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St. Julia Parish steps up to aid local refugees in need

By Mark Labbe Pilot Staff
Posted: 6/24/2016

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WESTON -- Responding to Pope Francis' message of mercy in this Jubilee Year, parishioners from St. Julia Parish in Weston and Lincoln donated approximately $69,000 to Catholic Charities of Boston to help keep four locally residing refugee families from becoming homeless.

The families, having traveled to the U.S. from Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, were in danger of being unable to afford the apartments they are staying in, after three of them were told their applications for refugee asylum are still pending.

Until the applications are approved, they are forbidden by federal law to work or to receive state or federal aid.

The families from Ukraine, Nigeria, and Ethiopia consist of a father, mother and young children. The family from Syria involves a father, who was granted asylum in 2015 and is undergoing treatment for barrel bomb injuries while he waits for the arrival of his wife and three children from Beirut, where they are refugees.

A group of parishioners from St. Julia learned about the refugees' struggle through Catholic Charities, which had been showing support to the families as part of what Catholic Charities spokesperson Annmarie Farretta described as a, "national pilot project to help families seeking asylum to be released from immigration detention in 2014."

"Our job was to provide basic needs and social supports while the families awaited their asylum hearings. Unfortunately, the pilot ended prior to all of the families receiving their asylum and work authorization. However, the needs of the families did not end and they were in desperate need of continued assistance. This is where St. Julia's came in and basically saved these families," Farretta said.

The parishioners approached the St. Julia Parish Pastoral Council and Pastor Father George Evans, who agreed to make an appeal to raise $69,000, the amount of money Catholic Charities said the families required.

Parishioners were able to raise the funds in less than a month, Father Evans said, and will be presenting a check for the full amount to the director of Catholic Charities' Refugee and Immigration services, Marjean A. Perhot, during a morning Mass on June 26.

"In my 20 years of doing this work, I have never seen a parish mobilize as quickly as St. Julia's of Weston. When members of the community learned our funding for four families seeking asylum in the U.S. was about to run out, they quickly delivered in ways we never anticipated," said Perhot.

"Thanks to their generosity and quick action, our four families will remain together and continue to thrive as they await their respective asylum hearings," she said.