Pastoral Migratoria ministry works as an agent of change for immigrants

Father Ken Riley, diocesan Chancellor, blesses and commissions the first graduating class of Pastoral Migratoria agents March 3 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. (photo courtesy of Trinidad Molina)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — In the past couple of years, it has become increasingly obvious that comprehensive immigration reform is legislatively still a long way off and the needs of immigrants, especially Hispanics, are not being adequately met. Enter Pastoral Migratoria, the immigration social ministry program that originated in Chicago. Its goal was to empower Hispanic lay leaders through service and social justice actions in their parishes.

Pastoral Migratoria was launched in 2010 with Hispanic immigrants invited to “respond to their baptismal call to engagement in service and justice actions in their parish communities.” Today, eight years later, over 200 Hispanic lay leaders in 40 Hispanic parishes actively participate in the ministry. The ministry also answers the call to evangelize both individuals and society.

In 2014, Miguel Salazar, Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, became interested in the formation program, founded by Elena Segura, and he invited her to the Diocesan immigration conference at Cristo Rey High School. Pastoral Migratoria has become the undisputed national leader in grassroots immigrant social ministry, he said. “We are the very first diocese to have implemented the program outside of Chicago. No other program out there has managed to live out so deeply both the religious and civic components of immigration ministry as Chicago’s.”

Here, training began in November 2017, according to Trinidad Molina, Program Coordinator for the diocesan Human Rights Office. Salazar described the training. Following in the footsteps of the Chicago program, participants go through seven sessions of theological reflection, based on their own immigrant experiences, enriched by Scripture, church teaching, prayer and small group faith sharing. Included in every session are corresponding civic components that train the leaders to be resources for their parish communities in matters of immigration legal concerns, counseling, labor justice, Consulate resources and many others. He said the formation program had impressed him in its fidelity to the Gospel and its engagement with the lived reality of the Latino immigrant community.

“We graduated our first class of nine Pastoral Migratoria participants on March 3 at the Cathedral,” Salazar said. “They received a certificate of training completion, a Bible and they committed themselves to uphold the church’s teaching and carry out the works of mercy, especially among the immigrant community.” Father Ken Riley, Chancellor and Vicar General for Administration of the Diocese, served as the commissioning priest, Molina said.

The Pastoral Migratoria ministry is all about evangelizing the Latino community through the works of mercy, Salazar continued. “We have begun forming parish teams of pastoral agents trained in scripture, church teaching and community resources at Holy Cross, Sacred Heart-Guadalupe, St. Anthony and St. Sabina parishes and hope to expand to more in the next year. These lay people are dedicated to serving the people of their local parish, especially the immigrant community who are often marginalized and pushed to the peripheries.”

Trained pastoral agents will be able to help their parish communities in three ways, Salazar said. First, by carrying out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and the imprisoned, instructing the ignorant, praying for the living and the dead. They can organize workshops and set up information tables in their parish for the social needs of the community.

Second, agents can carry out justice actions, seeking to bring earthly structures into alignment with God’s Kingdom. They can do this by advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, organizing and participating in marches and letter writing campaigns, etc.

And thirdly, Pastoral Migratoria agents accompany parish community members who are in need of the presence of Christ through their suffering.

Salazar said, “The Mission of Pastoral Migratoria is to bring the works of mercy, justice and accompaniment to our neighbors, like Jesus would, resulting in a stronger and faithful community that is more resilient to social pressures and unexpected emergency situations. The parish priests can’t do this all on their own. So, each parish team is at the service of the pastor and his community’s needs and when social needs are presented to him, the priest can call on his local ‘experts,’ leaders he can trust who are formed by the Church. They can organize projects and actions to serve their neighbors and fellow parishioners.”

Molina said that a survey of parish needs indicated that some of the most “in demand” needs included mental health, community resources, and college counseling. “Pastoral Migratoria brings more attention to the physical, mental and social needs of Hispanic migrants in our parishes. And college counseling was a big one.”

The role of the Diocesan office of Hispanic Ministry is to create and strengthen the network of parish teams involved in Pastoral Migratoria, Salazar said. This involves putting on formation programs – the next one is scheduled to begin in September – hosting monthly forums for pastoral agents, an annual retreat and accompanying parishes as they put their faith into action.

“Personally,” he said, “I am so glad to be a part of this unique and highly needed ministry of the Church. My desire is to see more faithful Catholics from the immigrant community stand up and put their faith in action as parish leaders in the program.”

For more information about Pastoral Migratoria in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, visit, click on Hispanic Ministry, email Miguel Salazar at or call (816) 714-2323. 


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September 26, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph