Ten communities of Midwest Catholic Sisters are calling on citizens, President Barack Obama, and federal, state, and local politicians to work together to welcome refugees and are launching a public awareness campaign to make sure potential candidates and voters remember this critical issue when they head to the polls in November.
The United Nations declared June 20 World Refugee Day. In observance of this, a Madison prayer service was held at the Capitol, and a Dubuque prayer service was held on the corner of JFK and Pennsylvania. The public was invited to join Catholic Sisters in praying for refugees and for political leaders.
Sisters are also urged communities to welcome refugees by placing billboards in Kieler and Madison, Wisconsin; the Quad Cities, Des Moines, Dubuque, and Clinton, Iowa; and Omaha, Nebraska. Postcards also are being sent to federal, state, and local government officials nationwide.
The billboards with the message, “I was a
stranger a refugee and you welcomed me” remained posted through June and early July. The message, based on the words of Jesus, is taken from the Gospel of Matthew. The postcards read, “As a person of faith, I am writing to ask you to speak out against fear-mongering and inflammatory rhetoric about refugees. I oppose any legislation that would block the resettlement of refugees of any nationality or religion in the United States of America.”
“We declare ourselves welcoming communities in affirmation of our Catholic tradition that holds sacred the dignity of each person,” said Sister Joy Peterson, PBVM, “and we invite other communities and people of faith to join us in becoming refugee welcoming communities through prayer, reflection, education and action. Failure on the part of the federal government to welcome refugees has resulted in states passing legislation that is punitive and harmful to human rights.”
The following ten congregations of Catholic Sisters are coordinating this public awareness campaign: the Dominican Sisters, Sinsinawa, Wis.; Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dubuque, Ia.; Sisters of the Presentation, Dubuque, Ia.; Sisters of St. Francis, Dubuque, Ia.; Sisters of the Visitation, Dubuque, Ia.; Congregation of the Humility of Mary, Davenport, Ia.; Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Ia.; Sisters of St. Benedict, Rock Island, Ill.; Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, La Crosse, Wis.; Sisters of Mercy, West Midwest Community, Omaha, Neb. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/catholicsisters.