17 MARCH 2006
HOMILY OF MOST REV SEAMUS HEGARTY, BISHOP OF DERRY
AT PATRICK’S CHURCH, PENNYBURN, DERRY
FOR ST PATRICK’S DAY, 17TH MARCH 2006
A SUPPORTING IRISH ABROAD (SIA) CAMPAIGN 2006
Today I am happy to launch the Supporting Irish Abroad Campaign for 2006. I bring
to your attention the plight of many Irish people who live in isolation, many with
no family, particularly in the UK. This year’s campaign asks each of us to make a
difference in the lives of those who are isolated.
Most of us have relatives living abroad. Many of us have elderly relatives who may
now find it hard to travel. As they grow older the risk of isolation increases.
While in the past brothers and sisters kept in contact, now that challenge falls to
a new generation, perhaps to a nephew or a niece, to communicate with the person in
Two years ago we set up a project reach out to the elderly Irish in the London area.
I have been kept informed of developments and I made a visit last year. I have the
greatest admiration for all involved in this work. I was told of an elderly lady who
had no one in this world belonging to her. As she neared her death the Social Services
contacted the Irish Chaplaincy who were able to spend time with her and were present
when she passed on to her Creator. Another conversation I remember is one with a man
who is involved in the welfare of Irish people abroad. I was particularly touched when
he told me that any Irish person who dies and has no family can be buried in a plot
owned by the Irish Welfare. Ending the conversation he said that we must endeavour to
find those who are alone before they die.
As part of our campaign this year I am encouraging everyone to support the Supporting
Irish Abroad (SIA) campaign. This can be done by sending a letter, making a telephone
call or in this age of cheaper travel making a visit to our relatives living abroad.
It is important to keep in contact with our relatives and friends living abroad.
Supporting Irish Abroad is an awareness campaign. Some dioceses choose to take up
collections to support the work of the Irish Emigrant Outreach Services. Many collections
take place around St Patrick’s Day but others are taken up at other times. All efforts
are welcome and deeply appreciated and I wish to thank all those who have contributed
over the years. I wish to assure you that your money goes to front line services.
Donations this year will be used to serve those who are isolated. I also welcome the
contribution by the Irish Government to Emigrant Services. This year they have set aside
over 12 million euro. I am delighted to see cross party support for the issues surrounding
the needs of emigrants and welcome the initiatives that are presently being undertaken
by various agencies, both in government and in the voluntary sector.
UNDOCUMENTED IRISH IN THE US
Last year we chose to focus our SIA campaign on the undocumented Irish in the US. When
I visited last year I became acutely aware that this uncertainty is causing havoc in
their lives, and in the lives of their families. I welcome the fact that the undocumented
themselves are taking responsibility for their plight.
AMERICAN BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
I give my heart felt support to the Justice for Immigrants Campaign initiated by the
American Bishops’ Conference, which promotes the benefits of the McCain-Kennedy proposal.
In a recent pastoral letter Archbishop Wilton Gregory and Bishop Kevin Boland said, “We
need realistic immigration reform. We need a Bill that is fair, practical and enforceable
and one that can pass through Congress and become law. The only bill so far that meets
this criteria and has been endorsed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
is the ‘secure and orderly Immigration Act of 2005’, (McCain-Kennedy S.1033 and H.R. 2330).
This bill is comprehensive; it is designed to bring immigrants out of the shadows; shutdown
the ‘black market’ of smuggling, fake documents and exploitation, restore the rule of law
at ouR borders, our work places, and our communities and encourage those who settle here
to get on the path on citizenship.”
I support my brother bishops in the US as they work on behalf of those who presently live
in the shadows. I trust their efforts will bear fruit.
I conclude by thanking all of you who have supported the work of the IECE and its SIA
campaigns. Please consider our challenge this year.
Bishop of Derry
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)
Fr Alan Hilliard, Director, IECE (087 747 7110)
NOTES TO EDITORS:
– The acronym SIA is a Gaelic word meaning ‘longer’ or ‘farther’. The objective of the
campaign has been to make us aware of our responsibility as individuals and as a nation
to our Irish people abroad especially those who have fallen on hard times. The campaign
is the responsibility of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants which was established
in 1957 to support and care for the many Irish people travelling to the UK. The first
year of the three year campaign was launched by The Most Reverend Séamus Hegarty, Bishop
of Derry and Chair of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants on Saturday the 21st
of February 2004 at a function in the Irish Centre, Camden Town.
– Themes of SIA Campaign 2004 -2006
2004: The theme for 2004 was simply: ‘Emigrants built the Ireland we enjoy today –
Don’t forget them’
2005: The focus for the 2005 campaign was the support of our undocumented Irish
living furtive and in a way half lives because of their undocumented status.
2006: This year we hope to challenge people to keep in contact with a relative abroad.
– Bishop Kevin Boland is the Irish Liaison at the United States Congress of Catholic Bishops
– Further information on the SIA campaign is available at www.catholiccommunications.ie/sia