WASHINGTON (August 28, 2001) -- How to develop a parish welcoming plan is just one of the many practical suggestions included in a resource packet for implementing the Bishops' call for Catholics to "welcome the stranger among us," which is being mailed this week to the nation's 23,000 Catholic parishes, schools and universities.
"The parish resource kit is designed to help pastors and parish leaders find ways to welcome and include newly arrived and culturally diverse persons in the life of the Church," said Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio, Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Migration, which oversaw the development of the kit.
The kit is part of a larger effort to implement last year's pastoral statement Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity and offers concrete suggestions to pastors, teachers, liturgists, and advocates.
Included in the resource kit are:
- the 2000 pastoral statement;
- a color brochure summarizing the statement and an identical camera-ready version for parishes to reproduce;
- a prayer card, Welcoming the Stranger: A Prayer for Hospitality;
- a letter from Bishop DiMarzio with planning ideas for pastors, parish staff, leaders and councils. Bishop DiMarzio suggests the development of a parish welcoming plan to address four areas of concern: hospitality, pastoral care, resettlement and social services, and advocacy. For example, a hospitality group within the parish could host regular welcoming events, like a welcome coffee hour, and make home visits to newly arrived immigrants in the parish.
- a four-page "Suggestions for Homilists" pull-out. Pastors are urged to prepare homilies on the theme of "welcoming strangers among us" when scriptural or liturgical texts are appropriate. For example: "On a day such as Thanksgiving, you can lift up farm workers to thank God for their efforts and to inform the congregation about the dehumanizing conditions in which they often find themselves."
- a six-page pull-out titled "Ideas for Schools, Religious Education, and Youth Programs." Age-appropriate suggestions include, "play cultural bingo with the class," or "research the top ten countries from which the United States receives refugees. Study the reasons why immigrants and refugees are coming from these countries."
- a "Guide to Understanding Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration and the Movement of Peoples." A brief overview of the biblical origins of Catholic social teaching on immigration is followed by three major principles of that social teaching. Discussion questions and activities for parishes are also included.
- bulletin quotes and clip art;
- a resource bibliography.
In last year's pastoral statement, the nation's Bishops reminded Catholics in the United States of their own immigrant heritage and called them to a conversion from fear and competition to a spirit of welcome and communion.
"Unity in diversity is the vision that we bishops, as pastors of the Church in the United States, offer to our people as they welcome the new immigrants and refugees who come to our shores," the Bishops said.
"This diversity of ethnicity, education, and social class challenges us as pastors to welcome these new immigrants and help them join our communities in ways that are respectful of their cultures and in ways that mutually enrich the immigrants and the receiving Church," they said.
In calling for a welcoming spirit, the Bishops acknowledge that the Church in the United States has not always responded adequately and appropriately. Competition for resources and recognition in parishes has manifest itself in parish conflicts over "prime" Sunday Mass times, the use of facilities, and representation on parish committees.
"Taking the steps to understanding one another is the first form of hospitality," the document notes, "and inter-cultural communication is critical." Likewise, striking a balance between respect for the cultures, values, and traditions of immigrants on the one hand, and drawing immigrants into the unity of the Church on the other hand is essential.
NOTE: For more information, check the Web at: www.usccb.org/mrs/welcome.shtml Press copies of the kit are available from the USCCB Department of Communications, 202-541-3200.