I was a stranger and you welcomed me

Over the years, I’ve learned that my mood and overall outlook on life are very much affected by my surroundings. So as I begin to get settled into my new apartment, I am looking forward to making it feel more like home. I am noticing that the careful placement of a plant or hanging artwork created by a friend can make a substantial difference in making a space your own.

Since my own living space means so much to me, at this time especially, I am thinking of the many Afghan refugees currently experiencing displacement. When I think of the difficulty I experienced finding an affordable place to live, I can’t even imagine the challenges these people face.

Jesus often spoke about welcoming the stranger. Matthew 25: 35-36 is well-known: “’For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’”

As Jesus and his disciples traveled throughout Judea, they had to rely on the hospitality of others along the way. Many people took them in, even when it was unsafe to do so.

Housing is such a basic human need and yet so many people go without it. Waiting lists for affordable housing are sometimes years long. Refugees worldwide are fleeing their homes in search of safety, and still, some say there is “no room at the inn.”

Whenever of think of these families, I picture the Holy Family. Would they have been turned away if people had known?

Luckily, there is some light in all this darkness. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Charities, and other faith-based groups have intensified their efforts working with the U.S. government to assist Afghan refugees who require housing and aid as they begin new lives in the U.S.

In our diocese, Catholic Charities of Fairfield County has responded to the request of Goodwin University and the University of Bridgeport (UB) to join in the effort to assist recent Afghan refugees coming to Connecticut. At the request of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Mike Donoghue, diocesan director of Catholic Charities, has reached out to Goodwin/UB president Mark Scheinberg to offer his support.

Bishop Caggiano said the University of Bridgeport’s initiative to offer assistance to Afghan refugees is necessary given what is unfolding in their country. “It is a commitment to stand with those who are homeless, refugees and poor. It is a pro-life issue for which I wish to express my gratitude for President Scheinberg’s leadership, vision and support. I am also proud and grateful that Catholic Charities will be joining in this important work.”

Pope Francis has encouraged faithful around the world to gather in prayer and fasting. “I believe that in this global world, every man and woman can do something,” he said. “If small groups can sow terror, small groups can sow peace. And they can do it through prayer, which, together with fasting, which is also detachment from daily life, is a ‘revolt’ against war, as well as an invocation to the Lord, the Lord of history, so that He may open up paths of peace and arouse, through His spirit, the goodwill of men, of the powerful, of institutions.”

Thinking about these refugees makes me realize how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads. This isn’t to say there aren’t difficulties in our own lives, but it puts everything in perspective when we think about those without basic needs. We can call our local Catholic Charities and offer assistance or follow Pope Francis’ call for prayer and fasting. As the pope said, “small groups can sow peace.”