When Bishop Dennis Sullivan launched the Share the Journey campaign on Sept. 17, 2017, he remarked, “This worldwide journey of encounter and hope begins today; may we all be missionary disciples.”
In the spirit of this missionary discipleship, a new journey begins in the Diocese of Camden — a journey which truly calls Catholics to the “periphery.”
As noted in Evangelii Guadium, “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.”
Indeed, the two-year Share the Journey initiative draws Catholics out of their comfort zones and into the peripheries. It tells them to love their neighbors, many of whom are the world’s most vulnerable people: migrants and refugees fleeing war, poverty and persecution, people who seek nothing more than basic needs and a path forward.
Paving the path forward for more than 50,000 refugees since the summer of 2014 is Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in McAllen, Texas — a safe haven and a place to rest for the countless men, women, children and infant refugees who crossed the border after fleeing unimaginable violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. There they are able to rest, have a warm meal and a shower and change into clean clothing, as well as receive medicine and other supplies, before continuing onto their journey.
Here in the Camden Diocese, the journey has just begun, as four diocesan members will be sent to McAllen, Texas, to plan a larger journey that will be open to all within the Camden Diocese: young people, college and high school students, clergy, and anyone interested in experiencing the “culture of encounter.”
One of the first members to be sent is Gregory Coogan, director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries, who will be involved in planning a series of trips in the upcoming months for members of the diocese.
Explaining the purpose of the journey, he said, “This will be an opportunity to learn, to listen, to build a culture of encounter among the people in our own diocese and the people of the Diocese of Brownsville. The journey will embody Pope Francis’ call to be bold, to encounter the other, and to be a missionary to the periphery. We must build solidarity, and lift up the dignity of the human person.”
Coogan spoke of the opportunity to live out spiritual and corporal works of mercy: welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the afflicted, among others.
Reflected Kevin Hickey, executive director of Catholic Charities, “We look forward to providing the people of Southern New Jersey with the opportunity to experience the agency’s mission of mercy as well as the culture of encounter.”