HARTFORD – As part of a historic global campaign initiated by Pope Francis, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair called on Connecticut’s Catholics to “expand the reach and range of our hearts to those who are calling out for help” and to support migrants and refugees, during the Respect Life Mass on Oct. 8 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
“Without diminishing for a moment the essential task we have to oppose crimes like abortion and euthanasia, Pope Francis is asking us this year and next year to respect life by also upholding the life and dignity of migrants and refugees,” the archbishop said in his homily.
We are all witnessing a crisis, he said.
“In the face of a global refugee crisis not seen since the end of the Second World War, you and I see it in the image of a dead child washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean, or in sprawling refugee camps in Asia or the Middle East, or in the plight of people here who are looking for religious freedom or for a decent life for themselves and their families — like most of our own immigrant ancestors and families,” he acknowledged.
“The Holy Father would like us to share the journey, as he put it,” Archbishop Blair said, “to share the journey by practical and personal solidarity, moral support and prayer for the millions of people being driven out of their countries by war, persecution and poverty.”
Archbishop Blair was referring to the international “Share the Journey” global migration campaign, a public awareness campaign that was officially launched in Rome by Pope Francis on Sept. 27. It will continue through September 2019.
The campaign seeks to build understanding around the world for the plight of refugees and migrants. According to Pope Francis, the campaign aims to dispel a “culture of indifference” and promote a “culture of encounter.”
As part of the Share the Journey campaign, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) designated the week of Oct. 7-13 as a “Week of Prayer and Action across the United States” in support of migrants and refugees. This year’s archdiocesan Respect Life Mass fell during that week, making it an optimal time for the archbishop to announce the campaign.
The campaign is being sponsored internationally by Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s global charitable network. In the United States, it is being co-sponsored by the USCCB, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Catholic Charities USA.
During his homily at the Respect Life Mass, Archbishop Blair stressed the value of each individual, saying, “We have to realize that every single human person, no matter how helpless or down and out, born or still in the womb, that every person has an infinite value in the sight of God.
“As our former Pope Benedict once said, ‘We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us, every person, is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.’ These truths are at the very heart of the Respect Life Sunday we celebrate today,” Archbishop Blair said.
Archbishop Blair was the principal celebrant. The concelebrants included Father James A. Shanley, episcopal vicar and rector of the cathedral; Father, Robert J. Rousseau, director of the archdiocese’s Pro-Life Ministry and chaplain at St. Joseph’s Residence in Enfield; and Father Robert Landback, pastor or Our Lady of Fatima in Yalesville.
As he does each year following the Respect Life Mass, Archbishop Blair presented the St. Gianna Beretta Molla Pro-Life Award to four recipients. This year’s medals and honors went to Father Robert Landback, who is chaplain of the archdiocese's Courage Ministry; Cary Dupont, president of St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol; Mike Ferraro, parish pro-life co-founder and representative at St. John Bosco Parish in Branford; and Mary Lou Peters, parish pro-life representative and advocate at St. Damien of Molokai Parish in Poquonock.
The archbishop also took a moment to offer encouragement to the pro-life representatives in attendance at the Mass. He told them he serves on the USCCB’s pro-life committee and often hears a mix of both good news and bad news pertaining to pro-life issues.
“There are many things that are very challenging, that are very distressing, but there are also many, many wonderful, positive and encouraging things that are going on in the world and in our country with regard to the promotion of life,” the archbishop said.
“So it requires a great deal of perseverance in the kind of world in which we live today,” he acknowledged, “but I know that those who received the awards today and all of you who are present here today are firmly committed to that perseverance. I just want to encourage you and give you the reassurance of my prayers and blessings for all that you do.”
Archbishop Blair also welcomed students from St. Paul Catholic High School, which each year is represented by a contingent at the Respect Life Mass.
Information about the “Share the Journey” campaign is available at journey.caritas.org, justiceforimmigrants.org and www.sharejourney.org. Catholic Relief Services offers toolkits for parish, school and community leaders.