Many of us are intrigued and, at the same time, agitated when hearing the story about Joseph fleeing from his homeland to another country, with his young wife and little son, seeking safety while being chased by murderous bullies. Though the Holy Family may not have sought political asylum in any formal way, they were asylum seekers. They could also be called refugees who, by definition, would suffer the threat of punishment, even the execution of a family member, if they remained in their nation of origin. And they were immigrants, i.e., those who migrate in search of a better life. Their travel was rugged—most of it on foot—and they didn’t know anyone or have any connections where they went. Through the grace of God, and probably the goodness of others, they survived until it was safe to return home.
It’s hard to believe that 2,000 years later similar stories still occur. This past week, I met a man from Venezuela who, along with his young wife and little son fled from their home country to the United States. Mostly on foot, they traveled to Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico before crossing into the United States. A priest there who once worked in Kansas City’s urban core called here to see if a local family would host them. Now, here in a place where they knew no one and had no connections, they find themselves in a similar spot as did Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
Different from most other Latin American countries, Venezuelans who cross the border are not necessarily categorized just as immigrants but often as refugees and/or asylum seekers. For the past ten to fifteen years, Venezuela has suffered a humanitarian and economic crisis because of political upheaval and the violation of citizen’s basic rights along with a lack of necessities. Though this couple would love to remain in, or return to, their homeland, it would not be good for them to do so, as it wasn’t for the Holy Family long ago.
Numerous Catholics that I meet, including many readers of this blog, tell me that they want to transform their faith into acts that give it greater conviction. They want to help others in ways that are meaningful to them. None of us can change the world on our own but many of us are willing to join others to make it a little more human, a little more compassionate, a little better. Some are interested in doing that through community policing or adopting a section of roadway to clean, some by fighting racism or sexism, some by tutoring children to a better level of learning or mentoring an underprivileged child, some by volunteering at a food pantry, soup kitchen, or other local social agency. Many of us just need a personal invitation and we’ll respond. If this is your area of interest, I invite you to help this young family or others like them who are on foreign land in our city. The Bible tells us that we might just be entertaining angels.
Saint Francis Xavier and Saint James Parishes have taken a lead role for our diocese in working with civic leaders to assist with immigration challenges, along with Della Lamb and other social agencies. If you’re interested in this type of ministry, contact Sue Robb at firstname.lastname@example.org to help or learn more.