WASHINGTON (March 22, 2002) -- Over three hundred fifty staff from 90 diocesan refugee resettlement offices nationwide convened in Houston for a national meeting sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS). Titled, "Creative Thinking: Matching Resources to Changing Needs" the meeting provided participants an opportunity to acquire the latest information and technical assistance for enhancement of their work in resettling refugees.
"It is an honor to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of those resettlement staff who, day after day, walk arm in arm with newly arriving refugees helping them prepare for their new life in this country," said Mark Franken, Executive Director of MRS, as special awards were presented to seven of the 106 diocesan resettlement programs for their outstanding accomplishments in 2001.
The programs recognized for their commendable service are: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland; Catholic Human Development Outreach, Diocese of Grand Rapids; Catholic Social Services, Archdiocese of Indianapolis; Archdiocese of Louisville; Associated Catholic Charities,
Diocese of Memphis; Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New York; and Catholic Charities, San Jose. They excelled in their services to refugees through the following initiatives: community collaboration and service to children; the Sudanese Young Adult Program; the Burmese Asylee Emergency Program; implementation of technical innovations for the Cuban/Haitian Program; pre-arrival processing; the Match Grant (employment) Program for asylees/entrants; and parish development through the Parish and Community Resources for Refugees Program Grant.
Training sessions covered a vast array of topics from advocacy, childrens' issues, and the plight of torture victims to job development, parish refugee resettlement ministry, and computer integrated software for refugee resettlement. Bishops Joseph Fiorenza and Jose Vasquez of the Galveston-Houston Diocese and Thomas Wenski of the Archdiocese of Miami, spoke to the convening about the critical importance of their work and led the participants in prayer.
Among others, representatives from the following institutions took part in the meeting: United States Departments of State, Health and Human Services, and Justice, Washington, DC; Texas Department of Human Services; Mercy Housing, Inc., Denver; National Crime Prevention Council; Washington, DC; International Rescue Committee's Community Collaborative for Refugee Women and Youth, New York, NY; The Center for Survivors of Torture, Dallas, TX; and Catholic Charities USA, Alexandria, VA.
During 2001, the Catholic Church in the United States resettled 13,834 refugees from 49 countries including 266 unaccompanied minors and 3,844 Cuban and Haitian parolees.