Thirty-nine years ago, then Father General Pedro Arrupe put out a call to the Society of Jesus to mobilize to help displaced people wherever they were. He sent a telegraph to all major superiors expressing that the displacement of the Vietnamese boat people challenges Christian conscience, and that the Society must bring a “sustained effort” to “influence ecclesial and civil community and government” for the right of asylum and financial aid to all who are forcibly displaced.
I’m reminded of this call each and every day we do our work. As we commemorate our 39th anniversary, the call remains both relevant and necessary. Today there are more than 70 million people forcibly displaced in our world. 37,000 people per day are forced to flee their homes because of conflict or persecution. These are people who deserve to be treated with dignity, welcome, and a chance for a hopeful future. They deserve to dream big and make an impact wherever their talents lie.
Such was the case for Lidia Bastianich. If you’ve found yourself lost in the aisles of Eataly, in need of a ‘how-to’ feed a large family an Italian meal, or a fan of cooking shows, you’ll know well Lidia’s talent and impact. But, Lidia has not only given me my favorite risotto recipe, but hope that the American Dream is still possible and should be preserved.
Lidia was a refugee, forced to flee from the former Yugoslavia for her family’s Italian culture and Catholic beliefs. She was resettled in the United States as a child in 1958. When she arrived in New York, she and her family had nothing to their name and spoke no English. Now she is a world-renowned chef, author, television personality, and entrepreneur. Lidia takes her experience as a refugee with her in all that she does and uses her profile to bring voice to refugee issues. Her recent memoir, “My American Dream,” is an inspiration for all refugees and immigrants and a call to all of us to provide welcome and opportunity to those who are new to this country.
Today, as we recognize these 39 years of service to Fr. Arrupe’s call, we will honor Lidia for using her voice and experience – her “sustained effort” – to help refugees. I hope you will join me in recognizing Lidia and in finding your “sustained effort.”
And, check out Father General Arturo Sosa SJ’s anniversary message: