According to Erga Migrantes caritas Christi (28), “Pastoral care of migrants and refugees means welcome, respect, protection, promotion and genuine love of every person in his or her religious and cultural expressions”.
Following the appointment of parish pastoral councils, where different apostolates were elected, many representatives of Department of Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees indicated the need for formation day.
This took place on 8 October at the Cathedral Hall boardroom. As people came in, head of department, Sr Maria de Lurdes Lodi Rissini mscs welcomed the participants by saying: “Good morning, I am happy to see you. Would you like to have coffee, water?”
This would be an example people could use to break the ice when they meet people for the first time, she said.
When we are welcoming of strangers in parishes, people are likely feel at home. The department does not only offer assistance to Catholics, but people from all religions.
“We are called to respect their religion, identity, cultural, linguistic and cultural expression,” she said.
The Episcopal Vicar for the department, Fr Ivaldo Bettin sc opened with a prayer and a video about a story of mercy. The department is run by the Scalabrinian fathers and sisters.
Fr Ivaldo gave a brief history of their founder, Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini. He said shoes are a symbol of their congregation as they represent people-on-the-move.
Sr Therese Musoa mscs and volunteer at Bienvenu Boleko spoke of the staff experiences in interviewing refugees when they come to the department for help. Theirs is not to judge and condemn but to advise by looking at the holistic needs of a person/ family, she said.
The department partners with organisations such as Bienvenu Shelter, Jesuit Refugee Service, Mother Teresa Home and Department of Home Affairs.
Ace Maunatlala from the Department of Home Affairs and volunteer at Pastoral Care fielded questions on refugee policies and international migration.
The department will have its annual Christmas celebration with refugees on 1 December. Pastoral Care encourages people to join them at the next formation day which will be announced in due course.