The Catholic Immigrant Integration Initiative examines whether Catholic institutions have maintained their special connection to immigrant communities in the United States and how they can increase and improve their work on immigrant integration, well-being and empowerment. The initiative studies the work of Catholic and other faith-based institutions with immigrants. It also documents and disseminates promising integration programs and practices in parishes, elementary schools, universities, the workplace, immigrant service networks, charities, hospitals, and other institutions and sectors. Its overall goal is to support and expand a growing network of Catholic institutions that are implementing successful integration models within and across sectors.
Virtually all of the Catholic Church’s signature institutions—its parishes, schools, universities, hospitals, charities, fraternal and sororal groups, labor centers and others—arose in response to the needs of past waves of immigrants and their progeny. While the Catholic Church’s work with immigrants remains robust, its US institutions have not fully pivoted to meet the needs and incorporate the gifts of the nation’s record number of immigrants and their children. Put differently, immigrant integration in the Catholic sense—of promoting communion between natives and newcomers, development of “each” person and the “whole” person, and building a better society through the evangelization of culture—has not yet become a unifying institutional priority.
Catholic agencies can play a vital role in fostering civic participation, improving educational outcomes and promoting the socio-economic attainment of immigrants and their families. On the other hand, Catholic institutions can be and, in fact, are being renewed and revitalized by the gifts, contributions and leadership of immigrants, particularly youth. This process should expand and accelerate.
The Catholic Immigrant Integration Project is guided by a national advisory council comprised of more than 30 representatives from national and local service-delivery networks; universities and school systems; pastoral, parish-based and ethnic ministries; and immigrant community groups. This work has received a substantial boost from Pope Francis’ vision, teaching and frequent statements on immigrants and integration at http://cmsny.org/wp-content/uploads/JFI-Kerwin-11.17.15.pdf.