“Jesus Christ is always waiting to be recognized in migrants and refugees, in displaced persons and in exiles” -From Pope Francis’ message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2015: “A Church without Frontiers, Mother to All.”
Activity: Provide assistance to the Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) office of Catholic Charities to support refugee families in our area. Activities can include:
- Annual collection of household items to support newly arrived refugee families (June)
- Apartment set-up
- Donation sorting at storage areas
- English tutoring, mentoring
- Assistance with job applications
Volunteers: All age groups and families
Time Commitment: Varies with activity, but usually a few hours at a time
Contact: Michele Mrozek, firstname.lastname@example.org; Peter Fox, email@example.com
*** Link for MRS Volunteer opportunities ***
Refugee Ministry update for 2016 – Annual collection
St. Ann parishioners responded with overwhelming generosity in support of our June 2016 effort to help refugee families. We collected over 70 sets of sheets and “beds in a bag,” 12 sets of pyrex baking dishes, 13 sets of pot and pans, and 17 alarm clocks. Parishioners also donated 13 lamps, 14 sets of dishes, sets of silverware and glasses, bath and kitchen towels, shower curtain sets, tablecloths, numerous assorted kitchen utensils and baby items, 22 sets of lightbulbs, 4 toaster ovens/toasters, and over $1,000 in gift cards, cash and checks. Thank you for your compassionate response to the plight of refugees and other displaced people. Migration and Refugee Services will put your donations to good use!
2015 St Ann Refugee Donation Program: Another Big Success!!!
For the second year in a row, St. Ann parishioners responded with overwhelming generosity in support of the Outreach Ministry’s program to help refugee families. We greatly exceeded our goal of ten kitchens and received enough items to equip at least 15 complete kitchens; items included dishes, pot and pans, silverware, glassware, kitchen utensils, cookie sheets, mixing bowls, kitchen knives, measuring cups and spoons, cutting boards, mops, trash cans, etc. In addition, we received dozens of extra items, including more dishes, pots and pans, silverware, utensils, as well as skillets, coffee makers, blenders, a microwave oven, and bedding, all of which will allow the Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Support (MRS) office to greatly augment their stocks for refugees. If this wasn’t enough, St. Ann parishioners donated just over $1,900 in cash and checks, which will be given to MRS office to help refugee families. The Outreach Ministry wishes to express our whole-hearted thanks for your outstanding support for this program. You can be assured that your donations will be put to good use by the MRS office for the refugees they support. In the coming months, St Ann volunteers will use the donations when assisting MRS to set up apartments for refugee families.
Letter of Appreciation from Catholic Charities of Arlington, Migration and Refugee Services
Dear Father Mel:
On behalf of Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services, I offer you this note of our most sincere appreciation … (for full letter).
Links to more information:
To learn more about how refugees come to the United States and what happens when they get here, visit http://ccda.net/programs_mrs.php or www.usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/index.cfm.
Migration and Refugee Services: Ways to Welcome the Stranger (http://stannchurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/MRS-Ways-to-Welcome-the-Stranger.
Household Items needed for each Refugee Housing Unit (http://stannchurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Household-Items-needed-for-each-Refugee-Housing-unit.pdf
Refugee Project 2014
“To save our lives, my family and I were airlifted from Afghanistan to Northern Virginia with only a few hours’ notice. We had to leave everything behind”
This was the story of just one family that St Ann parishioners were able to help through its rejuvenated Refugee Ministry in 2015. We were able to provide sufficient items to stock a total of twelve kitchens for refugees who had fled their countries and arrived in our area with little more than the clothes on their backs. Thanks to the outstanding generosity of parishioners, our initial goal of five kitchens was more than doubled. We received dozens of sets of dishes, silverware, china, pots and pans, coffee makers, toaster ovens, kitchen utensils, knives, etc., as well as numerous extra items to augment the required items.
Additionally we were privileged to help set up the apartment found for this particular family and greet them just 24 hours after they had arrived in the US. It was a difficult and courageous journey for a young couple with a baby (whose mother spoke no English and was expecting twins) to arrive in the United States with nothing and no time to say good bye to their families. (Update: They are apparently doing well and MRS is trying to arrange an opportunity for us to visit with them in the near future).
Earlier History of St Ann Parish work with Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services
St Ann Parish’s involvement in supporting the Arlington Diocese Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) efforts to resettle refugees in Northern Virginia began in 2003. At a Catholic Charities meeting, Monica Shumann was browsing the displays of their various programs when she came to the Migration and Refugee Services’ table where there was information on their “House in a Van” project. St Ann’s Outreach Committee was looking for an activity to involve the whole parish and this could be it. We
would collect everything that was needed to resettle a refugee family here in Northern Virginia. The response from the parish was amazing. 35 people showed up at the initial meeting and we were on our way. We didn’t know the family, how big it would be and when it would arrive. But we started collecting anyway as our storage space, the Parish Hall, would only be available for a couple of months.
A few weeks later, we were told that an Afghan family – a mother and 5 of her children aged 6-21 –would be assigned to us and were arriving the next week. The abstract became human. Farzeneh’s husband had been killed by the Taliban in front of his family and she had taken her children and fled to Peshawar in Pakistan where they lived in a refugee camp for 3 years. Finally, the US State Department accepted them as refugees and they flew to Newark, not knowing even which state or city they would
live in. They were sent here to Northern Virginia.
An apartment was found, the deposit paid and rent guaranteed for six months by MRS. They came to St Ann’s to select their furnishings from the items collected and we moved them in to their new home. Of course, that was supposed to be all we were going to do. But how could we just say “goodbye” to a woman with no qualifications and very little English, her older daughter and 4 school-aged children trying to support themselves?
In addition to the support provided by MRS, parishioners visited them several times a week over the next year – tutoring English, setting up a computer, driving them to doctors and school appointments, going to stores, trying to find employment, and simply talking. They were unfailingly hospitable and always offered visitors refreshments. We learned about Afghan traditions, family life, Muslim feast days and how they felt about living in America. It was harder than they had anticipated. Going to school and having a part-time job was overwhelming for the older teens.
Somehow, they survived and flourished. After going through so much they have a strong family bond and a determination to help one another. A year later, we were asked to resettle two families who had lost their homes as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Culturally and linguistically it was much easier but the problems of finding housing and employment were not, and emotionally it was very hard on the families.
In 2010 MRS asked for help because 70 Iraqi refugees were arriving in the next few months. Remembering “our” Afghan family and understanding something of the difficulties, we offered to help. We called on four other parishes and they agreed to help us to collect all the household furnishings that would be needed for such a large number of people. The response was again enormous. The Migration and Refugee Office was overjoyed and even though this time we could not put faces to those we helped, I always remember Farzeneh and know that behind each refugee lies a tragic story, sadness but also courage, determination and hope.
For several years MRS has been one of the beneficiaries of our Advent Giving Tree. Additionally, in 2013 we collected sufficient toiletries for about 50 refugees.