Archbishop Lucas to welcome, accompany migrants, refugees

Amidst worldwide turmoil over refugees and immigrants, Archbishop George J. Lucas is joining Pope Francis and fellow bishops in a global campaign of accompanying the suffering.

"Each migrant and refugee has a name, a face and a story," the archbishop said. "I join the Holy Father in urging Catholics in the archdiocese to welcome, know and accompany our migrant neighbors."

Pope Francis will launch a two-year, Share the Journey program at his papal audience Sept. 27 in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, opening his arms as an invitation to everyone to welcome the stranger in their communities. Dioceses around the world will join the effort.

At 2 p.m. that same day, Archbishop Lucas will hold a listening session with refugees and immigrants at Catholic Charities’ Juan Diego Center in Omaha.

Other aspects of the campaign will include resources for parishes and schools in the archdiocese about migrants and refugees, and a robust social media program. The resources will provide examples of how parishioners and students can get to know migrants and refugees in a more personal way.

Archbishop Lucas noted that the pastoral vision developed for the archdiocese includes a call for unity – and Pope Francis’ effort aligns well with that desire.

"During this Share the Journey campaign, I’d like us particularly to recognize that there are members of our community who come from other cultures, who may speak different languages, who certainly have different God-given gifts and many varied experiences," Archbishop Lucas said.

"I hope that we begin to notice each other, and that we wouldn’t be so much living past each other. I hope that in our brothers and sisters who have come here as immigrants or refugees, we can see another member of the human family, created in the image and likeness of God, who desires to belong just like we all do."

Deacon Gregorio Elizalde, manager of the archdiocese’s Latino Ministry Office, said the archbishop’s efforts are important.

"I think it’s very significant for the people to see their pastor," the deacon said. "He is taking time to hear their stories. He’s very aware of their situation and expressing compassion, in solidarity with them. That means so much.

"When you are a companion to people, they don’t feel alone. That is very, very important."

Marlan Burki, principal of All Saints School in Omaha, where about 45 percent of the students are refugees from Sudan and 32 percent are Latino, said Archbishop Lucas’ leadership could point the way for others to follow.

"I think it’s an excellent thing to encourage understanding," Burki said. "Because that goes beyond listening. Don’t just listen with your head. Listen with your heart."

Share the Journey is being undertaken by the church as the world deals with the highest number of displaced people since World War II – more than 65 million people forced out of their homes.

It also is being held as President Donald Trump announces an end in six months to a program that protects from deportation undocumented young people first brought to the United States by their parents. Archbishop Lucas, Bishops James D. Conley of Lincoln, Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island and other church leaders around the country have urged Congress to find a solution that would allow the youth to stay in this country.

More than 3,000 youth in Nebraska and about 800,000 nationwide have received temporary protection from deportation through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order signed by then-President Barack Obama in 2012.

"Our DACA youths’ precarious legal and political situation overshadows their daily life and work," the Nebraska bishops said. "Their situation demands a resolution that is befitting of their human dignity."


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