This week Catholics across the country will pay special attention to immigrants and refugees. From special Masses and prayer services, to the sharing of migration stories, food, cultural and religious traditions’ festivals, Catholics and other Americans have been encouraged by the U.S. Catholic bishops to reflect on the issues surrounding migration, refugees and trafficking of human persons.
The bishops of Illinois opened National Migration Week on Sunday, January 8, with a statement that announces several months of sharing and reflection in parishes across the state on the realities of migration, following in the footsteps of the Michigan bishops, who issued a statement in the summer, and the Latino bishops in the country who addressed undocumented immigrants in a pastoral letter December 12.
Observation of National Migration Week takes many different shapes around the country. For example, the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, will celebrate its Sixth Annual Migration Mass on January 15. In the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, NMW is intermingled with other January events of its multicultural ministries, such as events of Our Lady of Lavang’s Vietnamese Catholic Community to celebrate its Tết (New Year) at St. Veronica’s and Holy Martyrs’ Parishes.
At the national level, over 200 Catholic diocesan staff, legal service providers, immigrant advocates and others will gather January 11-13, in Salt Lake City, for a conference. “Immigration: A 50-State Issue, A Focus on State and Local Immigration Initiatives” will examine enforcement-only state approaches, such as those attempted in Arizona and Alabama. Participants will discuss actions that communities can take on the local level. The conference further will evaluate federal-state enforcement partnerships, such as the Secure Communities program, and their impact on local immigrant communities. Attendees will hear about and discuss consequences of federal inaction on immigration reform. Organizers—USCCB Migration and Refugee Services and the Catholic Legal Migration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)— say the purpose of the conference is to provide participants with the support and tools they need to engage decision makers about humane, comprehensive solutions both nationally and locally.
Materials for NMW can be found on the USCCB website. Those interested are also encouraged to visit the Justice for Immigrants website, where a wide range of educational resources on immigration and Catholic Social Teaching can be found.
The observance of National Migration Week was begun over a quarter century ago by the U.S. bishops to provide Catholics an opportunity to take stock of the wide diversity of peoples in the Church and the ministries serving them.
In the coming days reflections and contributions by bishops and others on the topic of migration will be published on this site.