For more than 30 years, the Catholic Church and United States bishops have recognized National Migration Week. This year, NMW will take place from Jan. 7-13, and its theme, "Many Journeys, One Family," will serve as a reminder that Americans came from many different origins, with every person and family having a unique story.
Last month, Bishop Richard J. Malone spoke about the importance of recognizing NMW as a "much-needed opportunity to recognize and reflect on the challenges confronting migrants, immigrants and refugees - many of whom are children."
"(This year's NMW) theme reminds us that every family history includes a migration story, whether it is a recent or more distant reality," Bishop Malone said Dec. 11. "We are all part of the human family, and thus are called to treat all human beings as our brothers and sisters. We cannot treat their plight and peril with indifference."
Both the USCCB and Catholic Charities USA, which make advocacy of vulnerable populations part of their mission, stress that this remains a Catholic imperative. Many of these people are victims of human trafficking, which Pope Francis has called a crime against humanity and a "vile form of slavery."
Bishop Malone noted NMW serves two main purposes, focused on action and prayer: to "call attention to the plight and struggles of immigrants, migrants and vulnerable populations in their journey of hope," and to "offer a time of reflection on the Church's call to welcome the stranger" as a friend.
The bishop also addressed the topic of NMW, along with other related issues, in an installment of his "Consider This ..." series, which Daybreak TV Productions films.
Various agencies of the Catholic Church, including the USCCB, CCUSA, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Internationalis, support this mission via the "Share the Journey" initiative. During the Advent season, its website, sharejourney.org, proclaimed the importance of "answering the call for room at the inn," calling to mind the biblical journey of Joseph and Mary as they searched, initially in vain, to find a lodging place that would accept them in their time of need. Similarly, Bishop Malone recalled the account of the Holy Family's flight to Egypt to save the baby Jesus from Herod, in which they also became refugees seeking aid in a foreign land.
Last month, Jim Kuh, senior director of Immigration and Refugee Services for CCUSA, said his organization has focused on advocacy related to the uncertain future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Individuals who would benefit from this program are often referred to as DREAMers.
"On Dec. 6, CCUSA will issue an action alert calling advocates to contact their members of Congress and urge them to give permanent legal status to DREAMers," Kuh said in a Dec. 4 statement. "To support this effort, CCUSA has developed a sample op-ed that can be personalized by member agencies for distribution to local media and a page of frequently asked questions."
The USCCB and CCUSA have issued various resources and materials designed to help parishes and groups learn more and spread the word about NMW, available on their respective websites.
"Here in the Diocese of Buffalo, I pray that this National Migration Week will offer all of us a chance to live up to the city's title as the 'City of Good Neighbors.' May we offer welcome, support and charity to all migrants, immigrants or refugees we may encounter in our region and beyond," Bishop Malone said.
To learn more about NMW, visit www.sharejourney.org or www.justiceforimmigrants.org/take-action/national-migration-week. Visit CCUSA on Facebook at facebook.com/catholiccharitiesusa, or the USCCB's Facebook page at facebook.com/usccb.