On Wednesday, Sept. 27, Pope Francis will launch the worldwide, two-year “Share the Journey” campaign calling on Catholics and the faithful to ‘encounter’ migrants and refugees in an effort to break down barriers of fear and suspicion and build bridges of understanding and hospitality.

Bishop Felipe J. Estévez of the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine is asking the community to join him for a special Mass this Wednesday, Sept. 27 (the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, the patron saint of charity), at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, 121 E. Duval Street in downtown Jacksonville. The Mass begins at 7:00 p.m.

“Migrants and refugees – people who are on the move – are a huge global reality for us today because there is so much suffering due to war and lack of work,” said Bishop Estévez. “But we must welcome them with compassion and mercy. Jesus said, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’”

Bishop Estévez said he knows many people are worried that refugees and immigrants could be a threat to the United States. “We acknowledge that security is a real concern, and the country has a right to protect its borders, but we cannot close our hearts. We must pray, ‘Lord, create in me a new heart.’ Our nation needs a compassionate heart,” he said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is calling on all parishes, schools, other organizations and people of good will to participate in the worldwide ‘Share the Journey’ campaign. Through prayers and acts of compassion and support, you can help shape conversations and actions to answer the Gospel call to love our neighbors.

Several refugees who now work for Catholic Charities in their Refugee program will be present at the Mass, including some who are from Mexico who just suffered a devastating earthquake and Venezuela suffering from political turmoil. Bishop Estévez will also be available for interviews either before or after the Mass.

Parishes in the diocese will also participate in a Global Week of Prayer and Action from Oct. 7 to Oct. 13 that calls on all Catholics and all people of goodwill to take a public action in support of migrants and refugees in their communities parishes.

For additional information and updates on ways to get involved, please visit the campaign website: https://sharejourney.org.