Welcoming the Stranger

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“Welcoming the stranger”, the Call and the Challenge

by Sr. Brenda Walsh, Racine Dominican

The call to “welcome the stranger” has Biblical roots. In Matthew’s Gospel (25: 35) we hear the call: “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink, a stranger and you took me in and welcomed me into your home.” In Paul’s letter to the Romans we read: “Welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you for the glory of God.” The Catholic Church has offered a persistent call to welcome the strangers in their midst by reaching out to immigrants and working toward comprehensive immigration reform and other justice issues.


Pope Benedict XV1 calls on all Catholics to offer hospitality to those most in need. He unveiled the theme for the 98th world day of migrants and refugees to be celebrated on Jan 15th, 2012. The pope reminds people around the world that the present time calls for all to intensify their missionary activities around the globe. People who are migrating are seeking a better life for themselves and their families, or hoping to flee from threats of persecution, war and violence. The Pope calls people “to accompany the migrants with prayer, solidarity and charity, as well as in fostering new political, economic and social planning that promotes respect for the dignity of every human person.”


 The Wisconsin Bishops recently issued a letter on immigration and encouraged Catholics to welcome immigrants and back comprehensive immigration reform. They reminded people that we do this not only to  solve the critical political issue but also for the sake ‘of the millions of children and adults who live fearfully in the shadows, are vulnerable to exploitation, whose family members are being cruelly isolated, detained and deported. Our Catholic faith can and must transcend political and cultural turmoil. We must remember all of us are migrants on this earth, traveling together in hope toward our Loving God. The feast of our Lady of Guadalupe was chosen as the day to promote this message.


The Bishops reminded people of the important role that immigrants have played in the building of our nation.  They invite us to relate the immigration issue to the sanctity of human life and to uphold the dignity of every human being created in the image of God. There are 12 million immigrants in our midst and we must work to help them live safe and dignified lives. We can work to help those interested to find a path to citizenship, to secure work for themselves and their families and to live dignified lives. Many are being detained, deported, separated from their families or in dire need of the basics of life. This situation needs to change drastically and be replaced with just and workable solutions for them.


What can we do to help resolve pressing problem named by the Bishops, that immigrants are facing every day?


First we need to learn as much as possible about this very complex issue. Join a group that is working with immigrants and people of other cultures. Look at the fears we or other people may have that may isolate us in self-protection or isolation from people of other cultures. Better to take a learning stance and be open to listening to people of other cultures. Our hospitality is more than a legal obligation. It means opening our minds and hearts  to the culture and values of other people just as Jesus did.


I will never forget the refugees I saw in Thailand. They were coming from Laos to enter a refugee camp in that country and it was distressing to see the condition they were in. Many had lost limbs, were badly mutilated and the children had bloated stomachs as they crossed the border. They were filled with fear and anxiety and lived in great distress. By accepting them and loving them, some at least were able to reclaim their own human dignity and after a long time in the camp were able to make their way to another country to find a home. The time in the camp was designed to help them prepare for the transition and a new life in another country. It was a challenge and a privilege to walk with them  and to help them prepare for a more dignified life.


We are also called to take a look at our own sense of white power and privilege and see if we use it only to meet our own needs.  How can we use it to welcome the stranger in our midst and to open doors of opportunity for them, to treat them like equals and help them claim and live with a sense of dignity and self self-respect and acquire what they need to sustain themselves and their families? Start a discussion at your church or with organizations you belong to and share your experience of welcoming a stranger.


Here are some questions to consider:

  • How do we address the stereotyping of strangers?

  • Do you ever want to keep silent rather than speaking up for what is right and just?

  • What would it mean to you to offer hospitality to strangers?

  • What are the risks and the challenges, the joys and the hopes?

  • What blessings might you experience in relating to strangers?

  • We must remember we are all God’s people and members of the household of God. How will we prepare to respond to this daunting challenge?

  • God’s love and hospitality is for everyone. They like us are strangers and pilgrims on their journey home to our God.

  • We need to build bridges to welcome the strangers in our churches, neighborhoods or wherever they are.

Let us continue the journey with courage, conviction and hope and work to build a better future for all.


Preaching Essay Archive

Just click on an Essay title below to read it.
(The latest submissions are listed first.)

• Preaching Mark 2023 •
• Preaching Mark 2022 •
• Even the Hymns Preach •
• Advent 2018 •
• Preaching Luke •
• The Journey Through Lent •
• A New Year - A Time To Choose •
• Called To Continue Our Journey As Peacemakers •
• Easter: A Call To Renew Our Faith •
• Fan Into Flame •
• Grieving Our Losses •
• The Importance of Inter-Religious Sharing •
• Are We Living In Pentecost Times? •
• Living With Gratitude and Hope •
• “Lumen Fidei” – the Call and the Challenge •
• What is the "New Evangelization"? •
• Pentecost •
• Inculturated Liturgy Challenges Preaching to Flower •
• Preaching Lent - Year C •
• Reflection - Psalm 127 •
• Reaching Youth Today •
• The Need To Reclaim And Live With Moral Courage •
• The Sacred Triduum •
• Welcoming the Stranger •
• Working for Peace •


Blessings on your preaching.

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