Prayer service welcomes the ‘stranger’

Darko Mihaylovich, director of programs at Catholic Charities of Louisville, left, stood with men who are members of the refugee community during the Migration Week Prayer Service at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth St., Jan. 6. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz told the gathering that each was created with “inalienable dignity” in God’s image. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer

In an outward expression of the Gospel teaching to welcome the stranger, the Archdiocese of Louisville held a prayer service at the Cathedral of the Assumption Jan. 6 — the feast of the Epiphany — in celebration of National Migration Week observed Jan. 7-13.

The gathering of about 200 — black and white parishioners, and members of the immigrant and refugee communities — heard that each, regardless of racial and cultural differences, was created with “inalienable dignity” in the image of God.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who presided, said to those gathered on the sunny, cold day that the faithful must “journey” with the millions of people around the world looking for safety. Every stranger who knocks on one’s door, said the archbishop, is an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ. Migrants and refugees, he said, come from different parts of the world, but come together to form “one community under one God.”

The archbishop said to his listeners that each was created by God with “inalienable dignity.” But dignity, he noted, cannot be given to anyone until “you’ve looked into the face” of that person.

He drew the congregation’s attention to the parable of the Good Samaritan found in the Gospel reading from St. Luke.

In Jesus’ day, Samaritans were a group who were looked down upon. The Good Samaritan, “would have every reason not to help a person in need, but he looked into the face of that man who’d been attacked by robbers and left to die,” said Archbishop Kurtz.

On the feast of the Epiphany, the three wise men are remembered for journeying from the east “to look into the face of the person who would save them,” said the archbishop. “They look into his (Jesus’) face and they were never the same.”

On the other hand, noted Archbishop Kurtz, King Herod didn’t look into the face of Jesus. Instead, he ordered every male child killed. “When you don’t look into the face of someone, you can do great violence to that person,” said Archbishop Kurtz.

In September of last year, Pope Francis launched a two-year campaign called “Share the Journey.” The initiative — sponsored by Caritas Internationalis — is meant to promote encounters between people on the move and people living in the countries they are leaving, passing through or arriving in.

Pope Francis has called the church to look into the face of another, said Archbishop Kurtz. The Holy Father said that “ ‘to encounter another means not just to see, but to look; not just to hear, but to listen; not just to meet and pass by, but to stop. Don’t just say what a shame, poor people, but allow yourself to be moved by pity,’ ”
said the archbishop.

Archbishop Kurtz shared with the gathering that the Jan. 6 prayer service was the first of five events in the “Days of Human Dignity” initiative being observed in the archdiocese. The remaining events are:

Jan. 15 — 1:30 p.m. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Day prayer service celebrated by Archbishop Kurtz at the Cathedral.

Jan. 19 — 4:30 p.m. Walk for Life. Participants will gather in the undercroft of the Cathedral.

Jan. 21 — 3 p.m. Annual Pro-life Memorial Mass celebrated by Archbishop Kurtz at St. Martin of Tours Church, 639 S. Shelby St.

Feb. 8 — 10:30 a.m. Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl Luncheon at Presentation Academy, 861 S. Fourth St.

Archbishop Kurtz shared with his listeners that the Holy Father calls the faithful to act in four ways on behalf of migrant and refugee families:

  • To welcome — Welcoming is not solely the job of Catholic Charities of Louisville, but is each person’s responsibility. “We as a church are called to welcome those in movement.”
  • To protect — “Protect people who can be defenseless. Protect people who want to protect their own families and bring unification to their families.”
  • To promote — The church desires to “use and bring forth the gifts” of each immigrant family, “so they can contribute to the life of our community.”
  • To integrate — “To become one family in our community and in our church, one family in Christ.”

Among those who attended the prayer service was Jesus Molina, a native of Cuba, and Siddeq Samadi, a native of Afghanistan both resettled by Catholic Charities. Both men said they’ve felt the church’s presence in their journey.

Samadi said the event was a meaningful one for him. It made him recall the kindness of others which helped him and his family survive in a new country. “When I arrived the Catholic Charities made it possible for me,” he said. He was assisted in finding work and housing. Samadi now works as an employment specialist at Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services Office, he said.

Molina and his wife Mercedes, have lived in the U.S. for three years. Molina said he’s “grateful for the welcome” he’s received in this country. “The church has helped me to integrate into the community,” he said in his native Spanish. He’s now a catechist at St. Joseph Church and his wife sings in the choir, he said. “I’m moved to see that though we’re from other nationalities, we’re one.”

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