When tens of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians were forced from their homes in the 1970s, Catholic Charities across the nation, including the one right here in Jackson, Mississippi, welcomed them.
When thousands of boys in the Sudan faced the choice of being forced into a murderous militia or fleeing for their lives, again, Catholic Charities opened the door, offering a new home, counseling to ease the burdens of what they had witnessed and families to walk with them on their new journey.
As drug wars and civil strife destroyed the fabric of the simple agrarian cultures in Central America, driving families northward, Catholic Charities smoothed their transition into new communities. As the evil of war, prejudice and violence spreads from one global region to another, we stand ready to welcome the stranger.
In our own nation, Catholics, primarily women religious, answered the call to educate and empower the African American community in a time when they were denied the right to vote, to learn and to have access to equal rights as citizens of the United States. As the Civil Rights Movement took shape, clergy and lay Catholics stepped up. They marched, spoke out and, in some cases, protected the very lives of Civil Rights icons in their homes, convents and rectories. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took refuge at Holy Child Jesus in Canton. Franciscan sisters in Meridian protected another Civil Rights leader from a mob hoping to lynch him. In Natchez, Greenwood and beyond, we find stories of those who worked to advance the movement.
The central theme to this work — all people are made in the image and likeness of God. Reports this week of disparaging remarks made by President Donald Trump regarding people from nations wracked by poverty, natural disaster and civil unrest warrant a strong response. No one asks to be born into poverty, thrust into war or see their homeland destroyed.
As we mark Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it is appropriate to remember and renew our commitment to the poor and vulnerable.
I call again on our lawmakers to forge a just and equitable solution for Dreamers, those brought to this nation as children who are now a part of the very fabric of our nation. I call on them to work out immigration policies with an eye to global justice and mercy. I urge them to put aside politics and be leaders with practical integrity.
In the meantime, in collaboration with the State Department, Homeland Security, the State of Mississippi, State wide agencies and a host of dedicated individuals, Catholic Charities in Jackson will continue its work with unaccompanied refugee minors, ministering to those driven from their homes as Joseph and Mary were driven from Bethlehem. Our Migrant Resource Center will continue to assist those who are here legally and who wish to call themselves Americans, as well as those who are undocumented to uphold their basic human rights. Our parishes and schools will continue to strive toward our mission to Embrace Diversity, Serve Others and Inspire Disciples.
Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Jackson
Director of Communications
The Catholic Diocese of Jackson covers 65 counties in Mississippi and includes 96 parishes and missions, 12 schools and more than 25 service programs administered through Catholic Charities of Jackson, Inc. Bishop Joseph Kopacz is the 11th bishop for the diocese.