Associate Highlights

Celebrating our newest IHM Associates!

On Friday, Feb. 15, Barbara Jennings, of Monroe, Mich., celebrated her commitment as an IHM Associate with the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM).  On Sunday, Feb. 17, Bernadette Costello, of Monroe, celebrated her commitment.

Both associate ceremonies took place in the IHM Motherhouse Chapel. Donna Schroeder, IHM, served as Barbara’s vowed companion on the journey of preparation to become an IHM Associate. Bernadette’s companion was James Marian Sarchet, IHM.

Barbara is a graduate of St. Mary Academy. She ministered at St. Mary Preschool, St. Joseph Preschool and Elementary School, both in Monroe; the St. Joseph Youth Group; with those who experienced domestic violence; and at a parent aid program. She currently volunteers in Monroe – at Paula’s House, Oaks of Righteousness and with the IHM Sisters.

Bernadette attended Oakland University and is retired from the field of research and development. She currently ministers as a volunteer in the IHM Motherhouse Library and sings in the IHM choir.

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.