'Creating a Culture of Encounter' is the theme for National Migration Week

A girl holds her sister near a makeshift shelter Dec. 6 at a camp for displaced people on the outskirts of Sana'a, Yemen. (CNS photo/Yahya Arhab EPA)

"Creating a Culture of Encounter" is the theme of 2017's National Migration Week, an annual observance the U.S. Catholic bishops began over 25 years ago.

Taking place Jan. 8-14, the week "is an excellent opportunity to highlight biblical tradition and our mission to welcome the newcomer," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration.

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"While the observance is only a week long, it is a vital time to show welcome, compassion and solidarity with our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters," he added in a statement.

With over 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes globally, the world is increasingly affected by migration. The USCCB said goals of National Migration Week include educating Catholic communities about migration and urging Catholics to come together to encounter immigrants and refugees in parishes, dioceses and the wider community. 

As part of the 2017 observance, the Justice for Immigrants coalition will be launching a new website that will feature news, background materials on migration policy issues and ways for individuals to get involved. The coalition is an initiative of the USCCB.

The U.S. bishops started National Migration Week "to give Catholics an opportunity to honor and learn about the diverse communities of the church and the work that the Catholic Church undertakes to serve immigrants and refugees," said a USCCB release. "The week serves as both a time for prayer and action to highlight the contributions of immigrants and vulnerable populations coming to the United States."

Educational materials and other resources for the special week are available for download at www.usccb.org/nationalmigrationweek. The USCCB materials include a toolkit with templates for letters to the editor and letters to lawmakers (in English and Spanish) to advocate on behalf of immigrants; suggestions for other advocacy efforts and community engagement; homily suggestions; and social media suggestions for Facebook and Twitter.

Posters, prayer cards, and booklets are available through the USCCB publishing service at www.usccbpublishing.org.

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