“I ask myself: will this war ever end, will children ever smile again rather than shedding tears, will we ever get to watch the stars rather than watch black smoke in the sky? But what I know for sure is that the world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who sit and do nothing. Let us pray to our God for peace to spread to our land.”
Naya Abou Mousa, a refugee from Syria, spoke these words at a Parish Ambassador Corps (PAC) Retreat lead by Catholic Relief Services at the Diocesan Pastoral Center on May 21. Mousa expressed sorrow for what has happened to her people but also hope that God would bring peace to her country.
The retreat included sessions focused on migration both at the global and local levels and featured Mousa and another guest speaker, Elba, a mother from Guatemala who shared about the violence in her country which forced her and her children to leave and come to the United States. Ambassadors were able to hear firsthand accounts about the struggles migrants and refugees face and were inspired by the faith, strength and courage of these women.
The retreat also allowed participants to share their own stories of migration and discuss challenges and opportunities in responding to the needs of migrants and refugees. Ambassadors were able to learn about resources available to them to help them grow in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes.
Sister Hortensia del Villar, the Diocesan Director of Outreach and Community Services, noted, “I could sense...the urgent call for all of us to strengthen our commitment to solidarity and to continue to move, as Pope Francis says, from the globalization of indifference to the globalization of solidarity.”
The PAC program, an effort to strengthen the social mission of the Church at the parish level, started last year in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services. Thus far, there have been three retreats and trainings where old and new parish social justice leaders have been invited to come together for on-going formation, training and sharing of best practices on how to strengthen global and local solidarity at the parish and vicariate level.
More than 42 social justice leaders from 18 parishes have participated so far in this pilot initiative. This is a three year effort to organize social justice leaders at parish and vicariate level that is supported with grants by Catholic Relief Services. This ministry year 2017-2018 will be the second year of this initiative.