An earthy, warm tomato is one of summer’s treats. Last weekend, like most late summer weekends, a tableful of vine-ripened split-on-top tomatoes crowded a table at the farmer’s market on Shelbyville Road in St. Matthews.
The juicy treats were just one of the offerings at a booth run by refugees taking part in Catholic Charities of Louisville Common Earth Garden program. About 475 refugees participate in the program and tend 11 different gardens around the area.
You don’t often picture refugees in East Louisville, entrepreneurs selling the products of their labor alongside fast food restaurants and car dealerships. But there they are, present in small ways throughout Louisville and all over this country.
They work in factories, on the roofs of our homes, in the medical field and in some of the most delicious restaurants in town.
To help connect the Christian community to migrants, Pope Francis formally launched a new initiative yesterday, Sept. 27, called Share the Journey. He invites people, quite literally, to share the journey of life with a refugee or immigrant.
The United Nations estimates that there are 22 million people on the move around the world right now. Share the Journey calls on the Christian community to reach out to them through prayer, awareness, advocacy and friendship. The first planned activity is a week of prayer set for Oct. 7 to 13.
Believers are called to welcome migrants and refugees “with arms wide open, ready to give a sincere, affectionate, enveloping embrace,” Pope Francis said in launching the campaign Sept. 27.
A website for the campaign is available at sharejourney.org and it includes a toolkit full of resources for parishes, schools and families. It recommends special prayers at Masses, prayer vigils, refugee simulation events such as the one offered by Catholic Charities of Louisville, school announcements, lesson plans and speaking events. The worldwide church will be doing the same.
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami wrote about the Share the Journey campaign on Aug. 28 in a Florida newspaper, according to Catholic News Service.
“ ‘Share the Journey’ invites us to see through the eyes of others rather than turning a blind eye,” he wrote. “As Pope Francis says, ‘Not just to see but to look. Not just to hear but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by but to stop. And don’t just say, ‘What a shame, poor people,’ but to allow ourselves to be moved by pity.’ ”
The Archdiocese of Louisville is fortunate to have Catholic Charities of Louisville’s robust resettlement program for migrants and refugees, which means there are ample opportunities in the area to learn about and encounter migrants.
And there are 16 parishes and counting where Catholic immigrants from Central and South America have found welcome. In fact, this week’s edition of The Record includes two pages of content in Spanish and is being sent in bulk to those parishes.
Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas Internationalis, which is sponsoring the worldwide campaign, told Catholic News Service that Share the Journey is a lifestyle that acknowledges the human need to share life’s journey.
“There are specific moments in the life of a person, a family or the whole human family when we need to be reminded of this fundamental truth that we have been given each other so that we would have someone to share our journeys with,” he said.
“A small gesture like extending one’s arm to somebody else — it means a lot. I reach out and if a person feels alone and isolated, my reaching out is a gesture of solidarity. If I reach out and that person is wounded, it could be a sign of healing. If I reach out and the person is lost, it could mean an offer of guidance. If I reach out and person feels like nobody cares, then it will be a sign of welcome.”
Let’s not allow a sense of detachment to stop us from encountering our brothers and sisters and sharing our lives with them. Start noticing where they are present already in your life and offer a “sincere, affectionate, enveloping embrace.”