Reflection on Serving in McAllen, Texas
During the week of June 24th I had the privilege of serving with Srs. Maria Teresa DeLlano and Elisa Ryan along with five young women in McAllen, Texas. We began our experience, on Sunday, June 23rd, by exploring the town of Progresso which is right on the border with Mexico. As we visited we had the opportunity to go to the International Bridge and see some of the border wall. It was a rather daunting sight with multiple layers of razor sharp barbed wire all over it. We could see the Rio Grande River in the distance. At our group orientation messages were shared that had been received from our sisters and some school administrators. It was heartwarming to read these messages and know that people were indeed praying for the success of this trip. There was great energy in the group of women gathered. We were eight in number with three juniors in college, two seniors in high school and three Ursuline sisters.
On Monday, June 24th we began our work at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center where we welcomed some 300 – 450 travelers who are beginning a new life in the USA. They had been released from the detention center where the conditions were deplorable. Belts, hair ties and shoe laces were confiscated as they were considered potentially harmful. Each family arrived with a manila envelope with, “Please help me, I do not speak English. What bus do I take? Thank you for your help.” At the Respite Center they were connected with their family members or sponsors and transportation was arranged.
There were so many women with small children and there were people everywhere. After a brief orientation we began work. Not always sure of what we were doing we just kept on doing. We helped serve breakfast and lunch, prepared a huge supply of fresh vegetables, distributed clothing, two went to Sam’s Club to purchase some badly needed supplies and we smiled a lot. Two of us even took a mother and her 3 year old daughter to the medical clinic for treatment because of an infected cut and a rash from not bathing and then went to get the prescriptions she needed. This particular left El Salvador with her five children but only four were released with her as the oldest was nineteen and considered an adult. She has more than likely been sent back to El Salvador. .As we worked in the many areas we found ourselves communicating with smiles and simple words as our Spanish was limited compared to the need.
The lunch shifts were very hectic due to the number of people who needed food, but there were always travelers there to help us serve the lunch. They were all very noble, serving the others before grabbing their own, even though they had been working already to help with the food. One of our travelers was cleaning and tidying and when asked where her shoes were, she humbly responded, “No tengo zapatos.” In a manner of minutes, she had shoes as one of our volunteers made sure that she had what she needed especially after she had been so helpful during the day. Such simple actions cause one to be humbled by all that is happening.
Each day was a little different at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center. One day when we arrived at the Center we were surprised when we did not see too many people in the reception area. When we entered the clothing area, we realized that everyone was just in the inner area. We immediately got to work, preparing breakfast, distributing clothing and whatever else needed to be done. Upon entering the clothing area, we realized that everything was totally mixed up and we needed to shut the station down for a few minutes to reorganize the clothing which was everywhere. In less than 15 minutes we were all set to begin the work of welcoming our travelers with a change of clothes and shoes if needed. The kitchen crew did an amazing job feeding the many hungry travelers and had the experience of not being sure if the promised lunch donation was really going to arrive.
After we returned home from dinner each day we had a reflection period where we shared on the days experiences. One night we focused on where we saw/met Jesus today. The responses were often in the faces of the men, women and children that we had encountered during our day. Each one shared how they saw Jesus in the faces of those we served and in the faces of many of the other volunteers. Even though we were not able to take photos the faces of the travelers I believe they will forever be imprinted in our hearts and minds.
One evening we had the opportunity to meet Sr. Norma Pimentel, a Sister with the Missionaries of Jesus. She has served as Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley for over 12 years, she oversees the charitable arm of the Diocese of Brownsville, providing oversight of the different ministries and services in the areas of the Rio Grande Valley through emergency assistance, homelessness prevention, disaster relief, clinical counseling, pregnancy care, food program(s), and the Humanitarian Respite Center. It was a very special meeting as she has done so much for those who are in the process of assimilating into the United States.
Describing the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center does not do it justice. You need to be there to truly experience the obstacles that the travelers have to endure. Looking into the eyes of the sick, scared, hopeful, and very grateful travelers, you are transformed forever. Through our experience this week, we have seen how immigrant people are beautifully able to rise above all differences and unite as brothers and sisters.
This experience has deeply impacted my life and has heightened my awareness of what these travelers have to endure. It was truly a humbling experience and I learned so much from it. I am so grateful that I was able to be part of this project.
Serviam Alive Today
Sister Karen Schwane writes from her volunteering with the migrants pouring into San Antonio:
“It is something else at the bus station these days. Thank God for the City pitching in; people are getting prepared food to eat. They are showing up from Dilley, as usual but also Eagle Pass, McAllen, Del Rio. I was busy every minute today. The only chance to sit was making the bus schedule with parents. There used to be time and volunteers to take those who wished to the park or to see the cathedral. Now that is impossible. My coordinator told me that 220 stayed in the church overnight, last night.”
The news clip below will give you some more details about the needs in San Antonio right now in May 2019.
San Antonio Migrant Report
Six-year-old Kimberly Gabriela Carcamo waits outside San Antonio’s resource center with her father, Santos Gabriel Carcamo, 58. They’re from Honduras.
Migrants make their way between the Greyhound Station and the San Antonio Resource Center. The center, which opened March 30, provides humanitarian help to the mostly Central American migrants.
Standing Against Racism
Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Delaware is proud to introduce you to one of their students, Whitney Grinnge-Cassidy whose Youth Ted talk will renew your faith in the next generation having the values and skills to make positive changes in our world. Whitney has already had an impact in here school and challenges all of us to ACTION. Click the link to below and see for yourself.
Why Microaggressions Aren’t So Micro
Religious Women Making a Difference
Each year the week before Thanksgiving, Sisters from all over the country, along with their friends and families come to New Orleans to help rebuild a city now in the 13th year of the projected 20-year recovery.
Skilled on-site supervisors teach volunteers everything they need to know. No construction experience necessary. Sisters of all skill levels are encouraged to participate.
Help rebuild for families still struggling to return home 13 years after Katrina. Help address the housing crisis left in Katrina’s wake by transforming abandoned and blighted lots into affordable homes for first time home buyers.
The people of New Orleans need your help! Come volunteer and let this city welcome you the way only New Orleans can!!!
To register visit: hhtp://sbp.formstack/forms/nunsbuild
For more information visit: abpusa.org/events/nuns-build
“Go throughout these grey days as bearers of glad tidings,” (Bonhoeffer) was the theme of a mini-convocation held on October 18 at Mariandale, Ossining, New York, sponsored by ROAR. We came together to pause, reflect, and take new steps “along life’s spiral, opening to fresh possibilities for people and the planet.” Ursulines have been active in ROAR (Religious Organizations Along the River) from its beginnings in 1996.
The organization is a network of religious congregations and organizations concerned with the sustainable and regenerative use of land in the Hudson Valley Bioregion. Jackie da Silvia, Alrie Giordano, Ellie Shea, and Mary Sullivan the mini convocation.
Nuns on the Bus
The “Nuns on the Bus Tax Justice Truth Tour” on its way to Mar-A-Lago rolled into St. Louis on October 17th. Eight Ursulines of the Central province (Rita Ann Bregenhorn, Adele Brennan, Maria Teresa de Illano, Mary Ann Dooling, Diane Fulgenzi, Jean Hopman, Peggy Moore, Madonna O’Hara) attended the packed rally held at St. Alphonsus Liguori (the Rock) Church. The purpose of the bus tour this year is to raise consciousness about the effects of the tax policy which was recently passed by Congress and how it will impact Americans. Network devised a visual presentation that helped people realize the divide in economic wealth that is only growing wider each day. The impact of this individualistic policy will erode many Federal programs that so many families rely on for help. We were encouraged to speak up and stay engaged. Some ways to do that could be by contacting our representatives/senators, or simply talking together in families or neighborhoods. We were urged to remember the first three words of the Constitution: “We the people.” As we left the rally we were each able to sign our names on the bus.