August 8, 2014

Rejoice in the Lord

We are all immigrants and members of the family of God

Archbishop Joseph W. TobinSince 2011, the United States has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of unaccompanied migrating children arriving in the country, predominately at the U.S. and Mexico border.

Whereas the number of these children averaged 6,800 between 2004 and 2011, the total jumped to more than 13,000 in 2012 and more than 24,000 in 2013. It is estimated that more than 60,000 unaccompanied minors could enter the United States during 2014.

Last fall, the bishops of the United States published a report on this crisis, “Mission to Central America: Flight of Unaccompanied Migrants to the United States.” I urge every Catholic in central and southern Indiana (and all concerned citizens) to read prayerfully this important document, which is available in English and Spanish on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at

The evils described in this report cry out to heaven for a response from all of us who have been blessed with stable homes and families in a country that cherishes our dignity and basic freedoms. The fact that so many unaccompanied migrating children have found their way to our border—in spite of many unimaginable hardships—makes this situation an immediate national concern, but it should be our concern regardless of where it happens in the world—including Syria, Eastern Europe, Central and South America, Africa and throughout Asia. 

I have been asking the question, “Where is the Holy Spirit opening doors for us here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis?” My travels throughout southern and central Indiana, and my conversations with thousands of faithful Catholics, have convinced me that “welcoming strangers” is a door that we must open much more widely.

Pope Francis has asked all baptized Christians to embrace the Lord’s call to be “missionary disciples” and “spirit-filled evangelizers.” We are called to reach out in faith to members of our own families, to neighbors and fellow parishioners, to the strangers we meet in our workplaces and in the marketplace. We are all immigrants—pilgrims on a journey to heaven. We are all members of the family of God, brothers and sisters to Jesus and to one another. No one should be an alien or outcast in our eyes.

Unity in diversity is the vision that the bishops of the United States proclaimed in “Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity,” which was published in 2000 during the Great Jubilee year.

Looking back on the history of Catholicism in our country, the bishops called attention to the waves of immigration that shaped the character of our nation and of our local Churches, including the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

They also observed that the immigrant experience, which is deeply rooted in our country’s religious, social and political history, is changing. Whereas previous immigrants came to the United States, “predominately from Europe or as slaves from Africa, the new immigrants come from Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific islands, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.”

Our Church has complementary teachings: the right of a sovereign state to control its borders in furtherance of the common good, and the right of human persons to migrate so that they can realize their God-given rights.

We recognize that our government must impose reasonable limits on immigration. However, the common good is not served when the basic human rights of the individual are violated. Regardless of their legal status, immigrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity that should be respected.

Every member of the Catholic community, regardless of his or her place of origin, ethnic or cultural heritage, economic or social position, and legal status, should be welcomed as Christ, and should be encouraged to feel a genuine sense of membership and belonging in our parish communities and our archdiocese.

When we encounter a stranger, we meet Christ. When we welcome new neighbors, we welcome the Lord who comes to us in and through the needs of others. When we love our neighbor, we discover the face of God, and we experience the power of God’s love for us—poured out above all in the sacrificial love of Christ, who suffered and died to secure for each of us an everlasting welcome in his Father’s house.

Let’s open wide the doors to Christ! Let’s accept the call to be missionary disciples here in Indiana and wherever our children and their families need us—whether far away or close to home!

May our Blessed Mother teach us to welcome and embrace all our brothers and sisters with the same loving kindness that she shows to each of us, her children. †

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