Archbishop Lori’s Homily: National Migration Week

National Migration Week
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen
September 25, 2021


Student Success

Last Thursday, at the newly opened Mother Mary Lange School here in Baltimore, I hosted a breakfast for supporters of our Partners in Excellence Scholarship Program, a program which, over 25 years, has provided $35 million in tuition assistance to some 29,000 students in our Catholic schools in the city and beyond. The best part of the program was a talk given by a young woman whose family emigrated from Honduras and made a new life for themselves in our city. Her family received help from the Esperanza Center, run by Catholic Charities, to regularize their immigration status, to find work, and a place to live. This young woman attended Archbishop Borders School in Highlandtown, went on to Notre Dame Preparatory and will graduate from Loyola University next May. At our breakfast, this alumna of Archbishop Borders School spoke of her family’s struggles in Honduras and of her undying gratitude for the help she received from the Church here in Baltimore, especially the scholarship to attend a Catholic school where faith is front and center. Her talk brought the audience to their feet as we applauded her story.

Her story brought tears to my eyes because it is so real, so very human. It also epitomized how the Church ought to respond to those in our midst who come to us from other places, often under the direst of circumstances. As we celebrate National Migration Week, I cannot overlook the fact that immigration is one of the most divisive issues in our country today. But I do not propose to deal with this subject as if I were a politician or policy expert. Instead, I simply want to speak as a pastor of a Church that seeks to follow Jesus who teaches us that in welcoming the stranger we are welcoming him.

The Church as Field Hospital 

The truth is that people are on the move all over the world. In 2013, Pope Francis travelled to Lampedusa, near Sicily, to greet refugees fleeing the violence, persecution, and poverty of the Middle East and parts of Asia. Whether we agree or disagree with the current laws and policies of our own country, the fact remains that many people are coming each day to the United States to escape the extreme poverty, violence, and persecution of their countries of origin. The fact is that they are here, many human beings in dire need.

What response is our Church making to the fact of immigration, here and elsewhere? The Church’s response is the same one we should make to all vulnerable human life: First, to recognize the God-given dignity and transcendent worth of each person. Each person coming to our borders bears God’s image and is beloved in his sight. Immigration may indeed be a policy problem and a social problem, but human beings are not reducible to the category of “problem” – they are persons! Second, we, the Church are called to be a kind of field hospital for every human need. Catholic Charities sponsored by the dioceses all along our southern border is literally a field hospital, providing food, clothing, medical care, trying to keep families together, administering the sacraments, and offering comfort. The Church is the largest source of charitable and social services there and elsewhere. Third, as a community of disciples, we do well to remember that Abraham and his clan were immigrants and that, at one point, the Holy Family were refugees from Herod’s tyranny. Most of us have descended from immigrants. My Sicilian grandfather came through Ellis Island at a time when many in the United States protested the arrival of all those Southern Europeans. Many of today’s immigrants work very hard, no less than my grandpa, who labored to make a better life for his family – and today, I am standing on his shoulders.

Here in Baltimore, since 1963, the Esperanza Center, sponsored by Catholic Charities, has served the immigrant community with health care, immigration services, family reunification, anti-trafficking assistance, and so much more. In a word, this center continues to offer esperanza – the Spanish word for hope! Five parishes in the Archdiocese participate in a program called Pastoral Migratoria, a program in which immigrants help other immigrants to deepen their faith and to engage in the Church’s mission of evangelization and service. Many of our parishes serve as the spiritual home for thousands of immigrants from Latin America, Asia, Africa, including the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam. During the pandemic, these parishes helped struggling immigrant families with food pantries, Covid-19 testing, and vaccination clinics – for example, Sacred Heart in Baltimore, with the help of Johns Hopkins Hospital, vaccinated over 6,000 people. Mention should be made of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Guadalupe Center at St. Mary’s Parish in Annapolis – and so much more. And how proud I am of our Office of Hispanic Ministry, led by Lia Salinas, that accompanies so many Hispanic youth and their families, encouraging the robust participation of Hispanic Catholics in all sectors of the Church’s life, and helping to shape the Church’s evangelizing mission.

The Take Away 

What, then, can each of us do concretely? Perhaps just this: First, to pray for people the world over who live in unimaginably bad conditions! Prayer opens our hearts to the fact that immigrants are our brothers and sisters, they are among the neighbors the Lord calls us to love, and that they have the same fears and dreams that all of us have. Second, let us indeed be defenders of human dignity, as our Church teaches, from the moment of conception, until natural death, and all stages in between. This teaching urges you and me to avoid stereotypes and prejudice, to recognize the gifts so many immigrants bring to our nation and our Church, and as laypersons, to be a constructive voice in setting policies that are just and humane. Third, you might consider offering financial support or volunteering in one of the many programs offered locally to assist the newly arrived.

Thank you for listening! May the Lord bring us together as a people and as a faith community – “One Nation under God with liberty and justice for all!”

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.