04 Sep 2019
Migrants and Refugees | September 5, 2019
“I invoke God’s abundant blessings upon all the world’s migrants and refugees and upon all those who accompany them on their journey.” These are the closing words of the message of Pope Francis for the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
When I read those words, I thought, “That is a blessing for us, for the Salesian presences of our province.” Almost every work of our province has some clear welcome, promotion, and integration of immigrants; in some works, immigrants make up the greatest part of participants in the various ministries. The SDBs, members of the Salesian Family, and colleagues are available and generous in serving people who have come from other countries and are now starting a new life in Canada and the USA. You can see why I assert that the Pope is sending his blessing to our province.
World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated on Sunday, September 29, this year. This day has particular importance for us since ministry to immigrants is so much part of the history of our province and our countries. Ministry to immigrants continues to be integral in our works. Just take a look at the number of languages in which our ministries are regularly offered: Creole, English, French, Korean, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Slovenian, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, and Vietnamese. Other languages are spoken in the homes of our students, parishioners, and colleagues.
The multilingual, multicultural reality of our province can be a richness and a strength, but it can also be a cause for division and misunderstand. It can bring to the surface our fears and prejudices, resulting in efforts to exclude or denigrate people. We really need all the help we can get—the Pope’s blessing, the intercession of the Virgin Mary, God’s mercy.
The Popes’ message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees is entitled, “It is not just about migrants.” In the 3½ pages of the message, he elaborates that it is not about migrants only; it is also about our fears; it is about charity; it is about our humanity; it is a question of seeing that no one is excluded; it is about putting the last in the first place; it is about the whole person, about all people; it is about building the city of God and man. Each of these paragraphs has meaning for us Salesians and for our works. I encourage you to take some time to study the message and reflect on how pertinent the Pope’s insights are to our current reality.
World Day of Migrants and Refugees is not an occasion only to read the Pope’s message, reflect on our Salesian works, and rejoice in the Pope’s blessing. We can take action. At the Vatican website for Migrants and Refugees, you will find many good resources (videos, stories, photos, documents), even a section on young migrants. I recommend the video entitled, “The Church must meet our youth in detention centers, at the borders.” Although our province has done and still does work for migrants and refugees, there is still much more to be done. Our Salesian presence can be centers of direct service; we can also be stimuli for change in society, promoting the attitudes of Jesus that we find in the Gospel. It is not about only immigrants; it is also about how we follow Jesus.
With Pope Francis, we rely upon the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Way, whose feast day is May 24, and we have prayerful hope that the Kingdom of God will be more clearly established in our Salesian communities and presences.
In Christ, who himself was a young person on the move,
Fr. Tim Zak