On Tuesday 20 June, the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office hosted an online prayer service for Refugee Week 2023 (18–24 June). With 115 people registered for the event, it was a valuable opportunity to ‘gather’ and pray for all those who have fled their homes in search of a new life.

This year the theme of World Refugee Week is ‘Finding Freedom’. Kylie Cullen, Director of the Catholic Immigration Office, began the night by reflecting on what it means to be free, and how easily we can take it for granted.

‘To be free is to live without war,’ she said. ‘It’s to have our basic human rights upheld. And many of our brothers and sisters around the world embark on dangerous journeys to find freedom, and to put so much at risk.’

Those gathered online listened to the Scriptures, offered prayers of the faithful, and were treated to a song of praise and worship by the Ugandan and Nigerian community in Sydney.

In his sermon, the Bishop of Port Pirie in South Australia, Karol Kulczycki SDS, reflected on what it means to journey together as the Church and to care for refugees.

‘Love does not like separation,’ he said, ‘and the heart is bleeding when someone has to separate and start a new journey in a different country.’

As followers of Christ, he observed, we are also on a journey. ‘Every time when we enter the Eucharist, we not only join other community members, but most of all, on a practical level, we join Christ on the journey of our life … We enter into the life of Christ. Or rather, Christ enters into ours,’ Bishop Karol said..

Baptism in Christ unites us as members of God’s family … We are no longer strangers in God’s house. Looking spiritually, there are no refugees and migrants in God’s house. But from the human perspective, those who come from other places have to be fed and nourished by the strength of those who care.

He encouraged people to pay attention to other people in their parish. ‘Look around you,’ he said. ‘These people in the pews, they are your brothers and sisters.’

During the service, Peter Arndt, Director of the Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace, shared this year’s resource for World Refugee Day. The document includes messages from Pope Francis, prayers and information on Australia’s current approach to asylum seekers and refugees, and on how people can get involved.