Towards an ever wider “we”.

Breaking down the walls of separation, building bridges and a future of justice, peace and a culture of encounter.

During Migrant and Refugee Week 19 to 25 June 2022 and on Migrant and Refugee Sunday, 25 September 2022, our Catholic Church throughout the world celebrates the resilience and contribution of migrants and refugees to our faith community and society.

It is also a time to bring awareness to the issues that migrants and refugees face and to give thanks for the generous community support that has helped changed the lives of refugees and asylum seekers like Agnes, for the better.

Agnes happy to call Australia home

Agnes at Catholic Care’s All Saints of Africa Community Drop-in Centre and Garden at Blacktown

After fleeing war-torn South Sudan with her young children in 2002, Agnes says Australia has given her a second chance at life.

“We are very lucky and happy to be here,” she said. Agnes was in her early 20s when she, and her late husband, fled their home country.

“Life in South Sudan was so hard,” she said. “It was very awful - you can die anytime, gun shots everywhere, you can hear it all the time. My husband and I were looking for a better life for our family.”

Before leaving South Sudan, Agnes was living with her husband’s family, sharing a one-room house with 21 members of the family, with no water, and just one meal a day.

Agnes and her husband fled across the border to Uganda, where they lived for eight years, planning their migration to Australia. Just two months before they were due to leave for Australia, her husband died.  On her own with three children under 10, Agnes carried on the couple’s dream and came to Australia.

“My husband was gone but I was determined to give my young family a better life, to give them an education,” she said. “It was such a relief to arrive here, and we were made to feel very welcome by everyone and settled very quickly.”

Agnes attributes much of her ease of life in Australia to the people she met through her local Catholic church and the support she has received from Catholic Care.

“I was first introduced to Catholic Care through a friend who started growing vegetables in the community garden,” Agnes said. “I asked if I could have a space too and we grow Sudanese greens and corn, among other things.”

Agnes is also very grateful for the support she receives from the team at Catholic Care’s All Saints of Africa Community Drop-In Centre in Blacktown.

“They helped my children with their homework if I wasn’t able to, and they connected me to a financial counsellor, among other things. They have been wonderful to us.”

Now a mother of four, Agnes has forged a career as a nurses’ aid in a residential aged care facility. She is now studying through the University of Tasmania to become a registered nurse. At the same time, three of her children have finished Year 12 and one is also studying at university to become an ambulance officer.

The family has so much to look forward to!

Helping our neighbours in need ensures that no one is left behind

Pope Francis highlighted the importance of inclusiveness and fraternity in his 2021 Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees and urged us to work ‘Towards an ever wider “we”’. Our Holy Father stressed that an ever wider “we” will help renew the human family, build a future of justice and peace, and ensure that no one is left behind.

“We are all in the same boat and called to work together so that there will be no more walls that separate us, no longer others, but only a single “we”, encompassing all of humanity.

“In encountering the diversity of foreigners, migrants and refugees, and in the intercultural dialogue that can emerge from this encounter, we have an opportunity to grow as Church and to enrich one another.”

Because of generous supporters like you, Catholic Care and other Catholic ministries can accompany and assist the most vulnerable and disadvantaged migrants and refugees; and give them renewed hope and a brighter future.

Thank you for your compassion and for being a good Samaritan to our neighbours in need. As people of goodwill, we can build a better Australia and a better world for all. May your endeavours be brought to fulfillment in accordance with God’s vision of the fullness of life for all humanity.

Please pray for the generosity of heart that Pope Francis calls for as we seek the wider “we”.

“Bless each act of welcome and outreach that draws those in exile into the ‘we’ of community and of the Church, so that our earth may truly become what you yourself created it to be: the common home of all our brothers and sisters. Amen.”

Faith, Hope and Charity Begins at Home

“In the faces of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, strangers and prisoners, we are called to see the face of Christ who pleads with us to help,”

Pope Francis

We are in a crisis within our Diocese, due to COVID–19. Thousands of people seeking asylum and on temporary visas have lost their jobs.  Many, with no access financial assistance, face homelessness and destitution.

Migrants and refugees rely on Catholic ministries like Catholic Care, House of Welcome, Jesuit Refugee Service and Vinnies NSW for income, housing and food bank support.

Every week, House of Welcome and Jesuit Refugee Service need to provide 430 food bags to feed 1,100 men, women, and children. These two agencies alone have reported a 400% increase in need for emergency assistance and a 77% increase in requests for food bank items.

Thousands of temporary visa holders, including people seeking protection, are suffering deeply and need our help.  We cannot not leave them homeless, hungry, and sick. Protection from the coronavirus for everyone, demands we all have access to the protection of a safe home, a safety net and Medicare.

Pray, Share, Act and Advocate

As Catholics are called to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need through prayer, sharing their stories and action. You can be part of Pope Francis’ call to share in order to grow and to assist our Catholic ministries today to support people in desperate need.

Pray

Please Pray for asylum seekers so that they will be welcomed and enjoy peace and happiness in Australia and around the world.

Prayer for Migrants and Refugees
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 3 May 2021
Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles

Share

Participate in a Parish ‘Table Talk’, a conversation inside a local community about and with people seeking asylum.  They emphasise respectful dialogue and mutual sharing of personal stories around values that are important to us. At each gathering asylum seekers or refugees are invited to share their story. Members also share their stories and to ask questions of an expert. The goal is to build solidarity, to find common ground in our shared values, and build the capacity of our communities to stand with people seeking asylum.

To participate, please contact Sebastian Salaske-Lentern, Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator on 0409 399 505 or sebastian.salaske-lentern@parracatholic.org; or visit parracatholic.org/socialjustice

Act and Advocate

Asylum seekers and refugees often arrive in our communities with few resources other than their families, their life experiences, and the clothes they wear. Many are not eligible for income support while in Australia. They need our help to meet their immediate living requirements and to achieve a basic standard of living.

Sign the Petition

Please sign the Catholics for Refugees Petition calling our government to extend a safety net – financial support, Medicare, and adequate shelter – to everyone in need in our community, regardless of their visa status, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other ways you can support migrants and refugees

Welcome new asylum seekers into your community

Ask if you can help in any way. They may have simple needs that you are not aware of, but could easily help with.

Provide hospitality support

Giving of our time and friendship helps welcome migrants and refugees so that they may feel valued as our friends and neighbours.

Limited English skills put migrants and refugees at a disadvantage in their ability to access the resources and services necessary for daily survival in Australia. They may have little knowledge of their local area and Australian customs, culture, and ways of doing things.

Help asylum seekers navigate our community services and resources, including Centrelink, hospitals, transport, schools, asylum seeker support services. Host or join a get–together in your neighbourhood of asylum seekers and refugees, to help alleviate isolation and share each other’s company.

They may have few, if any, family or trusted friends to give them advice and moral support.  The opportunity to develop conversational English skills and the support of trusted friends are fundamentally important to enable asylum seekers to rebuild their lives and integrate successfully into our community.

Provide material support

Contact agencies such as CatholicCare, Jesuit Refugee Services, House of Welcome, and Vinnies to find out what food and other items for everyday living may be helpful for migrant and refugee families, such as furniture, bedding and kitchenware. Donate to support or get a team together within your parish to deliver to families in need.

Provide partnership

Can your business help support our Catholic agencies fill their food banks or support their employment, housing, social support and welfare programs?

Sharing is an essential element of our community. The global COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that we are all in the same boat, that we must ‘go out into the deep’ and learn to share more from our hearts in order to grow and flourish together as a community, leaving no one behind.

Sharing strengthens our faith in God and makes us feel like his children. It is not always a matter of sharing our material things, it is also about sharing our life experiences, our joys, a word of encouragement and our love for God. Everything that we can give will do good.


For further information on the Diocese of Parramatta’s social justice initiatives and getting involved, please contact Sebastian Salaske-Lentern, Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator on 0409 399 505 or sebastian.salaske-lentern@parracatholic.org; or visit parracatholic.org/socialjustice

For information on donating to support migrants and refugees in our community, please contact Dianne Wigan, Head of Fundraising on 8838 3443, 0408 922 478 or dianne.wigan@parracatholic.org

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Displaced Persons in the Heart of Pope Francis, Bishop Vincent and our Church

Pope Francis has always highlighted the need for the Church to accompany those who are forcibly displaced [...] by conflict, natural disaster, persecution or extreme poverty; and those who fall victim to human trafficking.”

In 2017, this led to the establishment of the Migrant & Refugee Section that is personally guided by the Holy Father. Its work supports the Catholic Church in its efforts to accompany these vulnerable groups at the local, regional, and international level.

Since August 2017 the Diocese of Parramatta, led by Bishop Vincent and the Social Justice Office in conjunction with the Sydney Alliance, Jesuit Refugee Service, House of Welcome, NSW Vinnies and CatholicCare Social Services, has been undertaking an Diocesan Journey: Walking with Refugees and People Seeking Protection. The journey responds to Bishop Vincent’s invitation to Catholic communities to respond to their plight of people seeking protection with understanding and compassion.

Our Vision is to empower Catholic communities reaching out and supporting asylum seekers and refugees in their parishes and in the broader community and to foster a humane asylum seeker policy in Australia, where asylum seekers and refugees are welcomed and helped to settle in our communities.


For further information on the Diocese of Parramatta’s social justice initiatives and getting involved, please contact Sebastian Salaske-Lentern, Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator on 0409 399 505 or sebastian.salaske-lentern@parracatholic.org; or visit parracatholic.org/socialjustice

For information on donating to support migrants and refugees in our community, please contact Dianne Wigan, Head of Fundraising on 8838 3443, 0408 922 478 or dianne.wigan@parracatholic.org

My Journey, Our Journey

Hear the stories of Bishop Vincent and other fellow refugees on their journeys to Australia

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