Click here for the Pope’s message for 97th World Day of Migrants and Refugees

By Sister Ruth Bolarte, I.H.M.

This week, Jan. 2-8, we commemorate National Migration Week. The observance of National Migration Week began over a quarter century ago by the bishops to provide Catholics with an opportunity to celebrate the wide spanersity in the Catholic Church and the contributions of immigrants and refugees. “Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice” is the primary theme for this week. Under the umbrella of Hope and Justice, the bishops call us to reflect on the stresses and strains that migration has on families. {{more}}

Recently, we have heard, prayed and reflected on the stories of the Holy Family. Jesus’ history is rooted in the experience of a displaced people. Mary and Joseph had to return to their ancestral home for a census imposed by a world ruler. Jesus was born as His parents were “on the road.” The Holy Family flees to Egypt because of the threat of violence of Herod. They find refuge in an alien land and people. Later on, they find out that they cannot return to their familiar home of Bethlehem since the threat of a despot ruler continued. Thus, they are forced to settle in the north, in Nazareth. Can we imagine the stresses and strains they had to go through as they moved from one place to another?

Jesus’ experience of being born within a family who was hunted down to be destroyed is also the journey of Israel and ours. The Christmas story aligns Jesus from the beginning with the poor and the vulnerable – those who live in the “uncertainty” of each day; those who have no place to call home. In the midst of our possessions and securities, sometimes, we forget that all of us are spiritual migrants or aliens – not at home.

Just before Christmas the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors Act) failed to obtain the 60 votes in the U.S. Senate. Archbishop José Gomez, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, described this vote as “setback, not a defeat.” He also articulated the need for more work to be done in the education of Catholics on the issue of immigration and its importance to the mission of the Church and the future of the country.

I suggest we mark our calendars for Sunday, April 10, the date on which Cardinal Rigali will celebrate the Mass for Migrants and Refugees at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul at 2:30 p.m.

Also, that we find ways to educate ourselves and others in order to stand up for the dignity of life of the members of our one family in God!

Sister Ruth Bolarte, I.H.M., is the director of the Catholic Institute for Evangelization in Philadelphia.