One America Community Efforts
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Program: National Migration Week
Contact(s): C. Maureen Gross, Special Projects Coordinator: (202) 541-3385
Purpose: To educate and motivate American Catholics to act on the church's teaching of "welcoming the stranger," bringing attention to the contributions of immigrants in the United States

Background Program Operations Outcomes


Since 1980, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) has set aside the first week of January each year as National Migration Week (NMW). The goal of NMW is to educate the native-born U.S. population about the similarities between them, immigrants in their community, and refugees around the world. The week provides an opportunity to reflect on the positive aspects and contributions of immigrants and refugees in this country. At its inception, the observation was celebrated at individual parishes throughout the country. Today, it has expanded to include all Catholic elementary and secondary schools, Catholic colleges and universities, and parishes and religious education classes. Ultimately the Church hopes that anyone who comes in contact with someone who has participated in NMW activities will benefit from them. The NCCB hopes to promote a greater acceptance of diversity among people, the acknowledgment of how different cultures can be enriching, and how society is strengthened by the contributions of it newcomers.

Program Operations

Each year, the NCCB Migration and Refugee Service distributes approximately 31,000 booklets and posters to U.S. Catholic elementary schools, secondary schools, colleges, universities and parishes. The booklets include an introduction, current statistics, reflection/discussion points and suggestions for action. The suggestions for action range from basic to advanced, and from individual to group activities. Suggestions for action include having families trace their ancestry and create displays to be shown at the parish, assisting newcomers prepare for citizenship, sponsoring a concert with traditional songs from different countries, and holding a poster or essay contest for NMW. To encourage creative programming around National Migration Week, a Small Grants Program was established to offer one-year, non-renewable grants of up to $1,000. Each proposal varies greatly. Awards are made for Catholic initiatives that seek to welcome newcomers or raise awareness of the plight of migrants and refugees around the world.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

Distribution of National Migration Week materials has risen from approximately 21,000 in 1996 to over 30,000 in 1998. In 1997 and 1998, the Small Grants Program offered funding to eight projects each year that could serve as model projects for other parishes, dioceses, and Catholic organizations. As an example, in Memphis, Tenn., the diocese staged "Building Bridges of Welcome," where three individual events helped to mark NMW. The first was an afternoon of skits and lectures, songs, dances, and a multicultural dinner. The second was a panel discussion on the needs of immigrant groups, and the third was a training workshop on mentoring skills.

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