OFFICE FOR SOCIAL MINISTRY
“Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.” (Pope Francis, Message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018)
2018 marks a new year with new beginnings, building on the blessings of the past. And for Pope Francis, it is a time to sharpen the focus on the encounter with Jesus Christ we experience each time we share the journey with some of the most vulnerable in our world — the 250 million migrants and refugees in search of peace.
On Jan. 14, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the Holy Father will celebrate a special Mass with migrants and refugees from all over the world. His official message for that day was released last August. It echoes and expands upon his Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve messages by asking the faithful to seek an “opportunity for an encounter with Christ” by walking with those forced to flee their homes because of war, violence, persecution, natural disasters and extreme poverty.
The pope repeats a message he has been emphasizing since the beginning of his papacy: “The Lord entrusts to the church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future … This is a great responsibility, which the church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.”
Here in Hawaii, migrant and refugee families can be found in our pews as well as throughout our communities. We have many opportunities to share the journey with our brothers and sisters in need. For example, every first Sunday of the month, hundreds of Micronesian migrants (who are also “refugees of climate change” according to Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato Si’”) gather at St. John the Baptist Parish in Kalihi to celebrate their faith.
Each Sunday at the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa in Honolulu, hundreds of refugee Vietnamese families gather to celebrate their journey. Hundreds of Hispanic or Latino migrants from Mexico and Central America do the same on Maui at the parishes of St. Theresa in Kihei, Christ the King in Kahului, and Maria Lanakila in Lahaina, as well as on the Big Island at St. Michael in Kona. A first step in sharing the journey and experiencing the “encounter” is connecting in person.
These papal messages are illustrated by a vivid video full of moving images of migrants and refugees and examples of how to share their journey through welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating them in our communities, and in so doing, encountering Christ today. We encourage all to view this video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSe56EqRCEI&feature=youtube.
Terry Walsh, the new chief executive officer of Catholic Charities Hawaii, will speak at the Red Mass Jan. 16 about how we can share their journey. The Office for Social Ministry is also using Catholic Relief Services Lenten Rice Bowl funds raised here in Hawaii to assist migrants through a new legal aid services office and a citizenship fair/workshop on Oahu in March. This year, the CRS Rice Bowl program will feature “stories of hope” from migrant and refugee families from Iraq, Nicaragua, Burkina Faso, Haiti and Malawi (www.crsricebowl.org/stories-of-hope/).
We encourage all to go to the Vatican’s website for Migrants and Refugees www.migrants-refugees.va and to our OSM website www.officeforsocialministry.org/category/press_releases/ for more information on how to “respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight.”
As we embark on a new year, we pray that 2018 brings peace and blessings to all as we deepen our global solidarity in the special “encounter with Jesus Christ.”
Your friends at the Office for Social Ministry