Migration Educator’s Guide 2021

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Migration Educator’s Guide 2021 guide


Theme: Compassion Encounters

OBJECTIVE: Students will connect stories about Maryknoll Missioners’ work with refugees on the US Border with that of the plight of the Holy Family.

UNDERSTAND who refugees are and why they flee their homelands.

APPLY scripture and Catholic Social Teaching, to the topic of refugees.

LEARN more about Advent and how it can inspire us to RESPOND to migrants and refugees.

CREATE nativity scenes based on the parts of the world that people are fleeing from.

ENGAGE families in prayer during this Advent season.

Step 1: Pray

PRAY this using an Advent Wreath each week of advent.

Opening Prayer: Merciful God in the symbol of this Advent Wreath we recall that you are the light that shines in the darkness and your love has no beginning and no end.

First Candle
LIGHT the first candle and READ Isaiah 9:1,5
READ: We light this first candle remembering Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay. We pray for all refugees fleeing their homes and searching for a safe place.

PRAY: God light the way for all those in need of safety.

Second Candle
LIGHT the second candle and READ Luke 11:9-10
READ: We light this second candle and recall the encounter the Holy Family had with the innkeeper. We pray that all migrants and refugees receive the help they need and that those they encounter open their doors with compassionate hearts.

PRAY: God light the way for all of us to open our doors and hearts with compassion to all those who need help.

Third Candle
LIGHT the third candle and READ Hebrews 13:1-6
READ: We light this third candle and remember the Three Kings who traveled to welcome your son. We pray for all those who welcome refugees around the world. We give thanks for their hospitality and care and pray that we too might be welcoming.

PRAY: God let the light of those who care for refugees be an example for all people.

Fourth Candle
LIGHT the fourth candle and READ Matthew 2:13-23
READ: We light this fourth candle and remember that the Holy Family had to flee as refugees to save Jesus’ life. We pray for a peaceful end to conflicts, violence, injustice, climate change and natural disasters that force people to leave their homes.

PRAY: God shine the light of peace upon the earth.

Step 2: Personal Connections

Tucked into the story of Baby Jesus, born in a manager, far away from home, are stories about people who experienced a compassionate encounter with others; an encounter that spoke to their hearts that motivated them to respond in a way that led them to find Jesus.

In El Paso, TX we find today’s Christmas stories in the lives of Maryknoll Missioners and the refugees they accompany. Like the stories we know from Jesus’ birth they too are driven by a stirring in their hearts, which leads them to encounters with Jesus in the lives of those they accompany.

The three kings, guided by a star, travelled great distances to encounter the baby King born in a manger. Maryknoll Lay Missioner Coralis also felt a tug in her heart and changed her retirement plans. She was leaving Kenya after 19 years of working in Africa and making the long journey home when the story of a father and daughter who drowned in the river at the US border laid heavy on her heart. Like the star that guided the three kings she felt something guiding her to El Paso, to the Maryknoll Family called by their faith to respond to the desperate need of migrants and border communities.

The innkeeper was moved with compassion. He probably saw the weariness and anguish of a husband and an expectant mother, and understood what they had gone through to get as far as they did. He had no room at the inn but he offered Mary and Joseph a barn they could use for the night. Annunciation House and its network of shelters and helpers does the same for weary refugees with no place to go. Like the innkeeper, Maryknoll Sisters Leilia, Janet, and Margaret with Lay Missioner Deborah open the door, welcome travelers in, and help provide them with food, shelter, and a chance to connect with relatives in the U.S. Heidi, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, offers legal services. She understands the desperation that drives people to take the big step of leaving their home and country.

The angels shared the good news of the baby king’s birth, not with dignitaries or royalty, but with the lowly shepherds isolated in the field, tending their flock. Sr. Margaret Sierra who understands the isolation refugees feel, accompanies them and gives them dignity with work at a sewing cooperative. Fr. Moody is a Maryknoll Priest who ministers in a poor, dusty town on the banks of the Rio Grande River. David, a person in Fr. Moody’s church described the work of the Missioners in one word, “love” – just like the love given and received by the one born in the manger and those who travelled to pay homage (Follow this link to read Maryknoll’s work with refugees at the border).

DISCUSS and REFLECT on the following questions:

  1. Share a time when, like the innkeeper, you welcomed someone into your home, a friend group, or somewhere else in your life.
  2. Describe a time when, like the three kings and Coralis, you went out of your way to learn or discover something important.
  3. Sr. Margaret understands the isolation the refugees experience. Why do you think they feel isolated? What questions would you like to ask them to learn more about why they feel this way?.

Step 3: Explore Scripture and Tradition

READ the scriptures that were included in the prayer again Then REFLECT on the questions that follow. 

Old Testament: Isaiah 9:1,5
Life of Jesus: 
Matthew 2:13-23 and Luke 11:9-10
Christian Living: 
Hebrews 13:1-6


1. Isaiah spoke of Jesus as the Prince of Peace. What do these Scriptures tell us about how we can offer peace to people looking for a safe place?

2. Share a time that someone offered you hospitality. How can you be hospitable to others, especially your peers?

WATCH the video Catholic Teaching on Welcoming Refugees by CRS. READ Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees(2016)

 “Mercy nourishes and strengthens solidarity towards others as a necessary response to God’s gracious love … Each of us is responsible for his or her neighbor: we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they live … From this perspective, it is important to view migrants not only on the basis of their status as regular or irregular, but above all as people whose dignity is to be protected and who are capable of contributing to progress and the general welfare … Migrations cannot be reduced merely to their political and legislative aspects, their economic implications and the concrete coexistence of various cultures in one territory. All these complement the defense and promotion of the human person, the culture of encounter, and the unity of peoples, where the Gospel of mercy inspires and encourages ways of renewing and transforming the whole of humanity.”

Step 4: Take Action

CHOOSE a country that people are fleeing from and becoming refugees. RESEARCH what is causing people to leave their homes. WATCH Who is a Refugee? on YouTube or visit www.unhcr.org to learn more about refugees. ANSWER these questions as a group:

1. What is a refugee?
2. Why do people leave their homes?
3. How many refugees are there in the world?
4. Where are most refugees living now?
5. Do they ever get to go home?
6. Do they want to leave their homes?
7. Where do they go?
8. How are they treated?
9. What does the Catholic Church teach about welcoming refugees?

MAKE a nativity scene representing the country you have chosen. Find nativity ideas on Pinterest, YouTube, or on the Web. Be CREATIVE, you can make indoor or outdoor scenes, or act out a modern day version of the nativity story. DISPLAY your nativity scenes for your class/group.After viewing all the nativity scenes ANSWER these questions:

1. What makes the scenes similar?
2. What makes them different?
3. How does Jesus’ birth inspire us to have compassionate encounters with others?

Raise Your Voice

PREPARE your nativity scenes and INVITE other classes/groups/or families to a viewing. Begin by EXPLAINING how and why your group prepared the scenes. After your visitors have viewed the scenes ask them to ANSWER these questions:

1. What makes the scenes similar?

2. What makes them different?

3. How does Jesus’ birth inspire us to have compassionate encounters with others?

Be A Global Neighbor

Engage Your Family