During the past six weeks, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has been strengthening the foundation for their latest program, the Catholic Accompaniment and Reflection Experience, or CARE. During the program’s recent kickoff event, Theresa Chamblee, the director of Social Concerns at Catholic Charities Indianapolis, looked out at a room filled with 20 church members at St. Monica’s Parish. She listened as a parishioner said, “nunca pensé que a nadie le importara,” which translates to “I just never thought anyone cared.” At this critical moment, Chamblee knew the program was going to make a difference for many. The CARE program pairs undocumented immigrants and their families with fellow Catholics willing and able to walk with immigrants on their often complex journey in the United States.
We “meet people where they are at, [but] don’t keep them where they are at,” said Chamblee. She explained how the CARE program has allowed both newcomers and the receiving community to integrate and invest in one another. With various media outlets reporting negative stories of immigration, this program allows the city to see the faces of immigration rather than the numbers or the biased rhetoric.
Prior to launching the CARE program, an active member of the church and community faced uncertain times. Early last year, when her husband was detained and deported, she found herself afraid and alone with her two U.S. citizen children. Members of her church and community accompanied her along every step of the journey as she complied with check-ins with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and, later, as she learned she had 30 days to return to her birth country. Afraid of being forced to leave her children behind due to passport processing delays, members of the community advocated and worked to reunite her family after she and her children voluntarily left their home in Indianapolis. Following this experience, the CARE program gained energy in the community.
Although the program is fairly new to the archdiocese, its roots were planted two years ago by a partner agency, Faith in Indiana. While many Catholic communities already model accompaniment based on Catholic social teaching, the CARE program works from the diocesan level to promote wider community participation through individual parishes. “There has been overwhelming support and interest in the community,” said Sr. Tracey Horan, who runs the CARE hotline. Available 24 hours a day, individuals may call and complete the intake process with a trained representative. After intake, support is provided based on assessed needs. Clients are then paired with a volunteer who accompanies them as they work to address and even overcome barriers. Through accompaniment, the CARE program provides dozens of families with meaningful support, including emotional and spiritual guidance, as they navigate resources in social services or attend court dates and check-ins with ICE. Although the majority of those seeking accompaniment are Latino/a, services are available to anyone in need. The archdiocese hopes to expand the CARE program to other parishes and dioceses—some as far as Kentucky.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is part of a pilot project launched by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services. The Catholic Accompaniment and Reflection Experience program connects Catholic members with their new neighbors to provide support as they integrate into the community.
To learn more about the CARE program, visit the Justice for Immigrants website.
CLINIC applauds the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and their collaborations that help build inclusive communities. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us how your community is promoting integration!
Photo from the Faith in Indiana archives