One of the foremost opportunities that we have as a parish family is to welcome people to our church and, as a result, to The Church universal. Our participation in numerous programs throughout the year that reach out to the poor, the homeless and disadvantaged may be seen by some as simply a “handout” to those who are judged to be “unworthy” of our largess. But what we do (helping the Church in the Virgin Islands reach out to its troubled populace, building up the Father Tom Moran School in Guatemala, helping our Bishop to help the marginalized in our own diocese) goes far beyond the scope of our worldview and fulfills Jesus’ command with regard to the “least of our brothers.” When faced with the question “And who is my brother?” Jesus responded with a timely parable of the Good Samaritan. But who are the Samaritans of today?
For immigrants and refugees now in the United States, or who hope to come here in the near future, recent weeks have been a steady diet of anxiety and confusion. The legal struggle over travel bans on different immigrants from various nations has disrupted the plans of thousands who seek to come here for all sorts of reasons, including escape from persecution and reunion with family members already here.
Stepped up detention and deportation efforts against undocumented persons have the potential of tearing families apart and traumatizing children caught in the middle. Parents have resorted to diversionary measures, taking different routes to work or school each day, avoiding any stores where police are often present, even changing their appearance or swapping cars to avoid being easily noticed.
We’ve seen both mass demonstrations of support for those adversely affected, and strengthened resolve by those who want tighter immigration restrictions. Good people—a lot of them—exist on both sides, and we need to resist the temptation to demonize the motives of those with whom we disagree. The ensuing polarization among our populace has uncovered deep divisions among Catholics who find themselves at odds with family, friends and fellow parishioners.
Immigration policy is complex. It involves many competing values, among them the duty of government to ensure the security of U.S. citizens and legal residents. That responsibility must be balanced with our country’s long history of welcoming newcomers, especially those fleeing persecution. The U.S. bishops have repeatedly called for deep immigration reform aimed at meeting both goals. We need to pray that our leaders exercise the good judgment needed to come to a reasonable solution to the current impasse, and soon.
We do and always will welcome all Catholics to worship and fellowship with us, regardless of their legal status. They’re our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ – our family, first and foremost, and the fact of their being undocumented diminishes neither their dignity nor personhood.
As a Church that herself bore the scorn and the cross of hatred toward immigrants, our Catholic past is a compelling reason to welcome the immigrants and refugees among us today. These persons and families need our help. They are not strangers, but friends; and how we treat them will prove or disprove whether we take our Christian discipleship seriously.
As we embark on our annual DSA Appeal for the year 2018, let’s ask Jesus to help us have the vision that he had by placing our priorities in proper order and giving primacy to our relationship with God the Father and all His children.