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Ministry of Presence with Refugees in Calais

This summer and autumn, four CSJP representatives will travel to Calais, France to support and engage in a ministry of presence with refugees living in a refugee camp popularly known as "the jungle."  The camp supports refugees from various nations who are there in the hopes of gaining access to a new life in the UK where most refugees have family or friends. Service to the refugees is a project that was initiated by the Catholic Worker in London and a new Catholic Worker House was opened in Calais where volunteers will reside. Our CSJP presence in Calais is a response to our Chapter Call to radical hospitality and our Congregation Statement, Welcome Immigrants and Refugees.

Sister Sheena George and Assocaites Frank McCann, Donna Clifford, and Bryan Johns responded to the invitation of our Congregation Leadership Team to represent the Congregation in supporting this mission. Sister Sheena and Frank spent several weeks there in August. Donna and Bryan will travel to Calais in the coming weeks.

Frank and Sheena have been sharing some of their reflections, photos and experiences on a blog set up for this ministry of presence. We encourage you to visit the blog and join us in praying with and for the many refugees they have met these past few weeks.

Sister Sheena writes: "The refugee count is growing every day and, at present, there are approximately 7000 displaced persons in Calais. In the camp, (called 'the jungle'), life is harsh and getting harder. Anxiety and fear are spreading like an epidemic throughout the hearts and minds of everyone here. There is growing tension between police and refugees. Obtaining asylum in either France or England or, really, any European country, is difficult and nearing impossibility. Many are terrified that the camp will soon be closed. The cloud of despair blanketing the camp is thick and relentless."

Frank writes: "It is a privilege to live in a community like this, if even for a month. I’ve had my share of community experiences but there is only one that even comes close to what we are living here."

Ministry of Presence with Refugees in Calais

Sister Sheena visiting the chapel in "the jungle" refugee camp

"The Spirit sounds herself in so many voices: sometimes Her whisper is persuasive and easy to follow; sometimes Her cry is fiery and threatening. But She must be listened to."

Dorothy Vidulich, CSJP