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OSP-IHM Border community update Feature Image

OSP-IHM Border community update

The Monroe IHM community shares a common origin with three other religious communities: the Pennsylvania-based Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of ScrantonSisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Immaculata; and the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore. Sisters from each of our shared communities have established a community in McAllen, Texas. Sisters Mary Elaine Anderson (Scranton), Elvia Mata Ortega (Scranton), Carmen Armenta Lara (Monroe) and Rose Patrice Kuhn (Immauclata) are the core group of sisters who live and minister in McAllen. With this creation of an inter-congregational community, our sisters can engage in direct service to asylum seekers who need temporary respite and help contacting their sponsors in the U.S. Below are monthly updates.

January 2023

Inter-congregational Collaboration at the Border
Sisters Mary (OSF), Carmen (IHM – M), Norma Pimentel (MJ), Pat (OSF), Mary Elaine (IHM – S), Rose Patrice (IHM – I) and Lisa (MSC)

Sister Carmen Armenta Lara, one of the four members of the OSP-IHM Core Community at the US-Mexico border, arrived on January 11 after many months of waiting for her R-1 Visa. Two Monroe IHMs—Sisters Maureen Kelly and Maria Antonia Aranda Diaz —who live and minister in Juarez, Mexico, accompanied Carmen on the 11-hour trip across the state of Texas and spent two days with the sisters in McAllen. Rose, Elvia and Mary Elaine welcomed Carmen and her companions with open arms!

December 2022

Recently, Monsignor Daniel Flores, Bishop of Brownsville, received a letter from Pope Francis, thanking him for the multiple ways that the People of God in his diocese are accompanying migrants at the Texas-Mexico border. Pope Francis wrote, “I have no doubt that the current situation [of migrants] should impel us to seek the promotion and integration of those who share the same condition in which the Lord found himself.”

Father Brian Strassburger, SSJ, and IHM Sisters Elvia Mata Ortega, Mary Elaine Anderson and Rose Patrice Kuhn with children in the Casa de Migrante, Reynosa, Mexico  

Welcoming and accompanying migrants who are fleeing violence and searching for a more humane way of life for themselves and their families is the loving work of all God’s People, not just those living along the southern border. The collaborative efforts of OSP-IHM sisters, associates and friends testify to the importance of encountering the migrant wherever he/she may be—on the border, in the classroom, in our churches and in our neighborhoods.

How are we OSP-IHM sisters, associates and friends responding to the plight of migrants from our own backyard?

The OSP-IHM Core Community in McAllen, Texas, is grateful to the larger OSP-IHM Family for their collaboration and the creative and multiple ways in which they engage to welcome and accompany migrants both at the border and throughout the U.S.

November 2022

Sister Camille Brouillard, IHM (Monroe) recently spent three weeks in McAllen, Texas

Sister Camille with Haitian asylum seekers at the
Humanitarian Respite Center

Sister Camille Brouillard, IHM (Monroe) recently spent three weeks in McAllen, Texas, with the OSP-IHM Border Community. The sisters invited Camille to join them because of her experience serving the Haitian population in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for 14 years. At this time, many asylum seekers crossing the US-Mexico border are Haitians fleeing the violence and poverty of their country.

During her stay in Texas, Camille taught the sisters Haitian creole and also accompanied them to the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen and the Casa de Migrante and Senda 2 in Reynosa, Mexico, where she was able to speak with Haitian asylum seekers in their native language. This is what Camille writes about her experience:

We bring loving presence, welcome and God’s great love for the people who come seeking a non-violent, just place to live. The gift we receive is more than we give. To see the suffering, to see the smile at our being with the people and speaking their language, to listen to their story is to be about Jesus’ Liberating Mission indeed. I am blessed to be with our sisters from Scranton and Immaculata. Bondye beni yo! Bondye beni nou!” (God bless them! God bless us!)

Sister Camille Brouillard, IHM (Monroe)
Sister Camille with Haitian children at the
Humanitarian Respite Center.
Sister Camille (Monroe) teaches Sisters Rose Patrice (Immaculata) and Mary Elaine (Scranton) Haitian creole.

They are grateful to Camille for sharing her gift of language and presence with them.

We ask your continued prayer for our Haitian brothers and sisters and all who have valiantly made the journey to the US-Mexico border. It is a privilege to accompany them in the name of all IHMs and Oblate Sisters of Providence at this time.

October 2022

Leaders of the Oblate Sisters of Providence and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary border community visit the border community

Sisters Rose Patrice Kuhn (I), Elvia Mata (S), Mary Ellen Tennity (I), Katie Clauss (S), Mary Elaine Anderson (S) and Jane Herb (M) with asylum seekers in
Reynosa, Mexico

Sisters Katie Clauss, Jane Herb and Mary Ellen Tennity traveled to McAllen, Texas, on October 14, to spend the weekend in community and ministry with the sisters living and serving on the Texas/Mexico border.

On Saturday morning, they walked across the International Bridge into Reynosa, Mexico, where they were received by the Daughters of Charity and about 150 asylum seekers in the Casa de Migrante. Sisters Rose Patrice Kuhn, Elvia Mata and Mary Elaine Anderson and a Haitian asylum seeker led the people in a bilingual (Spanish/ Creole) prayer. Afterwards, Sisters Elvia and Jane met with the women. Sisters Rose Patrice and Mary Ellen taught the older children how to identify, spend and make change with US coins and dollars.  Sisters Mary Elaine and Katie played with the younger children.   

Sister Mary Ellen Tennity (I) at the Casa de Migrante

In the afternoon, the sisters visited the Humanitarian Respite Center (HRC) which welcomes migrants who have crossed the border. Sisters Rose Patrice, Elvia and Mary Elaine explained the ways in which they minister to asylum seekers at HRC. Later, the sisters participated in the celebration of the Eucharist at Our Lady of the Valley San Juan Basilica.

On Sunday morning, Sisters Jane, Mary Ellen, and Katie blessed the community living in McAllen, Texas, and their new home which they have named Mary, Comfort of Migrants. Sister Carmen Armenta, who is still waiting in Juarez, Mexico, for her visa to be approved, participated via video on What’s App.      

The prayer began with these words:

Sister Katie Clauss (Scranton IHM) at the Casa de Migrante

We come together here in this moment of our OSP/ISM history to ask for the blessing of God upo our response to the refugee crisis at the Texas/Mexican border. We stand here in the name of our entire community- members, asssociates, partners and benefactors.

The prayer concluded with the sending forth of Sisters Rose Patrice, Elvia, Carmen, and Mary Elaine to serve and be the face, ears, mouth, hands, shoulders, feet, and heart of compassion for our brothers and sisters at the border. 

September 2022

Oblate Sisters of Providence and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary border community learn Haitian creole

Elvia Mata Ortega, IHM and a Haitian child in Reynosa, Mexico  

It seems right, and even providential, that in following Theresa Maxis’s urging to “go where the need is” we find ourselves face-to-face with our Haitian brothers and sisters.    Theresa, born Almeide Maxis Duchemin, was the daughter of a Haitian refugee, and her maternal great-grandfather was a black slave in Haiti. As a child, Almeide attended a school for Haitian refugee children.

Of the many things that the OSP-IHM Border Community imagined doing in McAllen, Texas, studying Haitian creole was not one of them. Yet, because a large percentage of asylum seekers are Haitian, that is exactly what we are doing!

Rose Patrice Kuhn, IHM and Terry Saetta, RSM join with Haitian immigrants as they sing in creole How Great Thou Art

Could this encounter with the Haitian people and their culture be Theresa’s way of inviting us to look more closely at the roots and the legacy of our OSP and IHM congregations?  Perhaps the culture that Theresa had to deny to “pass for white” is exactly what God is asking us to uncover and integrate into our lives. Learning Haitian creole is no easy task when you are an adult. Embracing the Haitian culture and the full personhood of Theresa Maxis may be even more challenging!

We welcome the insights of our sisters and associates who have served the Haitian population and may know the culture and the language well. We also ask you to pray for both our Haitian brothers and sisters who have valiantly made the journey to the US-Mexico border and us who have the privilege of accompanying them at this time.

OSP-IHM Border Community: Sisters Mary Elaine Anderson (Scranton), Elvia Mata Ortega (Scranton), Carmen Armenta Lara (Monroe) and Rose Patrice Kuhn (Immauclata)

August 2022

Oblate Sisters of Providence and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary border community participate in a Jubilee celebration in Monterrey, Mexico

Sisters Rose Patrice Kuhn, Elvia Mata Ortega and Mary Elaine Anderson have gradually settled into their new home, which is located about 20 minutes from the US-Mexico border. They have begun to minister daily to immigrants at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. The sisters have been waiting for the fourth member of their local community, Sister Carmen Armenta Lara, to obtain her visa and join them in McAllen.  

The four sisters were finally able to meet in person for the first time in Monterrey, Mexico. The occasion was the 25th Jubilee Celebration of Sisters Elvia Mata Ortega and Maryalice Jacquinot. The opportunity to gather as a local community and to be in the presence of other IHM Sisters was appreciated particularly by Sister Carmen who is waiting patiently for her US visa to be approved.

I am grateful to God for the opportunity to know and share with the IHM Community of McAllen, Texas, and the IHM Sisters of Scranton. Elvia’s and Maryalice’s 25th Jubilee was a great celebration! I thank the Casa Hogar, Father Jesus Guadalupe and the community of Monterrey, Mexico, for their hospitality, their warm welcome and the time that they spent with us. I am looking forward to joining the sisters in McAllen soon and beginning our life together.

Sister Carmen

Please pray that Sister Carmen receives rapid approval for her visa and that she will soon be able to join the OSP-IHM border community.

For the past several years, these four communities have made a commitment to reconnect
and envision a common future. Read more about their shared ministries.