'Share The Journey' Urges Connecting With Migrants
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Supporting 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 move.
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 Holy Father opened at the Vatican on Sept. 27.
“Share 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 homelands.
U.S. partners in the effort are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA.
The effort will give Catholics opportunities to learn and explore Catholic social teaching on refugees and migrants, said Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. operations for CRS.
"Catholic 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 focus 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.
"The hope is that through the stories that are presented, the images presented, people will be moved from their places 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.
The 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.
"We're giving people clear, direct ideas – not just in their neighborhoods, but to mobilize communities. To create an environment or an opportunity for action is critical especially at this time," Witte said.
‘Share 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.
Special 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.
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami addressed the concepts of the Share the Journey campaign in an Aug.28 op-ed column in the Sun Sentinel in Broward County, Fla.
"'Share 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.'"
Together with Catholics worldwide, the U.S. organizers said they hope the campaign will begin to ease the burdens under which migrants and refugees live.
"We're 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."
More information and a toolkit on Share the Journey is available online at www.sharejourney.org. Learn more about the international campaign at journey.caritas.org.