Children from Brockville Wesleyan Church help Agape Brockville move in furniture and prepare an apartment for a refugee family from Eritrea. The refugee family is expected to arrive in November. Photo by Patricia Younger

Brockville Catholics, Anglicans unite in aid of refugees

  • October 23, 2015

With growing concern about the plight of refugees, a Catholic parish in the City of Brockville, Ont., is coming together with two Anglican parishes to make a difference in the lives of three refugee families.

Agape Brockville is a joint sponsorship effort between St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, St. Paul’s Anglican Church and St. Lawrence Anglican Church. Together, the three parishes are joining forces to prepare new homes for two families from Eritrea and one family from Syria.

“The plight of refugees has just been in the news for a long time,” said Michelle Bushnell, a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier and one of the founding members of Agape Brockville. “So we’ve been (increasingly) concerned about what we can do as Christians. Like in World War II, we go back and we admire so much that generation that sacrificed so much for each other and even in World War I... yet today, we have so many more people suffering.”

Bushnell, with her friend Julia Case from St. Paul’s Anglican, has been researching refugee sponsorship all summer. They had already reached out to St. Lawrence Anglican and each have reached out to their own parish communities to try and put something together.

Agape Brockville got in contact with the Anglican Diocese of Ontario, which is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder, to help match them with families in need.

However, its plans for sponsorship didn’t accelerate until September when Brockville Mayor David Henderson hosted a meeting with local churches, organizations and different community leaders on how the city could support fundraising and other resources to aid refugees fleeing poverty and war.

In that meeting, Henderson announced the city would establish a Refugee Assistance Fund which will accept charitable donations to be used to support refugee sponsorship, resettlement and integration into the community. Henderson will also chair a Refugee Assistance Committee that will oversee the allocation of the funds.

“The meeting was really just lucky because it brought a lot more interest to the table to something we were already pursuing,” said Bushnell.

Since the September meeting, Bushnell said Agape Brockville has had a wonderful response from the community. A woman donated two apartments rent-free for a year. Another individual has donated mattresses and dishes. A family has offered to host one of the refugee families until the apartments are ready. Others have donated furniture, clothes and money.

“There are many people who are really relieved to have an opportunity to do something,” said Bushnell. “I think people that are getting into it shouldn’t expect that they can only do it if they have only 95 per cent of their congregation so excited about it... but there are people who are very passionate and they’ve been watching the news and they’ve been troubled for months and years.”

Case said that when one looks at the refugee crisis as a whole it can be overwhelming, but when people are given the opportunity to do what they can, they will respond. The response to Agape Brockville’s efforts has not just come from parishioners of the three churches, but the community at large.

“Although the nucleus is the three churches, we are finding other churches coming along and saying what do you need... and not necessarily Catholic or Anglican churches,” said Case. “We have our town behind it, agencies are getting together to say how can we help... There’s just a lot of support.”

Agape Brockville is expecting the first two families from Eritrea to arrive in Canada around the first week of November. The group is still waiting to hear about the Syrian family, though Bushnell said that the group is expecting the family to arrive within the next six weeks.

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