Spiritual Reflections

The Gift of Mutual Vulnerability

As pioneer members of the new intercongregational collaborative mission, these sisters are fulfilling a dream shared by each of the three IHM Congregations.

On the weekend of October 14 through 16, 2022, Sister Jane Herb, IHM (President of the Monroe, Michigan IHM Congregation), Sister Mary Ellen Tennity, IHM (General Superior of the Immaculata IHM Congregation) and I, as President of the Scranton IHM Congregation, travelled to McAllen, Texas to visit three of our sisters. At the time of the visit, Sisters Mary Elaine Anderson and Elvia Yolanda Mata Ortega from Scranton and Sister Rose Patrice Kuhn from Immaculata were settled in and waiting for the arrival of Sister Carmen Armenta Lara from Monroe. As pioneer members of the new intercongregational collaborative mission, these sisters are fulfilling a dream shared by each of the three IHM Congregations. This mission is the first opportunity for sisters from our three branches to live in community and minister together. 

Since our visit to McAllen, Mary Ellen, Jane and I have reflected on our graced experience with our sisters and those they serve at the border. Mary Ellen described this experience of opening a joint congregational mission as a “transformative experience” for her. 

“It deepened my understanding of what it means to have a missionary heart. The sisters did not seem to be deterred by any obstacle or detail. They had the courage and conviction that all would come together. I saw the physical border on the outskirts of McAllen and the expanse of people waiting in makeshift tents outside the walls of the Casa Del Migrante in Reynosa, Mexico. The wall and the waiting penetrated my heart as it was crystal clear that there must be a better solution… I think that our IHM Congregations have gained a broader perspective about the plight of the migrant. We have heard, from our sisters, the human side of this issue and we have become more aware of the value of presence in keeping alive the hope that so many of the women, men, and children carry deep within them.” 

Jane remembered walking across the border with the five of us and a brief ride to Casa del Migrante in Reynosa. 

“I was overwhelmed by the number of women and children at this shelter. Listening to the directors, I came to realize the challenge – yet the tremendous need – to make this shelter available to the women and children migrants. There were many children and pregnant women. These individuals are particularly vulnerable. Although I do not understand Spanish, as I looked into the eyes of the migrants, I came to realize their yearning and their desire for a better life. Each day our sisters come home after a day of serving the migrants in what may be considered simple ways. Yet, they carry the IHM presence with them. They also come home daily to reflect on the unjust system we have in our country that so often turns away this vulnerable population. What began as a dream of having sisters serve at the border has now become a reality. We are blessed to have this collaborative effort to serve those who are the most vulnerable.” 

I remember clearly being inspired by the experience. 

I watched the sisters engage with the women and children at Casa del Migrante and saw how quickly and easily they responded to the sisters. It was as if the sisters, women and children had become able to render themselves vulnerable to one another, able to receive the best of what each had to offer. I remember hoping that on some level the women and children would believe that we desired to be present and open to them as well. Without the capacity to speak Spanish or Creole, we counted on our ability to create a safe place using the warmth of facial expressions and tenderness of body language to signal our desire to be available to them. It was a privileged moment to be one with the women and children and to see the compassionate engagement of our sisters in ministry. The hopeful experience remains with me. I carry it along with the feeling of bone-deep sadness about the plight of these young and vulnerable persons. I pray that we, in our advocacy, and those making decisions regarding the lives of refugees will be more compassionate to the plight of those who are fleeing war and violence and more active in seeking refugee status for them. 

As I reflect on our experience at the Casa del Migrante, I believe we learned something about the mutuality of vulnerability. Jane, Mary Ellen, and I were new to the women and children and perhaps we were also an extension of the sisters they had come to know and trust. Entering into their world, even for a brief time, rendered us vulnerable. Sensing our vulnerability, perhaps they felt some degree of safety to welcome us into their space. The experience leaves me wondering. Is it mutual vulnerability in our encounters with others that breaks hearts open to receive and share God’s unconditional love? 

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