The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet have made a special congregation-wide commitment to welcoming the Dear Neighbor in the persons of immigrants and migrants. A number of sisters are engaged in ministry at the U.S.-Mexico border, including Sister Doreen Glynn.
by Doreen Glynn, CSJ
It was Dec. 24th at Loretto-Nazareth shelter in El Paso, Texas. All afternoon Petrona, an indigenous woman from rural Guatemala, sat patiently in the corridor outside the busy office. She was waiting to learn something about the money gram her relative in the U.S. said he would send. She was scheduled to travel to Ohio the next day by Greyhound bus and this would help buy food for herself and her young son during the many hours they would be en route.
When things in the office settled down a bit, we found the form the volunteer had filled out earlier after speaking to the relative. We now had the required confirmation number, the dollar amount, and the password needed to receive the money. It was late afternoon and soon to be dark when Petrona and I left to walk the mile or so to the money gram office to get the money.
The beautiful full yellow moon was just rising as we hurried to Montana St. Carefully we made our way across the busy four-lane highway filled with heavy Christmas Eve traffic. It was dark by the time we entered the building and took our place in the line. When it was her turn, Petrona handed over the needed information and the picture ID that Border Patrol had prepared for her. The clerk scrutinized both the papers and Petrona with much suspicion. She then called her supervisor who did the same thing, and he called his supervisor. Finally they told us this office did not accept immigration identification papers. To get her money Petrona needed a passport or a driver’s license. My pleading with them did no good, and we left to try an office down the street that the last supervisor said might have another policy.
We hurried there only to find that the office had closed at 5pm as it was Christmas Eve. Arm in arm Petrona, carefully clutching her identification papers with her scheduled January Immigration court date, and I hurried back to the shelter.
There the wonderful El Paso volunteers had prepared a delicious Christmas dinner for the guests complete with large cupcakes with mounds of red and green frosting on them for dessert. After dinner each child chose a gift from under the tree, and each adult received a new warm fleece blanket. By 9pm all of the guests were bedded down, no doubt looking forward to finally being reunited with a relative in the United States.
Petrona’s bus was to leave at 12:20pm on Christmas Day. When the driver arrived to take her to the bus station, the shelter would give her a care package with some simple treats for the bus ride. Hopefully they would last her for the long bus ride to Ohio. Hopefully, too, her relative could retrieve the $50 Petrona was not able to collect here in this land of opportunity.
This Christmas Eve I took part in a real posada experience with this young mother. Like Mary and Joseph, who in the strange town of Bethlehem knocked on doors looking for a welcome and being refused, Petrona, too, was turned away. May she be safe for a while in Ohio where hopefully she received a warm welcome from her relative. I pray that she might remember not the denial at the money gram place but the generosity and kindness she received at the Loretto-Nazareth shelter in El Paso.
This story was originally printed in the January 2016 issue of Carondelet East, published by our Albany province.