There is a Refugee Crisis. How to Help in Arlington

In the lead-up to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to the U.S., we are launching #FrancisontheFamily, a Diocesan-wide campaign that focuses on the catechesis of #PopeFrancis pertaining to family life. We have chosen to highlight some of Francis’ most repeated challenges to us – encounter, accompany, witness, and welcome – as a way of sharing the joy of family life.

By: Erin Healy

Scenes like the one pictured above are becoming all too common across Europe as refugees from Africa and the Middle East — fearing for their safety — flee their homeland. Some travel by boat, others walk hundreds of miles. Some carry food and water, others carry their children. The images can leave us feeling heartbroken and helpless.

Deeply concerned for the refugees, Pope Francis sent out a tweet last week asking those in Europe to host a refugee family:

This begs the question: How can we help? How can you assist displaced refugees here at home?

Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), a program of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington with locations in Arlington, Annandale, Alexandria and Fredericksburg, is the largest resettlement agency in the state of Virginia. Each year, they resettle more than 600 refugees and aslyees, assisting them with their short-term needs upon arrival, including housing, groceries, education classes and employment services.

As we prepare to welcome our Holy Father to the United States, here are some practical ways — right here in Northern Virginia — that you can help to care for and welcome the stranger among us:


Remember our persecuted brothers and sisters in your daily prayers and spiritual sacrifices. Contact MRS to spiritually “adopt” a refugee family scheduled to arrive in the diocese. They will provide you with a family name, country of origin and ages of the family members.


MRS is typically given one to two weeks notification prior to a family’s arrival date. In that time, volunteers are needed to furnish the apartment from kitchen gadgets to bedding and stock the fridge with culturally appropriate food. They rely on donations to assist with the urgent needs of their clients. Click here for a list of items needed and additional ways to help.


Arriving in a new country can be daunting. Volunteers assist with the day-to-day needs of MRS clients. Concepts that many of us take for granted — knowing how to operate a washing machine or  mailing a letter at the post office — are often new to refugees. Volunteers are also needed to assist clients in the areas of  education, employment services and mentoring. Click here for additional volunteer opportunities.

pope francis refugee
As Pope Francis reminds us on the 2014 World Day for Migrants and Refugees:

A better world will come about only if attention is first paid to individuals; if human promotion is integral, taking account of every dimension of the person, including the spiritual; if no one is neglected, including the poor, the sick, prisoners, the needy and the stranger (cf. Mt 25:31-46); if we can prove capable of leaving behind a throwaway culture and embracing one of encounter and acceptance.

Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.

Let us take to heart our Holy Father’s call to welcome, witness to and accompany the stranger among us. To learn more about a refugee’s journey,  the stories of the refugees aided by MRS and more ways to help contact Migration and Refugee Services at (703) 841-3891 or

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