By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Recently arrived refugees and former refugees, many wearing colorful traditional clothing, joined with members of the Catholic and wider community for an early celebration of Thanksgiving Nov. 21.
Catholic Charities’ annual Thanksgiving Welcoming Celebration, held at the St. Anthony Campus on West Market Street, is now in its fourth year. It included traditional Thanksgiving foods and desserts as well as dishes brought by refugee families to share.
Leaders from the Catholic, Muslim and Hindu traditions welcomed those gathered with prayer.
Father David Cockson, pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Church, shared that Catholics not only celebrate Thanksgiving this week, but also celebrate the feast of Christ the King on Nov. 25. Christians tend to think that heaven is “up there or over there,” he said.
“In reality we know we are to bring the kingdom down,” he said. “It’s around us and within us and we want to share that with you, because you share your rich tradition with us.”
The Thanksgiving event was festive, despite the small number of refugees resettled in this past fiscal year. The agency received just 200 refugees, down from about 800 the previous fiscal year, according to Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, Catholic Charities chief executive officer.
She said the Thanksgiving Welcoming Celebration is important for both refugee and the larger community. Refugees are “people who have been told, in some cases for decades, that they aren’t welcome in their homelands or countries where they took refuge.”
“To finally come to a community that welcomes them home and tells them ‘you are a Louivillian, let us teach you our traditions’ is very meaningful,” said DeJaco Crutcher. “It’s meaningful for us to remember that it’s how many of our families came here.”
She noted that many of those settled this past fiscal year were families with small children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Jean and Virginiei Kalwaye and their children are a Congolese families who now call Louisville home. The couple said they enjoy attending the Thanksgiving event, because of the welcoming atmosphere.
“America is good,” said Jean Kalwaye. He said he used to think that some things — such as finding employment and owning a home — were impossible, but moving to the U.S. changed that. He now works for Catholic Charities as a driver and he and his family own a home.
They took part in the pre-Thanksgiving celebration by dining on its diversity of food and sharing conversation with those around them. Children gathered for the feast were also treated to crafts.