Pope Francis, in his encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti, states: “If the conviction that all human beings are brothers and sisters is not to remain an abstract idea but to find concrete embodiment, then numerous related issues emerge, forcing us to see things in a new light and to develop new responses…Complex challenges arise when our neighbor happens to be an immigrant…Our response to the arrival of migrating persons can be summarized by four words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate (Chapter 4). His Holiness often returns to the theme and to these four words in his homilies and presentations urging all the faithful especially religious communities to envision and create new ways of welcoming the stranger in our midst.
With that in mind, I want to let you know of a new program launched by the United States Government. On January 18, 2023, the Department of State initiated promotion of a new approved sponsorship program for refugees wishing to permanently resettle in the United States. The program is known as the Welcome Corps. The tenets of the program are like the resettlement program sponsored for many years by the Canadian Government and supported by the Catholic Church of Canada, notably the Archdiocese of Toronto, and our friars at the Franciscan Church at St. Bonaventure.
The program is designed to aid and assist pre-approved refugees, migrants, and immigrants for permanent life in the United States. This new private sponsorship program is designed to empower everyday Americans to play a leading role in welcoming refugees arriving through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and supporting their resettlement and integration as they build new lives. Over many years and in this past year, the American people have extended an extraordinarily welcoming hand to our Afghan allies, Ukrainians displaced by war, and Venezuelans and others fleeing violence and oppression. The Welcome Corps will build on Americans’ generosity of spirit by creating a durable program for Americans in communities across the country to privately sponsor refugees from around the world.
Building on a long tradition of providing refuge, the Welcome Corps is designed to bring groups together (including church-based communities) to privately sponsor refugees. Through the Welcome Corps, Americans can apply to form Private Sponsor Groups (PSGs) to welcome refugees into local communities and directly assist refugee newcomers as they build new lives in the United States. As a private sponsor in the Welcome Corps, they will work with other members of the PSG to take on tasks like securing and furnishing initial housing, greeting the refugee newcomers at the airport, enrolling children in school, and helping adults to find employment. These shared acts of welcome make it easier for refugee newcomers to adjust to life in the United States and strengthen local communities. While welcoming refugees through private sponsorship is a significant responsibility, you already have the most important skill you need to succeed—knowledge of your local community—and you will receive support from the Welcome Corps team throughout your sponsorship journey.
Groups of at least five individual American citizens or permanent resident adults will be able to apply to the Welcome Corps to privately sponsor the resettlement of refugees in the United States. Private sponsors (which includes church-based groups) will be responsible for independently raising funds and directly providing essential assistance to refugees for their first 90 days in their new community. This assistance includes helping refugees find housing and employment, enrolling children in school, and connecting refugees to essential services in the community. For more information on the Welcome Corps or to become a private sponsor, visit the Welcome Corps website.
Pax et bonum…
Friar Paul Lininger, OFM Conv.
Franciscan Friars Conventual
Our Lady of the Angels Province – Director of JPIC