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Graced Moments


By Gregory Kepferle
CEO, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and President, Charities Housing Development Corporation

I recently witnessed the reunion of two dear friends who last saw each other in a refugee camp in Africa. One girl arrived safely in America many months ago. The other remained in the refugee camp, waiting with hope for the day when she might also emigrate to the United States. That day came in late February, when she arrived at the airport in San Jose. When she walked through security, her friend ran to her with open arms. They hugged each other tightly with tears of joy and grief streaming down their faces. Both girls had lost parents, family and friends due to violence and political oppression. They had also lost their home country and now found themselves in a strange, new land. But they were finally safe–safe in America with loving foster families and the compassionate and competent care of Catholic Charities Refugee Foster Care team.

Witnessing this reunion was a moment of grace for me as the CEO of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County. I felt so blessed to be part of a Church that welcomes immigrants and refugees through the extraordinary work of Catholic Charities. The reunion of these young women reminds me of the biblical story of the deep friendship of Ruth and Naomi: “Do not urge me to leave you, or turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I shall go. Wherever you stay, I shall stay. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16)

Many people worked long, anxious hours, days, and years to bring about the reunion of these friends–from refugee camp officials, U.S. government workers, U.N. and its affiliated International Organization for Migration workers, airlines staff, and airport staff, to the foster families in the Bay Area and the volunteers and staff of Catholic Charities. I signed the document at the arrival gate accepting responsibility for the young woman on behalf of Catholic Charities, who, because she is a minor, will act as her guardian.

Many of us have experienced the grief and anxiety of loss and separation – perhaps because of the death of a family member or a dear friend, or because of conflict or a broken heart, or being lost, or simply because of physical distance. Others have lost their homes, their loved ones, and even their countries and way of life. So whenever I witness the arrival of a refugee and the grace of a reunion, I find that whatever loss I am carrying is in some way gently healed, and I am resolved even more to help heal the losses experienced by others, and to welcome them home: “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” (Amazing Grace)

I invite you to join Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County in welcoming immigrants and refugees by supporting our Refugee and Immigrant Integration Program, Immigration Legal Services, and our Refugee Foster Care Program for unaccompanied refugee minors.

Additional information can be found at,  www.CatholicCharitiesSCC.org.