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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.

June 2023


On May 11, 2023, the US government finally rescinded Title 42, a health policy that was invoked in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at US borders. Title 42 allowed US authorities to use the pandemic as justification for swiftly removing migrants crossing the US-Mexico border without hearing the requests and cases of asylum seekers. With the dissolution of Title 42, Title 8, the pre-pandemic law that governed the deportation of migrants, again forms the primary legal basis for US immigration policy.

Prior to the dissolution of Title 42, Homeland Security implemented the CBP One App. It is a mobile application that migrants in central or northern Mexico who are seeking to travel to the U.S. use to schedule an appointment at one of the southwest border land ports of entry. One of the purposes of the CBP One App was to bypass intermediaries and allow migrants to apply directly to Immigration for an interview without the interference of “coyotes.” Unfortunately, the app, which is considered the legal way to enter the US, has proved frustrating for many migrants. Some migrants cannot afford to buy a telephone, which they need to access the App. Others had their phone stolen or damaged during their long journey northward to the border. Large families of four or more may have a telephone, but they were unable to get interviews for all their family members at the same time. The result was that families were separated, some members crossing the border into the US while others remained indefinitely in Mexico trying to get an interview with Immigration.

Under Title 42, families who spent several months trying to access the CBP One App without any success sometimes resorted to crossing the Rio Grande River and handing themselves over to the Border Patrol. If they were lucky, they were processed by Border Patrol, released with documents and given a date to attend immigration court in a city near to where their sponsors live. The unlucky were “expelled” back into Mexico.

With the implementation of Title 8, migrants who cross the river and hand themselves into the Border Patrol will be “deported” and will be barred from applying for asylum and re-entering the US for at least five years. Likewise, migrants who traveled through other countries on their way to the US-Mexico border are also banned from applying for asylum in the US. In actuality, Title 8 is more punitive than Title 42.


The surge of migrants at the southern border in the week before May 11 was the result of migrants’ fear of Title 8 restrictions and their frustration with the CBP One App. From May 8-15, our OSP-IHM Border Community spent mornings and afternoons at the Humanitarian Respite Center serving the increased number of migrants. The people and their needs were so many that it was hard to know where to begin. Many of those who had crossed had been detained for days by Immigration. They arrived hungry, sick and with only the clothes that they were wearing. Quite a few had been separated from family members and were desperate to locate their sons, daughters and husbands. We tried to use the online detainee locator service to help them find those who had been separated. But each time the system, which had not been updated, reported 0 results. It was heart-wrenching to see their disappointment and experience their anxiety.

Around May 15, the number of migrants at the Humanitarian Respite Center began to decrease. Although it is still a priority to respond to the basic physical needs (food, clothing and medicine) of the migrants, fewer people also mean that we are able to sit with them, hear their stories and offer them compassion and encouragement. The smaller numbers allow us to respond to their emotional and spiritual needs.

Because the number of those crossing into the US has decreased, there is a greater need to accompany migrants on the Mexican side of the border. Since last July, we have been volunteering on Thursdays at the Casa del Migrante in Reynosa, Mexico. We now are considering volunteering two days instead of just one in Mexico with the hope that we will be able to expand our presence to Senda de Vida II, an encampment of about 2,000 migrants on the outskirts of Reynosa. It is a ministerial adjustment that we are prepared to make because of the needs of the people and one that we foresaw when we chose McAllen, Texas, as our place of residence. We started this mission knowing that the work would call us to accompany our migrant brothers and sisters on both sides of the border.      

April 2023

   Sister Carmen Armenta Lara with children in front of Holy Week mural

The OSP-IHM core community ministering at the border celebrated Holy Week with migrants at the Casa del Migrante in Reynosa, Mexico. The experience of walking with our suffering brothers and sisters was profoundly heart-wrenching and hope-filled. 

To prepare for Holy Week, Sisters Carmen, Rose, Elvia and Mary Elaine, with the participation of the children, created a mural of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. They also helped the children to make “salvation bracelets” with a different color to commemorate each of the four days. The mural, which was hung on the wall, and the bracelet served as visual reminders of the sacred events that take place during Holy Week.

The celebrations took place in the open patio of the migrant shelter where there were no polished pews, ornate paintings nor marble sanctuary. A cement floor, metal folding chairs, a wooden altar, a simple cross, a plastic basin for washing feet and bells from the Dollar Store made the perfect scenario for experiencing the Paschal Mystery in our midst. The reverence with which the men, women and children in the Casa del Migrante participated in the washing of one another’s feet, Via Crucis and adoration of Jesus on the cross was testimony of their faith and hope in a God who accompanies them in their suffering and promises them new life. It is truly a privilege to accompany our migrant brothers and sisters in McAllen, Texas and Reynosa, Mexico.

March 2023

Marywood University volunteers at the Humanitarian Respite Center (Sister Donna Korba, third from the left)

Our apostolate at the OSP-IHM Border Mission, “Mary, Comfort of Migrants,” includes receiving people who would like to volunteer for brief periods. The OSP-IHM Border Community commits to accompanying high school and university students who want to participate in the mission. Students and their chaperones stay at the Basilica Hotel on the grounds of the National Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle. Student service groups often choose to participate in a Border Witness Program provided by ARISE (sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Mercy) and volunteer at the Humanitarian Respite Center (HRC) under the direction of Catholic Charities. Group leaders are responsible for contacting both organizations and setting up their schedules of activities. The sisters in the OSP-IHM Border Mission are available to meet with the students and their leaders. They volunteer alongside them in McAllen, Texas and Reynosa, Mexico (if the group opts to cross the border). They also share prayer and one or more meals with them in their convent “Mary, Comfort of Migrants.”

During the past five weeks, we had the privilege of accompanying the following groups:

We look forward to meeting more students from the schools and universities where our OSP and IHM Sisters minister!

Sister Carmen Armenta Lara talks with Holy Names Academy students in our convent “Mary, Comfort of Migrants.”
Sister Rose Patrice Kuhn talks with Holy Names Academy students

February 2023

Migrant children at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, receive donated backpacks with school supplies from Sisters Elvia Mata Ortega and Rose Patrice Kuhn.

The OSP-IHM Core Community at the US-Mexico border would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our sisters and associates who attended the presentation on February 13 via zoom or Livestream.  It was wonderful to see so many faces and feel the energy of our four congregations. We invite you to view the recorded presentation that depicts a little bit of the reality of our migrant brothers and sisters as well as our own experiences of community life, ministry and inter-congregational collaboration at the border.  Here is the link. To obtain the English transcript for the parts that are spoken in Spanish, please click here.

Since the presentation, many have asked how they might donate to our OSP-IHM collaborative ministry. Monetary donations will help us to buy food, clothing, medicine, toiletries and activity materials for migrants at the Casa del Migrante or Senda de Vida II in Reynosa, Mexico, and at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. Checks can be made payable to Sisters of IHM. They can be mailed to 

Sister Rose Patrice Kuhn, IHM
Mary, Comfort of Migrants
905 N. 50th Street
McAllen, TX 78501

Schools and youth groups may prefer to collect school supplies or other articles rather than money. Donated articles might include travel-size toiletries, shoelaces, underwear, socks, t-shirts, gloves, hats and scarves. The clothing should be new. We will probably be putting together more backpacks for school-aged children and will need: #2 pencils, large erasers, glue sticks, colored pencils and crayons. No scissors or rulers, please! Boxes with donated goods can be mailed to the address above.

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.

*Summer 2021 border updates

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.