Update on refugee sponsorship in the diocese of Saskatoon

Joshua is a member of one of the 65 Pakistani Christian families looking for a new home in Canada. The families are hiding out in Bangkok after fleeing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. The diocese of Saskatoon is one of those across Canada responding to a request from the Office of Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto to assist with sponsorship. The families’ stories were featured in an August issue of The Catholic Register, and repeated by Catholic Saskatoon News - find a link to that August news item below. (Canadian Catholic News Photo by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)

By Dr. Jan Bigland-Pritchard, Office of Migration

[Catholic Saskatoon News] – It is my privilege to be the new Migration Officer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and I can tell you that there is never a dull moment in this work.

Since September 2019, through the goodness of God and the generosity of our parish groups, we have welcomed 15 new permanent residents to Saskatoon:

  • Holy Family welcomed Mrs. T and her 5 children from South Sudan via Uganda.
  • Holy Spirit welcomed Mr. and Mrs. B and their 4 children from Eritrea via Sudan
  • Our Lady of Lourdes welcomed young Mr. M, from Eritrea via Israel
  • St. Philip Neri made is possible for Mr. G to reunite with his bride Ms. L, from Eritrea via Ethiopia
  • The Petres family welcomed Mrs. M, an 83-year-old Catholic lady from Iraq, who had not seen her son for 10 years.

What does a Migration Office coordinator do?

Along with meeting new arrivals and overseeing their welfare for their first 12 months of settlement, my main job at is at the start of the process.

Consulting with my Operations Manager and Bishop Mark Hagemoen, I select who will get our precious government-allocated “spots,” then help prepare, finalize and submit the applications to the government (IRCC), as well as preparing and equipping the settlement teams in our parish and community groups so that they are ready to receive newcomer families with confidence and in compliance with the government’s standards.

Reaching refugees in great need: persecuted Christians

Jesus as a child was a refugee in Egypt, and one of the things He asks of his disciples is to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25). One group in great need of resettlement are Christians who face persecution because of their faith and witness.

The Christians of Pakistan are under great pressure from ex-  tremist mobs. Many have fled to Thailand, where they live pre-carious lives, always under threat of detention and deportation.

This summer, Catholic refugee coordinators, led by the Archdiocese of Toronto, made a mission trip to Bangkok to meet a pastor who works with these families.

The Toronto delegation interviewed and selected 65 cases, and put out the challenge to the Canadian dioceses to sponsor these persecuted Christians.

Read more about the plight of these Pakistani Christian families and the Archdiocese of Toronto mission trip and its outcome: ARTICLE

The Archdiocese of Toronto stepped up and took 18 cases, and now other dioceses are coming forward – and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon is one of them.

With Bishop Mark Hagemoen’s blessing and leadership, we have committed to bringing one family to Saskatoon – and we need your help to do it.

Thailand does not recognize refugees, and staying there long-term is not an option. Pakistani Christian refugees struggle daily in Bangkok with poverty, precarious housing, and constant fear of arrest. They cannot go home – their opponents are well-networked and nowhere in Pakistan is safe for them. And they can’t stay where they are.

With your help we can give a family a new hope and a new future in Canada.

“What do you need? How can we help?”

A great refugee settlement needs money plus people.

Money is needed to support the family for up to 12 months (less if they find paid work during that first year). Assuming we can get donated furniture and household goods, plus some clothing, we would need about $31,000 to meet the government expectations for a small family.

People are needed to walk with the refugees, like close family members – to find and furnish a home, to help the new arrivals get registered for health cards, bank accounts, and bus passes; to give rides to appointments, to help practice English, to assist in looking for employment, and to provide social, emotional and educational support as these new neighbours learn to navigate life in a new culture.

People of every skill set and age can play a part in making a great settlement team. A team of five to 12 members gives stability and helps to share the work so it can be life-giving rather than draining.

Parishes can partner

Many city parishes already have substantial commitments to refugee ministry, while smaller and rural parishes may feel they cannot take on a full sponsorship themselves. This is where partnerships within the diocese could play a wonderful role.

Could your parish do a fundraiser or donate $3,000 towards helping this family? That would be about 10 percent of the needed funds. What if nine other parishes did the same?

Does your city parish have one or two people who would love to help out, but not 12? City parishes or other Catholic institutions (like a school or college) could team up to form a cross-parish settlement team.

To discuss these or other ideas, or for more info, contact me: Dr. Jan Bigland-Pritchard, jbigland-pritchard@rcdos.ca or (306) 659-5842.

To donate online go to https://dscf.ca and click on the “Refugee Aid” button, or for more information about donating to the Office of Migration or Refugee Aid, contact: the Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation: jhamoline@dscf.ca or (306) 659-5849.