By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Addressing the US Bishops gathered in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, the first day of the Bishops' annual 2-day Spring General Assembly, Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, TX and Archbishop Paul Coakley, of Oklahoma City, OK briefed the Bishops on Caritas Internationalis' Share the Journey Campaign efforts in United States. Since the campaign was launched last year, 3.5 million people have heard of it, thanks to internet and social media efforts on the part of the organizations spearheading the campaign in the US, Bishop Vásquez said.
Heading into its second year, the campaign is now inviting Catholic institutions in the US to organize “prayer pilgrimages” ending on November 13, the feast of St Francis Cabrini, an Italian immigrant to the US. “Dioceses, parishes, universities and schools are being asked to pray, walk, and bear public witness to our solidarity with migrants and refugees”, inviting inter-faith groups to join them, Archbishop Paul Coakley said. A virtual distance calculator will register the miles walked by participating groups. Organizers hope to log 24,900 miles which is the distance around the world. Registration opens on Thursday, and the Bishops were encouraged to register “so that your pilgrimage can also be promoted by the campaign”.
Responding to Pope Francis’ idea, “we will encourage dioceses, parishes, schools and families to hold … ‘encounter meals’ throughout the second year of the campaign“ in order to provide an opportunity of being enriched, Archbishop Coakley said.
Advocacy for migrants and refugees
Share the Journey also involves advocacy. “My brother bishops, your advocacy is playing a critical role in advancing our Church’s immigration and refugee priorities”, Archbishop Coakley continued. This advocacy assured that funding for immigrants and migrants was protected in the US government’s 2018 budget, and the almost sure passage of a bill aimed at ensuring the right to education of displaced and refugee children.
Archbishop Coakley also reported that a call-in campaign to national legislators allowed Catholics “to make their voices heard concerning the situation of Dreamers…encouraging a just and humane solution”. US Bishops were also able to mediate a meeting between several Bishops of El Salvador and members of the US Congress and State Department regarding the status of Temporary Protected Status recipients.
More on the Share the Journey Campaign
Share the Journey was launched by Pope Francis on September 27, 2017. The two-year global campaign seeks to build empathy and heighten awareness regarding the plight of migrants and refugees. Caritas Internationalis is working to implement the campaign with local Caritas organizations around the world.