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Marists of Lisbon welcome refugees

30/01/2017: Portugal

During the summer of 2015, in the face of the growing wave of refugees seeking refuge in Europe, Pope Francis launched the challenge to parishes and religious houses to open their homes and welcome them. There were also appeals, with the same goal, made from the government and civil society.

The Compostela Marist Province offered several places for that aim. In Portugal, the Marists of Carcavelos, Lisbon and the Champagnat Foundation committed themselves to welcome two families. Their commitment included support in finding shelter, in learning the language, in putting the children in schools, sorting out their health care and helping them find them work. 

The expectations they first had were lessened due to the slow bureaucratic processes of the European Union. Some people and institutions eventually gave up receiving refugees. 

In November of 2016, more than a year later, we received concrete news about a family that was going to arrive. It was necessary to reactivate the efforts and the procedures of receiving, the best way possible, those who knocked at our doors. On Dec. 20, some of us went to the airport to receive with open arms a father, a mother that is expecting, and three children aged three, seven and nine. Another family was also arriving, related to the previous one, which was to be received by another institution in a different area of Lisbon. Sharing the needs, openness and dialogue between the families and institutions involved has allowed for the two families to stay close to each other.

Thanks to everyone’s collaboration, the Marist family, students, parents, brothers and Marist educators, the process has gone smoothly, despite the difficulties of belonging to different cultures, but desirous of beginning a new stage in life. The children immediately joined the Marist School of Carcavelos at the beginning of the second trimester. Parents have also begun to learn the language and take the first steps of gradual integration into society.

The civil authorities have also requested that the Marist House of Ermesinde open its doors to receiving unaccompanied minors. A small group of these children is about to find a place to live, grow, love and be loved.

During Christmas and the celebration of the Marist Bicentenary, some people could not enjoy time for themselves, for their own families and projects, but they knew how to open their hearts to this type of welcome and help. They made a Christmas happen and are continuing to make it happen each day and are making the Institute take its shape of a “new beginning.”

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Br António Leal

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