October 13, 2017

Editorial

Make time to ‘Share the Journey’ with our brothers and sisters in Christ

In recent years, we’ve heard much about the plight of migrants and refugees around the world and how many of them have been forced to leave their homes.

The photographs and stories of families and individuals—including women and children—literally running for their lives has many of us extremely troubled, praying for their situations, and wondering if and when their lives will ever be the same.

In a time when chaos, danger and uncertainty is the norm for so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, Pope Francis has made numerous appeals to promote a culture of encounter in an effort to combat a culture of indifference that is all too familiar in the world today.

It means seeing through the eyes of others rather than turning a blind eye. “Not just to see, but to look,” the pope said. “Not just to hear, but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by, but to stop. And don’t just say ‘what a shame, poor people,’ but allow ourselves to be moved by pity.”

Now, thanks to the efforts of Caritas Internationalis—the global network of Catholic charitable agencies which includes Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA—and our Holy Father, people are being asked to take the time to meet a migrant or refugee and listen to his or her story.

On Sept. 27, the pope launched the “Share the Journey” campaign, a

two-year program to promote encounters between people on the move and people living in the countries they are leaving, passing through or arriving in.

The unique initiative gives the faithful the opportunity to welcome migrants and refugees “with arms wide open, ready to give a sincere, affectionate, enveloping embrace,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square, launching the campaign.

Our embrace of people fleeing war or poverty should be “a bit like the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square, which represents the mother Church who embraces all in sharing a common journey,” the pope said at the end of his weekly general audience that day.

The crowd in St. Peter’s Square included hundreds of refugees and migrants, and the Holy Father said the Catholic Charities’ staff and volunteers who assist them are “a sign of a Church that seeks to be open, inclusive and welcoming.”

Open, inclusive and welcoming are words that should not only be familiar to Catholics, but to all people of faith committed to living out the charge to see the face of Jesus in others, and be his face to others—especially when darkness has enveloped their life with uncertainty.

Providentially, the initiative started a few days before the Church began its observance of Respect Life Month, where we Catholics offer special prayers for humanity to recognize that all life is sacred from conception to natural death.

The bishops in the U.S. also asked Catholics around the country to help kick off the campaign by taking part in a week of prayer and action for migrants and refugees on Oct. 7-13.

As Caritas Internationalis notes in its material promoting the initiative, the effort’s goals include contributing to the building of stronger communities and more inclusive societies. The “culture of encounter” aims for migrants and communities to come together and learn from each other.

Prayer, as noted, is a key element of the initiative. But there are other things each of us can do during the next 24 months. Go to www.sharejourney.org to learn how else we can help our neighbors.

Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas Internationalis, told Catholic News Service, that “Share the Journey” is an affirmation that everyone wants and needs someone to share his or her journey through life.

“There are specific moments in the life of a person, a family or the whole human family when we need to be reminded of this fundamental truth that we have been given each other so that we would have someone to share our journeys with,” he said.

“A small gesture like extending one’s arm to somebody else—it means a lot,” Cardinal Tagle continued. “I reach out and if a person feels alone and isolated, my reaching out is a gesture of solidarity. If I reach out and that person is wounded, it could be a sign of healing. If I reach out and the person is lost, it could mean an offer of guidance. If I reach out and a person feels like nobody cares, then it will be a sign of welcome.”

And those “small gestures, ordinary gestures, when done with sincerity,” Cardinal Tagle added, “with the light of human understanding, with the fire of love can do extraordinary things.”

—Mike Krokos

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