By Amelia McGowan
VARDAMAN – The Northeast Mississippi office of Catholic Charities of Jackson is preparing for its third annual National Migration Week celebration, “Creating a Culture of Encounter,” which will take place in locations throughout northeastern Mississippi during Jan. 8-14, 2017. The events will include Eucharistic celebrations, cultural expressions and legal workshops conducted by Catholic Charities’ Migrant Support Center.
With this celebration, the Diocese of Jackson joins dioceses throughout the country in reflecting upon the circumstances confronting migrants in the country, including immigrants, refugees, children and victims and survivors of violent crimes and human trafficking. The theme for National Migration Week 2017 draws attention to Pope Francis’ call to create a culture of encounter, and in doing so to look beyond our own needs and wants to those of others around us.
In the homily given at his first Pentecost as pope, he emphasized the importance of encounter in the Christian faith: “For me this word is very important. Encounter with others. Why? Because faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others.”
While Mississippi’s immigrant population is not as large as more populous states, it is growing rapidly. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Mississippi’s foreign-born population rose from 0.8 percent of the total statewide population in 1990, to 1.4 percent in 2000, and to 2.1 percent in 2013.
The kickoff for National Migration Week is Sunday, January 8, at Tupelo St. James with a bilingual screening of the film “The Invisibles” from 2:30-4:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, Jan. 10, I will provide an immigration workshop and legal consultations at Ripley St. Matthew Parish from 6 – 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11, will feature Eucharistic celebrations commemorating National Migration Week throughout the area. I will provide a second immigration workshop at Corinth St. James Parish on Thursday, Jan. 12, from 6 – 8 p.m.
The week concludes with a Night of Cultural Expression on Friday, Jan. 13, from 6 – 8 p.m. at a location to be determined, and a closing ceremony at St. James Parish on Saturday, Jan. 14, which will feature Sister Gabriela Ramirez from Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., from 3 – 4:30 p.m.
All are welcome to join in the National Migration Week festivities as we celebrate the diversity of our towns and parishes. For more information about the week’s events call 662-682-9992.
(Amelia McGowan is the Program Director and an Immigration Attorney for Catholic Charities’ Migrant Support Center.)