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No Longer Strangers: SSNDs and Partners Welcome a Syrian Refugee Family
By: Leonora Tucker, SSND

SSNDs and Partners Welcome a Syrian Refugee family

Photo Courtesy WSHU/Alison Freeland

In 2015, Pope Francis called on all religious communities to welcome refugees into their homes as a concrete response to the Syrian crisis. The Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office of our SSND Province responded on behalf of the Province by contacting Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in New Haven, CT. At the same time, the town of Wilton’s Interfaith Action Committee decided to renew its commitment to refugee work and also contacted IRIS. The result was the development early in 2016 of a partnership between the Wilton SSNDs and the 35 members of the WI-ACT Steering Committee. Today that relationship is flourishing, and the family we both welcomed is thriving.

We are privileged to have living on our campus a Muslim, Arabic-speaking, fully vetted family of six who fled the violence and death in their homeland, the war-torn country of Syria. For us, “refugee” is no longer just a word; it is real people living among us.

What does the presence in our lives of a young widow and her five children, ages 2-12, mean to me and to my Sisters?

First of all, having learned that the greatest challenge to caring for a refugee family was to find transitional housing, we are grateful that we could offer them a recently vacated home on our property. It was there that we welcomed Manal and her family in March. Second, we are grateful that our ministry as educators enabled us to meet this family’s need to learn a new language in a new culture. Sisters meet four nights each week with the three oldest children to help them with their homework, and I, together with other members of the ESL committee, teach English to Manal.

Finally, we are grateful for the Sisters who have accepted the role of grandmother to the children because as a WI-ACT committee member said, “No child can have too many grandmothers.”

These Sisters are available to babysit, take the children to the playground, or supervise their swimming lessons. The opportunities to work with this family have given each of us an increasingly grateful heart.

At the beginning of this journey six people came to us as strangers. We, as a community, received them with gladness and delight. Today they come to us as friends, and as friends we continue to welcome them with joy.

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