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Women at the Border

The crisis at our southern border is real. So, too, are the political and policy challenges in desperately needed immigration reform and the courageous national and international action required to address the root causes of such massive migration.
Sister Mary Katherine at Casa del Migrante

During the past summer, several Monroe IHM Sisters and Associates volunteered for two-week periods at the recently established Oblate Sisters of Providence/Immaculate Heart of Mary (OSP/IHM) inter-congregational community house in McAllen, Texas. The McAllen community – Mary, Comfort of Migrants – currently has four core members: two sisters from Scranton IHM (Sisters Mary Elaine Anderson and Elvia Mata Ortega), one sister from the Immaculata IHM community (Sister Rose Patrice Kuhn) and one from Monroe IHM (Sister Carmen Armenta Lara). Over the past year, the four sisters have been volunteering with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, providing respite support to migrants who have crossed the Mexico/U.S. border. Each week they also visit camps in Reynosa, Mexico, offering their presence and support to persons awaiting news about their U.S. Immigration appointment.

The crisis at our southern border is real. So, too, are the political and policy challenges in desperately needed immigration reform and the courageous national and international action required to address the root causes of such massive migration. Like a ‘canary in a coal mine,’ the increasing global migration of persons – asylum seekers, refugees, immigrants, and many displaced persons – who leave their countries due to war, genocide, drug violence, climate change, or natural disasters cries out. It speaks to a deeper crisis of personal and social dislocation and ‘homelessness’ experienced by many in our world.

The human face of dislocation lingers with me after my time as a volunteer in the McAllen community this past summer.

Families lying on mattress pads on the floor of the respite center, exhausted from months of travel, men asking for shoelaces because everyone had to surrender theirs at the detention center, mothers seeking diapers and milk for their infants and basic items such as toothpaste and shampoo so they might regain a modicum of their own sense of personal hygiene. There was also the vibrancy, agency, and generosity of spirit offered by an adolescent young woman who came to the rescue of this older Sister who did not speak Spanish, leaving me wondering if Maryland – her journey’s destination – knew how fortunate it would be if they recognize her gifts and her ingenuity. These human beings want what we all want: a place of safety where they can imagine a future for themselves and their families, a place to call home.

Sister Gio at the Humanitarian Respite Center

There are more than 350 million migrants on the move globally. These ordinary human beings are exposed to what we would find unimaginable and intolerable conditions, at the mercy of forces beyond their control, characterized by other people’s narratives, not their own. The hunger for genuine hospitality and welcome is one of the most urgent needs of our time. In an interconnected 21st century, no one can be entirely at home unless everyone is at home. The McAllen community resides in the borderland, facing enormous challenges and endless possibilities, crossing borders of all kinds, witnessing the richness of intercultural communities, and embracing the Gospel call to help co-create the Kingdom of God – a place called home.

Read more about this inter-congregational effort at: https://ihmsisters.org/2022/09/osp-ihm-border-community-update/

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