HUDSON, Wisc. — Leaders and members of a Catholic church in Hudson, Wisconsin, are deciding whether to welcome five Syrian refugee families into their community next summer.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asked St. Patrick Parish earlier this fall to host the 21 refugees, who are currently living in a camp in Turkey. Father John Gerritts promised to learn more about the refugee crisis and reach out to parish leadership, the Pioneer Press reported.
“This is something we’ve never done before,” Gerritts said. “It’s nothing we were looking to do. It’s not part of our immediate mission.” Gerritts said.
The church would have to find housing, transportation, government services and employment or schools for the refugees.
So far, many church members have welcomed the idea, but some have expressed safety concerns. Parishioners have also wanted to know the type of work refugees do, the children’s age, any medical issues needing immediate attention and what faith tradition they will bring.
Parish trustee Claire Zajac said most of the concerns are based on fear of the unknown or misinformation.
“As a mom and a longtime member of this community, I would not be bringing these 21 people to Hudson if I thought there was either a threat to our community…or if it wasn’t a good choice for those 21 refugees,” she said.
Lutheran Social Service of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan refugee resettlement program manager Mary Flynn said refugees get 90 days of government resettlement assistance, after which faith-based organizations can help smooth the transition.
“When you help a refugee, you’re being an expression of American democracy and American freedom,” Flynn said. “This is how the country expanded through the years, through refugees and immigrants.”