A View from the El Paso, TX Border

In January, 2019, I responded to a request from our Province Leadership to help out at the border in El Paso. As you are aware, there has been a lot of news coverage about what is going on there. I would like to share with you about my experience there. One might think that everyone who goes to volunteer works at Annunciation House. Actually, Annunciation House is the administration center which began as a shelter for homeless and immigrants in 1978. Ruben Garcia is the administrator. Our Sr. Ida is a member of the Board.
At present, this house has expanded into 15 centers in El Paso. The Bishop of El Paso has turned the seminary over for immigrants; also many churches and convents have opened their doors. The shelter I was assigned to was a former nursing home for the Loreto Sisters. We had about 18 rooms which were filled every evening. Sometimes these 15 shelters aren’t enough so rooms in hotels are rented. It is important to note that no government assistance is received.

When I was there, the majority of immigrants were coming from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. A few also came from Cuba, Brazil and 1 from Africa. The Central American immigrants contract with large trucks or semi to get them to the border. One lady with 2 children told me she paid $6000 just to get to the border.

Once they cross the border, they are placed in detention centers in El Paso (large warehouses divided in sections by chicken wire) until they can meet with a lawyer. This could take 3-10 days. They sleep on mats on the floor with thermal blankets, receiving very little to eat while in detention, sometimes a frozen burrito once a day or a cup of soup.

Eventually they meet with a lawyer who fills in 3 forms:
The first form is filled with personal data and their number. The second contains the name and phone number of the receiving family – brother, sister, uncle or friend and information on what they must do when they arrive at their destination. Most of them were headed for FL, CA, NC, NY, WA or TX. The third form has information on the ICE office they will have to report to within 10 days on arriving at their destination. They are also given a list of pro-bono lawyers who can help them plead their case for asylum. All those who are coming in through El Paso have papers and are seeking asylum from the violence and gangs in their countries.

Before they leave from detention, a heavy GPS tracker is placed on the ankle of the head of the family (father or mother) – most of them are now coming as families. Once they have their papers and ankle bracelet, they are put on a bus and brought to one of the 15 shelters in El Paso, tired, hungry, sad and bedraggled. Between 500-600 are released daily. On arrival at a shelter, they get off the bus, line up, are counted by the ICE officers and turned over to us.
We immediately get to work with intake. We make a phone call to the receiving family assuring them that their family members are safe and can stay with us as long as necessary.
The receiving family is asked to buy their ticket on the bus or plane and inform us when transportation is arranged. We then give the immigrants clean clothes, sheets and towels, and give them an opportunity to shower. Rooms are assigned; most of the time two families shared a room. They are served three delicious meals a day that are provided and served by parishes and other groups in El Paso.

When confirmation of transportation is received, we take the immigrants to the airport or bus and say goodbye with many hugs, kisses and expressions of gratitude.

Soon another bus load arrives!I have often been asked what most impressed me. Many things!
-The number that comes in daily – a bus filled with 40-60 people daily at each of the 15 centers.
-The solidarity, graciousness and generosity of the people of El Paso – churches of many denominations and other groups such as the Boy Scouts bring in and serve 3 meals a day
-The gratitude shown in many ways by the immigrants – helping us with the cleaning after meals and scrubbing the floors before they leave; their appreciation for being treated with dignity and respect. Several told me it was like “Paradise” being in the shelter.

–Sister Pat Vanden Bergh

MORE Weekend

Pope Francis shares a message of hope as we approach the Lenten season:

“God’s holiness is an expanding force, and we beg that it quickly shatters barriers of our world,” he said, adding that this holiness “spreads in concentric circles, like when throwing a stone into a pond.”

Pope Francis explained that “prayer drives away all fear. The Father loves us, the Son raises his arms side by side with ours, the Spirit works in secret for the redemption of the world.”

As you begin your Lenten journey, consider joining us for a weekend discernment retreat:

Our MORE weekend is coming up, June 14-16, 2019 in St. Louis, MO.
 
Ministry
One with God and Neighbor
Reflection and Prayer
Engagement
 
If you are interested in joining us, check out the website below:

Many blessings in your discernment,

CSJ    BE-ING    ATTITUDES

BLESSED ARE WE WOMEN AND MEN OF THE GREAT LOVE OF GOD FOR WE WILL BE UNITED.

BLESSED ARE WE WOMEN AND MEN MOVING TO WHOLENESS FOR WE WILL EXPERIENCE FREEDOM OF SPIRIT.

BLESSED ARE WE WOMEN AND MEN EMPTYING OF SELF FOR WE WILL BE FILLED WITH GOD’S GREAT DESIRES FOR US.

BLESSED ARE WE WOMEN AND MEN LOVING WITHOUT DISTINCTION FOR WE LIVE LIFE FROM THE HEART OF GOD.

BLESSED ARE WE WOMEN AND MEN OF ZEALOUS PRESENCE FOR WE REVEAL GOD WITH ENTHUSIASM.

BLESSED ARE WE WOMEN AND MEN FAITHFUL IN LISTENING, FOR WE ATTEND AND ARE ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN LIFE.

BLESSED ARE WE WOMEN AND MEN FILLED WITH CORDIAL CHARITY, FOR WE REVERENCE AND WELCOME WHAT GOD IS DOING IN AND FOR OTHERS.

BLESSED ARE WE WOMEN AND MEN OF MISSION, FOR WE WILL IMAGE GOD BY OUR ACTIVE INCLUSIVE LOVE IN ALL OF OUR RELATIONSHIPS.

By- S. MARIANNE KEENA, CSJ

 

A Personal Reflection on the Vows

I believe that what distinguishes me as a vowed member in the St. Joseph Family is the fact that I pronounce public vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and share a common life in the congregation with other vowed members.

I try to see the vows as integral to what it means to be a human person, opportunities to get a hold on life in all of its aspects.

Poverty means I have everything and yet paradoxically I have nothing. It means accepting all of creation into my life without owning anything. Poverty calls me to unselfishness, to sharing, and to using only that which I need. It lets me know that our natural resources have limits. When I recycle, I am faithful to my vow of poverty. When I consider my needs versus my wants, I am being faithful to poverty. Poverty calls me to simplicity, which I define as a single focused vision. Of all the vows, poverty helps me to keep my priorities straight and ultimately creates in me a reverence for all of creation.

It’s the vow of chastity that I believe is at the very heart of what it means to be a vowed religious. It touches the core of my life. If lived fully, chastity speaks to the centrality of God and God’s love in all of one’s life. Rather than loving someone exclusively, I am called to love inclusively. It means listening to someone I may not naturally want to listen to. It means not giving up on people. It means letting others touch me and change me. It means loving others because God is at work in all of us, loving us and helping us to discover our goodness together.

Obedience means to be a good listener, especially a listener in the Spirit. This vow challenges me to look at who I am with my particular set of gifts and limitations; the vow of obedience also  has me looking at priorities both the province and the congregation set before me and then matching all of that with the needs of God’s people. Obedience also leads me to take the opportunity to learn so that I can serve better. If one has the gift of organization and leadership as an educator, for example, obedience would have her get certified and stay updated so that she could be a good principal. Obedience nudge me always to be alert to the touch of God and to how God would have me act as a Sister of St. Joseph.

These vows are really not separated. They make up a lifestyle that cannot be compartmentalized. They overlap and fit together and join me to others in the congregation who share the charism with me.

~Sister Rita Huebner

Eucharistic Letter

The original Eucharistic Letter was written by Fr. Medaille, SJ in 1660 in Le Puy, France to the first Sisters of St. Joseph. This is a contemporary presentation of The Eucharistic Letter inviting viewers to revisit it and begin living the Little Design way of life.

Coming to Know Who God Made Me to Be

In the book In Our Own Words, Desire Findlay reminds us that taking on community values is only part of formation. The other part is becoming one’s self within the community. Knowing how to be ourselves as a sister, as a Franciscan, as a member of this community or province. We let go of parts of ourselves and discover other parts. It is not okay to become someone else. God created us to be who we are. Our journey into community, and in formation, is to discern whether being a part of this community is who God created us to be, does it allow us to flourish, to set down roots, to grow and blossom and bear fruit. And how does being in community facilitate our growth into our truest selves, our truest image of the God of Love? This is the journey of formation, a life-long journey of giving and receiving.

Sisters

If you haven’t seen it, take some time to share the lives of five sisters – none of them are Sisters of St. Joseph, but they are all amazing women, living the gospel simply, radically, quietly. Today we see more and more that as Franciscans and Mercies and Dominicans and St. Joseph, we are all sisters, part of a larger sisterhood of Jesus Christ. It’s about an hour. Enjoy! #csjlife