Department of Communications
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
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202-541-3200 · 202-541-3173 fax · www.usccb.org/comm
Pastoral Care Of Migrants, Refugees And Travelers 1
The diversity present in the U.S. Catholic Church is reflected in the vast array of peoples it serves. In addition to African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and Native American Catholics, there are also many "people on the move." Many come from different ethnic backgrounds. Some are here on a temporary or refugee status. Many others are people in professions and walks of life that require special attention and outreach by the Church.
The following is a quick description of many groups that the U.S. Catholic Bishops work with through the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church. Percentages of total population and numbers of people served are not always available due to their mobility, changing nature of work and lifestyle.
Migrant and Refugee Populations:
- African and Caribbean Communities
The current population of Africans in the United States is estimated between 2.5 and 3 million. The number of Catholics varies according to the country of origin, with Ethiopian, Kenyans, Somalis, Cameroons, Nigerians and Egyptians registering the largest numbers. Some, like Eritrean Catholics, follow the Ge'ez rite. African communities are spread throughout the United States, especially around big cities, with heavy concentrations in Washington, Boston, New York, especially in Brooklyn and Queens, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Houston and San Francisco.
The Caribbean population in the United States in estimated at 3 million and the vast majority are considered to be Catholic. Some, like those from Cuba and the Dominican Republic, are sometimes served through the Hispanic ministries in their dioceses and parishes. Others such as those from Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and other Caribbean nations gather at parish communities that are sensitive to their particular spiritual traditions and cater help them with their social and material needs. Brooklyn (16 parishes), Miami (9), Boston (8), and Newark (6), for example, register large concentrations of Haitians, of which 65 percent are estimated to be Catholics. Collectively, they serve around 250,000 people.
- European Communities
There are many recent European immigrant communities in the U.S. and many of them show a large percentage of Catholics. The vast majority are from Eastern European countries such as Croatia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. Others are form nations like France, Ireland, Italy and Portugal. Hungarians alone have 29 pastoral centers around the country. Ninety per cent of Irish immigrants are Catholic. There are pastoral centers for Irish Catholics in Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Apostolate outreach centers can also be found in Milwaukee, Ocean City (Maryland), San Diego, and Seattle.
- Latin American Non-Hispanic
There are Latin American communities where Spanish is not the main language. They include Brazilians and Mayans, whose populations are largely Catholic. The state with the largest concentration of Brazilians is Massachusetts. The Brazilian population in the USA was 345,535 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). An approximate 65% are Catholic. The Northeast region of New England registers 31 Brazilian Catholic communities; the Central Region of New York/New Jersey/ Philadelphia/Washington DC has 15; and South Florida, 15.2 There are 150,000+ Mayan Catholics in the 30 arch(dicoeses) in the U.S.A. Majority of the Mayans live in Los Angeles, CA; Mesa, AZ; Homestead and Indiantown, FL.
People on the Move Ministries
Airport Chaplaincy - In collaboration with the National Conference of Catholic Airport Chaplains (NCCAC). Currently, there are 59 Catholic airport chaplains and pastoral teams (including 27 priests, 21 deacons, 9 lay people, 1 religious brother and a sister who is the national director) in 29 arch/dioceses and 31 airports, working mostly in interfaith settings. Their mission is to provide spiritual services to people working at or traveling through airports.
Apostleship of the Sea - In collaboration with the Apostleship of the Sea-USA (AOSUSA). The AOS reaches out to mariners, fishermen, their families and all who work and travel on the waterways of the world. Their ministry reflects the Church's care and desire to offer spiritual and material assistance to seafarers who are often away from their homes because of the nature of their work and so cannot participate in regular parish life. AOS is present in 49 arch/dioceses and 61 U.S. maritime ports. They operate for the most part in ecumenical collaboration. There are a total of 79 people who are chaplains or members of their pastoral teams. These include a bishop promoter, a religious sister as national director, 43 priests, 2 religious brothers, 15 deacons and 17 laypersons. The cruise ship chaplaincy registers 645 priests who tend to the spiritual needs of crews and travelers alike.
Migrant Farmworkers - In collaboration with the Catholic Migrant Farmworkers Network (CMFN). There are 2.5 million people employed for wages on U.S farms. About 1.2 million (47 per cent) are undocumented (Pew Hispanic Center Study, 2002). The majority of migrant farmworkers are from Mexico and Central America. There is a network of 127 diocesan contacts for ministry with the migrant farmworkers. Many of them are Hispanic ministry directors or part of their team; there are also leaders of migrants and rural workers groups and other entities.
Circus and Traveling Show Ministries - In collaboration with the Circus and Traveling Show Ministries Organization. It is estimated that there are about 300,000 people in circus and other traveling shows in the U.S. About 40 per cent of show folks are Catholic. There are 27 chaplains in this ministry. There are between 50-60 circuses and 300-400 carnivals operating currently in the U.S.
Race Car Apostolate - The Race Car Circuit Apostolate coordinates the ministry to the INDY, CART and NASCAR race car workers and drivers in the United States by maintaining contact with the race car chaplains and supporting and affirming their ministry.
Apostleship of the Road - For all who travel by land, the Apostolate of the Road is working on establishing chapels and chaplaincies in our railroad stations and bus stations, truck stops, rest stops, visitor centers, wayside shrines, and parish churches along the highways. This ministry is for passengers, visitors, and workers; and for those who travel on roads and highways throughout the United States. Presently, there are two Truck Stop Chaplaincies, one Railroad Chaplaincy, and a Catholic Motorcycle Ministry under development. The PCMRT national office is working with local dioceses to developing literature and advertising for the Apostolate of the Road.
The Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers
- Source: USCCB, Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, Office of the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers.
- Source: Brazilian Apostolate Annual Report 2006