Every day, we at Catholic Charities of Onondaga County are committed to welcoming the stranger. We serve everyone regardless of religion, ethnicity, nationality or any other consideration. Our programs are many but they are joined in one purpose: serving those in greatest need so that they can take care of themselves and their families.
Today, Pope Francis is calling on Catholics in the U.S. to share the physical and emotional journey of migrants and refugees. We are proud that our staff members – who are themselves from many different religious and ethnic backgrounds – are already firmly committed to this cause. Within our Refugee Services, we lay the groundwork of our support for new clients before they arrive here. When they land at Hancock Airport, a case manager meets them and then helps them settle into their new home. We provide support through the crucial first 90 days of their life in the U.S. and then continue to assist new arrivals through English classes, job training, advocacy, programs for children and teens, and more.
The struggles refugees face can be hard to imagine. We regularly hear harrowing accounts of narrowly escaped desperation and violence. Refugees suffer profound losses. They are in a foreign country and many have lost loved ones. Last year, over 50% of the people we resettled were children under 18. Some of them arrive without an adult family member.
We may never fully grasp the pain of becoming a refugee, but we can meet it with open-hearted compassion and thus “Share the Journey.” In Syracuse, we remember our history as a city of immigrants in search of a better life. It’s a heritage we take pride in – the Irish in Tipperary Hill, Italians and Germans on the Northside, Polish in Solvay, and so many more. Armed with compassion and determination, informed by history and experience, we can work together to create hope and transform lives for our refugee and migrant neighbors.
Over the next several weeks, to assist in “Sharing the Journey,” we’ll be bringing you more stories from the New Americans we work with. I hope you, too, will be inspired by their resilience and determination.
Michael F. Melara