by S. Andrea Koverman, S.C., S. Romina Sapinoso, S.C., Sandra Ramirez
This temporary shelter sits in the area of central El Paso overlooking the international
|Dr. Veronica Rayas hanging out with SCs Romina Sapinoso, |
Carol Wirtz, Janet Gildea and Andrea Koverman back in 2013
Veronica, her sister Ana and a group of volunteers have been welcoming and serving warm meals to hundreds of asylum seekers released from ICE detention since the center opened its doors to them in late October of this year. Veronica often talks about how she never expected the way God has steered the center in the direction of becoming a house of welcome to immigrant fathers, mothers and their children. But her sense of awe and amazement at being blessed to have a place such as this to welcome them is palpable. It is also no coincidence that the center is connected to a parish just across the street whose parishioners allow their space to be used as an extension for the overflow of people. How appropriate as it is an opportunity to welcome the Holy Family in our midst today.
"Hola buenas tardes," said each person I ran into at the shelter. As I entered the office I see four to
I walked by again and this time I stumble upon a little girl holding on to a rosary and kneeling in front of the cross. The girl was about five or six. She had two pigtails and a cute red summer dress. As I saw her it reminded me of the verse Matthew 18:2-4: “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said:“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
I walk by one last time and see a dad and his son. They both were kneeling in front of the cross. I got a little closer and realized they were praying in mum. They whispered quietly and then it hit me that I understood one phrase they were saying. The dad kept saying, “Thank you God, Thank you.” I
My admiration for these people can’t be described in words. Their willingness to continue their relationship with God. I pray that they find peace and acceptance in this country because like God says in Mark 9:37: "Anyone who welcomes a little child welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me."
I can relate to the various expressions I saw on the three busloads of refugees and migrants as the deboarded upon arrival at a shelter in El Paso. Some faces showed fear and anxiety, while others relief, joy and hopefulness. I, too have just arrived at the border, not knowing quite what my change in ministry and location will mean, and am a jumble of all of these emotions as well.
But there is something very very different when comparing my situation to those arriving from detention centers. Unlike them, my decision to migrate was not a result of abject poverty, a lethal lack of basic necessities for sustaining my very existence or that of those depending upon me for theirs. It was not a result of death threats or because I had witnessed family members and friends murdered or disappeared, never to be seen again. It was not because I was being hunted down or extorted for refusing to cooperate with gangs and organized crime. It was not because I was left unprotected and neglected by my government and social programs. I freely chose to migrate, they did not.
Part of my reason for returning to live at the border was the opportunity to encounter and be in relationship with people who have been marginalized by their refugee or migrant status and economic injustice. I hope to be of service in some way, shape or form and was happily reminded the other night from a line in the movie, A Christmas Carol, that “no life is useless that lifts the heart of another.” But more than coming to see how I can be helpful, I came for the ways these people are helpful to me.
I was rewarded immediately during the first night I volunteered to greet and assist newly released
I was given an early Christmas present of remembering who I am and what I am to be about. I am a beloved child of God no less and no more loved by God than any other. And I am to be about reflecting God’s unconditional, immeasurable, incomprehensible love that I have come to know with those who need to have that same experience the very most.