"Today Spanish-speaking parishioners can participate in scripture study groups for adults, preparation for the sacraments, religious education for children, and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Support for this type of ministry has been provided by Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), a department of the United States Catholic Conference in Washington, D.C. MRS assists immigrant populations in this country and is also the largest private resettling agency in the U.S. serving refugees threatened with persecution. Since 1975, nearly 1 million refugees have been resettled by MRS, which receives partial funding from the federal government."


From ....... SALT OF THE EARTH [ Left wing RC publication ]

January-February 1997

Page 38

SOURCEBOOK ........... INFORMATION FOR THE PLUGGED-IN PARISH

I WAS A STRANGER, AND YOU WELCOMED ME

While controversy rages over whether "huddled masses" of immigrants are still welcome in this country, a parish in Green Bay. Wisconsin, decided to slice through the rhetoric and take action. The parish council at St. Willebrord Parish in downtown Green Bay voted in 1990 to issue a "mi casa es su casa" spiritual invitation to the now nearly 8,000 Hispanics who were drawn to the area by employment opportunities at two meatpacking slaughter houses.

"We don't ask if they are in this country legally or illegally, or if they have proper documents or not," says Father Kenneth De Groot, O. Praem., pastor of the parish. "Our task is to take care of their spiritual and physical needs as best we can."

Over the past six years, a single Sunday Mass in Spanish has spread into a full spectrum of services to the Hispanic community. Today Spanish-speaking parishioners can participate in scripture study groups for adults, preparation for the sacraments, religious education for children, and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

Support for this type of ministry has been provided by Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), a department of the United States Catholic Conference in Washington, D.C. MRS assists immigrant populations in this country and is also the largest private resettling agency in the U.S. serving refugees threatened with persecution.

Since 1975, nearly 1 million refugees have been resettled by MRS, which receives partial funding from the federal government. "The church does this work as a humanitarian mission, but at the request of the federal government for assistance," says Barbara Biebel, director of the Office of Refugees, Migration, and Hispanic Services at the Diocese of Green Bay.

MRS works through a network of 120 diocesan offices across the country, including Biebel's office in Green Bay. "When we look for local sponsors to assist with resettling the families," she says, "we look to the parishes."

Eight Hmong families from Cambodia have been resettled in St. Willebrord Parish through this network. Parishioners assisted by picking the families up at the airport, giving them furniture or food, helping them register for medical and Social Security cards. They also helped them register for English classes, register their children in school, and find a permanent place to live.

MRS also works through the dioceses to help parishes like St. Willebrord welcome migrants into the church by accommodating their culture in liturgy and religious education and developing leaders within the migrant community.

During the second week of January many parishes around the country will be celebrating National Migration Week. MRS publishes a free 8-page booklet, 'You Are My Sisters and Brothers,' to help parishes conduct their celebrations. The agency also publishes a 280-page manual for religious education called "Who are my Sisters and Brothers?" Demand for these and other resources has risen over the last three years as parishes have encountered an anti-immigrant backlash in their communities and as the number of refugees allowed in this country has been drastically reduced.

"Catholic parishes are looking for ways to reach out and counteract that kind of sentiment," says Maureen Gross, director of the pastoral-care program at MRS. "They are looking for ways to help people understand the contributions of immigrants to the economy, to society, and to the church." —Mary Breslin

MIGRATION AND REFUGEE SERVICES

WHAT: a department of the United States Catholic Conference, Migration and Refugee Services is the largest private resettling agency in the United States, working through a network of over 120 diocesan offices across the country. They also serve immigrant populations and migrant workers.

Where: Migration and Refugee Services, 3211 Fourth Street N.E., Washington, DC 20017- 1194. Phone: 202-541 -3350.

Why: Call now for resources to help your parish celebrate National Migration Week 1997, January 6-11. To order a 280-page manual, "Who Are My Sisters and Brothers?" (and an accompanying video and study guide), designed as an educational guide for childhood religious education as well as adult discussion groups, call 800-235-8722. For other information on serving immigrant communities in your parish or sponsoring a refugee family, contact your diocese.

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SALT OF THE EARTH 205 W. Monroe St. Chicago, IL 60606