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Bulletin Article – May 12, 2024

Throughout the year, we present an article in the bulletin each week on a variety of topics, written by a member of our Parish staff on a rotating basis.

ACA Reflection From The Immigrant and Refugee Ministry

by Kevin Kuehl, IRM Coordinator

A Church Whose Doors Are Open

On a gray February day, the clanging doorbell shook me from my post-lunch lull. Opening the door, I found a solitary man with tired eyes and light clothing for the blustery weather. “No English,” he said. I invited him in and learned that his name was Francis, he spoke Kiswahili, and his electricity was disconnected, leaving him, his wife, and their children in the dark and cold. We learned that Francis had come to St. Louis as a refugee, displaced from his home in Congo, where civil unrest and environmental disaster have upended millions. After four months here, Francis was struggling to find work. He worried about the rent. He worried about feeding his children. How do we respond? 

During Easter, we hear of the deeds of the apostles, those who, according to the Greek, are “sent.” What does it look like for us at St. Margaret to be sent? Pope Francis says, “A Church which ‘goes forth’ is a Church whose doors are open.” (EG, 46). 

Since August, our parish has been engaging in a mission to open doors of welcome for our newest neighbors. The Immigrant & Refugee Ministry, a collaborative of 6 South City parishes, has been accompanying families like Francis’ everyday. Since August, we have provided beds to families from Colombia and Ukraine. We have supported newborns from Haiti and Honduras. We have tutored students from Myanmar. In nine months, we have accompanied 100 families, conducted 50 home visits, and distributed $18,000 of rent and utility assistance.   

However, this work is primarily a ministry, going beyond material needs. That February day, Francis had no idea that the door he knocked on was a Catholic church, the same Church to which he belonged in his native Congo. Thanks to our invitation, Francis’ family is reconnected to a faith community. They hope for their children, who grew up in a refugee camp, to receive First Communion. Here at St. Margaret, we have connected men from Afghanistan with Catholic faith formation. Through St. Stephen’s parish, we arranged for a priest to provide sacraments to a dying man from Mexico on Good Friday. The number of immigrants finding a home in the Church will continue to grow (if only someone will open the door). 

Whenever our neighbors thank me, I tell them: it is all thanks to the generosity of God and God’s People! It is through your support of the Annual Catholic Appeal and your volunteer efforts that we can sustain this ministry. Thank you on behalf of our immigrant and refugee neighbors!

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