Father Bob: A Welcoming Priest
On Monday, April 29th Welcoming Michigan hosted a film screening and discussion of "Journeys: Stories from Van Buren" with 23 people from St. Basil Catholic Church and the South Haven community. This was the first time that St. Basil's Preist, Father Bob Flickinger, viewed the film, which features his story of welcoming Van Buren County's immigrant population. Father Bob, as he is affectionately called by those who know him, was one of the first people to be recommended to Welcoming staff when searching for community members to interview for the film. As he mentions in the film, he has been serving the immigrant and migrant community for decades and knows why being welcoming matters.
Ordained in 1975, Father Bob's professional background as a pastor began at St. Thomas Moore Student Parish in Kalamazoo, and has led him to serve as Director of Vocations for the Diocese, Pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Hartford, Pastor at St. Mary Parish in Paw Paw, Pastor at St. Catherine of Siena in Portage, and temporary administrator in Mendon and Vicksburg. He was again assigned as Pastor in Hartford before coming to St. Basil of South Have where he has been since 2008. Father Bob has spent time in Ecuador, Neuevo Laredo, Mexico, and El Salvador, experiences that he says has helped shape his understanding of what it means to be a newcomer. This sensitivity to and awareness of why it is important to reach out and welcome new neighbors has led him to years of Hispanic and Migrant Ministry. Father Bob is committed to making sure St. Basil's Church is immigrant-friendly by offering a service in Spanish every Saturday. He is also working with the Catholic High School to make sure they work toward hiring more biligual and Hispanic teachers. In the film he says he wants to make sure everyone who walks through the doors is greeted and connected in some way.
The film screening was well-received by Monday evening's audience at St. Basil. Many people knew some or all of the interviewees in the film, which allowed them to get to know their follow community leaders a little bit more and reflect on their own personal stories and experiences. It was special for Father Bob to see the film, along with many of his parishoners, some of whom have been active in Migrant Ministry for many years, and others who may feel inspired to get involved with these types of activities through the church and/or Welcoming Michigan. We had a lively discussion which highlighted the ways in which St. Basil's and the greater South Haven community is welcoming toward immigrants and also some ways that things could be improved.
For an up to date calendar of film screenings and other Welcoming Michigan events in SW and SE MI, please visit the Get Involved page at WelcomingMichigan.org. To view photos from this and other film screenings and discussions, please visit this Welcoming Michigan facebook photo album.
When Michigan welcomes immigrants, Michigan thrives. Together. It's Better.