Reflecting on Catholics and immigration

National Migration Week held Jan. 8-14

By Archbishop Michael Jackels

Witness Publisher

Our Holy Father Pope Francis is teaching us by word and example to show mercy to people on the peripheries, who are marginalized in society, and who are at risk.

This is the measure of a person and of a community: the care given to people, from the moment of conception to natural death, who cannot protect or provide for themselves – the smallest, poorest, meekest, and weakest in our midst. Caring about and for others is also the means by which a person and a community is made different, better – more so electing politicians, enacting policies, and managing commerce in the hope that it might trickle down to the poor.

The measure: being a Good Samaritan; caring for a Lazarus covered with sores; the willingness to wash feet. The means: to be the last of all and the servant of all; to forgive and give with a generous portion; to go out and go low. An expression of this measure and means is to acknowledge the contributions made by immigrants and refugees coming here, and to address the challenges they face.

Catholics in our country are reminded of this during the week of 8-14 January 2017, our annual observance of National Migration Week. Can you imagine leaving your family, friends, homeland, language, and culture to go to an unfamiliar place and an uncertain future? That is what immigrants and refugees do, in the hope of enjoying things needed to live in dignity not available in their own country: food and shelter, productive work and fair wages, education and health care, and protection from harm. It is not easy to emigrate. They often live on the peripheries in the new country. They need a welcome, acknowledging the riches they bring to our country. And they need help to make the transition.

A government on the national level of any country is charged with securing its borders, but also with implementing a reasonable immigration policy, and to help people who are vulnerable. In our country there is a need to secure borders, to reform our immigration policy, and to help people get on their feet, so to speak. On account of our faith, the Catholic faithful should be interested in all this, and in urging our elected representatives to do something positive in its regard.

Consider how Jesus tells us that he takes personally how we treat other people for good or for ill (see Matthew 25:31-46). Also, in addition to being descendants of immigrants, we are also immigrants, spiritually-speaking. The Letter to the Hebrews describes all people of faith as foreigners, immigrants in search of a better, heavenly homeland (11:13-16). And whether or not at the end of our earthly pilgrimage we are allowed to enter the heavenly kingdom to take up residence in the celestial city of Jerusalem will depend in great part on how we treat immigrants here and now.

The measure of goodness and the means to be different, better is to show mercy to people on the peripheries, who are marginalized in society, and who are at risk.