Scalabrinian Sisters on the journey with migrants and refugees: on the eve of the 5th Congregational Seminar on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees


Wellington Barros

The 5th Congregational Seminar on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, organized by the Scalabrinian Sisters, is just around the corner and will take place at the CELAM headquarters in Bogotá from March 5th to 8th. The theme of the seminar is “On the journey with migrants and refugees with audacity and hope,” with the motto “Pilgrims of hope.” The event is based on the mission of the Scalabrinian Sisters, which is the evangelical and missionary service aimed at migrants and refugees, especially the poorest and most needy. They dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ, following the requirements of their Charism.

The Church receives this valuable contribution and is built within the diversity of charisms, where each charism is considered a gift from God to strengthen the mission of the Church. No charism exists solely for itself or for a small group. A charism must exist to serve the community—men and women, friends and enemies alike. The Scalabrinian Sisters’ charism is evident in pastoral work and assistance provided to migrants, refugees, and people in motion.

Our understanding of pastoral action is the totality of actions by the Church and Christians, following the example of Jesus, to establish the Kingdom of God. Pastoral care is the Church’s salvific service, founded on God’s universal plan of salvation. In Jesus Christ, God entrusted to the Church the realization of this service as continuity—the work of the shepherd, who constantly relates to the two parties involved in the history of Salvation: God and human being.

To be accountable before God and His revelation, pastoral care must also be a service to humanity. Of biblical origin, pastoral care expresses God’s love revealed in the history of Israel. Divine care translates into leading the people from slavery through the desert. This action is compared to the image of the shepherd guiding the flock and its sheep (cf. Psalms 78:52). For the Scalabrinian Sisters, pastoral work for migrants and refugees is carried out through concrete actions aiming to welcome, support, and promote the spiritual and social well-being of these individuals and communities, often in vulnerable situations, in line with evangelical and ecclesiastical teachings. The Charism reflects a commitment to solidarity and social justice, primarily regarding the challenges faced by people on the move.

Pastoral care for migrants and refugees is not the monopoly of any institution, whether public, private, or religious. The challenges involve various entities from the government, civil society, churches, non-governmental organizations, entities, and social movements. In this context, the testimony of the Scalabrinian Sisters, the Scalabrinian Lay Missionaries, volunteers, and collaborators has been present since October 25, 1895.

The V Seminar was prepared counting on the participation of various services developed by the Scalabrinian Sisters in the countries where they are present. In addition to the Sisters, laypeople, volunteers, and collaborators also contributed. The preparatory path has drawn inspiration from the “see, judge, and act” method, an approach involving processes of reflection and decision-making, primarily in social and pastoral contexts. This requires observing reality, critically analyzing, forming a judgment, and, finally, acting according to the principles and values identified during the process.

For this reason, the Seminar’s program will include moments of presenting the preparatory phase, but above all, with a critical analysis of reality and action perspectives. It will undoubtedly be a moment of discernment of the various implementations so that the Charism of the Scalabrinian Sisters can be increasingly in harmony with the current events and challenges of migration and refuge. The divine Spirit guiding the Church and its charisms doesn’t need our praises but our actions. It is for this reason that He freely offers us His gifts and charisms. It is a moment to listen to His voice in events and needs that urge us to put the Scalabrinian Sisters’ charism into practice, where there is not only urgency and need but above all, life and hope.

The challenge has been thrown! Let us embark on a path towards discoveries and actions of the Charism, relying on the assistance of the Spirit characterized by innovation and freedom, unafraid of novelties and steps never taken before. The Church and consequently, the Congregation of the Scalabrinian Sisters, are not static and set in stone for all times; on the contrary, the Church reveals itself as an event of the Holy Spirit: a community of individuals committed to the cause of Jesus, always on the move and in constant renewal, so that activities can be created according to emerging needs and existing charisms, especially those of the Scalabrinian Sisters.

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