Across the United States, between Christmas and New Year’s Day, naked Christmas trees await pickup by local garbage services and holiday decorations disappear from store shelves. Despite signs that the holiday season is over, Catholics have one more celebration – Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day!
Twelve days after Christmas on Jan. 6, Epiphany is celebrated to honor the three Kings’ visit to Baby Jesus, as well as Christ’s baptism and the miracle at Cana. Catholic churches around the world celebrate this important day with a special Mass, along with other traditions including an annual parade or eating a special treat to remember this important occasion. In recognition of Mary and Joseph’s migratory journey, the day has also been designated as a celebration of immigrants and the struggles they face in search of a new life.
In an effort to empathize with immigrants and encourage understanding, the Minnesota Catholic Conference has dedicated the Sunday of Epiphany as “Immigration Sunday” since 2009. This celebration reminds participants that all humans deserve respect, regardless of their differences, be it ethnicity, nationality or immigration status.
In preparation for Immigration Sunday, the MN Catholic Conference provides its parishes with activities and event ideas that promote immigrant integration. These suggestions (found in their activity guide) are appropriate for any setting, including at home, in a parish or out in the community. For example, parishes can hold a rosary procession in a public space, where everyone can join and pray for the safe journey of all immigrants and their families. Congregants are encouraged to share a story about their family tree and its history, providing an opportunity to examine their own immigrant history and learn more about their neighbors. Donating food, clothes or time to newcomers is also a great way to welcome immigrants and refugees who are new to the community. Each of these ideas do not take much to organize, but they leave lasting impressions on the communities that offer them.
A special feature of this year’s Immigration Sunday is a postcard campaign in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, or Dreamers. The MN Catholic Conference encourages parishioners to send a postcard to their members of Congress to express support of the youth and young adults who were brought by family to the United States as minors. The postcard urges sponsorship of the Dream Act of 2017, as well as public support of the Act. Parishioners can also participate by sending an online message to one’s representatives.
The Minnesota Catholic Conference is using, in great part, resources offered by the Share the Journey Campaign. Caritas Internationalis, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services created this campaign in 2017 in response to a call to action by Pope Francis. At that time, Catholics were called to “promote a culture of encounter – to see people on the move with humanity, to open hearts and minds [and] to change perceptions”.
The campaign toolkit offers resources, tools and events for a year-round emphasis on immigration and a way to honor the journey of the migrant. Everyone is encouraged to participate on social media using the hashtag #ShareJourney. CLINIC, too, has joined Pope Francis in creating a culture of encounter. As we continue to pray and stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees all over the world, CLINIC promotes immigrant integration by mobilizing its network to accept Pope Francis' challenge to create a culture of encounter.
Church holidays and celebrations offer a wonderful opportunity to share traditions and customs with those around us regardless of their country of origin. CLINIC applauds the Minnesota Catholic Conference and other entities for highlighting the important role of immigration to our nation’s shared history and promoting communities where everyone’s background and cultural traditions are welcomed.