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Immigration: What Would Jesus Do?

Today we attended the First Friday Club of Cleveland (which always meets the first Thursday at the Cleveland City Club [except for when the first Thursday is January 1st]). Sister Rita Mary Harwood, SND, Secretary of Parish Life and Development for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, began her lovely talk with noting the appropriateness of this topic at this particular time in the Christian liturgical calendar.  Having heard the story of the Magi this past Sunday, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) celebrates National Migration Week this week, "to remind the Church here in the United States of the migration of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph into Egypt."

This biblical migration, forced by Herod's intent to murder Jesus because of the prophecies, underscores migrations everywhere, in every time, for every reason.

The UN International Migrants Day, not long past, the Catholic world celebrates the 101st World Day of Migrants and Refugees on January 18, 2015, for which Pope Francis wrote a letter in which he observes that Jesus "invites all of us to care for the frailest and to recognize his suffering countenance, especially in the victims of new forms of poverty and slavery. ... The mission of the Church, herself a pilgrim in the world and the Mother ... all, is thus to love Jesus Christ ... particularly in the poorest and most abandoned; among these are certainly migrants and refugees, who are trying to escape difficult living conditions and dangers of every kind."

Sr. Rita described the many types of migrants, and outlined the woes and joys migrating people experience.  She observed the many ways the Church has been involved in the migrations and voyages of the peoples of the world, including the establishment over 600 years ago of the Pontifical Office for Those Who Travelled.  She drew a direct correlation between that 1400 AD event her her own responsibilities within the Diocese for the "Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, "all people on the move," and the Diocese's massive effort encompassed within its wholly separate entity, the "Catholic Charities of Cleveland,"  that includes resettlement assistance for refugee families, and legal aid for immigrants.

Sr. Rita quoted several Popes through the ages, and reviewed in detail a pastoral letter compiled in 2003 by the bishops of the US and Mexico, entitled "Strangers No Longer -- Together on the Journey of Hope."

She closed by talking about local efforts to assist migrants in Ohio.  Because the Ohio immigration court is in Cleveland, Northeast Ohio people  in all sectors, be they clergy, support volunteers and ESL teachers, or those providing legal assistance, need to bear in mind the words of Pope Francis, who "encourages us in his recent letter to be responsible not for the globalization of indifference -- but rather, the globalization of charity."