By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“Migrants and refugees do not represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved”—Pope Francis.
On Saturday, March 23, CCSJ/the Archdiocese’s Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (AMMR), organised a meeting/training session for parishes assisting them as they seek to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees.
It was the first such meeting since Archbishop Jason Gordon established the AMMR in May 2018. He has asked all parishes to set up Parish Ministries for Migrants and Refugees (PMMRs).
I thank the 83 persons from 36 parishes who participated fully in the proceedings. They came from all parts of Trinidad, and two persons from Tobago were also present. Delete replace with: Thanks to all members of the AMMR and representatives of the Living Water Community and CCSJ; and the hospitable Catholic Bible Institute, Caroni.
The AMMR launched a 25-page toolkit in collaboration with Living Water, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who also met the cost of printing.
The toolkit seeks to answer frequently asked questions about migrants and refugees in T&T; outlines community needs and suggestions and contains a Code of Conduct.
The toolkit is being distributed to all parishes and ecclesial communities and will be available on CCSJ’s website.
Uplift address by Archbishop
Archbishop Jason Gordon’s address on Saturday was uplifting. I share an extract below: “To hear what you have been doing over the past six months is saying to me that we are not just a Church of talk, but a Church of action. We are reaching out to the most vulnerable in our land at this time. We are working people who are resilient and who have great skills but also needs.
“One of the challenges we have in the Church is a ‘compartmentalising thing’. Let’s put this old paradigm in the garbage bin. Let’s start thinking another paradigm of Church; an integrated pastoral approach to Church, where evangelisation is social justice, social justice is advocacy, and advocacy is pastoral care, and pastoral care is development of the human being; and where there is no separation between these ministries.
“We need to help bring our neighbours to gather together as a community, to be able to survive, to support one another. As they gather as a community in our spaces of worship, we must offer them Mass, sacraments, support, pastoral care, financial help.
“They are human beings who need help—body, mind, soul and spirit. We must help the whole person. PMMR is not a ministry which we approach in compartments. Let’s offer them food, but also the food of life too. Most of our guests are Catholics. Let’s offer them a tangible way of connecting to God to keep hope alive.
“We have an opportunity as Church to do something amazing; to wake up and welcome, protect, promote and integrate as we help our neighbours through a difficult time. They are bringing gifts, they don’t just take. In doing our work with migrants/refugees, we must not think that we are the ministers and they are the clients.
“There are migrants here who can be ministers in this ministry; who can do amazing work in partnership with us. There is no shortage of ministers in this ministry; there is a shortage of imagination and trust.
“To become parishes that are alive and moving into the communities, start with a process of accompaniment; understanding and knowing who they are and bit by bit get them involved in the ministry to work with our friends.
“According to Matthew Kelly, the biggest lie is that we cannot be holy; that holiness in not for us. The saints created holy moments one after the other. Let us start by creating holy moments. When we bring a group of refugees together that is a holy moment. From there we can build on this holy moment by doing more holy moments.”
We are all called to be holy, to encounter Christ in everyone. During this Lenten season, may the Lord help us to recognise and build on holy moments in our daily lives.