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National Migration Week – September 18-24

Sponsored by the Immigration Team
Part of the SMOS Living Justice Ministries

National Migration Week is September 18-24, culminating in World Day of Migrants and Refugees next Sunday. This year’s theme is “Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay.” Pope Francis, in his statement on this year’s observance, reminds us that migration is frequently not a voluntary decision. Conflict, persecution, and economic hardship can leave people with little choice other than to uproot their families in search of safety and stability. Recognizing this, we must not only seek to help those who are driven from their homes, but also pray for, and work towards, an end to the conditions that bring about forced migration in the first place. The Holy Father reflects that “as we work to ensure that in every case migration is the fruit of a free decision, we are called to show maximum respect for the dignity of each migrant.”

The SMOS Living Justice Ministry’s Immigration Team has assembled a short document about the root causes of migration. Please check it out below. Also, there is a reflection by Kevin Kuehl, Coordinator for the 6-parish Immigrant & Refugee Ministry of which SMOS is a member.

Free to Choose Whether to Stay or Migrate

A Reflection by Kevin Kuehl

Every year the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sets aside a week to remind us of the migratory experience of so many people around the world. This week we celebrate National Migration Week with the theme “Free to Choose Whether to Migrate or Stay”– a striking divergence from past themes that have often focused on welcoming and forming bonds of unity and solidarity with newcomers. While these are indispensable elements of our faith response to migrants and refugees, this year’s theme challenges us to reflect more deeply on our complicity in the push factors that urge a person to leave behind their home. It makes us ask “Why?”. Why would a person depart from everything familiar? Why do so many risk their lives to cross deserts and open seas only to arrive in a land that is entirely unknown? Why migrate?     

In my role as Immigrant & Refugee Ministry Coordinator, I have been pondering these questions a lot. I have wondered how anyone faced with the environmental and human disaster caused by cobalt mining would feel free to stay in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And, then I think of all the little bits of cobalt I carry around in my various batteries and devices. I question how a faithful Catholic could freely stay in Nicaragua when the government has taken over Church assets and imprisoned and exiled priests and religious. And, then I wonder how the legacy of my nation’s intervention there may have undermined democracy and peace. How have my actions (or inaction) destabilized someone else’s home?  

No one wants to leave home, but many find themselves displaced and desperate. We know that Jesus himself experienced forced migration as the Holy Family fled from their homeland into Egypt to escape the jealous wrath of King Herod. Jesus was a refugee! Yes, we must welcome the stranger as Jesus himself, but we must also assure that Jesus is not forced from his home. 

As Pope Francis says, “Eliminating these causes and thus putting an end to forced migration calls for shared commitment on the part of all, in accordance with the responsibilities of each. This commitment begins with asking what we can do, but also what we need to stop doing. We need to make every effort to halt the arms race, economic colonialism, the plundering of other people’s resources and the devastation of our common home.” (Message for the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2023)

On behalf of the Immigrant & Refugee Ministry, I encourage you to ask yourself what you can do and to get involved. We will have several events this week, including an advocacy table after Mass. I invite you to attend the Migration Mass at St. Pius V at 10AM on Sunday October 1

Kevin Kuehl is the Immigrant & Refugee Ministry Coordinator for 6 parishes: St. Anthony of Padua, St. Cronan, St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Pius V, St. Stephen Protomartyr, and St. Vincent DePaul. 

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