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 Scranton; Sisters, 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.
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!
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.”
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?
- Sisters at Camilla Hall (Immaculata), Our Lady of Peace (Scranton), the IHM Senior Living Community (Monroe) and the Oblate Sisters of Providence motherhouse (Baltimore) hold in prayer the needs of migrant women, children and families.
- Students at Marian High School, Birmingham, Michigan, where the President is Monroe IHM Lenore Pochelski, collected money to purchase school supplies for migrant children who will be entering the U.S. school system for the first time and in the middle of the school year.
- Immaculata IHM Eileen Reilly has been volunteering with the New Sanctuary group at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia where she receives asylum seekers bused from the border, serves as their translator and gives compassionate care to them while they make contact with their sponsors.
- Scranton IHM Donna Korba will be accompanying Marywood University students to the border in March 2023. They will serve side by side with the OSP-IHM Border Community at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, and the Casa del Migrante in Reynosa, Mexico.
- During the Fall of 2022, the OSP-IHM Healing Racism Committee invited sisters and associates to attend three meetings to address the issue of advocacy for asylum seekers. The participants have written a letter to the governors asking them to work together in welcoming migrants to their states. The letter, which will be distributed once new governors have taken office, will be made available for those who wish to sign it.
- Donations from sisters, associates and friends help feed families living in migrant camps in Reynosa, Mexico, make basic medical and hygiene supplies available for families at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen and provide art and school materials for migrant children.
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.
Sister Camille Brouillard, IHM (Monroe) recently spent three weeks in McAllen, Texas
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)
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.
Leaders of the Oblate Sisters of Providence and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary border community visit the border community
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.
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:
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.
Oblate Sisters of Providence and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary border community learn Haitian creole
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!
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.
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.