Can you imagine being 14 years old and having the courage to make the life-threatening decision to cross the borders of two countries, with complete strangers, traveling part of the way on foot, at times in an over-crowded van?
When Maria was two months old her father disappeared. Her mother, left with a toddler and a two-month-old, often went without food in order to feed her children. Hunger was a constant companion to Maria. There must be a better life, she thought. So she decided to try to go to the United States, even though she knew she just might not make it alive. Both her mother and sister were afraid to make the journey. They tried to talk her out of it but she was determined. She had heard how difficult it was, but she thought: there is no life here. No future. I want to be a doctor. I want to help people, especially poor people. The night she left home, tears flowed from everyone – especially Maria. Her mother blessed her, embraced her and entrusted her to Our Blessed Mother. It’s been two years since Maria came here. Many groups and individuals are helping her realize her dream. They have taken Maria into their hearts and, for some, into their homes – the embrace of an “ever wider ‘we.’”
On Sept. 26, 2021 the Catholic Church will celebrate the 107th World Day for Migrants and Refugees, the climax of the United States’ celebration of National Migration Week. This year’s theme announced by Pope Francis – “Towards an ever wider ‘we’” - comes from “Fratelli Tutti,” one of his most recent encyclicals. The Pope tells us: “In this encyclical I expressed a concern and a hope that remain uppermost in my thoughts: Once this health crisis passes, our worst response would be to plunge even more deeply into feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation. God willing, after all this, we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those’, but only ‘us’ (No. 35). For this reason, I have wished to devote the Message for this year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees to the theme, Towards An Ever Wider ‘We’ in order to indicate a clear horizon for our common journey in this world. And this universal ‘us’ must become a reality first of all within the Church, which is called to cultivate communion in diversity.”
National Migration Week is an opportunity for us as Catholics to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants and refugees, to pray for them, but also to put our faith into action. Too often, we fail to see migrants and refugees as persons, and instead, look at them as unknown others, if we notice them at all. Migration is not only about statistics; it’s about real people like Maria, people trying to find a better life and a new beginning. It’s about people just like you and me, who, but for the grace of God, could very easily have been born into a similar situation. It’s about families torn apart; it’s about children left to fend for themselves; it’s about the vulnerable. “Each migrant has a name, a face and a story,” says Pope Francis.
Our Catholic Faith calls us to stand in solidarity with them, to see them truly as our brothers and sisters, to embrace them in an ever wider “we” – a “we,” as the Pope says, that embraces all of humanity. This is who the Catholic Church is. This is what we as Catholics do.
Regardless of where we came from or how we got here, we are all part of the human family and are called to live in solidarity with one another. Welcoming immigrants is part of Catholic Social Teaching and reflects the Biblical tradition to welcome the stranger.
Let us take some time during the upcoming National Migration Week (Sept. 20-26) to reflect on how we can better welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants living in our midst; how can we counter the globalization of indifference that affects us all; what we can do in our small part of the world to move towards a wider “we.” For more information connect to the Justice for Immigrants Campaign, an initiative of the USCCB: https://justiceforimmigrants.org/
Sister Mary Jude, SCMC