THE HOLY YEAR OF MERCY
"BE MERCIFUL EVEN AS YOUR FATHER IS MERCIFUL." (LUKE 6:36)
A CORPORAL WORK OF MERCY
To welcome the stranger means to accept those who come from other places into our communities, our parishes, and our homes even as we would welcome Christ. To welcome means to regard those who arrive among us with the dignity we owe to the human person, rather than with suspicion; to invite them to integrate into the community and to become participants in its life, and not just observers. In that regard, we are reminded that welcoming immigrants is the tradition of our great nation built with people of many nations seeking to make a life and home here.
No stranger lodged in the street, for I opened my door to wayfarers.“ - Job 31:32
Blessed are you Lord, God of all lands and people. You treasure each and every one of us, from every culture and nation. Give us the desire and sensitivity to welcome the stranger and defend the powerless. Help us to share the comfort of your presence and our communities with them. In Christ, our Lord. Amen.
When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you, too, were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord, am your God.
PSALM 115:5-6, 116
You are my Lord; have mercy on me.
Man goes about as a mere phantom;
they hurry about, although in vain;
he heaps up stores without knowing for whom.
And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
You are my only hope.
R. You are my Lord; have mercy on me.
From all my sins deliver me;
let me not be the taunt of fools.
I am silent and do not open my mouth
because you are the one who did this.
R. You are my Lord; have mercy on me.
Listen to my prayer, Lord, hear my cry;
do not be deaf to my weeping!
For I am with you like a foreigner,
a refugee, like my ancestors.
R. You are my Lord; have mercy on me.
That the citizens of our nation rediscover the heritage of our ancestors and so be inspired to welcome the stranger as a friend and neighbor, we pray to the Lord:
That our nation continues to welcome immigrants and refugees who are in need of a home that will provide their families with work and security, we pray to the Lord:
That our neighborhoods welcome persons of every culture, religion, and way of life, while respecting their dignity, customs, and beliefs, we pray to the Lord:
That both the doors of churches and the hearts of all parishioners be opened to the stranger, the foreigner, and the newcomer, we pray to the Lord:
A MOMENT OF GRACE
A Prayer for Refugees from Catholic Relief Services
God of our Wandering Ancestors,
Long have we known
that your heart is with the refugee:
that you were born into time
in a family of refugees,
fleeing violence in their homeland
who then gathered up their hungry child
and fled into alien country.
Their cry, your cry, resounds through the ages:
“Will you let me in?”
Give us hearts that break open
When our brothers and sisters turn to us
with that same cry.
Then surely all these things will follow:
Ears will no longer turn deaf to their voices.
Eyes will see a moment for grace instead of a threat.
Tongues will not be silenced but will instead advocate.
And hands will reach out:
working for peace in their homeland,
working for justice in the lands where they seek safe haven.
Lord, protect all refugees in their travels.
May they find a friend in me
and so make me worthy
of the refuge I have found in you.
WORKS OF MERCY
WEEKLY SUGGESTIONS TO CONSIDER
June 5: Pray for refugees around the world, that they may be treated with compassion, rather than greeted by fear.
June 12: Take time to learn more about refugees and immigrants and the process by which they are accepted into the United States and other countries. In this election year, familiarize yourself with the candidates’ stances on immigration in light of Catholic social teaching (see USCCB Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity), and vote your conscience.
June 19: Is there a new face at your parish? Make a point of saying hello and making sure the individual feels welcome.
June 26: Consider becoming a mentor to a refugee or immigrant or a senior companion for an elderly refugee. Catholic Charities Maine has several different volunteer opportunities:http://www.ccmaine.org/volunteer/jobs.
WELCOMING THE STRANGER
By: Tarlan Ahmadov, Director of Refugee and Immigration Services & Language Partners, Catholic Charities Maine
The core value of God’s religion is to welcome the stranger, the homeless, the persecuted, the vulnerable, the refugee, the deprived, the “other.” The coming together of the peoples of our planet in a harmonious and creative relationship is the crucial need of the present day. The central task of this hour before humanity is laying the foundations of a global society that can reflect the oneness of human nature. Creating such a universal culture of collaboration and conciliation will require a return to spiritual awareness and responsibility.
Baha’u’llah, the founder of Baha’i Faith, of which I am a follower, urges “regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch.” And: “Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship. So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”
Together with faith leaders, faith-based organizations, and communities of conscience around the globe, I affirm: I will welcome the stranger.
My work with refugee resettlement program started over a decade ago. I could not now imagine my life without this job that I’ve done every day for over a decade. I could not imagine myself without those I have met and served for these many years. You could not imagine how many stories of human life I have heard, how many sad and happy eyes and faces I have seen! How many hopes and dreams I felt in those interactions.
As Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigration Services staff members, our tasks teach us daily to open our hearts and minds to embrace our refugee clients. This unique experience starts at the local Jetport, which brings to us those who seek refuge! The very first moment when you meet your client coming out of the gate is a moment that is so difficult to describe. This is the moment when you and your client make unseen bonds forever. This is the moment when we are welcoming strangers into their new home with love and care.
Imagine being a dad who escaped the violence and threat of death in your country of birth. After persecutions, seeing members of your family die and others having near death experiences, you have been given the gift of freedom and safety in America. It’s been five years since you’ve seen and been able to ensure the safety of your family, and now you wait at the bottom of the escalator at the Jetport. As you wait, the nightmares and horror hopefully start coming to an end, and you are overwhelmed with the hope of finally seeing your family, in person, safe, in America. You can’t believe this moment has finally come. Is it really happening? You get to see and be reunited with the rest of your family. After what literally feels like a lifetime, you see your wife and children starting down the stairs! It is a powerful and emotional moment - a dad hugging his little ones and wife, tons of kisses and hugs, sad and happy tears, the dad’s tears, while the kids are laughing and his wife, who is so proud of her husband, is crying silently with her eyes full of hope. And you stand with them, you open your heart and mind with love and welcome them by saying: “Welcome to America!”
Catholic parishes from all over the country aid Catholic Charities in welcoming strangers and giving them hope and respect. One of the many ways Catholic Charities Maine is responding to this call to aid and welcome the stranger is through our Refugee and Immigration Services (RIS). Refugees are individuals who have fled their countries of origin and who meet the United Nations' criteria of having a "well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." Before admission to the U.S., each refugee undergoes an extensive interviewing, screening, and security clearance process by the federal government.* Each refugee must past strict procedures usually taking up to two years of documentation, approval, and legal means in order to enter the U.S. and be accepted as an official refugee. Working in conjunction with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, we are one of over 100 Catholic programs that help resettle refugees who enter the United States each year, some of which are assigned to live in the state of Maine.
Our program is dedicated to helping those seeking a new life in America become independent, productive members of our community. We provide cultural orientation and referrals to case management and ongoing support. We are committed to providing the highest quality of professional resettlement, orientation, employment, and cultural adjustment services to those refugees assigned to our care.
Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigration Services serves our brothers and sisters of all faiths. It is in that spirit and because of his extensive experience serving refugees that Tarlan was asked to share this reflection on “Welcoming the Stranger.” Those of the Bahá'í faith believe that we are all children of one God and believe that there is unity in diversity.