November 2, 2007

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

A face for Jesus

I think that all of us can remember the horror that we felt on Sept. 11, 2001, when parts of our country came under attack. Some of you remember when our country was attacked at Pearl Harbor, which led into World War II.

These personal experiences give us a glimpse of what it feels like to live in fear for our safety and the safety of our families.

Can you begin to imagine living with this fear every day of your life? These are the conditions that many of the people that Catholic Charities welcomes in the name of the Church to Indianapolis have suffered in their homeland.

Since Jan. 1, 2007, the Refugee Resettlement Program of Catholic Charities Indianapolis has welcomed 398 refugees from some of the most dangerous parts of the world. By the end of this calendar year, we will help resettle 100 to 200 more. In 2008, it is expected that we will be asked to welcome and resettle 600 additional refugees.

Our archdiocese has been resettling refugees for 30 years. However, this year and next, we will see more of our foreign neighbors come to our city than ever before. The large majority of our foreign brothers and sisters that are making a home here are natives of the country of Burma, now called Myanmar, which borders India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand.

“Refugee” is a legal term used by the United Nations to describe a person who, because of his or her political or religious beliefs, must flee his or her country in order to be safe from imprisonment or death. An individual or family escaping persecution arrives at a refugee camp, which is a temporary “village” set up to care for massive numbers of refugees.

It is common for people to live in a refugee camp for several months, or even years, when the conditions in their own country do not allow safe return. Although relatively safe in a camp, residents live in tents, usually without access to running water, and eat whatever food the inter­national rescue organizations make available.

Refugees are placed on an international list and, when their number is called, they are taken to any number of possible countries, where they will resettle and make a new life. One of these countries willing to welcome these strangers is the United States, and we are proud to say that the Church then welcomes them to Indianapolis.

Refugees arrive at Indianapolis International Airport with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. It is the job of the Refugee Resettlement Program staff and volunteers to find and set up an apartment for the family, find them jobs, enroll the children in school, help them learn the language and the culture, identify a church and everything else necessary to make an entirely new life in our city.

You can join us in welcoming these new residents to our community. The resettlement program is always in need of volunteers to help with translation, collecting and moving furniture, setting up apartments, organization of storage units, tutoring, etc. You can also help by donating any of the items needed to set up a brand new household.

For a full listing of opportunities to help, visit our Web site at

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at†

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