A group of immigrants and refugees from organizations throughout New York City will have a chance to meet Pope Francis during his visit later this month.
A group of 150 people were chosen through Catholic Charities and they will greet His Holiness at Our Lady Queen of Angels School as part of his stop in East Harlem on September 25.
“It is not just about Pope Francis,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, head of Catholic Charities. “It is about the value in the message of Pope Francis, a call to us in Catholic Charities, in New York, in the nation that we are made to be an inclusive people and made in the likeness of God.”
The number of people chose come from approximately 20 organizations in the city that Catholic Charity aids and many of them are immigrant mothers from East Harlem, blind and visually impaired immigrants from three continents, unaccompanied youth from Central America, and Dominican youth from the Bronx, among others.
Several of those chose to meet the Pope are in shock at the once in a lifetime opportunity they feel they have received.
“I feel blessed that I was selected,” said Kimberly Martinez, 18, from the Bronx. “I want to say [to the Pope] thank you for taking the time to meet with us and to meet the immigrants so that they can understand that they are important, that they matter.”
Martinez is especially thankful that Catholic Charities has allowed her to be part of such an important event because her mother is one of those immigrants who came to the United States at the age of 14 from the Dominican Republic.
Others will take the opportunity of meeting the Pope not only to thank him, but also remind him of the plight of refugees in the nation and ask for his intervention in their home country.
“I want to thank him first of all,” said Yolanda Solorzano, Garifuna refugee from Honduras. “But I also want to ask him to help us, to speak with the government and president in Honduras so they can solve many of the issues that have caused the exodus of our Garifuna brothers and sisters.”
Solorzano has been in the U.S. for 24 years and although she visits Honduras every year, the living conditions for Garifunas – Afro-Hondurans – is dire in their nation as many are displaced from their lands and stripped of their culture and language.
The people selected under Catholic Charity will have a chance to interact with the pope and present him with a gift. For security and logistical purposed they will congregate at Our Lady Queen Of Angels school with the group of children that are to meet His Holiness as well.
“We are about each individual and each person with their own talent,” said Monsignor Sullivan. “We are a better community of faith because we have welcomed that community [immigrants and refugees.”