pope francis with refugees

The Holy Father’s Call

Pope Francis urges the Catholic community to assist those who have fled war and strife:

“Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing death by war and by hunger, and who are on a path toward a hope for life, the Gospel calls us to be neighbors to the smallest and most abandoned, to give them concrete hope.”

What is a refugee?

“A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.” (UNCHR) (please find further information at the end of this blog article)

Who is resettled by Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services?

Neither Catholic Charities nor the Diocese have any role in determining who comes to the United States. Our only mission is to faithfully and generously welcome those admitted to our wonderful country. The Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington (CCDA), Migration and Refugee Services offers services in five sites throughout Northern Virginia and Fredericksburg including Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, Chantilly and the city of Fredericksburg. At each of the sites, a comprehensive array of resettlement services are offered so as to help newcomers “get on their feet” and become self-sufficient as soon as possible after arrival. Staff members offer case management services in culturally appropriate languages – presently we have 20 languages on staff.

Parishes Respond to Pope Francis’ Call

Many parishes in our community have heard Pope Francis’ call to support and aid those disrupted by war, famine, and poverty. For example,  Holy Spirit Catholic Church collected and donated over $3,500 to Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services (MRS). These funds will outfit the kitchens of families seeking asylum here in Northern Virginia. Additionally, St. Ann Catholic Church collected over $1,000 as well as requested in-kind donations for its annual Refugee Day Drive. International Refugee Day is June 20th.

I was moved by the Holy Father’s call to support and pray for them. Everything I have today is because someone welcomed my immigrant ancestors to this country,” Mark Greer reflected. He initiated the “Giving Pot” for Migration and Refugee Services at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. His faith-inspired drive to serve those in his community helped bridge the gap between parishioners who want to help and those who need the aid.

At St. Ann, Fr. Ramel Portula (Fr. Mel) is a Missionhurst priest with roots in promoting Christian values, human dignity, self-reliance, and a decent standard of living. Working with MRS to assist refugees in a time of crisis was a natural fit.  St. Ann also included MRS in the Advent Giving Tree and raised over $5,000 in gift cards.

st-ann-volunteers

Fr. Ramel Portula with St. Ann volunteers load up donations to outfit kitchens for refugees.

These funds and donations help ensure the self-sufficiency of newly-arrived families with the Migration and Refugee Services Program.

“One of our highlights has been helping to set-up apartments for new arrivals.  We bring some of the donations to an apartment and help make beds, organize bathrooms and kitchens.  We leave a small gift basket of items and a note welcoming them to the U.S.,” mentioned Michele Mrozek, a Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington volunteer and a St. Ann parishioner.

“It was easy. Every Parish in the Diocese should undertake a similar campaign,” Mark concluded. The work of Holy Spirit and St. Ann demonstrates our Holy Father’s call that we “be neighbors to the smallest and most abandoned, to give them concrete hope.

 

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Want to learn more about our Migration and Refugee Services? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions Page!

Interested in starting a fundraising campaign or donation drive for Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services? Consider donating here OR volunteering. Please contact Beth Fitzpatrick for more information about specific volunteer opportunities at bfitzpatrick@ccda.net

State Department Definition of a Refugee:

“A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it. ”

 

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