The Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants (IECE) has published an Parish Resource Pack for 2013. The Resource Pack aims to assist parishes and dioceses in raising awareness about the issues affecting emigrants and to ask for the prayers and support of parishioners.
Between April 2011 and April 2012 over 87,000 people left our shores in the hope of making a new life for themselves abroad. This amounts to almost 250 people a day, over half of them (46,500) Irish nationals.
These figures highlight the dramatic effect emigration has on Irish society today. We have returned to a situation where many people are forced to travel abroad in search of new opportunities. These emigrants leave behind loved ones, many of whom find the pain of separation very difficult to cope with.
Of course, for many people, living abroad will be a positive experience, allowing them to gain valuable life and work experience. Many of today’s Irish emigrants are well-educated, highly skilled and eager to take on the challenge of building a new life overseas.
Sadly, the experience will not be so enjoyable for everyone and some emigrants may struggle to fit in to a new culture and find it difficult to cope with feelings of loneliness and isolation. It is essential that emigrants are prepared for the experience, and the importance of remaining within the legal system of the host country cannot be emphasised enough. We hope that the practical information in this pack will assist emigrants in making informed decisions and support them while they are away.
This information pack also aims to raise awareness of the effect of emigration on Irish communities. To that end we have focused on the small village of Cooraclare in County Clare, which has been significantly affected by the current wave of emigration. We would like to thank members of this community who kindly shared their experiences with us.
This year is set to be an interesting one in relation to issues affecting Irish emigrants. It appears that significant immigration reform will be achieved in the United States, hopefully providing pathways to citizenship for thousands of undocumented Irish. The Gathering Ireland offers an opportunity for us to connect with our diaspora and to reflect on what emigration has meant for Ireland, past and present.
For over fifty years the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants (IECE) has responded to the needs of Irish emigrants around the world. In 2013 we will continue to offer important support to emigrants and their families.