Document Type

Conference Paper

Rights

This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only

Disciplines

Social sciences, Religious studies

Publication Details

Presented at Migration as a Sign of the Times: Perspectives from Social Sciences and Theology, Salzburg, 12-14 April, 2012.

Abstract

Migration, a Sign of the Times – A Framework for a Pastoral Care Response.

Migration is a sign of the times we live in It has been described as ‘the orphan of the global institutional architecture’[1]. However the letter introducing the document Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi signed by the Prefect of the Congregation asserts that migration as well as being a ‘sign of the times’ is also a ‘sign of the presence of God in history and in the community of peoples’. This paper identifies many of the issues that emerge in the pastoral care of migrants from a Social Policy perspective The paper will also present a framework that can be adapted for programmes for the pastoral care of migrants.

Each journey has its own unique characteristics. The migrant journey is often a journey into the unknown. Though the final geographical destination may be known, the emotional, cultural and spiritual aspects of that journey remain in the realm of unexplored mystery. This characteristic is reminiscent of many of the epic journeys of the bible. The journey of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Paul and even Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem were journeys that were characterized by unknown outcomes and surrender to ultimate mystery.

Aware of the needs of migrants today and the capacity for individual journeys and the movements of people to be ‘a sign of the presence of God in history’ this paper address how a caring community such as a local church can support those who prepare for departure, those who find themselves in a new land and those that may wish to return to their homeland. The paper will draw on the work of the biologist Hugh Dingle. His research among a wide variety of migratory animals and reptiles identified characteristics of migration that can be applied in varying degrees to all migrations. These characteristics can form the basis of a framework for programmes for the pastoral care of migrants. While a framework is a treasured resource, room has to be left for each and every local situation to take account of its own specific cultural sensitivities and practices.

The presenter served the needs of Irish emigrants for many years. He set up a centre for young Irish Emigrants to Australia and then served as Director of the Irish Catholic Bishop Commission for Emigrants and Irish Prisoners Overseas, serving on boards in the United States and the United Kingdom.

[1] Goldin, I.,Cameron, G., Balarajan, M.,2011 Exceptional People –How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pg.7.

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