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Prayers for migrants, refugees: ‘Each one has a face, a name and a story’

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The theme of this year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees is “Toward an ever-wider we,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said as he celebrated a Mass for migrants and refugees Sept. 23 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, in advance of the Vatican’s celebration Sept. 26. 

He quoted Pope Francis in noting that the theme was chosen “to renew the human family, to build together a future of justice and peace, and to ensure that no one is left behind.” 

“This week, the church in the United States has been devoted to reflecting on how we can better welcome, protect and integrate migrants and refugees, realizing that each one of them has a face, a name and a story,” Bishop Burbidge added. 

In a statement on National Migration Week (Sept. 20-26), Bishop Burbidge noted “the difficult and often heartbreaking circumstances confronting so many migrants, including refugees, immigrants, and victims and survivors of human trafficking.” 

Diocesan Catholic Charities has been in the news lately because of its work resettling about 400 Afghan refugees, most of whom have Special Immigrant Visa status because they were translators or did other work for the U.S. government. 

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge shared an anecdote about a news correspondent who asked Stephen Carattini, president and CEO of diocesan Catholic Charities, why its Newcomer Services office displays a crucifix and a picture of Pope Francis and the Bishop, when many of the people being resettled are not Catholic. 

Bishop Burbidge said Carattini gave “the perfect answer” when he responded that “our ministry is about our faith, not theirs.” 

He said Carattini told the reporter that the crucifix “reminds us that one day we will all answer to how we imitated Jesus, the one who suffered and died for all of us, who embraced all people without exception, and who reminds us today to be the Good Samaritan, who shows mercy and compassion to those in need of being uplifted and served.” 

Carattini continued, saying that the image of Pope Francis recalls the pope’s words that “our church has no borders and that we must not fail to respond to the plight of migrants and refugees.”

Carattini concluded that the picture of the bishop “reminds us that our response must be carried out here and now, in the Diocese of Arlington.”

Bishop Burbidge noted that since the Arlington diocese was established in 1974, it has been welcoming newcomers “who have been forced to flee their homes out of fear of persecution and for reasons of race, religion and nationality. As the charitable arm of the diocese, Catholic Charities each day serves immigrants, migrants and refugees from all over the world, and we continue to do so, especially in these very difficult times,” he said. 

Catholic Charities expects to resettle at least another 800 Afghan refugees within the next 12 months. Bishop Burbidge said this “is only possible through the amazing grace of God, the extraordinary dedication of the staff and volunteers, and through the prayers, generosity and support of the faithful throughout our diocese, who continue to respond to the call.”

He noted that some members of the Catholic Charities staff were present at the Mass, and thanked them for their “selfless and tireless service. May God continue to bless your ministry and watch over and protect you and all those you serve.” 

He closed with the words of the Prayer for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees: “Lord:  Bless each act of welcome and outreach that draws those in exile into the we of community and of the church, so that our earth may truly become what you yourself created it to be: the common home of all our brothers and sisters. Amen.” 

Other events for National Migration Week in the diocese include seminars on immigration and how parishes can help immigrants and refugees, a job fair for immigrants, and a distribution of winter coats for clients of Newcomer Services. 

Find out more

To learn more about National Migration Week, go to ccda.net/nationalmigrationweek.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021