Lent can be a season to help those most in need

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Lent is upon us, and I have been inspired by the words of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in which they call us during this time to devote ourselves to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that “remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit.”

It reminds me of the numerous examples of projects in the past wherein parishioners shared their time, treasure and talent with their community. For many years St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish has selected St. Francis House Food Pantry as their Lenten project, and have given so much. Parishioners donate food, as well as funds to buy more food. They also donate time by delivering food, stocking our warehouse and helping families select food they need from our pantry. Generosity from these families has been such a blessing to those utilizing the pantry.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is just one example of a parish selecting a project through Catholic Social Services. Other great examples have come from St. Patrick, Holy Cross and St. Benedict, just to name a few.

At Lent, Catholic Social Services can work with you to find ways to share your time, treasure and talent, whether individually, as family or a part of your parish. I encourage you to contact our new Community Engagement Manager Laura Rice and talk to her about possibilities.

Lent is a time to pray. That brings to me why I have been an active reader of the U.S. bishops over the past few weeks — to find direction on President Trump’s executive order related to refugee resettlement.

Over the years many of you have welcomed the stranger by helping furnish homes for newly arrived refugees or signing up to be a Meals Team, a family mentor or even teaching classes at the Welcome Center for our Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services program. This tremendous support has contributed to refugees’ wellbeing and integration into their new community. Your friendship and compassion has meant the world to Alaska’s newest members.

The executive order signed by President Trump in January paused refugee resettlement from seven countries and drastically reduced the number of refugees resettling to the U.S. this year. It seems like the details of the order and how it is to be carried out change every day. I think it is important to know that however it is actually rolled out refugee resettlement will likely be drastically reduced this year. This significantly impacts Alaska’s refugee community, our RAIS program, families who have already been given refuge in Alaska and their loved ones who remain in harm’s way.

Catholic Social Services expected to resettle 78 more refugees to Anchorage this year, many of whom already have families here waiting for loved ones. These families are hoping their children, spouses, elderly parents or other family members will be given the opportunity to join them in Alaska.

As people of faith, we ask you to stand together and support our refugee community — regardless of the religion they practice or where they come from. The statement from our Catholic bishops in Alaska expresses it beautifully (see page one). We thank each of you for your support and ask for your continued prayers for those who are suffering, in particular the children. We offer this prayer:

 

God of compassion, whose own Son once experienced life as a refugee, we remember those fleeing from danger, hungry and afraid, with nowhere to call home. God, we ask for them warmth, security, food and peace.

God of hope, we thank you for those who are working to bring relief and comfort to those displaced, showing glimpses of grace in the darkness of despair. God, give them strength.

God of justice, guide the nations and the leaders of the world towards peace, stir hearts to be generous and compassionate. God, help us to play our part in bringing about the change that we want to see.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more about CSS, call 222-7300 or visit cssalaska.org.


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