Friars from all parts of America—North, Central and South—have gathered in Lima, Peru, this week to discuss what we as an Order can do to alleviate the plight of migrants in this part of the world. The North American-Pacific Capuchin Conference is well represented by its 11 participants (out of a total of 32). Also attending the meeting are Bernd Beerman, Director of the Order's JPE Office, who organized the meeting, Helmut Rakowski, Mission Secretary of the Order, and the three General Definitors for the area: Carlos Novoa, Jose Gislon and I. The General Minister was originally scheduled to participate in the meeting, but had to back out due to a scheduling conflict.
As Mauro pointed out in his message to the participants, the Capuchin presence in the Americas, "began with the desire of European jurisdictions to follow the emigrants and to assist them pastorally." In some ways, the situation of migrants today is very different than it was when Capuchins first arrived in the Americas, but the need for pastoral care is still there. The hope of the meeting's organizers is that the participants can identify those needs and organize a response to them within the various regions of the American continent, or even set up a project that involves collaboration among different regions of the continent. As Mauro put it in his letter: "Starting from our guiding values, we cannot remain indifferent, and though we may feel powerless in the presence of a phenomenon of such gigantic proportions, we want to do something to alleviate the sufferings of as many people as possible. Planning for it and working on it together will make our efforts more effective. It is important that we not shrink from the task given us by the migrant."
The first two days of the meeting had input from three people. Fr. Rafael Moreno Villa, SJ, gave an overview of migration in the Americas. Fr. Daniel Groody, CSC, presented a conceptual framework for understanding the complex issue of immigration, then laid the groundwork for a theological understanding of immigration. Finally, Br. José Angel Echeverria, a member of the Order's Historical Institute, presented an historical overview of the Capuchin response to immigration in the Americas.
Further information about the meeting can be found on the blog of the JPE Office. Some of the excellent material
presented by Fr. Daniel Groody can be found on his website.