WASHINGTON (January 7, 2000) -- The National Conference of Catholic Bishops marks the 21st observance of National Migration Week January 3-9, highlighting its ongoing efforts to raise public awareness of the plight of refugees and immigrants, and encouraging outreach to "the stranger among us."
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Chairman of the Bishops' Migration Committee said this year's theme, "Open Wide The Doors," reflects the spirit of the Jubilee Year 2000.
"I hope that National Migration Week will be an opportunity to 'open wide the doors' to welcome newcomers as commanded by the Scriptures; to educate others about the harsh realities faced by immigrants, migrants, and refugees; and to motivate communities to act in solidarity with people on the move to create peace and justice for all," said Bishop DiMarzio of Camden.
Using educational materials mailed to more than 30,000 Church-affiliated organizations, many dioceses and parishes throughout the country celebrate the January observance of NMW while others celebrate the week at different times during the year. Bishop DiMarzio stressed the important thing is to set aside time to understand better the plight of immigrants and refugees and to recognize their contributions to our communities.
Local observances of NMW include workshops and seminars, liturgical celebrations, ethnic and cultural festivals, naturalization ceremonies, and drives to collect food and household items for "welcoming packages" for incoming refugee families. In 1998, a new small grants program was established by the NCCB Migration Committee to assist local NMW celebrations.
A grant to Catholic Social Services in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, for example, was used to foster support in two rural Nebraska parishes for the arrival of several Iraqi refugees. According to a report from Catholic Social Services, "the highlight of this refugee adoption is that some members of the parish drove to Lincoln, five hours on the interstate, to greet their refugee family at the airport and welcome them to Nebraska, then turn around and drive back home."
"Building a welcoming environment for immigrants and refugees is a command given to us by Jesus," said Bishop DiMarzio. "The stories coming to us from places like Lincoln, Atlanta, Fort Worth, and others are a positive sign that people are responding to that command. We hope National Migration Week can be one of many tools to help with those efforts."