“Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay” Pastoral care with migrants and refugees.

Training course  | 18-21 September 2023

It ended yesterday, September 21, 2023, the training course for religious sister “Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay” Pastoral care with migrants and refugees organized in preparation for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, to be celebrated on Sunday, Septermber 24, 2023.

Organized by the Scalabrini International Migration Institute (SIMI) in collaboration with the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and promoted by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, the course was aimed at women religious who wish to learn more about the issues or want to be trained to serve migrants, refugees and/or asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, victims of trafficking, itinerants and their families.

Sr. Mary John Kudiyiruppil’s Ssps, UISG Vice Executive Secretary, and Fr. Aldo Skoda, cs, director of SIMI, welcomed participants to the course. Sr. Mary John, echoing the words of Pope Francis, reminded that “We are all searching for a place to call home; a place where we can feel safe and fearless”. Fr. Aldo Skoda, delved into the themes of confrontation and dialogue, which are indispensable for human development, emphasizing that “living cross-culturally is the only way to live the catholicity of the Church” and that “everyone, in various capacities, must feel co-responsible in facing the causes and consequences of migration processes”.

During these days of formation participants learned that migration is not a novelty, but a historical fact inherent in the logic of life and society in different eras as shown by Julia Young. Fr. Gabriele Beltrami, focusing on communication observed that regardless the current negative narrative of migration in the media, it is indeed possible to constructively narrate migration. An important reference throughout the course was the action and magisterium of Pope Francis and the importance of the theme of integral human development which also passes through mental health: “There is no health without mental health” as Alessia Puddu underlined.

With Br. Gioacchino Campese, participants further explored the centrality of migration in its complexity within the Scripture, while Regina Polak stressed the inner spiritual meaning of contemporary migration in dialogue with theological traditions. Cheryl Lee Chan closed the session with a lesson on the Teaching of the Church. “Walking with migrants and refugees also means read the Bible with our brothers and sisters uprooted from their homes” said Br. Gioacchino Campese.

The international legal framework and instruments on human rights related to migration and asylum seeking as well as the importance of advocacy and the potential of faith-based organizations in advocating for the respect of migrants and refugees’ rights were also explored in depth by Claudia Bonamini, Oliviero Forti and Víctor Genina.

The course ended with an analysis of pastoral theology by Fr. Aldo Skoda who also presented some perspective for actions and with a glance at the Pastoral Orientations as a tool offering concrete suggestions and guidance for action, rooted in the Church teaching and practical experience presented by Andrea Marchesani. Some best practices were shared by Sisters Marides Santos, SSpS, Genobeba Amaral, SSpS and Corazon Dimitillo, RGS as effective examples of putting the pastoral guidelines into practice. Fr. Dumisani Vilakati, Regional Coordinator for Africa at Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development greeting all the sisters that participated reminded that “challenges and problem need to be approached from several angles. They cannot be just a single point of view” and that “only by walking together we will be able to go far”.