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The United States Catholic Church has a long history of providing pastoral care for newcomers, encouraging the establishment of national churches, and arranging celebrations of the liturgy in ethnic languages. With the publication of Pastoralis Migration Cura by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People in 1973 and with the presence of so many people from various cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, and languages in different parts of United States, the Church now feels challenged to intensify its effort in integrating newcomers into the local church and society. This initiative by the Church gave rise to the establishment of ethnic ministries in different archdioceses/dioceses and the creation of the Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers (PCMRT) of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.
In collaborating with the work of the other various subcommittees within the SCDC and the Committee on Migration, PCMRT assists and supports dioceses, national organizations, and movements in the pastoral care of migrants, refugees, and travelers in need of special pastoral attention and participation in the life of the Church. The Sub-Committee on PCMRT is commissioned to increase pastoral awareness, cultural sensitivity, and the dynamics of outreach, welcome, and support throughout its network, especially within the ethnic communities of Africans, Caribbeans, and Europeans. We link them to the local church while celebrating their unique languages and traditions.
The Catholic Church is universal and rich in culture. Keeping this in mind, the archdioceses and dioceses of the United States support their local churches in responding to the pastoral needs of migrants and newcomers. Many parishes have committed themselves to be welcoming by encouraging evangelization, catechesis and liturgies in the native languages of the newcomers, while others organize diverse intercultural activities.
22 African Communities: Burmese, Burundians, Cameroonians, Congolese, Cape Verdeans, Equatorial Guineans, Eritreans and Ethiopians (Ge’ez rite), Ghanaians, Ivorians, Kenyans, Liberians, Nigerians, Rwandans, Sierra Leoneans, South Africans, Sudanese, Senegalese, Tanzanians, Ugandans, Zaireans, Zambians
9 Caribbean Communities: Belizeans, Dominicans, Grenadians, Guyanese, Haitians, Jamaicans, Santa Lucians, Trinidadians and Tobagonians
12 European Communities: Croatians, Czech, French, Irish, Italians, Lithuanians, Polish, Portuguese, Hungarians, Slovaks, Slovenians, Ukrainians
Non-Hispanic South Americans: Brazilians
Welcome to the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers! As a subcommittee of the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, we are charged with the pastoral care of migrants, refugees, and travelers from every walk of life, and we commit ourselves to establishing and facilitating programs for their pastoral well-being.
The Subcommittee has a special responsibility to unite itself in solidarity with our brothers and sisters arriving from foreign lands. Three major groups within this area of pastoral care are immigrants from Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean Islands. We provide a voice for the hopes, dreams, and struggles that arise in their effort to achieve full integration into and active participation in the life of both the local church and of American society. Part of this effort includes raising awareness of the challenges and opportunities that face immigrants to the United States.
One major way in which we facilitate and liaise with these many ethnic communities is through the appointment of national advisers. Representatives are chosen for the various African, Caribbean, and European communities to serve as national advisers to the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers. These appointees serve the Church by leading their communities in their respective dioceses as facilitators of ministries, publications, gatherings, and other such methods of outreach. They are also responsible for providing reports to the Subcommittee, so that we are better equipped to meet the needs of these groups.
Another way in which we promote and celebrate the many cultures that are present within our Church is through our sponsorship of a variety of events. In the past, PCMRT sponsored such events as "African National Eucharistic Congress", "Annual African Catholic Day of Prayer", and "One With the Family: A Colloquium on African and Caribbean Presence in the Catholic Church in the United States". Many ethnic and Catholic organizations hold annual gatherings, such as the national and regional gatherings of the Caribbean Catholics of North America, the annual gathering of the National Association of African Catholics in the United States, the annual conference of the Brazilian Ministry, the annual gathering of the African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States, Hungarian regional gatherings, the annual convention of the National Center of the Haitian Apostolate, and the annual conference of the Igbo Catholic Community USA.
Other events include Sunday Masses celebrated in the native languages of various ethnic communities and the Youth Leadership Conference and Heritage month celebrated by the Polish American Catholics. The Cameroonians, Ghanaians, Eritreans, Igbos [Nigeria], Kenyans, Sudanese, and Ugandans also each sponsor a National Day of Prayer for their own communities. We invite you to celebrate and learn more about the rich and diverse cultures within the Catholic Church by participating in our programs, conferences, workshops, and seminars, and by joining the various Catholic national organizations and support groups of your community. Also, be sure to take advantage of the information and resources provided here on our website.
Thank you for your interest in the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers. We welcome you as collaborators in our outreach to ensure that new immigrants have the necessary pastoral support as they settle in America, their new home, and we look forward to seeing you at our events!
Sr. Joanna Okereke, HHCJ is a member of the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus, from Nigeria. She holds a National Certificate in Education from the College of Education in Awka, Nigeria; a Bachelor’s Degree in General Studies from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana; a Master of Arts in Instructional Technology from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin; a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Theology from St. Joseph’s College of Maine; and a Doctor of Philosophy from Graduate Theological Foundation, in Mishawaka, Indiana.
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