Responding with love to the growing crisis – Catholic Standard
Washington, DC is far from the southern borders of our country, but it has recently become a “border city” as thousands of immigrants have arrived in our area and local agencies are doing their best to respond.
More than 4,000 people have arrived in our city in the past three months on buses from Texas, Arizona and other places. We don’t have the same experience as the real border towns of Texas and Arizona, but immigration has become an even bigger and more pressing issue for our region.
We at Catholic Charities have been helping as best we can, and I wanted to share a bit more today about how we continue to try to make a difference.
I wrote in May about how our employees encountered the first buses that arrived in town, helping dozens of people trying to find their way. I also wrote that there was no lead agency at that time to coordinate the response, and wondered if Catholic Charities would have the bandwidth to continue supporting the buses full of people coming into our region.
Soon after, an international non-profit organization called SAMU First Response became the lead agency, and we partnered until very recently. Unfortunately, it became too difficult financially and to find enough staff to maintain our level of support.
We are currently working with Catholic Charities USA and meeting with other local Catholic Charities agencies in New York and Texas with the goal of improving communication between sister agencies and trying to find ways to improve the process. of arrival for both immigrants and the agencies serving them.
We have also been approached by the federal government to potentially serve as a coordinator for our region. It would be a big challenge, but we will continue this conversation to clarify desired outcomes and find funding for the services we provide.
I also received a call from the DC government at the end of July asking if we could help 25 Venezuelan families. The government was able to provide the families with accommodation in a local hotel, but no social worker is available to help them meet their other needs. We are trying to meet this demand, because it is who we are and what we do, but the challenge is great because our staff is already overstretched.
Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Charities DC have been asking for an increased response from federal and local governments since April, but it’s clear that they (with the exception of Montgomery County) are looking to nonprofits to shoulder the slack. burden of protecting newcomers. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser recently had her request for help from the DC National Guard denied by the Department of Defense, and she is trying again with a more specific request.
We continue to do all we can while trying to find ways to do more. Whatever your policy on immigration or a wall, our view at Catholic Charities is that we say ‘yes’ to everyone who comes to us, including immigrants to our Archdiocese who need help. ‘assistance.
It is not only loving our neighbour; it has also been God’s command for thousands of years. “You will not treat the foreigner who resides with you differently from the natives born among you; you will love the stranger as yourself; for you also were once strangers in the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:34)
We know we are not the final solution to this growing concern, but we can be part of the solution. You should be proud of the Catholic Church and Catholic charities as we continue to say yes on your behalf to our brothers and sisters who deserve whatever help we can give them.
All of this would not be possible without the leadership of our Newcomer Network of Catholic Charities and members of our Staff Response Team. Some of the newcomers are now enrolled in our Navigator program, where they are connected to services. Our staff was more than spectacular and showed me, once again, that we are not solely dependent on money and government contracts. Our gift is passion, commitment, expertise and service to those in need. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved and more grateful to those who support us financially.
Please pray for immigrants being bused into our area. They often come here with only the clothes on their backs. Please also pray for Catholic charities and other organizations as we do our best to “welcome the stranger” with food, clothing, shelter and whatever else they need to become successful members. of our community.
The first weekend of August, the second reading at Mass was that of the Letter to the Hebrews. We hear of Abraham leaving his homeland, “not knowing where he should go.” He “looked forward to the city with foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10). May we help build our own city of God by welcoming strangers who come our way.
(Msgr. John Enzler, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, writes the “Faith in Action” column for the Archdiocese Catholic standard and Spanish speaking El Pregonero newspapers and websites.)