Share the Journey campaign urges Catholics to connect with migrants

By Dennis Sadowski

(CNS) — A prayer here, a share on social media there, a voice of support in a
letter to the editor, even a get-to-know-others potluck.

refugees and migrants can take many forms, and Pope Francis is hoping Catholics
around the world will act over the next two years to encounter people on the

In the
U.S., the church’s leading organizations have developed a series of activities,
including prayers, that families, parishes, schools and individuals can
undertake during the Share the Journey campaign the pope is set to open Sept.
27 at the Vatican.

the Journey is an initiative of Caritas Internationalis, the global network of Catholic charitable
agencies. It is meant to urge Catholics to understand and get to know refugees
and migrants who have fled poverty, hunger, violence, persecution and the
effects of climate change in their homeland.

addition to Pope Francis’ formal announcement at his weekly general audience, key
church representatives, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, president of
Caritas Internationalis, were to conduct a media conference the same day.

partners in the effort are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its
Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities

effort will give Catholics the opportunity to learn and explore Catholic social
teaching on refugees and migrants, said Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S.
operations for CRS.

social teaching has clear messages of caring for strangers, the importance of hearing
their stories and understanding their needs,” she said.

Much of
the effort will be focused on sharing stories about migrants and refugees, the
struggles they face and why they chose to seek a better life elsewhere, said Kristin Witte, coordinator of domestic
Catholic educational engagement at CRS, which is the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency.

hope is that through the stories that are presented, the images presented, that
people will be moved from their place of comfort to a place of encounter.
That’s what the church is calling us to. That’s what the pope is calling us
to,” she said.

coalition of Catholic organizations has developed a toolkit in English and
Spanish that includes prayers, suggestions for activities for families, prayer
groups, classrooms and clergy, and utilizing social media with references to #sharejourney.

giving people clear direct ideas, not just in their neighborhood but to
mobilize communities. To create an environment or an opportunity for action is
critical especially at this time,” Witte said.

Mark Priceman, communications for the
bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, said the U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees estimates that about 22 million people are on the
move around the world, making the Christian community’s
awareness and response to their situation critical.

The number
of refugees to be admitted to the U.S. was capped at 50,000 by President Donald Trump for fiscal year
2017, which was to end Sept. 30. It is less than
half of the ceiling of 110,000 set by President Barack Obama. A presidential
determination on the number of refugees to be accepted for fiscal year 2018 was due by Sept.

1996, the number of refugees admitted has fluctuated between 70,000 and 90,000
annually. The number of refugees to be accepted each year is determined by the
president under the Refugee Act, which was signed into law in 1980 by President
Jimmy Carter. The act amended earlier law, created a permanent and systematic
procedure to admit refugees, and established a process for reviewing and
adjusting the refugee ceiling to meet emergencies.

the Journey looks to mobilize people quickly. Soon after the opening, the
campaign is calling for a week of prayer and action for migrants and refugees
Oct. 7-13.

prayers at Masses, prayer vigils, simulation exercises, school announcements,
lesson plans and speaking events are among the activities suggested as ways to learn
about people on the move.

activities will be taking place worldwide throughout the campaign, Rosenhauer

is a reflection of the Holy Father’s leadership, but it’s also a reflection of
the commitment of leaders around the church around the world,” she

three dozen cardinals, archbishops and bishops as of Sept. 25 have pledged to participate
in the campaign, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski
of Miami addressed the concepts of the Share the Journey campaign in an op-ed column Aug.
28 in the Sun Sentinel in
Broward County, Florida.

the Journey’ invites us to see through the eyes of others rather than turning a
blind eye,” he wrote. “As Pope Francis says, ‘Not just to see but to
look. Not just to hear but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by but to stop.
And don’t just say, ‘What a shame, poor people,’ but to allow ourselves to be
moved by pity.'”

campaign will take advantage of specially designated days throughout the year to
raise awareness, including the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12; Lent; the
church’s observance of National Migration Week in January; World Refugee Day June
20 and the September 2018 United Nations meeting to consider two global compacts
on refugees and migration.

also is an advocacy component to Share the Journey, Rosenhauer said, giving U.S.
Catholics the opportunity to take what they learn about migrants and refugees
and approach federal policymakers to better allocate international assistance
to address the factors that cause people to flee.

with Catholics worldwide, the U.S. organizers said they hope the campaign will
begin to ease the burdens under which migrants and refugees live.

mobilizing the worldwide Catholic Church to serve,” Witte said. “There
are so many networks that the Catholic Church already has that we can infuse an
opportunity allow them to live their baptismal call and to stand up for the
most vulnerable.”

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Editor’s Note: More information and a toolkit on Share the Journey is available online at Learn more about the international campaign at

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Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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