Bishops launch awareness campaign for undocumented Irish in USA

13 Mar 2005


13 MARCH 2005



To coincide with St Patrick’s Day, the Irish Bishops’ Conference launches its
“Supporting Irish Abroad” (SIA) campaign for 2005 next week.  This year, the
Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants highlights the plight of the undocumented
Irish living in the United States and the difficulties that they face in
regularizing their status.

Launching the 2005 SIA campaign, the Chairman of the Irish Episcopal Commission
for Emigrants and Bishop of Derry, Dr Séamus Hegarty said, “This year’s awareness
campaign focuses on the challenges facing our people who are living furtive lives
in the US.  Many families at home are keenly aware of this situation as it may
apply to their brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and friends.

“In order to improve the plight of the documented, we are currently working with
the Migration and Refugee Service of the United States Catholic Conference of
Bishops.  The US bishops have initiated a campaign calling for immigration reform
and this is based on the principles set out in their pastoral letter Strangers
no Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, which was jointly published with the
bishops of Mexico in 2003.”

Bishop Hegarty continued, “I intend to travel soon to the US to visit our immigrant
pastoral centres and to meet with our chaplains and those working with Irish people.
I will also discuss with my colleagues in the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference how
best the Irish and US bishops can work together to alleviate the plight of most
vulnerable of migrants.

“This year we will raise funds to support our outreach services for vulnerable
Irish emigrants.  These services include: volunteer outreach programmes to elders;
supporting members of the Irish traveling community in the UK; increase frequency
of visitations to Irish people in prisons abroad; a programme to support immigration
reform in the US; and, in assisting other agencies to outreach to Irish people in

Bishop Hegarty concluded, “On behalf of all bishops, priests and laity working with
the Irish abroad I wish to sincerely thank all those who have generously supported
our campaign to date.  St Patrick’s Day is a special time for Irish people everywhere.
It is an occasion both to reach out to those who have fallen on hard times and to
celebrate the positive contributions of the Irish around the world.  Above all it
is a time to remember in our prayers family members abroad”.

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)

Notes for Editors

* The Irish Bishops’ Conference established a dedicated service in 1957 –
the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants (IECE) – to help co-ordinate
support for Irish emigrants in the UK.  Since that time outreach chaplancy
centres have been established in Europe, the USA and Australia.

* In February 2004 at the Irish Centre in Camden Town, Bishop Séamus Hegarty,
Chairman of the IECE, launched the Supporting Irish Abroad (SIA) campaign
awareness campaign.  Its focus was on the Irish living in Britain, especially
in London, but who emigrated in the fifties, sixties and seventies and are
now at the greatest risk in terms of their physical and mental health.

* The acronym SIA is also an Irish word meaning ‘longer’ or ‘farther’. The
emigrant is one who often feels cut of from the familiar surroundings of home.
Indeed a major part of our Biblical history focuses on God’s people exiled from
their home land.   ‘How can we sing a song to the Lord in a foreign land’
Ps 137:4.

* The 2005 SIA awareness campaign includes the publication and circulation of
a dedicated IECE newsletter and “Who Are You Missing Poster” poster to parishes
across Ireland and to Irish chaplaincies abroad.  All members of the Oireachtas
Foreign Affairs Committee have been sent this material which is available to
download and for publication on the home page of
You can support the 2005 SIA campaign by contacting us at: [email protected]

* The objectives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops immigration
reform campaign are:
– To educate the public, especially the Catholic community, including Catholic
public officials, about church teaching on migration and immigrants;
– To create political will for positive immigration reform;
– To enact legislative and administrative reforms based on the principles
articulated in the pastoral letter;
– To organize Catholic networks to assist qualified immigrants in obtaining
the benefits of the reforms.

* The 2004 SIA awareness campaign was supported by people across Ireland and it
raised €614,068 for the Episcopal Commission for Emigrants.  The money is being
spent on outreach services in Britain for the elderly and isolated Irish, and
on the recruitment and training of volunteers in the UK.