One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 15:7. It says, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
I believe it truly captures the wonderment that occurs with welcoming another and accepting a stranger as someone who is deeply connected to us through Christ.
The more people I meet through my job at Catholic Charities and my parish, Epiphany Church, the more I realize the importance of welcoming. Thankfully, Louisville is home to a very inviting community.
We have an abundance of beautiful places of worship in this city that are always willing to offer an embrace to newcomers, and we have a vibrant immigrant and refugee culture full of people simply waiting to be welcomed. In my opinion, it ends up being a perfect relationship because people in this city have hearts that are willing to help carry the cross of a new friend.
Somewhere I consistently see a willingness to welcome others is at Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services. I admit, I may be the slightest bit biased, but I believe that our legal services department employs people that encapsulate Romans 15:7 to their very core.
Dozens of special people and loving families go through the doors of Catholic Charities every day, but there was something about a particular asylum seeker, a woman who arrived a few years ago, that truly touched the whole department. They felt that as they began to open their hearts and minds to welcome her, she fully reciprocated the same love.
Asylum is the legal protection afforded by the United States government to a person who can demonstrate a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Asylees are distinguished from refugees. Asylees apply for this status while in the United States unlike refugees, who apply for this status in a foreign country.
This asylee traveled to the U.S. in 2013 from her home country of Jordan. Our client went on to describe that she found the safe place she was searching for in Louisville, specifically at Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services.
“I will never forget Ms. Rebecca,” she said about our program director and attorney Rebecca Sim.
Louisville is welcoming and kind to her, she said, adding, “I like everything about Louisville, I feel like this is my country.”
It is hard for many Americans to realize how comfortable we can become. We do not face religious or cultural persecution on a regular basis, and many of us will never find ourselves in situations similar to immigrants and refugees like her. However, that does not mean we must confine our hearts and minds to blissful comfort by assuming that everyone else in this world is offered the same life as we are.
We as brothers and sisters of Christ must find the richness in getting to know another’s story, whether it is something we can relate to or not. When we listen to another’s stories, we are essentially inviting their experiences to touch our hearts and minds. Through this exchange, we too can embody Romans 15:7.
Over the coming weeks as we welcome in a new year, I hope that we find ourselves called to also welcome a new friend into our lives. It is my hope that we each find a deeper joy for life, and a more intimate connection to our brothers and sisters.
Deacon Lucio Caruso is director of mission integration for Catholic Charities of Louisville.