Father Gary of St. Jerome Catholic Church in Phoenix was moved by the plight of refugees, particularly those from Afghanistan who recently fled their homeland. He wanted the parish to understand what refugees face when they leave everything behind and hope for a brighter future.
Advent seemed like the perfect time to replicate the sights and sounds of a refugee camp, right there at the parish. The camp was open for parishioners to stop by and see it. After each mass during Advent, Father Gary shared a fact about refugees and our partnership, which educated parishioners and invited them to come forth and see it.
Refugees flee their country of origin to save their lives. Running from war and persecution, they leave behind family, friends and all they know, sometimes finding safety in refugee camps where they wait and hope to be granted refugee status by the United Nations and cleared for entrance to America by our Department of Homeland Security.
Catholic Charities has been resettling refugees from all parts of the world since 1975 through our Refugee Resettlement Program. We provide a welcoming and supportive network to help those new to our country quickly gain independence and become productive members of their new community.
St. Jerome Shows Compassion to Refugees
Janet Cunningham, the parish Operations Manager stated, “[the idea was to] educate and open their eyes of what reality is for some of our brothers and sisters in Christ.” The parish also provided a list of needs our refugee families and youth need, as we welcomed them here in our agency and in their new home.
The parish responded with overwhelming compassion and generosity. A truck full of donations was delivered to Catholic Charities during the holidays. “Providing the essentials to our refugees is a great act of kindness,” said Jaimi Weingartner, Sr. Program Manager for Catholic Charities. “Many don’t know that refugees are coming with little to nothing.”
Compassion and Service
St. Jerome’s parish responded to Father Gary’s invitation with compassion and service.
Father Gary’s sentiments summed up the beauty of this project and what it means to help brothers or sisters in need, no matter their life circumstances. “Thus, in the place where our manger will stand in a few weeks will be the constant reminder that Mary, Joseph and Jesus were refugees. In them all refugees become our sisters and brothers, and if we say we want to find a place for the baby Jesus to rest his head then we should be willing to do something for those who are part of God’s family.”
Big action awakens hearts, compassion, service and understanding. Allowing eyes to see the realities of refugee life can do so much more than just words. A reminder this season to serve all of God’s children.