Fr. Daniel Groody, C.S.C., recently published his long-awaited new book, “A Theology of Migration: The Body of Refugees and The Body of Christ,” which works to refocus the global issue of migration through a Christian lens.
Groody is a trustee, fellow of the University and currently serves as the vice president and associate provost for undergraduate education. Groody is also a professor of theology and global affairs.
Groody is considered an internationally recognized expert on migration, and his past papers have been translated into seven languages. The specific inspiration for “A Theology of Migration” comes from Groody’s own experience at a “bi-national Mass” at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Going down to the U.S.-Mexico border about 20 years ago, I joined a group of people who were going to a Mass that had the wall right in the middle of it, so half the community was in Mexico and half was in the United States, and they joined the altar together at the fence,” Groody said. “And so that really led me to maybe ask the question, ‘What’s the connection between migration and Eucharist?’”
Groody said that the question of migration is an issue “extremely important to Pope Francis,” which is why the book includes an introductory foreword written by the Pope himself.
At its heart, Groody explained, his book is about a “theology of communion,” but communion as a broader sense of the word, communion as a “coming together.”
“[‘A Theology of Migration’] looks at the connection between the inner journey and the outer journey, if you will, the connection between the God who migrated to our world and our return migration to God, as well as the connection between what’s happening inside the church and what’s happening outside in the world,” Groody said. “So, in the end, it’s about a theology of communion. That communion is understood not only in terms of what we receive at church but also communion in how we grow in solidarity with one another.”
However, Groody said he is particularly excited about this book, because it includes impactful, personal narratives from people across the globe.
“So I approached this topic as a theologian but also as someone who’s worked and lived in Latin America and other parts of the world, studying migration and trying to listen to the stories from the ground,” Groody said. “So this book has stories from Latin America, places like El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and also deals with people who have fled war in Iraq or Syria or people who’ve undergone genocide in Rwanda or are suffering persecution in Egypt or human trafficking in places like Thailand.”
Groody said that it is the diverse bouquet of stories that helps humanize migration and allows him to put the issue in terms of theology.
“I tried to listen to these stories from the ground floor at different borders around the world, and say, ‘How do we think about God from what appears to be a godless context? And amidst the broken realities of our lives in this world, how does God try to bring us back into a place of connection and ‘home-ness’ again?’” Groody said.
In addition to these narratives, Groody said that what sets “A Theology of Migration” apart from other pieces on migration is that he focuses on advice to reframe perspectives, not just policy.
“Part of the challenges of contemporary migration is not just the need for more information but also looking at it with new imagination. And part of [this] is asking, ‘Who am I, and who is the other.’ So while people around the world and throughout history have made the migrant the other, the next question is, ‘What is our relationship to those who are considered other, and how do we move from otherness to oneness?’” Groody said.
Groody explained that the answer to this question lies in the unique connection between migration and the Christian faith that his book explores.
“How can the Christian story reframe the way we think about migration and give us a new narrative about it?” Groody asked. “If we see Jesus himself as someone who was an illegal, undocumented, migrant Son of God, who left his homeland, and came to our sinful and broken territory… We can see that God was a migrant coming to our world. He was a refugee because he fled Egypt. But he did it because he wanted to help us find our way back home. So the whole Christian message can be framed as a migration.”
Groody concluded that, by the end of the book, one message should shine through: the need for global solidarity.
“It’s not about ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It’s about all of us. And what we’re all trying to do is find our way back home. That’s what our task in life is,” Groody said. “If we don’t see in the migrants a reflection of ourselves on this journey through life, then it’s we who are the aliens.”
In the words of Pope Francis’s foreword, Groody’s “A Theology of Migration” ultimately “express[es] the need for the Church’s commitment to migrants and refugees: a Church called to extend a hand, to embrace and to welcome the weak, the invisible and the discarded of the world.”
Contact Kelsey Quint at firstname.lastname@example.org