While many of us may think refugee resettlement has been one of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas’ newer programs, it might be surprising to learn that the organization has been doing it for more than 40 years. It started long before that, however, within the parish community.
“I am proud of the long history in the Archdiocese of welcoming refugees. Originally, this ministry was really the work of particular families who opened their hearts and their homes to support refugees from fleeing oppression in their homeland,” says Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann, D.D., Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas.
After the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops implemented a Southeast Asia refugee resettlement program in response to the Indochina refugee crisis, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas officially joined the humanitarian effort in 1975. The organization began assisting the South Vietnamese who were fleeing their country out of fear of persecution or execution following the Vietnam War.
Today, Catholic Charities is one of the largest resettlement sites in Kansas, with most refugees coming from Southeast Asia’s Myanmar. “Like those before us, we recognize the brave journey our refugees are forced to take, leaving behind all that’s familiar,” says Rachel Pollock, Director of Refugee and Immigration Programs. “We welcome and give them the support they need to rebuild their lives.”
This past fiscal year, staff resettled 329 refugees, placed 322 in jobs, enrolled 226 in English classes and helped 271 immigrants become U.S. citizens. “I am very grateful for all that Catholic Charities does today,” adds Archbishop Naumann, “to continue this beautiful tradition of assisting families coming from the most difficult circumstances to be able to thrive in their new American homeland.”