Our diocese is blessed with the opportunity to have welcomed so many refugees and migrants from various parts of the world. Our children have the opportunity of learning from the various immigrants and refugees who speak over 84 languages. What an awesome opportunity to learn these various languages as we teach English as a second language.
Our children can learn through their interactions with these immigrants and refugees who have moved into our communities, schools and churches. This exchange of language and culture is so beautiful and we can see the beauty in the diversity of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
What are some of the things we can do as parents and ministers to help teach our children how to be welcoming when they are hearing something different in the media? It is our responsibility as Catholics to engage and welcome the newcomers upon their arrival and as they begin their new life here in Buffalo. It's an opportunity to help ease their transition into a new life.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops through the office of Justice for Immigrants has been celebrating National Migration Week for over half a century. This year it runs Jan. 6-12. This is an opportunity for the Church to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking. The theme for National Migration Week 2019 is "Building Communities of Welcome." Welcoming communities do not emerge by chance but are established through the hard work and conviction of people on the ground through direct service, shared experience and faith, advocacy and institution building.
During this week, let us respond with some action steps toward engaging with migrants and/or refugees as community members, neighbors and friends. We can find opportunities to engage migrants in our local community through our local Catholic Charities and its office of Immigration and Refugee Sevices. We can also visit the parishes that have growing numbers of these refugees and immigrants such as Our Lady of Hope, Holy Cross, Holy Angels and SS. Columba-Brigid.
Opportunities to encounter and accompany can include becoming foster parents to migrant children who have been separated from family members. A parish can put together a Contact Building Event where we gather equal number of refugees and equal number of longer term residents to spend time learning about each other. These can end up in building longterm friendships. Information on such an event can be found at www.welcoming refugees.org.
If you go to the website justice for immigrants you will find the toolkit that gives ideas and can help you with this weeklong celebration. Take the opportunity to educate community members about the Catholic Church's teaching on migration and her loving solidarity with migrants. Learn, too, about Pope Francis' ongoing efforts to support national churches' solidarity efforts being joined with those of the universal church.
Mark your calendar
Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration will take place on January 20, at 10 a.m. at Blessed Trinity Parish with Bishop Richard Malone. Guest homilist Rev. Clarence Williams, CPPS, Ph.D., is the author of six books on racism. A reception will follow with theme baskets auction, proceeds going to the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund.
National Day of Prayer for the African-American and African Family: You are invited to celebrate Feb. 3, the First Sunday of Black History Month. It is the 30th Anniversary of this Day of Prayer. The theme is "... And it's Still Blessed Assurance." You can find information on how to celebrate this day at solidgroundministry.com.