Through the efforts of a newly formed Migrant Ministry Preaching Team, parishioners at several parishes will be learning during the coming weeks about the unique strengths and needs of the various migrant communities within the Diocese of Rochester.
This new initiative by diocesan Migrant Ministry is aimed at building relationships between all parishes and area migrant communities. During team members’ visits to parishes, parishioners also will be given the opportunity to donate directly to the ministry or to contribute in other ways.
The preaching team comprises priests, deacons, religious and laity who are familiar with the circumstances of the local migrant population. On invitation, these preachers will talk to parishioners about the migrants’ gifts and strengths, the struggles they face and their need for pastoral care. Bishop Matthew H. Clark explained this new initiative in a letter sent to parish leaders in mid-October.
In the past, migrant ministry has been supported primarily by the parishes in those areas with the highest concentrations of migrants. “However, funding is not keeping pace with the growing needs of this rapidly growing community,” Bishop Clark wrote in his letter. “It is clear that migrant ministry needs the support of the people of the entire diocese, not just of the migrants’ local parishes. Solidarity alone would dictate that we all embrace a role in the financial viability of this ministry.”
Approximately 50,000 migrants are known to be in New York state, and about 20,000 of them reside within diocesan boundaries, estimated Deacon George Dardess, consultant for diocesan Parish Support Ministries, of which Migrant Ministry is a part.
It is believed that more and more migrants have begun living in the Rochester Diocese in recent years, although it’s difficult to determine the population’s actual size because many migrants may be here illegally, observed Deacon Dardess, who is a member of the preaching team.
Almost all of these migrants are Catholic, he added. In the past, most of these people worked temporarily on local farms as they traveled from Florida to Maine and Canada. Recently, however, “migrants” have begun to settle in the area and work year-round at local construction firms, nurseries, restaurants and dairy farms, he said.
Diocesan Migrant Ministry has established ministerial sites in Brockport, Geneva, Mt. Morris and Sodus, which are the areas with the greatest migrant populations. Parishes in these areas have been wonderfully supportive of their local migrant communities, Deacon Dardess said, but Catholics throughout the rest of the diocese are also called to welcome and take care of their migrant brothers and sisters.
“These people are struggling, not only financially but also in terms of loneliness and isolation,” he said
Despite tremendous language and cultural barriers, English-speaking Catholics can learn and benefit from many facets of the migrants’ rich, family-oriented and faith-filled culture, Deacon Dardess said.
“What we have here is a whole population who throws all their trust in God’s mercy. Can we Anglos sitting up here say the same things ourselves? I think we’ve got something to learn from that. This is not a one-way street,” he said.
Members of the preaching team will tailor their reflections to the strengths, needs and goals of the parishes to which they are invited, Deacon Dardess said. Although the preachers will provide donation envelopes, this initiative is more than just a short-term attempt to raise money for migrant ministry. Instead, the team hopes to help foster long-term relationships between parishes and migrant communities.
“We’re not simply trying to get funds. We’re also trying to build bridges,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about the Migrant Ministry Preaching Team, contact Father Jes√∫s Flores, diocesan coordinator of Migrant Ministry, at 585/328-3228, ext. 1354, or Deacon George Dardess at 585/328-3228, ext. 1340.