Our diocese has been blessed with a large number of refugees from over 30 countries.
Buffalo has become the home to people from Angola, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameron, Republic of Congo, Croatia, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Hmong, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Liberia, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Rwanda, Serbia, Somali, Sudan, Togo, Ukraine and Vietnam. The Buffalo school system has over 4,000 students who are taking English as a second language, who together speak over 63 languages.
The Lord has blessed Buffalo with the beauty of the world. How are we as Church living up to the challenge of welcoming the world that is here in Buffalo?
In Pope Francis' message this year on migrants and refugees, he states, "The Church opens her arms to welcome all people, without distinction or limits, in order to proclaim that 'God is love' (1 Jn. 4:8, 16). After his death and resurrection, Jesus entrusted to the disciples the mission of being His witnesses and proclaiming the Gospel of joy and mercy. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples left the Upper Room with courage and enthusiasm; the strength of the Holy Spirit overcame their doubts and uncertainties and enabled all to understand the disciples' preaching in their own language."
We as members of the Catholic Church are called to walk with our brother and sister refugees and migrants. They are now our neighbors who have been forced out of their homes, many because of political turmoil, religious prejudice, economic reasons, or lack of food and basic needs for their family. Many of our parents and grandparents came here for those same reasons. They wanted a better life for their family and for their children. What can we do to help our neighbors who have had to start all over again; a new life in a place strange to them, in a new language?
There is one thing that helps them feel almost like a "home away from home." For those refugees who are Catholic, that is celebrating their faith. We are called to welcome them home. How are we welcoming them? Are we allowing them to celebrate with their song and language? Are we giving them a place where they can express themselves in a way that is comfortable? Are we allowing them to celebrate some of their special saints that they celebrated back home. Look around your neighborhood; has it changed? If so, what are you doing to welcome them into the parish family? Pentecost Sunday could be a day to celebrate our universal Church. Invite the migrants and refugees in your neighborhood to help you celebrate this day.
Pope Francis continues in his message, "From the beginning, the Church has been a mother with a heart open to the whole world, and has been without borders. This mission has continued for 2,000 years." Let us continue this mission in the Church of the Diocese of Buffalo that has been blessed with the world within its own borders. Thank you, Lord, for this great gift of diversity.