Friday, September 27, 2019 - Updated: 2:40 pm
Father Cajetan Anyanwu, who served the parish grouping in Pittsburgh’s East End until recently while earning a doctorate degree in systematic theology from Duquesne University, knows about immigration.
As a member of the Claretian Missionaries religious order, he can be sent to serve in many far-flung areas of the world. The Claretians operate in about 46 countries, he said. His next move is to be in San Antonio, Texas, where immigration is a volatile issue these days.
Father Cajetan, who is from Nigeria, said recently that he wasn’t sure what his superiors will have him doing, “but I feel that I’m going to serve the people of God.” In Texas, it’s a good possibility that he’ll be assisting immigrants and refugees in some capacity.
“My zeal is to make sure that, where there are souls, we serve God and his souls, to bring them to God, to have them be closer to God,” he said.
“For instance, if I’m told by my superiors to help the immigrants and refugees, I would like to minister to them, give them consolation — they need consolation first of all,” Father Cajetan said. “A person running for their life needs to be welcomed.”
The Bible is full of stories and images of people migrating for different reasons, he said. Sometimes to preserve their lives and those of their loved ones. Other times it’s to find a better life than the one they have been allowed to live.
“I don’t see immigration as an imposition of foreigners on another country, but it is a way of survival,” Father Cajetan said. “Because if one is finding life difficult somewhere, and there is a way out legally — legally speaking — one can go over to where life might be better.”
Father Cajetan, who was ordained in 1990 by Bishop Placido Rodriguez of Lubbock, Texas, is named after an Italian saint (St. Gaetano, which is Cajetan in Italian), whose feast is Aug. 7. St. Gaetano helped mediate between the Catholic Church and Martin Luther. Father Cajetan may help mediate today’s immigration crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border.
He noted that, when Pope Francis came to the U.S. in 2015, the Holy Father made a point of saying how his own family migrated from Italy to Argentina.
“I feel that everyone of us is an immigrant because this world is not our home. We migrated from the mind of God into this world,” Father Cajetan said.
“The church should come out openly to help those immigrants. Sympathize with them, show them mercy, welcome them, give them consolation and a sense of belonging so that they will know that God loves them,” he said.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh continues to do exemplary work at its mission in Chimbote, Peru, Father Cajetan said. He also mentioned efforts by Bishop David Zubik and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to address the immigration crisis and the need for national legislative reform.
“The church preaches God and God’s mercy,” he said. “Then it should be at the forefront to show mercy to people and be welcoming, helping them, if possible, morally, spiritually and economically, that is, providing food and shelter.”
Father Cajetan thanked Bishop Zubik for allowing him to serve the parishes of St. Bede in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood, St. James in Wilkinsburg and St. Charles Lwanga in the East End — celebrating Masses and leading Bible studies — while attending classes at Duquesne. He appreciated the assistance of Auxiliary Bishop William Waltersheid and Father Mark Eckman in making him feel welcomed.
Father Tom Burke, administrator, and Father David Taylor also helped him be successful in his studies and pastoral work by making him comfortable and cared for, he said.
“You know, when you leave your home and go to a foreign place, the attitude of the people will make you do well,” Father Cajetan said. “I think the way I was received, I don’t feel like a foreigner here. I feel like I belong, and they made it that way, too.
“I pray for the faithful to understand that human beings are human beings, but they need our support as well. We support and complement each other.”