truly care about immigrants and refugees, we must do something to get involved. We suggest supporting various Catholic Charities agencies who assist immigrants and refugees, or maybe sponsor a speaker or event at your parish. Doing something as simple as enjoying a meal at one of the many immigrant-owned restaurants on South Grand sends a clear message of support.
Scripture shows us that we are to love them as ourselves. In the Book of Leviticus, "When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt."
Included with this editorial are several suggestions for making a stand in solidarity with migrants. Prayerfully consider how you should get involved.
• Get involved at St. Francis Community Services Southside Center, a Catholic Charities agency, by donating, volunteering or serving as an advocate. Serving mainly Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking people across the region, its services include mental health counseling, youth programs, a Vietnamese health clinic and case management. Visit www.sfcsstl.org.
• Support Catholic Legal Assistance Ministry (CLAM), which provides free legal representation in civil matters, including immigration law, to impoverished people who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Visit www.sfcsstl.org.
• Support the Immigrant and Refugee Ministry at St. Pius V Parish in south St. Louis. Call (314) 772-1525, ext. 204.
• Invite a speaker to your church, school or other group to talk about life as an immigrant or refugee or host a cultural-exchange event.
• Call your U.S. senators and representatives and ask them to co-sponsor the BRIDGE Act (S 128/ HR 496). The "Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream of Growing Our Economy" Act would allow young people brought to the U.S. by their parents who are eligible for or who have received work authorization and temporary relief from deportation through DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to continue living in the U.S. with permission from the federal government.
• Contact your U.S. senators and representatives and ask them to support comprehensive immigration reform and policies that are welcoming to immigrants and refugees. Visit www.stlouisreview.com/bVa.
• Contact your senators and U.S. representatives and tell them your concerns about human trafficking: www.alturl.com/3rqo9. Learn more at www.stlouisreview.com/bVC.
• The St. Louis Mosaic Project supports regional prosperity through immigration and innovation. Becoming a Mosaic ambassador is one way to help. Visit www.stlmosaicproject.org.
• Support a Catholic school serving an immigrant population. Contact any of the schools or the Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation atwww.ttef-stl.org.
• Support an immigrant-owned business. For a list of immigrant-owned businesses, contact [email protected]. Choose one of the ethnic restaurants in South Grand (www.southgrand.org) or elsewhere.