Elizabeth Clapp, Director of Immigration Legal Services at Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio, speaks to a crowd at the Comboni Mission Center.

Elizabeth Clapp is the Director of Legal Services at Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio. 

Mary Anne is the Parish & Community Engagement Coordinator at Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio (CCSWO)

Mary Anne is the Parish & Community Engagement Coordinator at Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio (CCSWO)

Prayer for Migrants from Pope Francis

Merciful God, we pray to you for all the men, women and children who have died after leaving their homelands in search of a better life. Though many of their graves bear no name, to you each one is known, loved and cherished.

May we never forget them, but honor their sacrifice with deeds more than words. We entrust to you all those who have made this journey, enduring fear, uncertainty and humiliation, in order to reach a place of safety and hope.

In caring for them may we seek a world where none are forced to leave their home and where all can live in freedom, dignity and peace.

Merciful God and Father of all, wake us from the slumber of indifference, open our eyes to their suffering, and free us from the insensitivity born of worldly comfort and self-centeredness.

Inspire us, as nations, communities and individuals, to see that those who come to our shores are our brothers and sisters.

May we share with them the blessings we have received from your hand, and recognize that together, as one human family, we are all migrants, journeying in hope to you, our true home, where every tear will be wiped away, where we will be at peace and safe in your embrace.

Amen

Love Thy Neighbor – Understanding Immigration

“It’s important to remember that immigration is an issue, immigrants are people,” Mary Anne Bressler stressed during a presentation about migration at the Comboni Mission Center on Thursday, March 31. 

Mary Anne is the Parish & Community Engagement Coordinator at Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio (CCSWO). She, along with Elizabeth Clapp, Director of Immigration and Legal Services at CCSWO, were invited to speak at a justice and peace event promoted by the Comboni Missionaries.

The goal of this event was to educate people about the realities of immigation. Mary Anne started the presentation by speaking about the Catholic faith and what it teaches about migration.

Welcoming the Stranger

“Within the context of migration scripture actually has a very strong tradition of how we approach migration,” Mary Anne explained. Afterall, the Israelites were migrants out of Egypt, and the Holy Family were refugees for a time.

In Deuteronomy 10:19 it says “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Then in Matthew 25:35 Jesus renews this message by saying “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

We can also look to our faith leaders for guidance on how we should respond to migration and immigration. Pope Francis often speaks of the injustices migrants and refugees suffer. Even the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops even provides us with 5 Principles on Migration, including the statement that “persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland,” and “persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.”

What it all boils down to, Mary Anne explained, is to live with “empathy. That’s what Christianity is based on.”

The Difficult Journey

For the rest of the evening Elizabeth Clapp spoke about the legalities and difficulties of immigation. As an immigration lawyer with the CCSWO, she has helped hundreds of individuals understand their rights when it comes to immigration. 

Elizabeth started off by explaining the different types of legal statues people might have in the United States, such as undocumented, DACA, nonimmigrant visa, refugee, permanent resident, or citizen.

Her office helps people work their way through the often complicated legal system. In the state of Ohio applying for asylum is not easy or cheap. On average a person will spend $6,000-$10,000 trying to seek asylum. Unfortunately, 86-96% of asylum cases that go before an immigration judge in the state of Ohio are rejected, Elizabeth said.

The Legal Services office also assists undocumented people with filing court papers, seeking work permits, obtaining photo IDs, and more. 

This past year, in conjunction with the Refugee Resettlement Program, CCSWO helped settle 48 Afghan refugees. By the end of this year they expect to settle nearly 100 more. 

Beyond Status

Imagine migrating to a new country with nothing but the clothes on your back and perhaps one bag full of supplies. You probably don’t know the local language or customs. You left home, which was sometimes violent, seeking a better life for yourself. All of that would be overwhelming. 

To help migrants transition to life in the United States, CCSWO offers several programs. Many refugees arrive in the U.S. after facing a lot of trauma. Mental Health Services can help refugees and migrants work through that trauma. 

Through Su Casa Hispanic Center there are education programs, emergency services, case management, language classes, and more. 

How to Help

There are many things you can do to support CCSWO and immigrants. Donations are always welcome and will be put to good use helping your neighbors. Mary Anne said if you have neighbors that are immigrants or refugees, reach out to them and offer assistance, even if it’s just a kind word.

Hold a collection to help fill welcome baskets that are given to families as they are settled into a new home. Learn more about the baskets here: https://www.ccswoh.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Welcome-Baskets-Refugees-Flyer-OCT21-REV-100121.pdf

Lastly, you can volunteer. There are many opportunities to volunteer. Learn more here: https://www.ccswoh.org/get-involved/volunteer/

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