World Day for Migrants and Refugees 2015. ‘Zeal for the Migrant Heart’.


Irish Episcopal Council for Immigrants

Conference for International Immigrant Chaplains

Thursday, 2nd of October 2014

Columba Centre, Maynooth

Fr. Alan Hilliard


Zeal for the Migrant Heart[1]

  Introduction: One Story among Many

I received a phone call during the summer informing me that a former student of the college I work in had died as the result of a tragic accident in Italy. I went out to visit the family and sat with them in the downstairs of a house in West Dublin surrounded by a large group of people. They family were originally from Nigeria; the father was a Muslim and the student’s mother was a Christian. I sat in the room as the Imam led prayers to my left and a lady from the Christian Church led prayers to my right. The most tragic thing about his whole event was that the student was not a citizen of Ireland; he was a resident. Many of you may know that a resident does not have the same rights as a citizen so the student’s remains body were technically no single nation’s responsibility. He was laid to rest in Italy where he died; his mother never got to see her son’s body. I don’t know about your countries but for an Irish mother this would be both unspeakable and unthinkable. It is widely known that one of the major functions of Knock Airport in its early days was the repatriation of remains of loved ones who had died in the UK to their homeland. This story captures much of what I want to say to you today. Encounters such as the one I describe in this story were never even considered when I was training in the seminary. Indeed encounters like this leave the most pastorally intuitive among us in a state of flux. This story like many others I come across impact on me. To be very honest I felt very inadequate in this situation. I did not understand the language. Initially I didn’t know the faith of the people and culturally I was at a loss; yet these people fell within my pastoral responsibility.

This type of encounter is anticipated in Pope Francis’ Message for The World Day for Migrants and Refugees which will take place on the 18th of January 2015. In his message the Holy Father says; ‘Dear migrants and refugees! You have a special place in the heart of the Church, and you help her to enlarge her heart and to manifest her motherhood towards the entire human family’.[2]   Whatever about my heart and my desire to close it off from these encounters; the Holy Father tells us that migrants fulfil a very important role in the life of the Church; they enlarge Her heart. It is necessary to make the point here that there are many categories of migrants. From the perspective of this study and for the purposes of this gathering the migrants referred to are ones that we encounter in a pastoral setting which is not necessarily limited to a church. In some ways this paper hopes to honour the stories we hear and the stories that impact on us; stories that are often edited harshly or ignored. This article will show how ‘Zeal for the Migrant’ is not just a charitable act by the Church to those in need but that it will help the Church identity her mission in these times when we are experiencing what might be termed a ‘Global Reformation’. The manner in which the migrant negotiates their way into a new society and a new social setting provides the Church with insights into possibilities for its future in a Western European setting. In summary, migrants to remind the Church of Her mission to the faithful and to the family of the world. For many years the Church has followed migrants on their journeys as we are reminded in the great charter of the Church on Migration Erga Migrates Caritas Christi (EMCC) ‘All the history of the Church illustrates its passion and its holy zeal for this humanity on the move’[3].The Church exists not to merely provide assistance to migrants but through involvement with the migrant the Church grows in the self-understanding of Her mission. If I am to respond appropriately to the pastoral situations such as the one I describe earlier my heart has to be enlarged to embrace all the nuances, diversity, similarities and differences that I encounter. What Francis is saying is quite radical; just as each one of us has to grow and expand in our self-understanding so also must the Church. If we are to believe what he says then migrants hold a key to the future of the Church in our Western European context. Pope Francis’ message frames today’s discussion. Firstly we will reflect of those who engage with the migrant. Consideration is then given to the social and cultural context within which the heart has to be strong and thirdly we will look at how the migrant is enlarges the heart of the Church.



A Place of Welcome

To everyone gathered here today I say welcome to a place of acceptance; a place where your work and your ministry is valued. All too often those who work with migrants feel the self-same isolation that the migrant feels in society. Previous to reading the Holy Father’s message for The World Day for Migrants and Refugees I held the firm conviction that if people pay attention to the migrant and to those who care for the migrant they will find many green shoots which the Church needs to nurture; not just for migrants but for Her own flourishing. The shoots of faith unfold in the many migrant stories which we hear and share. Attention to these stories also exposes the weaknesses and shortcomings in what one might term a civilized society.  They reveal the growing instabilities that will soon face entire populations; not just migrants. They also reveal the aspects of society that are falling apart; the gaps, so to speak, within which a more courageous Church has a space to proclaim its message. Migrants have been described as ‘frontier artists’ who rehearse life for others[4]. The migrant dwells in what the theologian Virgilio Elizondo calls the great ‘frontera’ which exists between two worlds; the world of the place that one has come from and the world which one now occupies or is hoping to occupy[5]. The migrant for me is not unlike the scout in the old western movies; the one who journeyed ahead and the one who both spotted the hazards and identified the safe paths. However, a good friend of mine once said; the scout has to be very careful; at times the scout can be confused with the enemy thus running the risk of getting shot! How often is the voice of the migrant and the presence of the migrant perceived as an enemy rather than a possible scout alerting us to hazards ahead or pointing us to safe paths? Indeed, how often is the one who acts on behalf of the migrant perceived as an even more complex enemy! That is why it is important to state and restate a welcome to all of you today. This is a place where the value of our work is not just recognised but seen for what it truly is; something that is at the core of the mission of the Church; one which is not just a charitable act of the Church but a work that contributes to the formation of the Church here on earth. Viewing the world from this space gives a perspective that is unique, valid and insightful. Welcome therefore to a space where your story is not one spoken from the margins but one that is allowed to occupy the heart of the Church.

God’s Passion and Anguish

People who accompany migrants have an amazing array of stories and experiences that they seldom have an opportunity to unpack or explore. Let us acknowledge that God walks with us in our stories. He walks not in a patronising way but in a formative way because he wants to speak to his Church via people who are on the move. Whenever God calls for a renewal of his people; the renewal takes place more often among the people and less often in the temple. His vision for the world most often appeared when he engaged with people on the borders of the dominant nation; indeed Galilee was not Jerusalem; it was a place of diversity because of its geographical convenience to traders. Galilee, at the time of Jesus could not survive or flourish without accommodation and acceptance. When the Word was made flesh that flesh was migrant flesh: a refugee; a displaced person and an undocumented person. The Word took flesh in the dust and grim of life; far from the polished stone of the temple. We are familiar with the prophet Jeremiah’s words stating the Yahweh will establish a New Covenant not in structures but in people when he says, ‘I will put my law (torah) within them and write it on their hearts’(Jer. 31:33) The Word inhabited a space of new possibilities and new beginnings for those who wished to walk with Him. The task of the ministers of God’s Word is to mirror this message and to overcome situations where laws and traditions exclude and disgrace others. The Word did not use his Word to clobber people, to be picky, to scold. He revealed that the law or torah is to allow God’s people and particularly those who lead them, to ‘see things through the eyes of God’s passion and anguish’. These are the insights of the scripture scholar Walter Brueggemann. Brueggemann reminds us that God calls us to attend to the detail of people’s lives but while doing so we are challenged to engage with the bigger picture. He continues; ‘the torah is a reminder that God’s will focuses on large human questions and that we also may focus on weighty matters of justice, mercy and righteousness’[6]. We may never give the stories of those we serve much attention but maybe we should ask ourselves if we continue in this work because we find God’s passion and anguish in the stories of those we serve. In a sense those we serve become our spiritual lens through which we view and contemplate the mystery of God.  The story I shared earlier is like many stories that we could share. Our challenge today is to look at the bigger questions emerging from these stories and to seek the passion and anguish of God as he speaks to this time and place seeking to enlarge the heart of His Church.

‘Looking after Migrants’

Among those we welcome today are migrant chaplains, migrant co-workers and migrant volunteers. Maybe setting off on our journey we might ask we really know what our role is? When you were asked to ‘look after’ migrant communities by your Bishop or Superior; what in actual fact were they asking you to do? If you are a person who takes the approach that ‘I worked in these counties I can tell them what to do’ or ‘I’m here to save these people from the evils of Irish society’ or ‘I feel my gifts are calling me to work with migrants’, well. You may not like the approach I take to the pastoral care of migrants. I am reminded of a story I once heard from a friend in Cork. A young newly ordained priest was visiting his local hospital when he fell into conversation with a man who was facing a major operation. Before leaving him the priest asked, ‘would you like a blessing? to which the patient replied, ‘ Ah sure , if it’d make you feel better father’. If we view migrants as objects of our care we are setting ourselves up for frustration and failure; and we are limiting the growth that is needed at the heart of the Church. We are also doing what the neo-classical market place is doing; we are making them objects; objects of our need! Starting on our journey of understanding we have identified three things without exploring them too much. Firstly, the need to be welcomed in a manner that allows what we do and  what we believe to come in from the margins and to occupy a central space. Secondly we identify that the voice of God; especially his passion and anguish dwells among those we serve and finally, as with any journey, there is always a degree of uncertainty and that uncertainty may be present in what we do or what we are supposed to be doing. There are many other items to consider before we set off on this journey but as we know from those we serve there are many who don’t consider everything before they set off; indeed if they did we’d have considerable less work to do. In considering these matters we may ask what is going on in this world of ours requiring that the Church has a bigger heart?



An interesting exercise is to hear how migrants are spoken about in our world. Even in our own country our language is rather peculiar; we have a bizarre situation where emigration is a right for all and immigration is a crime for many. What do they hear about themselves as they traverse and occupy ‘fronteras’? Anyone genuinely committed to the plight of migrants note that the language associated with migrant integration and the accompanying demand to ‘fit’ into a new context is tired and empty. Most political concepts are burnt-out, ineffective and are increasingly lacking the energy and imagination required to discover or even name the realties that encapsulate their journey across new frontiers[7]. In times past words that went hand in hand with immigration was of housing, second language programs and integration and/or assimilation. These are not even to the fore anymore. As we talk about immigrants today most of our conversations are associated with displacement, illegalization, slavery, trafficking and the growing but subtle impact of a humanity straining under the weight of rapidly changing cultural contexts. This tiredness in the language and concepts has much broader applications. It is a characteristic of our increasingly secularising world where one finds less and less space for the heart of humanity. We are being asked to build dreams with a bankrupt language and concepts that are lifeless. The reason I delve in to these issues is not to go on a tirade against the secularist west. Rather I wish to bring a little bit of focus; a springboard for action and a hope for the future. What better source for this than the migrant heart? In the face of an increasingly secularising world it is migrants who are praying at home; who are setting up networks, who are building communities; who refuse to lose the God who remained close to them on their journeys. These journeys may have taken place on Ryanair jets and sometimes in containers on European bound ships. Despite being placed in lifeless categories and vocabularies they refuse to be defined by them. When they arrive in countries like Ireland some find the God they knew and love; others find it hard to find the face of God in those who ‘welcome’ them. The migrant heart calls attention to a society that is suffocating the Gospel and is standing on the Churches’ oxygen tube. I say it again; it is the migrant heart that calls us beyond these dying categories. Shared Perceptions. What continues to amaze is the very things migrants highlight as shortcomings in society are to be found in scholarly articles and journals. The concerns of the migrant heart are the same concerns of those who overview the shifts and changes in our societies. The concern that migrant parents have for their children in the face of the new emerging Europe are the same as those who write about the future of this same European project. This is true in both the Christian and Islamic communities. Most migrants whose hearts have journeyed towards hope could utter the words of the sociologist Zymunt Bauman; ‘But can a culture survive the devaluation of being and the decline of eternity, possibly the most painful kinds of collateral damage caused by the triumph of consumer markets?’[8] Migrant’s perceptions are more immediate; they seek out a social order to negotiate a role and a place for themselves in their new society and for the large part they remain disappointed. This disappointment more often than not may lead to feelings of isolation, exclusion and sometimes to violence. They seek this social order because they have left and lost a location where they had social order, one within which they had a role and a place. Until they find norms which they can live by and communities within which they can flourish, they often perceive the abyss of emptiness[9]. There are few words for this place; indeed silence is often the only way of being when one is displaced, lost, and isolated. Most migrants know this abyss; the one you face when you have left and lost everything. When you are in that place where you don’t even know what you are supposed to be looking for; so how can you find it? This experience is seen in every generation of migrants. Obviously facing such an abyss, a straight talking Irish immigrant to the United States told his newly arrived brother; ‘Never…come to this Country while you are undecided whether it would suit you better than Ireland, for nobody prospers here that thinks they could do better at home. When you make up your mind to leave Ireland, do it for good and all’.[10] This is where the narratives of the great disciplines come into play. Be it the arts; sociology or theology; these disciplines can say to individuals – in this you are not alone. ‘Global Reformation’ The writings of the sociologist Ulrich Beck also reflect what many migrants say and feel about their new societies. He refers to the shift in religious sensibility as something akin to a ‘Global Reformation’. Beck names some of these shifts which prove helpful in contextualising the environment within which we make our journey today. The ultimate shift is one where there is an evolving concept of a highly individualised God. As Beck comments; ‘The question arises whether the individual made in the image of God has become the father of his own personal God finally pushing the coordinates of spiritual illumination into the realms of the esoteric and the absurd’.[11] This ‘Global Reformation’ is manifest in various ways; Beck proposes three manifestations. Firstly faith is now seen as knowledge that arises from the subjectivity of our own experience rather than redemption by the grace of God. Secondly sin is now understood as a form of ignorance. Certainly on matters relating to the debate around Direct Provision we already hear comments like ‘I didn’t know’ or ‘it has nothing to do with me’. Thirdly, the idea of an afterlife has been replaced with the concept of self-fulfilment in the here and now. These shifts which can be perceived consciously and unconsciously by migrants often unhinge and unsettle them. Person as Product To expand this reflection on the social and cultural context of the world there are significant insights to be found in a conversation between Pope Benedict XVI in his former life as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the philosopher, Jurgen Habermas. Both examined the heart and soul of western society. One is an atheist; the other a believer. The world that migrants travel to according to Habermas is a world where; ‘The markets and the power of bureaucracy are expelling social solidarity (that is, coordination of action based on values, norms, and a vocabulary intended to promote mutual understanding) from more and more spheres of life'[12]. Ratzinger’s contribution highlighted that in this present social milieu, humanity is often reduced to a mere product[13]. The emergence of ‘person as product’ is seen most obviously in the life of migrants. This is no surprise when one considers that most immigration policies today are employer led. The culmination of this is people who live without rights; people who work beneath their skills level and people who end up as ‘no-bodies’. However in the face of these realties migrant communities overcome these obstacles with the assistance of ethnic belonging and more often with the assistance of their faith and belief. Giving due attention to the heart of the migrant allows us to hear a narrative which challenges the dominant narrative emerging in our western societies which were outlined earlier. If we hear the migrant heart we hear something different; we hear of a faith that sustains in the darkest moment and by its very nature is redemptive; we hear of the evidence of sin and evil that the vast majority of the world chooses to remain ignorant to, but which nevertheless exists in the form of trafficking, slavery and the simple but forthright message that you are a product and when you cease to be that you are an inconvenience. Many nations are now accessories to murder as they send people home to certain death. If, as Beck describes, we are in the midst of a ‘Global Reformation’; then the migrant is the one beginning to sow the seeds of a ‘Global Counter-Reformation’.   


Erga Migrantes: Paragraph 101[14]

Hearing these things then we should not be surprised that the migrant challenges our way of thinking about the social and cultural context in which we live. Paragraph 101 of EMCC encapsulates the Churches’ core message with regard to migrants and migration but it also tells us that migrant will continue to surprise. In summary EMCC 101 tells us that the migrant does interrupt our life style and our inherited order; but as we have just discovered western culture is not just deserving of interruption it needs it! The paragraph further tells us that the migrant is a resource to us as we build a future; this is nearly an antithesis of the model of a Church that seeks to serve through domination and subdue those who migrate subsequently treating them as second class citizens. A person who crosses the door of a parish church is as welcome to that community as those who have been there for three generations; this is the only strategy of welcome that has a genuinely Christian foundation. Furthermore paragraph 101 instructs us that the foreigner is Christ pitching his tent among us. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus we may not recognise Him; indeed we may leave the road before the heart of the migrant reveals the heart of Christ to us. The language, concepts and policies by which we are asked to operate may even discourage us or expel us from the long and dusty road to Emmaus; we should re-examine all our policies ensuring that they keep us on the road that ultimately leads us to the mind and heart of Christ. The final point made in this paragraph is that we are fellow pilgrims journeying toward our true homeland which is at odds with the concept of self-fulfilment that abounds today as observed by Beck. From the perspective of the Christian our call is ‘a living through the Passover with Christ, or a journey, a sublime migration towards total Communion of the Kingdom of God’[15]. The ideas in paragraph 101 certainly give us a sense of sharing the migrant heart; of being at one with little or no ontological distinction between those who serve and those who are served.


More importantly isn’t it the migrant who is the one who is working against contemporary trends as outlined by Habermas by both craving and setting up loose structures of social solidarity. Migrants, especially in places where they experience isolation and exclusion, set up networks and communities of belonging with little assistance from governments and councils; and even at times in spite of the Host Church. While the world is ‘globalising’ migrants are ‘glocalising’[16]. Isn’t it often the migrant who has been treated as ‘rubbish’ who learns from that experience never to treat others as ‘rubbish’? From the perspective of those who care for migrants isn’t it often the most heart rending moment when you find yourself uplifted by the presence of God when you speak to some-one who has spent months, even years in a Refugee Centre or a Direct Provision Centre. Learning, through the grace of God, to let go of bitterness and judgement, they now live with compassion and contentment. They resist falling victim to the very things that Ratzinger and Habermas allude to. Despite all their difficulties they see themselves as precious, not rubbish, and as miracle not product. And if they don’t … who could blame them when they have endured such dehumanising situations, circumstances, and conditions.


These experiences are profoundly important; they are what transform our understanding of the migrant in the world. They move the migrant from one who is beneficiary of the heart of the Church to one who forms and enlarges the heart of the Church. I find that those who are truly effective with regard to the care of migrants can connect with a ‘point of conversion’ in their lives. Even though one may have started in an administrative position or perceived their ministry as a job to be done; they often remain in this ministry for very different reasons. At some point in time during their labours they couldn’t ignore or avoid the eyes of the ‘other’ and in a single moment gazing into the soul of a fellow human being; they glimpse their own soul. This moment of conversion is a necessary pre-requisite for those who walk with migrants and especially for those who minister to migrants. Expressed very well by Deirdre Cornell, who set out with the best of intentions to care for migrants on the US-Mexican border, she was only a few months into her ministry when she said; ‘Maybe I had unconsciously assumed that we were bringing the church to migrants when it was they who freely shared the church with us’[17]. Building on this initial ‘conversion’ the next stage is to name your own migration; to sense it and delve deeply into an understanding as to how migration affects you. It is only by knowing and understanding the migrant heart (including your own) that you can serve the migrant. And what is the migrant’s heart? Most migrants tell you that geographical change is only deeply symbolic. It is symbolic of a deeper need and a deeper journey. There is no doubt that geographical change is becoming more and more complicated from a western nation state perspective but from the perspective of a migrant and the perspective of the church the journey of the migrant is fuelled by the geography of hope[18]. The importance and place of hope for all of humankind is noted by Pope Francis when he utters a great aspiration or even what one may call a prayer in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Referring to the presence of the Kingdom of God in the world he says ‘May we never remain on the side-lines of this march of living hope[19]’. It is in words such as these that we find a model in Pope Francis; he is a beacon on the migrant road; he is the quintessential Migrant Pope.  

Finding a Model – Francis; the Migrant Pope.

Pope Francis is effective with and on behalf of migrants and refugees. Why? Because he knows the migrant heart and more importantly he knows his own migrant heart. He understands that you cannot look at any migrant without looking at the world and the culture that creates the migrant; especially when the migrant is exploited or is being demonised. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires he addressed the cynicism and xenophobia latent in the long term settled community towards migrants. Like many of us we can conveniently blame the authorities but Cardinal Bergoglio wasn’t letting his people away so lightly. Knowing that political action is often highly reflective of what the populous quietly support he said; And what do you do about it! If they [the authorities] don’t do anything, yell at them! Complain! But what do you do? (…) How do y’ou honor your debt of love if you allow human trafficking and the abuse of young people in front of your eyes? This is happening close to us. I confess, when I meditate about this, when I see it, I cry. I cry tears of impotence. What happens to my country, it used to have the arms wide open to welcome so many foreigners but now it is crossing its arms and generating in its womb offenders who exploit foreigners? Today more than ever we need watchmen to stop this’ [20]. I ask you to look beyond the words to see his heart. I wonder how much of this heart has been formed not just by the Word of God and the love of Christ for migrants but by his own experience of migration in his family. He perceives himself merely as a fellow migrant with those he meets on the road. He faces small instances with bigger questions; he sees the situation through the eyes of ‘God’s passion and anguish’ to quote Brueggemann. The migrant heart, as exemplified in the words the pastor of souls in Buenos Aries, crosses geographical borders both naming and challenging the many obstacles that leave the heart torn and broken as it journeys towards hope. Those who journey with migrants today are fortunate to have a pastor and model whose passion and anguish for the plight of the migrant go way beyond what words can express. Pope Francis highlights to the larger global context how impoverished our ideas and words are when we come to address the migrant journey. As we have already seen he confesses that he himself cries ‘tears of impotence’ when it comes to their plight. Just like our countries are limited by walls and barriers, so too are our ideas and understandings. Following the example of Pope Francis we all have to have to find a vocabulary that has a resonance with the migrant heart. That discovery begins in our own hearts. It is necessary to move beyond inherited limitations if we are to be of assistance to the migrant; we have to move beyond the language of provision and order to the language which enlarges the heart. We have to embrace the strategies promoted in Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi which we have already observed in paragraph 101 always point us beyond our efforts to ever deeper and more sublime realities. The Church in her mission of manifesting the motherhood towards the entire human family says; ‘Today’s migrations may be considered a call, albeit a mysterious one, to the Kingdom of God, which is already present in His Church’[21]. Extracts such as this echo Cornell’s earlier words and maybe even capture our own beliefs and experience. Following the spirit of these words and the example of Pope Francis surely it is time to move on from territorial language, the language of individual fiefdoms, the language of walls and ladders, and dwell with the migrant in the language of the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom poses a complex challenge to our western world and it becomes infinitely more complex when it utters statements saying that it is only to be found by losing everything.  This pattern, though strange and avoided in our neo-classical world is well known in the life of the migrant. I referred earlier to Pope Francis’ family who left everything they knew and loved in Portacomario near Asti Italy in 1929. Having travelled across the ocean; they suffered further loss as a result of the 1932 crash; however, in the midst of this leaving and loosing they found what was important. This is not an uncommon theme in scripture.

Migration and Scripture

Reading the bible from a migratory perspective gives scripture a fresh vitality. Abraham, our Father in faith, left Haran for Hebron; lost the security of a wealthy home; lived in a tent as a nomad; lost all that he once knew and yet through God’s challenges and actions he found all that he needed. Likewise, Moses left the cosy confines of the Egyptian Palace; he lost his security and privileged standing and yet he found all he needed when his migrant heart was at one with those he journeyed with and the one who walked ahead of His people. Elijah left the city for the wilderness. Chapter nineteen of the Book of Kings tells us that not only did he lose status and possessions but that he nearly lost his mind and yet he found what he needed in the gentle breeze. The entire people of God in exile in Babylon had a deep sense of leaving a home and of losing everything. Their life in Jerusalem was dictated by the temple. Their festivals, seasons, rest, meal-times and prayers; and their general ornate and ordered life style was lost to them. But they found so much in exile; they discovered that the savage power of exile could not separate God’s people from His mercy and what they found was that no amount of ‘cunning or force can escape the intentionality of God[22]’. Saint Paul left this murdering past; lost his privileged standing as a Roman soldier and while in the desert in Arabia (Gal 1:17) he found not only what he needed but he discovered the future of the Church which lay beyond the definitions and limitation placed on it by the other Apostles.

A Migrant God

Having looked at the inspiration of our present Holy Father; the wisdom of EMCC specifically in paragraph 101 and immersing ourselves into the life-giving story of scripture there is an even deeper and greater source to inspire us in our migrant journeys. The one who left everything; lost everything and who found a deep and transformative love was ‘Jesus the Migrant’. This is the sine quae non which underlies the care of migrants; and it is this one true reality that unites us; ‘the belief that God migrated to humanity so all of us in turn could migrate back to God’[23] is a core message of the incarnation. In short, this has to be the model we work from if we are to find a way of caring for fellow migrants and of mutually enriching one another; it is the only methodology by which we can face the challenges that contemporary western culture places before us. It is this deepest reality reflected in the life of the migrant that serves to enlarge the heart of the Church. Just as the death and resurrection of Jesus provides a new language to speak about suffering and death so this aspect of the mystery of the Incarnation gives us a language to explore the rich dynamic involved in the pastoral care of migrants. This key point is to be found in the writings of Fr. Daniel Groody and he develops a theological methodology so that migrants can engage one another and deepen their awareness of this reality. There are three steps; immersion; interfluence and interpretation. Firstly, ‘immersion’ avoids the model of management; we immerse ourselves together into our common heartfelt journey. Secondly, ‘interfluence’ demands that following on from the first step we discover how the faith of our lived experience and the treasured faith of our tradition influence one another. Thirdly, in ‘interpretation’ we find a way together and ultimately we find a way which deepens our life with God and one another. If we adopt Groody’s understanding and his methodology then our work with migrants takes on a new shape; maybe even a new enthusiasm and energy. If we truly believe that we embrace migration as an expression of God migrating to his people and of a ‘we’ who return to God then everything changes. These insights put the spotlight on the heart’s journey towards real and lasting hope and promises fulfilled. In a sense as an Irish Church we have to leave behind a lot of inherited practices that we have formulated that are bringing us nowhere; we have to lose ideologies and actions that mirror the ideologies and language that are at play in the secular world and are currently part of the widespread problems that contribute to the hardship and isolation experienced by migrants. Finally we have to find our way to God through our own migrant heart and the hearts of those we share our journey with. The methodology proposed by Groody provides invaluable assistance as we discover and discern how we enlarge the heart of the Church; a necessary development if we are to live according to the Kingdom of God.

Conclusion and Recommendations for the Irish Context.

If this methodology is adopted there are implications for the way in which we do our work as chaplains and as a Conference of Bishops. As chaplains it means we have to take time to explore our own experience of migration. We have to understand our stories in a more reflective manner. The authority of these stories is a source of hope and conversion for a tired world. I’ve noticed that many churches worldwide and particularly those groups that function outside formal Church structures use scripture to unlock the migratory experience and in this way they help people acknowledge the presence of God in the heart of the migrant community. Following on from our discussion Irish Church I’d make the following seven recommendations cum observations. Firstly, the Commission should be led by faith not funding. For too long commissions (who are genuinely in need of resources) seek assistance from agencies and Governments that in turn dictate their policy. People of faith are generous in their funding when the needs of people are effectively met. For instance; if the Church in Ireland initiated a program to care for children in Direct Provision Centres money would flood in from the faithful without question. Secondly, the language of clients and all those categories inherited from the language of human rights must disappear. The only language suitable for Church agencies who work with migrants is the language of brother and sister. If we share a common journey; if we share the One True Father then we have to live as brothers and sisters in all things. Thirdly, the language of the heart must be in evidence just as it is in Pope Francis. The focus of our language must not necessarily be what gets on the media but rather what gives hope to those most destitute in the world of migration. We must no longer speak of the migrant heart as something that we know about but as something we truly share. Fourthly, one of the weaknesses in the Irish Churches understanding of the Pastoral Care of Migrants is the impoverished understanding that has developed in certain quarters that perceives pastoral care solely as a duty to provide sacraments and culturally appropriate liturgies. This is evidence of limited, even imprisoned thinking that we referred to earlier. The message from the various publications in the Vatican and in particular the heart of our present Pope is that while the provision of sacraments is an intrinsic part of the Churches mission it cannot ignore the mission to the whole human being. Fifthly, there is a misreading of the documents EMCC at times. Certainly there is an emphasis on renewed consideration of the responsibility of the receiving Church but this is not a denial or an obfuscation of the responsibility of the sending Church. The document encourages greater cooperation between both host and sending Churches. At this juncture in the world’s history they should be leading the way modelling healthy dialogue. Many countries are now finding that they cannot handle migration on their own and they are opening up channels of communication with countries with whom they are sending or receiving migrants. Sixthly, Ireland is about to enter a new phase in the care of migrants. Much of the good work and representation on behalf of migrants has been undertaken by organisations that were funded by Atlantic Philanthropies and The One Foundation. The former body no longer provides funding and the later one is coming to the end of their funding program. This will leave a large gap and will leave a huge deficit in front line services for migrants and especially for those in Direct Provision. Maybe this is a vacuum that the Church can fill, and approaching the situation forma new theological paradigm.. Seventh and lastly, one is on no doubt as to the increasingly diverse Catholic population on the island of Ireland yet this diversity remains largely hidden. I am increasingly humbled by the faith filled stories of migrants which I hear in my own third-level context. I ask myself why are we not hearing more of these stories within the main Catholic narrative in Ireland. Why are we not using World Day for Migrants and Refugees to preach and teach more effectively about human migrations that are full of spiritual import. Is the dominant migration narrative on this island always and forever to be the one which tells of emigrants who brought Catholicism to their new homelands? Where is the story of those who bring a deep and enlivening faith to this land? We need to hear their story; we need to learn from their experience; after all, the migrant reminds us that all the compassion that has been spoken about, and all the lectures on the subject of human rights has not replaced religion and its motivational strength and presence in the world. The institutional quest by an increasingly secularist world for ‘a religion of humanity’ has not succeeded in replacing traditional religious beliefs and practises. As part of this quest and reformulation there is a growing disconnect between things religious in what has been described as an incestuous link with the dominant neo-liberal culture. This is to be welcomed but it makes great demands on how we structure this contemporary ‘Global Counter-Reformation’ the seeds of which are to be seen very clearly in the lives of migrants of many faiths. Why then don’t we look at those who are actively reformulating it? Why can’t we learn from those who remain unthreatened and highly inventive in the face of this ‘Global Reformation’ and whose thoughts and actions enlarge the heart of the Church?

[1] The title is adapted from the document on migration published by the  Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People(2004), Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi (EMCC) Para 101 [accessed 25/09/2014]

[2] Pope Francis, Message for World day for Migrants and Refugees, 2015, [accessed 24/09/2014]

[3]EMCC Para 101 [accesssed 25/09/2014]

[4]  Beck Ulrich (2010) A God of One’s Own, MA: Polity Press, pg. 162

[5] Fr. Virgil Elizondo speaks primarily from his own migratory experience from Mexico to the US and he relates his experiences to the story of the Galilean Jesus further applying this to the broader migrant experience. Elizondo, Virgil, Rev. Ed. (2002) The Future is Mestizo: Life Where Cultures Meet. CL: University of Colorado Press.

[6] Brueggemann, Walter Ed Patrick D. Miller(1994), A Social Reading of the Old Testament; Prophetic Approaches to Israel’s Communal Life, MN: Fortress Press, pg. 48 [7] Goldring, Luin and Patricia Landolt, (2013) Producing and Negotiating Non-Citizenship; Precarious Legal Status in Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pg. 276 [8] Bauman, Zygmunt,(2011) Culture in a Liquid World, Cambridge, Polity Press, pg. 110

[9] Matt, Susan J., (2011) Homesickness; An American History, NY: Oxford University Press, pg.162

[10] Ibid 169

[11] Beck, Ulrich, (2010) A God of One’s Own, Cambridge, Polity Press, pg. 128

[12] Habermas, Jurgen and Joseph Ratzinger (2006) The Dialectics of Secularization, SF: Ignatius Press pg. 45-46 [

13] Ibid , pg. 65. ‘Man becomes a product, and this entails total alterations to his own self. He is no longer a gift of nature or of the Creator God; he is his own product. Man has descended into the very well-springs of power, to the sources of his own existence. The temptation to construct the ‘right’ man at long last, the temptation to experiment with human beings, the temptation to see them as rubbish to be discarded – all this is no mere fantasy of moralists opposed to progress’.

[14] EMCC Paragraph 101: Faced with the vast movement of people, with the phenomenon of human mobility, considered by some as the new “credo” of contemporary man, faith reminds us how we are all pilgrims on our way towards our true homeland. “Christian life is essentially a living through the Passover with Christ, or a journey, a sublime migration towards total Communion of the Kingdom of God” (CMU 10). All the history of the Church illustrates its passion and its holy zeal for this humanity on the move. The “foreigner” is God’s messenger who surprises us and interrupts the regularity and logic of daily life, bringing near those who are far away. In “foreigners” the Church sees Christ who “pitches His tent among us” (cf. Jn 1:14) and who “knocks at our door” (cf. Ap 3:20). This meeting – characterised by attention, welcome, sharing and solidarity, by the protection of the rights of migrants and of commitment to evangelise – reveals the constant solicitude of the Church, which discovers authentic values in migrants and considers them a great human resource.

[15] EMCC para 101

[16] The phrase ‘glocalisation’ was coined by Roland Robertson, University of, Aberdeen in 1992.

[17] Cornell, Deirdre, (2014) Jesus was a Migrant NY: Orbis Books, pg. 61.

[18] Brueggemann believes that the concept of exile in the Old Testament represents an exile that is not primarily geographical but it is social, cultural, and moral. Brueggemann, Walter, (1997) Cadences of Home, KN: Westminster John Knox Press, pg 2.

[19] Pope Francis,(2013) Evangelii Gaudium para 278. [accessed 25/09/2014]

[20] Bergoglio, Cardinal, Jorge Mario, [ ] accessed 15/09/2014.

[21] EMCC Para 104

[22] Brueggemann, Walter Ed Patrick D. Miller(1994), A Social Reading of the Old Testament; Prophetic Approaches to Israel’s Communal Life, MN: Fortress Press pg. 127

[23] Groody, Daniel, A Theology Of Migration, America, The National Catholic Review, Vol 204, no. 3, 2011 [] accessed 13/09/2014  

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