The pope's Share the Journey campaign recognizes the plight of millions

The pope's Share the Journey campaign recognizes the plight of millions
© Getty

Even as we were deeply distressed by the destruction when hurricanes brought fearsome winds and devastating rains to Texas and Florida, our hearts were warmed by the actions of thousands and thousands of ordinary people.

In responding to the needs of those around them, these people exemplified that essential command of Jesus: They welcomed the stranger — into their boats, into their homes, into their businesses, into their hearts.

ADVERTISEMENT
That is what Pope Francis is asking all of us to do on Sept. 27 when he kicks off the Catholic Church’s two-year Share the Journey campaign to recognize the plight of the millions of people across the globe who are fleeing catastrophes just as devastating as a powerful hurricane.

 

These are the migrants, the displaced, the refugees that Francis has been asking us to care for since the first days of his papacy. Most of them are just like the Texans and Floridians we saw on television: One day they were living their lives, going to work, going to school, caring for their kids, fixing meals, enjoying each other’s company. The next day, they found calamity.

So, they fled. Just as you would whether you were facing the rising waters of a drenching storm, the guns and bombs of violent warfare, neighborhood gangs threatening your life, or arid soil that meant you could not grow food to feed your family. Very, very few people want to leave their home. Almost all make that journey because they feel they have no better choice.

What Pope Francis wants us to do in this campaign is to “share the journey” with these migrants. There are now more people displaced from their homes than at any time since World War II — some 65 million in all. Some have stayed as near to their homes as they can. Millions have gone further afield, becoming refugees as they cross international borders in search of the basics of life for their families: shelter, food, water, medical care, sanitation, safety.

The foundation of Share the Journey is the basic ethical commandment of treating our neighbor as we would want them to treat us, exactly what we saw so many people doing when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck. These neighbors don’t always look like us, pray like us, dress like us, talk like us, or even live near us, but each one deserves a chance to flourish in this life.

Each and every one of us can do our own part — and also ensure that our government meets its obligation to protect those who suffer, wherever they are in our world. We are a wealthy nation, blessed with many resources; it is imperative that we show the international community moral leadership on this issue, helping to prove that God is bountiful, and has given us the means necessary to meet the needs of those in peril and in poverty, both here and abroad.

Half of those around the globe who have been forced from their homes are children as their parents — like all good parents — seek to protect them. All victims of disasters are innocent, but these children should certainly hold a special place in our hearts as they suffer the effects of forces completely out of their control. When we share their journey, we understand how much they need our help.

There are many organizations that merit our support on this journey. We are proud of the work of Catholic Relief Services for refugees around the world and of Catholic Charities helping those who have made it to the United States. Pope Francis is asking us to do more. Not only should we send our support, we should also take it upon ourselves to find and meet refugees, to hear their stories, to understand their situations. That is how we love our neighbor and share their journey.

When Jesus was asked to name the most important of God’s commandments, he said the first and greatest was to love the Lord with all your heart and soul and mind. And that the second was to love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus then said that those two commandments are very similar. And they are, because when we heed the call of Pope Francis in this campaign and love our neighbor, wherever he lives, whatever her situation, it is then and there that we will find the God who is love.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo is the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop Gregory J. Mansour, Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, is chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services. Sister Donna Markham, OP, Ph.D., is the president of Catholic Charities, USA.