Jesus was a refugee and friend of outcasts. What about you and me? Will we dare to follow in Jesus' footsteps?
The Western New York Leadership Conference of Women Religious, heeding the call of the U.S. bishops, is inviting all to join us in an opportunity for prayer, advocacy and support for refugees.
Pope Francis himself, in his message for the 100th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, challenged us with these words: "Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more."
In January 2003, the U.S. Catholic bishops released a pastoral letter on migration entitled, "Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope."
In their letter, the bishops stated, "Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection. Those who flee wars and persecution should be protected by the global community. This requires, at a minimum, that migrants have a right to claim refugee status without incarceration and to have their claims fully considered by a competent authority."
Yes, we are called to be "Together on the Journey of Hope." We are being challenged to look into the eyes of a refugee, and there find our brother or sister in Christ.
LCWR's commitment to walking with refugees has a long history. Members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo founded Vive in 1984. These founding mothers saw a need to assist the influx of individuals from Central and South America who wanted to seek asylum in the United States or Canada due to the inability to return to their homeland.
Women religious communities housed and helped asylum seekers at their convents until one of the convents in Lackawanna was converted into a housing facility, called Vive La Casa. Vive La Casa eventually moved into a former school building at 50 Wyoming Ave., in Buffalo, where it still operates today.
In March 2015, Jericho Road Community Health Center assumed operations of Vive La Casa. Vive La Casa then became known as Vive, a program of Jericho Road. Jericho Road is now committed to carrying the 30-year legacy of providing legal aid and safe refuge to persons seeking asylum in the United States and Canada.
You, too, can make a difference. Join us for prayer, an opportunity to learn about advocacy opportunities and while you're at it, bring along with you some personal hygiene items that can be donated to refugees in Jericho Road's Vive program. Our prayer services will be held Sept. 15 at 7 p.m., at St. Mary Center, 241 Lafayette Ave., Buffalo; Sept. 17 at 2 p.m., at St Mary of the Angels Convent, 201 Reist St., Williamsville, and at St. Elizabeth Motherhouse, 115 E. Main St., Allegany; Sept. 24 at 2 p.m., at Immaculate Conception Convent, 5229 S. Park Ave., Hamburg, and at the Sacred Heart Center, 22 Meadowbrook Parkway, Cheektowaga; and Sept. 24 at 4:30 p.m., at Immaculate Heart of Mary Convent, 600 Doat St., Buffalo
If you don't have time to join us, but would like to learn more about welcoming the stranger, some good resources include the U.S. bishops' website (www.usccb.org), The Justice for Immigrants website (justiceforimmigrants.org) and Jericho Road's Vive Program (www.jrchc.org/vive). Three common myths about refugees can be found at (justiceforimmigrants.org/what-we-are-working-on/refugees/dispelling-myths/).