Address by Bishop Kirby at IECE Symposium

15 Mar 2013

Address by Bishop John Kirby at IECE Symposium: ‘Migration, Spirituality and the Human Journey’

On behalf of the Irish Catholic Bishops, and as Chairman of the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants, I am delighted to welcome you all here today. I would like to extend a special welcome to our wonderful speakers, who have taken time out of their busy schedules to share with us their extensive experience of working with and for migrants.

The theme of this symposium is ‘Migration, Spirituality and the Human Journey’. Last year, at the launch of our 2012 Emigrant Information Pack, I spoke about the pain I have witnessed as generations of Irish people have been forced to leave their homes in search of a better life abroad.

Sadly, emigration continues to increase and reportedly last year an average of over 200 people a day left our shores, more than half of them Irish nationals.

As we prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day we remember and pray for those who have left Ireland for the first time and those who have been away for many years. We should not underestimate the challenges facing Irish emigrants today and we must continue to reach out to these emigrants and their families to remind them they are not forgotten or alone. We must keep faith with these emigrants and continue to provide essential practical and spiritual support to them.

This year we have decided to discuss spirituality and the human journey in the context of migration. This issue is becoming more and more important and relevant for those who journey with the migrant. One may ask why and in asking this we need look no further than to the thoughts of our keynote speaker today. In his book entitled ‘Globalisation, Spirituality and Justice’, Dr. Groody says,

‘while globalisation and technological developments have given us more and more control over the external world, they have given us little grasp of the inner world of the human person and the ultimate questions of human existence…these issues can be worked out only in the inner depths of the human heart, where we forge the metal of what we most value’ (pg 240).

Today is an opportunity to explore what we most value and rather than looking to text books we can delve into the life experience of the migrant whom we all serve in a variety of ways. I have no doubt that today’s engagement will enrich us all.

I am aware that there is great breath and depth of experience here today and I believe we will learn much from each other during the course of this symposium.