Here is a reflection written by the vice president of mission for Catholic Extension, a national Catholic fundraising organization based in Chicago that builds churches and aids the Catholic Church in America’s poorest places. Looking ahead to two important feast days this month, he looks at five timely lessons from our nation’s immigration history.
By Joe Boland
CHICAGO — St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day are fast approaching. These two feast days continue to be big celebrations for two Catholic ethnic groups that flocked to our American shores as immigrants in large numbers over the last two centuries: the Irish and the Italians. When the Irish mark St. Paddy’s Day and the Italians honor St. Joe, they celebrate not only their Catholic faith but also their national heritage.
This year especially, before we unthinkingly put on our green shirts for the Irish March 17 or our red sweaters for the Italians March 19 or 20, we should pause to remember the past and the lessons it teaches us.
St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni.
While it seems cliche to say that “history repeats itself,” these two feasts evoke very real and very unkind memories of what our immigrant ancestors endured. Their tenuous status in a new land was strikingly similar to what immigrants experience today.
The Catholic Church in America has always been and continues to be a largely immigrant church. The organization I work for, Catholic Extension, has an enormous stake and interest in this important conversation. Just as we built churches and provided support for Irish immigrant mining communities in the 1910s, we are today doing the same for Latino immigrant farmworkers in the 2010s.
On this year’s feast days of St. Patrick and St. Joseph, let us take a stroll down a less-than-rosy memory lane to see how some of yesterday’s immigrant groups were greeted as they fled their countries. Perhaps this historical remembrance can shed new light on our current national discussions and attitudes about immigrants and immigration.
Lesson No. 1 — Do not forget that St. Joseph, Mary and Jesus were a refugee family
We start this history lesson by going back to the very beginning of our story as a Christian people, by looking at the life of St. Joseph and the family entrusted to his care.
St. Joseph was a dreamer who listened to the angel’s warning in his dreams to take the child Jesus to (Read More)