On Friday, Jan. 10, Patricia Chargot, of Ann Arbor, Mich., celebrated her commitment as an IHM Associate. The ceremony took place in the IHM Sisters’ Motherhouse Chapel. Dorothy Diederichs, IHM, served as her vowed companion on the journey of preparation to become an IHM Associate. Pat earned her bachelor’s degree from Marygrove College. She volunteers in the kitchen of the Robert J. Delonis Center, Ann Arbor’s homeless shelter, and at the winter warm-up center at St. Mary Student Parish. She is a water monitor for the Huron River Watershed Council and writes for the Friends of the Detroit River newsletter and recently became involved with A2 Zero, Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan to achieve citywide carbon-neutrality by 2030. Pat is a freelance writer and a retired reporter for the Detroit Free Press; she also worked for the China Daily, in Beijing, and the Inter’l Herald Tribune, in Paris. She attends St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor.
While maintaining their own lifestyles, IHM Associates choose to covenant with the Monroe IHM Sisters for a specific and renewable period of time, focusing on prayer, community and ministry.
Reflection from the border
Since the summer of 2018, there has been an increase in the number of refugees arriving at the southern border fleeing violence and extreme poverty in Central America and Mexico. In November, the IHM Leadership Council issued a statement calling for humane treatment of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers arriving at the southern border. Around this time, Annunciation House put out a call for volunteers to help provide hospitality to refugees arriving in El Paso, Texas. Many women’s religious communities have answered this call; eight IHM Sisters, Associates and friends of the community responded, providing temporary housing, meals, transportation and care packages to refugee families who have been released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and will be leaving El Paso to be reunited with family or friends already living in other parts of the United States.
Here is IHM Associate Vicki Koivu-Rybiki’s reflection on her two-week experience.
It was quiet when we arrived at 7 a.m. I wondered how we would be received since volunteers rotate so frequently. What might give the best comfort and least intrusion in these asylum seekers’ fragile lives? The five of us busied ourselves doing any jobs that would make the breakfast welcoming. Gradually, a few at a time came into the large room: a mother with her young child, a young adult male with a teen or two, a teenager who appear to be traveling alone. The 80 who
came to breakfast were satisfied with the corn flakes and milk, oranges and coffee. A few enjoyed cookies left from last night’s dinner.
I used a soft puppet turtle with large friendly eyes to encourage the young children
to eat. Mothers laughed and began to have conversations using Mr. Turtle with their children. Then, the child was less afraid and used the puppet to respond. Soon there were friendly conversations among the mothers and others at the table. Even the young men at another table laughed at the silly turtle. Later, those same young men were happy to take over our assembly room clean up. They were so proud to be included in our adult responsibilities.
I asked many of the asylum seekers where they were going. What interested them most was how long they must travel. In most cases, it was over a thousand miles and two to three days into the interior of the U.S. Most are traveling from Honduras and Guatemala.
I used my phone as a conversational translator and it worked well. Both of us could alternate speaking and the translation was oral. Interestingly, no one asked about the phone. They are focused on their goal: to find and know their new “home.”
Our facility is an old hotel, but it provides at least a semi private room with a real bed, bathroom, toiletries and heat. One gentleman’s first remark to me was, “It is cold here at midnight.” I asked where he was last night and found that he and his young four-year-old had been on the street for three nights. His son was wearing a large padded vest. The dad’s jacket was small and thin. The dad was excited that we had a jacket for his son. The jacket was very small. I asked that the child try it on because we had other sizes. When he removed the padded vest, there stood a tiny frame of a child and a grateful smiling dad who didn’t want to lose his place in line for a warm room.
Tomorrow is a huge holiday and holy day for Latinos; it is Epiphany; it is their Christmas! Everyone prepares special celebrations and food. Families and communities come together. Yet, our asylum-seekers gather with a different festive spirit, they are over the U.S. border and temporarily safe: hoping, anxiously waiting, traveling into unknown tomorrows.
My “epiphany of experience” is unfolding as I celebrate the new life of others – people with courage and patience to risk life for love of family.
While maintaining their own lifestyles, IHM Associates choose to covenant with the Monroe IHM Sisters for a specific and renewable period of time, focusing especially on prayer, community and ministry.