November 10, 2017

Christ the Cornerstone

Sharing the journey, seeing the faces of our neighbors

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“I only ask that people try to put themselves in others’ shoes. What would you do if this happened to you? How would you react? Would you help someone who could be your mother, your father, your sister or your brother? Or would you just walk by?”
(Kemal El Shairy, chief translator for Catholic Relief Services in Serbia)

“Share the Journey,” a two-year campaign initiated by Pope Francis in collaboration with Caritas International, is designed to help us “see the faces” of migrants and refugees. More than 65 million people are now displaced from their native lands due to natural disasters, political upheavals and economic crises. Pope Francis believes it is a terrible mistake for us to consider migrants and refugees as an anonymous mass of homeless people.

In fact, these are our sisters and brothers, members of the one family of God. Christ is their brother—whether they know him or not. That makes us siblings who share in their hopes and sorrows as well as their joys. The “Share the Journey” campaign serves as a vivid reminder that migrants and refugees, whether they are here in Indiana or anywhere in the world, are not aliens. They are family.

Visit “Share the Journey’s” website, There you’ll find more information about this two-year initiative. More importantly, you’ll meet many migrants and refugees, and you’ll have an opportunity to hear their stories and share their journeys.

For example, the website introduces a man named Abdullahi Ali, who was born in Somalia and is now living in Scarborough, Maine. Last year, Catholic and Muslim families came together and shared a meal hosted by St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish.

As the website’s story explains, “The idea for the dinner was proposed by Msgr. Michael Hencham more than a year ago after he heard a radio story about the anxiety and fear that many Americans have about Muslims resettling in the U.S. Members of both the Muslim and Catholic communities shared responsibility for cooking the main courses in the parish kitchen. Others brought potluck-style dishes.

“With more than 250 people in attendance, new and old acquaintances learned about each other’s lives and cultures—and saw their perceptions of each other change. People asked questions, told stories and shared words of welcome. Although there were some communication barriers, those were overcome by smiles and the assistance of those who spoke multiple languages.”

The story continues: “Two hours after dinner began, with plates cleared and even the dessert table bare, few people had left, lingering to enjoy Middle Eastern music and the company of new friends. ‘I think one of the best ways to show support is sharing a meal because, as they say, sharing is caring,’ Abdullahi says. ‘I think dinner shows us a sense of family. That’s what families do. They sit together, share a meal, talk about their issues, and that is what this is about.’ ”

This is what “Share the Journey” is all about—transforming “strangers” into family members and friends.

Another story you can read at concerns a refugee named Gustavo and his family. “Gustavo was a watch and jewelry maker in Colombia. Earlier this year, a group of men came into his workshop and took expensive gold and silver jewelry without paying. They returned a few days later, and demanded more. But when Gustavo explained that he needed money for materials, they assaulted him and sent a threatening letter to his home.

“He moved with his mother to his sister’s house, but the same group—known for kidnappings and extortion—found him. Without stopping at his workshop to retrieve his tools, he herded his family—sister Martha, niece Luisa and mother, Clara—onto a bus, rode it to the end of the line, then found someone to take them to Ecuador.

“While receiving emergency assistance and shelter from HIAS, an American Jewish organization that helps refugees, Gustavo and his family connected with the Scalabrini Mission, which has collaborated with Catholic Relief Services for more than six years.

“Colombian refugees face challenges including poverty, inadequate housing, domestic violence, lack of opportunities for young people, and lack of attention from local and national authorities. Scalabrini Mission helps refugees integrate into society, with legal support, counseling and financial advice.

“ ‘We think of our family and friends. We want to join other people and share with them and live a normal life,’ says Martha. ‘Luisa wants to feel safe. And Gustavo wants his tools back, to start over in his craft, support his family and regain independence and dignity.’ ”

These are real people, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s pray for them. Let’s share their journeys. †

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