Sunday 22 August 2021: Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has urged parishes across the diocese to explore how they can “do more” for migrants in response to crises such as the Afghan situation.
In his Saturday Vigil Mass homily at St. Nicholas’ Parish, Bishop Leahy asked parishes, in particular, if they could engage more with the Community sponsorship programme - a collaboration between Government, UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), NGOs and civil society.
The programme seeks that, rather than the State trying to provide integration services directly, groups such as parishes might become the face of welcome in their local community and to take on the responsibility for providing a range of integration supports to a refugee family.
Thinking of the wonderful Irish missionaries such as Ethel Normoyle of the Little Company of Mary, who died last week having spent much of her life helping thousands in South Africa, Bishop Leahy said he now finds himself asking how we in Ireland can do more for those forcibly displaced from their homelands.
He said: “The State provides considerable resources, but the parish would be the human face of welcome. It’s a model of resettlement that was pioneered in Canada in 1979 and has seen very positive outcomes since then, transforming the lives of both refugees and volunteers.
“I know of parishes in Canada, England and here in Ireland that have taken this project on and have discovered the truth of the Gospel – it is in giving we receive. The message of eternal life that Jesus gives us is not just for our personal consolation but is a call to follow him also as a community.”
Bishop Leahy said that we are hearing Jesus’ call to care for refugees and we have choices to make. It is, he said, God’s call reaching us.
“We’ve been watching almost in disbelief many scenes from Afghanistan. We know that hundreds of thousands have been internally displaced in the past week alone. We don’t know yet what will be the extent of the exodus out of the country. But we know it’s a major crisis.
“All of this raises the question for us of how we in Ireland want to be a country that welcomes migrants. While we have our own many problems, the fact is that we are still one of the world’s wealthiest nations.
“Migration is a growing worldwide phenomenon and Christians cannot but feel there is something of God’s call reaching us in this situation.”
Bishop Leahy said that it is some years now since Pope Francis called on every European church parish to take in one refugee family in a gesture of solidarity. “He probably didn’t mean literally every parish, but certainly his point was clear. Where possible, yes.
“It’s something that as Bishop I often ask myself how we might achieve that. I appreciate there are difficulties and complexities.
“I know that in personal contacts many Catholics do a lot. I know parishes have been active in reaching out to migrants. But I wonder can we do more?”