by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It was Pope Pius X who instituted the church’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees 105 years ago.
But it was the Old Testament prophet Amos that Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was invoking as he preached the annual Mass on Sept. 29 at St. Patrick Church in Kansas City, Kansas.
“Amos speaks the word of God to his contemporaries, challenging them to stir themselves from their complacency,” the archbishop said.
“One wonders what Amos would say to us in the United States in 2019,” he continued. “What would he think of our nation as we cut drastically the number of refugees fleeing religious persecution and bloody civil wars in their homeland that we will accept into our country?
“What would he think of our society with a very high standard of living, but we claim we have no room for another refugee or we are unable to provide work permits for migrant workers, or we say there is no room for immigrants fleeing starvation and a lack of economic opportunity?”
“I believe that Amos would be screaming full volume to shake us from our complacency and challenge us to rearrange our priorities,” he said.
He found equally applicable material in the Gospel reading for the day — the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
“It challenges us to notice the needs of those around us,” the archbishop said, “and to do what we can to respond to them.
“The Gospel challenges us . . . to ask ourselves the question — What can I do? Is there someone we can help? Or, not so much give a handout to, but a hand up to?”
“It is not just about immigrants and refugees,” he concluded. “It is about embracing our role in helping to build the kingdom that God desires for all humanity.”
Organizers of the event were pleased with the multicultural turnout of more than 400 people.
“Catholic means universal,” said Bill Scholl, archdiocesan consultant for social justice. “The salvation that Jesus won for us on the cross is for everyone, and that’s what it means to be Catholic.
“Today is a day to celebrate the diversity of the church and our multicultural aspects. But secondly, it is to remind the church that we have a rich diversity of believers here in our community and to just be open to that . . . because part of being a disciple of Jesus is getting to know your fellow believers.”
Sister Loredana Mazzei, a member of the Apostles of the Interior Life in Overland Park and a native of Italy, said she thinks having the special Mass is important.
“It is a great opportunity to get to know one another because I really think the obstacles sometimes for being one true church is the fact that we don’t know one another,” she said, “so there are suspicions in humanity because of lack of knowledge.”
First-time attendee Sister Charlotte White, of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, said the Mass represents something to look forward to.
“I look around at the richness that is here — that is going to be contributed to our country — and I’m just so excited for that time,” Sister Charlotte said. “I love seeing all the little kids of different cultures running around and playing together.”
To shed light on the different countries, the Scriptures, prayers of the faithful and hymns were read and sung in different languages, including Korean, Spanish, Italian and Burmese.
Sister Loredana said she admires the archbishop’s commitment to migrants and refugees.
“He really has a heart for people that are immigrants, people that are suffering, and refugees,” she said. “He really wants to help in any way that he can for the diocese and the people that are present in the diocese at large.”
Jeeyeon Cho, of the Korean Catholic Community in Lenexa, said the archbishop really “gets the point.”
“We have to acknowledge that there are those that really need help to settle down in this country,” Cho said.
“We need to help each other and pray for each other, especially when we know the hardship,” she added.