Referring to the place of migrants and refugees in God’s plan, Pope Francis emphasizes that “the Kingdom of God is to be built with them, for without them it would not be the Kingdom that God wants. The inclusion of those most vulnerable is the necessary condition for full citizenship in God’s Kingdom.”
National Migration Week takes place Sept. 19-25 and will conclude with the celebration of World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sunday, Sept. 25. This year’s theme is “Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees.”
This will be the 108th year the Catholic Church will celebrate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. For nearly half a century, the Catholic Church in the United States has celebrated National Migration Week. This is an opportunity for the Church to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking.
To prepare for National Migration Week, many parishes will utilize a series of bulletin ads drawing attention to issues facing migrants and what Catholics can do to help. Locally, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki invites all parishes to recognize this week with bulletin inserts, prayers and social media posts.
According to Barbara Graham, director of refugee and immigration services for Catholic Charities, National Migration Week is an opportunity to broach a difficult topic with those who may not pay attention to migrants or immigrants.
“It’s a chance for us to show people that the popes have long been eloquent and powerful voices for immigrants,” Graham said. “We can provide neutral sources and, with a little luck, get people thinking about immigration. It is so easy to believe the anti-immigrant rhetoric when you have never had the opportunity to know an immigrant.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops suggests several efforts to help immigrants, such as promoting education on migration, teaching English to immigrants, becoming a foster parent and organizing a walk or similar community event to raise awareness on migration issues.
Holy Apostles Parish in New Berlin will mark World Day of Migrants and Refugees in a unique way. They are planning a Folk Fest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, in the west school parking lot for an afternoon filled with celebrating the many cultures that comprise the heritage at Holy Apostles.
Parish Life Coordinator Jessica Makuck said the event will resemble a farmer’s market set up with pop-up tents.
“They each have creative license to decorate their booth to represent their country. They can dress up in costumes, decorate the booths with their heritage and past — whatever it looks like for them,” Makuck said. “Some of the booths will have items on display to represent their country, as well.”
Each booth will serve food on small plates or cups from their country of origin, and attendees can taste their way around the world.
“As you go through the cultural booths, we will have eighth graders doing bake sales. They will have a variety of cookies from around the world, too,” Makuck said.
A craft fair will round out the event, and crafts will not be solely cultural crafts, but also a music booth with playlists from various soundtracks that range from Austrian, Scandinavian, Scottish, Irish and more. The craft fair and bake sale will be cash only.
“There will be performances, as well as teaching and interactive components to the dancing,” Makuck said. “There will be different things throughout the day to highlight the different cultures.”
Getting in on the fun will be Holy Apostle pastor Fr. Arul Ponnaiyan. He will have a booth and serve food from his native India.
“Holy Apostles will also have a booth chronicling our history,” Makuck said. “Our history goes back to 1885, and we have gone through two fires in that time. We will have pictures that describe our predominantly German founding. Now, we are much more diverse. This will be a great afternoon to wander around, experience different cultures, build relationships with parishioners and share stories.”
The folk fest will rely on freewill offerings for the food and craft sale. There will be set prices for the bake sale, however, as those proceeds will go to the eighth graders. Proceeds from the freewill offerings will be distributed to a local migrant refugee group.
So far, the countries represented will be India, Poland, Germany, Ireland, Ukraine, Slovenia, Slovakia, Scandinavia and the Philippines.
“All the Masses over that weekend will have different music highlighting various pasts,” Makuck said. “We were once all migrants and strangers in a distant land. It is good to look back and celebrate that and move forward as one body.”