By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Pope Francis launched a two-year global campaign Sept. 27 in support of migrants and refugees that calls Catholics to prayer, reflection and action in response to a worldwide crisis not seen since World War II. More than 65 million people have been displaced globally, including 21 million refugees.
The “Share the Journey” campaign aims to inspire communities to build relationships with refugees and immigrants, and to love their neighbors in the U.S. and around the world. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Catholic Charities (CCUSA) and the church’s global charitable network, Caritas Internationalis, are spearheading the campaign, which uses traditional and social media to spread the word. The hashtag on social media is #sharejourney.
Organizers have also created a toolkit to help dioceses, parishes and schools get started with a kick-off week of prayer and action Oct. 7-13. The date coincides with the annual celebration of Respect Life Month. The toolkit (available at sharejourney.org) includes resources to help parishes bring the campaign to life during Masses on Oct. 7-8.
In the Davenport Diocese, Bishop Thomas Zinkula introduced a solidarity prayer walk to chancery staff at diocesan headquarters on Sept. 27, to demonstrate support for the Holy Father’s campaign. The mobile prayer walk features a display of 14 colorful panels depicting immigrants and refugees around the world and a prayer guide for participants to reflect on at each of the panels.
“Catholics know The Stations of the Cross. This prayer walk is that kind of format,” Bishop Zinkula said. “It has 14 different steps along the way, Jesus’ way of the cross. You see different people in different places and different situations, and I think that will resonate with people.”
Diocesan Social Action Director Kent Ferris said this mobile Stations of the Cross, called “One on the Journey: A Solidarity Prayer Walk,” will be available on loan to parishes around the diocese. He hopes the mobile prayer walk will be “checked out” for the campaign’s two years. Contact Ferris at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (563) 888-4211 to reserve the traveling prayer walk.
Bishop Zinkula hopes parishes will build momentum from the prayer walk, which invites participants to reflect deeply on the reasons people migrate and how the situations compare with the struggles in parishioners’ own lives. “We can apply it to our own lives and our own prayers,” the bishop said.
“This is just one prayer experience,” Ferris added. “Our office is working with The Catholic Messenger and the bishop’s office to draw attention to solidarity efforts and related issues as they come up.” Ferris also hopes to highlight efforts the diocese is already engaged in, such as ongoing support for immigration reform through postcard campaigns and action alerts.
His office also oversees the diocesan Immigration Office, which assists individuals seeking permanent legal residence or citizenship and answers questions for young undocumented adults who qualified for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Diocesan residents who participate in mission trips also may qualify for some funding through the diocesan Social Action Office.
Two more resources that parishes might want to tap into: Father Ross Epping, a CRS Global Fellow, and Deacon Joe Welter, whose diocesan assignment is CRS promotions. Both can speak to groups about the solidarity efforts of Catholic Relief Services, Ferris said. Fr. Epping is parochial vicar at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf. Deacon Welter is a member of St. Mary Parish and the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City.
“You are not called to change the world,” Ferris said, “just the corner in which you live.”
Ideas for reaching out in solidarity
*Use the “Share the Journey” parish toolkit (sharejourney.org) for prayers, bulletin announcements and homilies (English and Spanish).
*Host a community-wide prayer service for migrants and refugees or organize a walk to symbolize migrants and refugees on the move.
*Challenge your community to learn about the issues migrants and refugees face. Invite classes and groups to spend some time learning about why people leave their home countries, common myths about the issues and what the church teaches.
*Learn about racism and work for racial justice.
* Host a potluck in your community so people can get to know immigrants and refugees.
*Organize a speaking event, school assembly or service event in your community. Contact the diocesan Social Action Office for assistance for speaker suggestions and ideas.
*Take a visible stance, such as placing a sign on the parish lawn to express solidarity with migrants and refugees.
*Support the work of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Catholic Charities (CCUSA).
*Contact your elected offices. Sign advocacy letters asking Congress to support refugees.
*Check out action alerts about national and global legislation concerning refugees and immigrants (www.justiceforimmigrants.org).
*Reach out with social media. Sample tweet: I’m reaching out to migrants and refugees fleeing war, persecution and poverty. https://sharejourney.org #ShareJourney
Sample Facebook post: Today I’m reaching out to show my support for migrants and refugees fleeing war, gang violence, death threats, religious persecution, extreme poverty and more. Reach out and love your neighbor, too. Learn more, do more at https://sharejourney.org #ShareJourney