October 8, 2017

On September 27th, Pope Francis launched a global campaign called “Share the Journey,” to support migrants and refugees around the world. In collaboration with the annual celebration of Respect Life Month in October, the bishops of the U.S. are asking Catholics around the country to help kick off the campaign this week with prayer and action on behalf of migrants and refugees.

The two year campaign is sponsored in the United States by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities U.S.A. Both CRS, working in more than 100 countries around the world, and CCUSA, the Catholic Church's domestic agency, are members of Caritas Internationalis, the Church's worldwide charity organization that is the overall sponsor of the campaign.

"The Holy Father wants us to feel this personally", says Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. "Each of us must work to encounter the migrants and refugees who are all around us. All too often, they seem invisible to us. We need to hear their stories, literally share their journeys, and see them as our brothers and sisters”.

It is this invitation to “encounter” that has been a hallmark of the ministry of Pope Francis. It is easy to dismiss or ignore those we don’t know, or only know as statistics. The “Share the Journey,” campaign invites us to get to know migrants and refugees among us; to learn their stories; to encounter them as human beings.

This call to care for migrants and refugees is as old as the scriptures. In the Book of Exodus, the Lord instructs our ancestors that “you shall not oppress an alien, since you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). Later, in the Book of Leviticus, the teaching is reiterated: “When an alien resides with you in your land, do not molest him. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as you have for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34).

Jesus makes clear in the last judgment scene in Matthew’s Gospel that we will ultimately be judged by how we treat the most vulnerable among us, including refugees and migrants. Jesus identifies with these people on the margins and says that how we treat the stranger among us is how we treat him. When we welcome them, we welcome him. When we turn away from them, we turn away from him (see Matthew 25:35 -43).

As we begin this two-year campaign, rooted in our respect for life, let us make the campaign prayer our own:

Adonai, Lord and Master, many are the journeys your people have taken: Abraham’s journey led from fear to understanding; Moses’ journey led from bondage to liberty; the disciples’ journey led from death to new life. Even today, your people journey— immigrants and refugees, pilgrims and nomads, searching for hope, searching for opportunity, searching for peace, searching for you.

Lord, I know that I too am called to journey. Yet too many times, I have heard your call, and my feet have remained unmoved. Continue to call me beyond my comfort and into encounter. And when I meet a companion on the road, may we find you in each other’s embrace. Let us share the journey. Amen.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni