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Joe Schinkten is a trustee of the college and a parishioner at Old St. Joe's.

Old St. Joe’s Joins in Refugee Aid

When Pope Francis called for every parish, religious community and monastery in Europe to take in one refugee family, the Norbertines not only heeded, but exceeded the pontiff’s request.  

Magdeburg Priory and the Abbey of Hamborn in Germany have committed to assisting hundreds of Syrian refugees and others forced to vacate their homelands, by providing safe housing for families and unaccompanied children. A plan was instituted to build a dormitory to serve as a reception center.

Meanwhile, a homily delivered at Old St. Joe’s by the Rev. James Neilson, O.Praem., ’88 brought many in attendance to tears. Neilson discussed the tragic situation of the exodus from Syria, referencing the stirring image of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi who washed up on the Turkish coast. Kurdi died as a result of overcrowding in the vessel that was to bring his family to freedom.

Parish member Joe Schinkten was among those moved by the message. “We can all sit on our hands,” he says. “Our parish has been very blessed, so we needed to help. Father Prior [the Very Rev. Jim Baraniak, O.Praem., ’89] taught us that, of those who are greatly blessed, much is expected. Are we going to make this a part of our lives for a little bit?

“We are close to the guys who run the parishes where the refugees are coming into their communities. Over there, church and state work much more closely than here. I emailed the abbot and prior and told them, ‘we have some resources that will be of assistance to you.’ ”

At Old St. Joe’s, a letter was distributed to all St. Norbert College Parish members seeking financial donations. A goal of $25,000 was set. Notre Dame Academy of Green Bay was among the supporters. The school raised more than $1,400 through a fundraiser. The first wire transfer was for more than $15,000. Schinkten expects to surpass the goal: “People just need to be asked. We are surrounded by generous people who have the ability. The challenge in Germany is to house and integrate these people into a new culture in such a short time. It’s radical hospitality.”

The Rev. Clemens Dölken, O.Praem., prior of Magdeburg, explains that there are already dozens of refugees in his parishes – families and single people. The Norbertines are working with the Syrian arrivals both through provision of language courses and in collaboration with an organization for the care of unaccompanied minors that is run by a parishioner and, in part, funded by the order. Dölken says: “I am very glad to hear from Christians from Syria, that they are learning German quite well and being integrated into the labor market.”

Norbertine connection
On last year’s Norbertine Heritage Tour, Schinkten, a college trustee, reconnected with Dölken at Magdeburg Priory. Magdeburg is an affiliate of the Abbey of Hamborn, served by Father Clemens’ brother, Abbot Albert Dölken, O.Praem. Schinkten formed a friendship with Father Clemens when the prior attended the general chapter at St. Norbert College in the summer of 2012.

Schinkten says that he will likely not wait for another Heritage Tour to visit his Norbertine friends in Germany. He hopes to put together a trip to see the fruits of the outreach. Meanwhile, Father Clemens will visit St. Norbert College this fall, as guest speaker during Heritage Week.

June 27, 2016