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Parish Leaders Study, Discuss Justice for Immigrants

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As part of an ongoing effort by the Diocese to educate Catholics on Catholic Social Teaching on Migration, a leadership study day on Justice for Immigrants was held on February 24 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Raleigh. Approximately 100 pastoral administrators, deacons, parish staff and parish leaders, as well as the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, attended the gathering. Bishop Burbidge welcomed the attendees and led the Opening Prayer.

Addressing the theme, “Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice,” were keynote speakers Sister Rose Marie Tresp, RSM, and Mr. Antonio Cube.

Sister Tresp is Director of Justice for the 17-state South Central Community of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. She is stationed in Belmont, NC, and has worked most recently in Laredo, Texas, with immigrants and border issues. In a talk titled “Immigration: Why Is the Catholic Church Involved?", she spoke about separating myths about immigrants from facts, rebutting, for example, the perception that immigrant groups have a higher-than-average crime rate. Mr. Cube, National Field Manager for the Justice for Immigrants office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), spoke on “Parish Possibilities and Resources,” providing the attendees with ideas and strategies for educating people locally on what can be an extremely polarizing issue.

Following the keynote presentations, those in attendance discussed in small “Table Talk” groups the challenges facing them in their various settings and ministries. They considered three questions:

  1. As Catholic Christians we are called to “Welcome the Stranger” in our midst. What are the challenges with regard to immigrants and immigration that face your parishes?
  2. Which of these challenges is your parish ready to take on immediately because you already have the resources?
  3. What resources might you still need to meet the challenges head-on?

“This was one of the most important parts of the day for the people who came,” said Sr. Joan Jurski, OSF, Director of the Diocesan Office of Peace and Justice and a member of the Diocesan Justice for Immigrants Committee, which organized the event. “Afterwards they mentioned repeatedly the value of recognizing that others face the same challenges and of sharing solutions.”

The day culminated in a large group discussion by all in attendance.

“The motto of the National Justice for Immigrants initiative, ‘We are one family of God,’ was so evident in the Diocese of Raleigh at the Immigration Study Day,” Sr. Jurski said. “I found the enthusiasm and the serious dialog among the participants regarding immigrants in our Diocese very encouraging. Hopefully, we can continue with similar deanery and parish sessions throughout the diocese.

“We were blessed in many ways: Bishop Burbidge’s presence and prayer, the informative speaker presentations and most especially the participants’ eagerness to share and learn from one another. Our Diocesan Justice for Immigrants Committee is grateful for the success of the day.”

A bilingual Justice for Immigrant Study Day will be held on March 5, 2011, in Newton Grove, NC. More information on that event is available from the Diocesan Office of Peace and Justice/Parish Social Ministry, 919-821-9751 or Jurski@raldioc.org.

The study days are part of an ongoing series of educational efforts in the Diocese of Raleigh on the issue of Justice for Immigrants, pursuant to the Diocesan Pastoral Plan promulgated by Bishop Burbidge last year. As another part of this effort, the Diocese conducted a Priest study day, Thursday, February 10, on the subject of immigration and the need for comprehensive immigration reform in the United States. The sessions were conducted by the Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, and Mr. Kevin Appleby, Director of the USCCB Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs.

Above and below: Pastoral leaders in the Diocese attending study day on Catholic social teaching on migration.