Strangers as Neighbors on Long Island

The Center for Faith and Public Life’s Strangers as Neighbors on Long Island project is helping to shape a new model for bringing people together on contentious issues such as immigration reform within a faith-based framework. The project, funded by the Hagedorn Foundation on Long Island and the Washington, and with the full support of the Bishop of Rockville Centre on behalf of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, is holding gatherings at two Roman Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York, in 2013.

Catholics representing differing immigration views will be brought together at these town hall-style meetings to discuss immigration in the framework of their faith. The Center will then study the discussion and analyze the feedback to see if putting a faith frame on the discussions leads to a less polarized exchange about this controversial issue and create a model for discussing difficult social issues that will be transferable to other regions around the country.

The project builds on work conducted through Fairfield University’s Strangers as Neighbors: Religious Language and the Response to Immigrants pilot project conducted from August 2008 to July 2009.

Project Team

  • Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., Director of the Center for Faith and Public Life and Professor of Sociology
  • Dr. Jocelyn M. Boryczka, Associate Professor of Politics and Chair, Politics Department
  • Dr. David Gudelunas, Associate Professor of Communication, Director of Women’s Studies, and Director of the Internship Program in Communication
  • Julie Mughal, Assistant Director of the Center for Faith and Public Life


"Strangers as Neighbors: Religious Language and the Response to Immigrants" Pilot Study

With funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Fairfield University’s conducted its Strangers as Neighbors: Religious Language and the Response to Immigrants pilot project, from August 2008 to July 2009.

The project aimed for faith communities to agree on common language for speaking about migration, drawing upon some of the shared sensibilities of religious language - words like “neighbor,” “brother,” “sister,” “pilgrim,” and similar concepts that have more nuanced and welcoming connotation than “migrant” or “newcomer” - then to disseminate that common language across different faith communities. The study strongly suggests that a faith-based perspective allows for a more collaborative discursive environment, which could shift us away from the usual “winner-takes-all” atmosphere more commonly found in a highly charged political discourse.

This results of this project led to the next phase, Strangers as Neighbors on Long Island funded by the Hagedorn Foundation, which is helping to develop a model for discussing difficult social issues, such as immigration, within a faith-based framework that will be transferable to other regions around the country.