Report from Sean Ryan MBE, National Caritas Community Sponsorship Co-ordinator, based in Caritas Diocese of Salford
Two years on from the arrival of the first refugee family to be resettled by a community group in the UK, the Community Sponsorship Scheme continues to have a transformative impact on refugee families and Catholic communities. Of the 160+ projects nationally, around one third are Catholic-led, across 15 Dioceses to date, with more preparing to follow suit.
Parish volunteers typically describe the experience as “the best thing I have ever done in my life” and speak of the profound joy and blessing of befriending families of such immense courage, resilience and determination.
The Home Office and Local Authorities, too, have been impressed with the patience, professionalism and dedication of Catholic projects.
With intensive training and support from CSAN member charities and Dioceses, Catholic projects are increasingly seen as exemplars of best practice in this important work. This, in turn, has afforded the Church an increasingly influential voice at the heart of government, and a lead role in the development of permanent, civic society-led solutions to welcome and integration, in the spirit of the Gospel and in service to the common good.
Caritas agencies in other European countries have been following the scheme’s progress here in the UK. Germany, Ireland and Spain are now preparing to launch their own community sponsorship schemes.
The scheme represents a quiet revolution in the way developed countries welcome and support new arrivals whose lives have been torn apart, and is a practical Catholic response to Pope Francis’s call to parishes and religious communities to take in a family.
Sharing the love of Christ with those who have lost everything offers hope in the future for us all.