"And You Welcomed Me: Migration and Catholic Social Teaching," a major initiative of Fairfield University, aims to reframe migration discussion


"Migrants are Christ asking us to find room for Him, exactly as He did at the first Christmas." - Dorothy Day

Image: Fr RyscavageThe recently published book, "And You Welcomed Me: Migration and Catholic Social Teaching" (Lexington Books, 2009), aims to reframe the highly controversial migration debate by focusing on the human beings at the heart of this pressing issue.

An initiative of Fairfield University's Center for Faith and Public Life, the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., the book is the centerpiece of a larger, multi-agency public education project on migrants and Catholic teaching. President Obama has signaled his intention of seeking comprehensive reform of immigration laws in 2010. This surely will touch off another round of political debate. Meanwhile, the global economy has contributed to the growing number of migrants - estimated at about 200 million worldwide.

The book represents "the fruit of a collaboration" by Catholic theologians, lawyers, social scientists and a variety of experts on migration, including Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., director of Fairfield's Center for Faith and Public Life and professor of sociology and International Studies. Fr. Ryscavage co-wrote the introduction to the book with Rev. Gasper Lo Biondo, S.J., director of the Woodstock Theological Center, a Jesuit center for theological reflection on human problems.

Because of the "coarse" national debate on immigration, the book's contributors felt the need to engage U.S. Catholics in a deeper, multi-faceted discussion about migrants and faith, according to Fr. Ryscavage and Fr. Lo Biondo. "Because so many U.S. immigrants have been Catholic, the Catholic Church has often found itself at the center of public policy discussions," they wrote. "Today as we complete the first decade of the twenty-first century, the number of foreign-born residents has again reached record levels and once again the Church is involved in a national debate over immigration law and policy."

Ultimately, the work puts a spotlight on the gaps and opportunities to improve government and non-governmental responses to migration on a local, national, and international level, editors said. The book also seeks to understand the human beings cast off as "illegal aliens" and "strangers," and it explains their challenges in the context of the legal, social, economic and political realities with which they contend.

"It never loses sight of the self-sacrificing human beings who are at the heart of this phenomenon," said Sr. Helen Prejean of the book. " 'And You Welcomed Me' should be required reading for all people seeking to further their understanding of what it means to be Catholic in the twenty-first century."

Among the Center for Faith and Public Life's other projects concerning migration is "Strangers as Neighbors: Religious Language and the Response to Immigrants in the United States." Central to "Strangers as Neighbors" is the goal of reframing the language of the immigration debate by involving a variety of leaders of different faiths.

To order "And You Welcomed Me," visit www.lexingtonbooks.com.

Pictured is Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., director of Fairfield University's Center for Faith and Public Life and professor of sociology and International Studies.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 18, 2009

Vol. 42, No. 157