Tri- IHM Community Border Updates
The joint volunteer project of the three IHM congregations: Monroe (M), Scranton, Pa. (S) and Immaculata, Pa. (I) with Catholic Charities of the San Diego Diocese began April 24. Scranton IHM Sister, Mary Elaine Anderson, who advocated for the joint volunteer project and who has been in El Centro, Calif. since the project’s beginning, has also been writing a weekly update. The updates offer a glimpse into the work and life shared by the three congregations over the first seven weeks. Participants have included Mary Elaine Anderson, Jeannette Lucey, Constance Touey, Kathy Benham, Margaret Chapman, Margaret Joseph Pavluchuk, Mary Katherine Hamilton, Dora Lezovich, Christine Cunningham, Mary Catherine Chamberlain, Donna Korba, Jean Hennelly, Eileen Reilly, Marian Gregory Mazzotta, Denise Montagne, Patricia Michael Godoy, Fran Small, Kathleen Brown, Teresa Catherine Walsh, Kim Redigan, Marge Polys, Vicki Koivu-Rybicki, Margie Langer, Teresa Haug.
Greetings from the El Centro Team of twelve! All of us are now home (Monroe, Detroit, Philadelphia, Reading and Scranton). So sorry that it has taken this long to send our Week 10 Update.
Week 10 was a bittersweet one. It was filled with welcomes and goodbyes. Patricia, Marian Gregory and Denise were the first to leave on June 30. The other nine of us left on July 3. However, before our departure, we were able to welcome Susan Kuk and Agnes Cummings who arrived on the afternoon of July 2.
It was hard to say goodbye to the staff of Catholic Charities after having worked side by side with them for so many weeks. On Thursday, July 1, Catholic Charities surprised us with a farewell luncheon. I think the presence of 12 IHM sisters and friends at one time left a lasting impression on them!
During Week 10, we also saw a surge in the number of asylum seekers crossing the US-Mexican border and being released by the Border Patrol. We welcomed 60-70 new immigrants each day. That meant more daily trips to the airport. Most days at least six IHMs were in the vans to Yuma, Imperial or San Diego transporting asylum seekers to the airport where they had flights to different parts of the U.S.
At the same time, the site in El Centro was closing and all the personnel and materials had to be relocated at the hotel in Holtville. Fortunately, the hotel gave us another office area connected to the current one and a large space to organize the donated clothes. We spent a few days in chaos amid at least 50 bags of clothing, shoes and toys brought from Catholic Charities in San Diego as well as everything else that came from the site in El Centro. However, our IHM team of 12 was able to put things in good order by our last afternoon of volunteering.
The IHM work with asylum seekers will continue in El Centro until July 24 with the presence of Susan, Agnes, Annette and Francis Xavier. Five sisters (Rita, Mary Margaret, Mimi, Rose Patrice and Barbara) will be volunteering with Catholic Charities in San Diego from July 17 to 31. Although there will be no Monroe or Scranton IHM joining them in July, they can be assured of the prayerful support of all three IHM congregations.
For those of us who have returned to our local communities and ministries, we are left with so much to ponder and reflect upon:
– It is hard to understand the injustices of a system that separates children 18 years of age from their parents and siblings because the U.S. considers them adults or that sends grandmothers and grandfathers to a detention center because they are not considered members of their son’s or daughter’s nuclear family.
– We are haunted by the stories of political violence, death threats, hunger, unemployment and lack of health care that impel families to cross the border in search of a place and a community where they can survive and thrive.
– We savor each encounter and each relationship and we ask ourselves: What did we learn? How do we share the graces received with our congregations and the wider community? How do we live now after so many weeks of being “on fire” with God’s unconditional love?
Let us pray for one another … for the IHMs who continue to serve in El Centro and San Diego and for those of us who have returned. May we be able to integrate our experiences in a way that is meaningful for us personally and congregationally and that directly and positively impacts our world!
With grateful hearts,
El Centro Team of 12 (Patricia, Marian Gregory, Denise, Margie, Terri, Kathy, Fran, Teresa, Kim, Vicki, Marge and Mary Elaine)