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By Sr. Gabriela Ruiz CBS
Bon Secours is at the border, those were the words from Sister Dorothy when I sent her a text sharing the help being provided to our immigrant brothers and sisters. If we focus in the meaning of Bon Secours, good help, it is what we want to leave in the minds and hearts of all the Central American cultures that have fled to escape violence and poverty conditions.
From one perspective, I felt very fortunate that my native language is Spanish because I was able to help and communicate directly with them from 7am to 7pm; to be at the border during Holy Week and Easter was a privilege like no other. Each story told of their trajectory through the towns and deserts, holding their babies in arms, mistreated by the guides and coyotes arriving with nothing but a dry mouth, wounds on their feet, unable to sleep and hungry. Many had not taken a shower for weeks; it was as they were living the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ through the inhumane treatment they endured through the miles traveled. I confess that the pain and heartache got the best of me and part of me wanted to cry. But time was of the essence and I was there to serve, help and give them hope.
I would welcome newcomers twice a day once they left the immigration buses and I would tell them, you are safe, you made it. They would smile and hug me as if I was their families. The following day, it was great to see them rested and clean. Some were ready to travel further in the country to see their loved ones; I’m sure it felt like the Resurrection. I was there for two weeks and I lost track of time. I had time to pray with them before they traveled by bus or plane; was able to explain directions to their flights or bus stations and gladly shared some survival tips. They enjoyed and appreciated the advice and made promises. For example, I would tell them not to forget their faith and to find a Christian community, to pray, to keep unity in their families, be good citizens and be grateful to the country that welcomes them. Each group left rejoiced, grateful and gave us loving hugs. This was an experience to be servants and to say mission accomplished and wait for the next group to come.
I want to say that personally I am very vulnerable when it comes to children, pregnant women and the elderly. I feel much compassion for this population that is most vulnerable. I can’t thank God enough for this opportunity to have been a volunteer at the border and hope to come back again in the future; our mission of Bon Secours: compassion, healing and liberation were truly present for our immigrant brothers and sisters.
This summarizes my experience of service in the border of El Paso, Texas. There were 15 shelters, hotels, each day 80 to 100 immigrants arrived. They were families, single mothers, single fathers, pregnant women. I want to encourage for all of us to pray daily for them, for our immigrant brothers and sisters that left everything behind. May their lives be full of hope and may they be able to reach their dream: THE AMERICAN DREAM.
Every single day, we are faced with choices – many of them difficult. We want you to know you are not alone and want to share a quick video with you about how Bon Secours will stand with you when you are faced with those important decisions. Check back next week for another video inspiration!
We are here to bring God’s healing, compassion, and liberation to people in need. Does that sound like a part of your most authentic self? If it does, connect with us. Next week we will be back with another video about Making Difficult Choices.
Sr. Rosa Cristina Sanchez Chigne recently returned from volunteering at the Texas/Mexico border with other Catholic sisters. She wrote about the experience of helping immigrant families who would arrive at the border after walking for up to three months – many of them with only the clothes they were wearing. Sr. Rosa says the ministry of our Catholic Church was alive and well through these difficult moments.
Volunteer Work in El Paso | Sister Rosa Cristina Sanchez Chigne
I was fortunate to be chosen as one of the volunteers to help the immigrant families in El Paso, Texas. These families traveled in caravans and included people from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador and Brazil.
In my conversations with these families, I found that many of them come to the border walking. Many walk for 20 days or more. Some help them by offering rides for short distances so they don’t have to walk so much. These are families that travel with small children and teenagers. They flee their countries due to the violence and killings, as well as a way to provide a better future for their families.
I was there to support the Quinta Inn area. Every day, I worked with three Mercy Health Sisters. After greeting families and welcoming them, we would feed them and register their information into the system. Families provided us with names and phone numbers of their friends and or family members in the States for us to call. Once we communicated with them, they arranged to buy plane or bus tickets to have the immigrant families join them.
The sisters and I would help a lot of people on a daily basis. An average of 800 or so would come in. These people were sent to different areas where the volunteers were. In the area where I was, the sisters and I would see around 115 people. We were in charge of giving these families keys to rooms where they could stay, provide them with clothing since most of them only had the clothes they had on because immigration officers took all their clothes. A majority of them were very sick with the flu, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, etc. I was grateful to have medications for these families and us. There was a doctor onsite as well to assist people that were sick. The work was non-stop, working 7 days a week because the immigrant families would come in every day. The average of immigrants coming into the US on a weekly basis was 3,000 people.
My heart ached for the small children who are separated from their mothers. They not only suffer but undergo a traumatic experience and something they will carry for the rest of their lives. It was comforting to see how these families became so happy to arrive to our areas and find welcoming hands and hearts that wanted to help them by providing food, clothing and a place to lay down and rest. The words “whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do unto me”; resonated within me when I was taking care of these families. The ministry of our Catholic Church was alive and well through these difficult moments.
There were living arrangements in the local convent for all volunteers during our 2-week stay. It was great to see Franciscan and Dominican sisters from Mercy and Notre Dame. The sisters from Loreto were in charge of the following areas: Nazaret, Centro Juan Diego, La Quinta Inn, Casa Vida, St. Ignacio, San Alvino Catholic Church, Calvary-Methodist Church and Seminary Roger Bacon. These were the places where volunteers were able to stay.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to join my fellow Sisters in this most amazing experience. It was a chance to live our mission and “be good help to those in need.”
As we continue in the Easter Season, we want to bring you a little extra inspiration, and another invitation to connect with Bon Secours, so we have posted another short video for you to enjoy. One of the greatest gifts Jesus’ resurrection brings to us is the gift of belonging and at Bon Secours we take belonging seriously. We also invite you to check back next week for another video boost of inspiration on being your “Authentic Self.”
The Pathway to Peace at the Sisters of Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center is officially open! Sr. Rosie was part of the ribbon cutting ceremony and urged everyone to walk the path to peace either in person along our path or in their own hearts. This pathway was installed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Center, and there are commemorative bricks all along the way to our Peace Garden. If you’re interested in purchasing a brick in honor of a loved one, go to https://rccbonsecours.com/pathway-to-peace/
During this holiest of weeks, we want to bring you a little extra inspiration, and a little extra invitation to connect with Bon Secours. We hope this short reflective video will be just the boost you need. We also invite you to check back next week for another video boost of inspiration on “Belonging.”
“Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world. The very first words, then, that I would like to say to every young Christian are these: Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive!” – Pope Francis
Those are the first words of Pope Francis’ post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation released today. It’s essentially a letter from Pope Francis to the young people of the world and those who care about them.
Quoting directly from the document: “The Lord “gave up his spirit” (cf. Mt 27:50) on a cross when he was little more than thirty years of age (cf. Lk 3:23). It is important to realize that Jesus was a young person. He gave his life when he was, in today’s terms, a young adult.”
“Let us ask the Lord to free the Church from those who would make her grow old, encase her in the past, hold her back or keep her at a standstill.” (more…)
Some of our Sisters marked World Day for Consecrated Life by celebrating with the Baltimore diocese at a special mass and dinner. Here you see Sr. Jenn and Candidate Ji Choi, along with Srs. Mary and Nathalie at St. Agnes Church. They had a fun time hanging out together and seeing friends from other religious communities that they don’t get to see very often.