Pastoral Migratoria

Pastoral Migratoria


Pastoral Migratoria is an immigrant-led, lay leadership ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago for service, justice, and accompaniment actions in parish communities with large immigrant populations. Pastoral Migratoria (PM) was born in 2008 after it became apparent that comprehensive immigration reform legislation was not on the near horizon. Pastoral Migratoria is rooted in the methodology of see-judge-act of the Aparecida document of CELAM (the Episcopal Conference of Latin America), whose main architect was Pope Francis who was then Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Pastoral Migratoria has formed and commissioned over 200 Hispanic lay leaders in 40 Hispanic parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and its outgrowth sister ministry to the Polish community called Polish Immigrant-to-Immigrant Ministry has formed and commissioned more than 50 Polish leaders in 10 Polish parishes. Leadership formation is a key component of this ministry as Pastoral Migratoria leaders complete a series of formation modules rooted in Catholic social teaching and the Aparecida methodology.

Once commissioned, the Pastoral Migratoria lay leaders respond to the needs of their communities by organizing workshops and distributing materials and resources through their parishes on topics like immigration, labor, financial literacy, antifraud, deportation, domestic violence, and mental health.  PM leaders also work in collaboration with numerous professional, civic, governmental, educational and faith-based organizations, such as Catholic Charities, the Consulate of Mexico, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), and the National Immigrant Justice Center, in order to leverage services and resources and make them widely available to the local immigrant community. Pastoral Migratoria also connects and accompanies families to pastoral care, emergency social services, legal resources, and other supportive services, and joins with native-born parish congregations, religious, priests, and interfaith groups to work in unity for comprehensive immigration reform and the humane treatment of migrants and refugees and to promote global solidarity.

Through Pastoral Migratoria, the Archdiocese of Chicago is the first US diocese to provide a parish-based response to the immigration issue as a best practice of V Encuentro and leadership development. Pastoral Migratoria also responds to the US Catholic bishops’ call to develop pastoral lay leaders for the local church. This need is particularly acute in Hispanic parishes since Hispanic immigrants represent the US Catholic Church’s largest growing and most under-served demographic. The United States has 195 dioceses and more than 43 million foreign-born residents, of which approximately 25 percent are undocumented. Many of the 4,000 Hispanic parishes are seriously under-resourced to meet the needs of their immigrant communities that are facing unjust immigration policies, including detention, deportation, and family separation.

The work of Pastoral Migratoria is of great importance to the renewal of the Catholic Church, and not only in the Archdiocese of Chicago. This ministry promulgates Pope Francis’ vision of evangelization, in which “Works of mercy must go hand in hand with the pursuit of true social justice, raising the living standards of citizens, and promoting them as agents of their own development.” (Aparecida, 385).  Pastoral Migratoria expresses the missionary discipleship of the Church as immigrant lay leaders become active agents of their own development, who share their faith through actions as they encounter Jesus within the reality they are facing of poverty, oppression, discrimination, and other injustices.

Through its national Pastoral Migratoria initiative, the Archdiocese of Chicago is sharing the Pastoral Migratoria model, best practices, infrastructure and lessons learned with other dioceses and parishes in the United States who are committed to fostering immigrant leadership that serves the needs of immigrants in their parishes and communities, while building a vibrant and collaborative network of parish-based ministries across dioceses. In 2017, the Archdiocese of Chicago initiated a five-year national pilot to introduce Pastoral Migratoria into a total of nine new US dioceses/parish sites in response to their requests, or 2-3 annually. The Dioceses of Stockton (CA) and Kansas City-St. Joseph (MO) with the support of their bishops have established a Pastoral Migratoria ministry. Pastoral Migratoria is also emerging in the Archdiocese of New York, where its formation program is being launched in several parishes.

Collaborators for the national Pastoral Migratoria initiative include each host diocese (e.g. offices of Hispanic Ministry, Catechesis/Faith Formation, Multi-Cultural, Human Concerns, Catholic Charities); local consulates, the Center for Migration Studies, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) through its offices of Cultural Diversity, Evangelization and Catechesis, Justice, Peace and Human Development, and Migration and Refugee Services; Catholic Theological Union; DePaul University; Loyola University School of Social Work; and local resource and service providers in each city/region, such as  universities, community colleges, hospitals, health centers, and legal agencies.

To date, more than 100 lay leaders have been formed and commissioned in the national Pastoral Migratoria in local parishes across the host dioceses to live their baptismal call to missionary discipleship. In the past year, lay leaders made 50 pastoral visits to immigrant homes to get to know the families, their needs, and to connect them with Pastoral Migratoria for resources and accompaniment support. They conducted a forum overviewing local community organizations, organized information tables at the parishes, and made visits to migrant housing facilities to talk, pray, provide pastoral support and connect to resources and service providers, including local hospitals, consulates, and parish religious education.

In July 2019, 13 dioceses participated in the second annual Instituto Nacional Pastoral Migratoria at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois. Dioceses sent strategic teams (e.g. one diocesan staff, one clergy, one lay Hispanic leader) to this comprehensive five-day immersion program to learn and experience how Pastoral Migratoria works, to network with leaders from other dioceses committed to the immigration issue, and together to seek ways to partner through this ministry in answering the Holy Father’s call to, “go forth from our comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel.”

To support the networking and collaboration at the national level, Red Nacional (National Network) de Pastoral Migratoria is engaging dioceses across the country by building community, sharing resources and best practices, and working on common strategies provided largely by offices of the USCCB and CLINIC. Red Nacional de Pastoral Migratoria also provides a space for pastoral teams to dialogue about how God is calling the Church to respond in a prophetic way to the needs of the immigrant community.

Among its national impact, Pastoral Migratoria is addressing the great need for widespread systemic change in the policies, practices and attitudes towards immigrants in the United States and in the institutional Church, as local churches are coming to open their doors to immigrants taking leadership in pastoral and civic work on various immigration issues. This ministry is also promoting greater integration of immigrant leaders in their parishes and in their communities. The national Pastoral Migratoria initiative’s longer-term goals are to help institutionalize the Church’s immigrant leadership infrastructure in which immigrants are actors of their own development to respond to community needs and work for immigrant integration by working in collaboration with outside entities like community, civic, and governmental institutions.

For more information about Pastoral Migratoria, including resources and formation booklets, visit