God granted me a 24-hour trip to San Diego and Tijuana on December 4. I was met on the San Diego side of the border by Amanda and Carly of American Refugee Committee from Minnesota. They were on “assignment” to find religious sisters working with the Caravan and refugees in Tijuana. With them, I was able to visit both Casa de los Pobres, run by Sister Armida and Instituto Madre Asunta, run by Sister Adelia. Their ministries were similar to what we would know as St. Joseph Center and Alexandria House in Los Angeles; both are inspiring women on a MISSION of service with hungry and lost adults and children in the border town of Tijuana. Because of the upsurge in refugees since the arrival of the Caravan, Sister Adelia has noticed that the “light in the women’s eyes has gone out,” for those at her shelter. Once hopeful to seek asylum, they now wait for their ICE number to come up with fear and trembling. One had #1326 and another #1531.
Later in the day, we visited the new site of the 5,000 people in the Caravan, 11 miles east of downtown Tijuana. It’s a stadium-type area with a covered space for the families. Others, mostly young men, had camping tents scattered all over the concrete public area. As three white women, we entered the area freely, talked with adults and played with children. We met 21-year-old Nelson, who wants to come to the USA, as do all. He was raised Catholic. He shared how monjas/nuns accompanied them all through Guatemala, sharing that they did so in case anyone fell along the wayside. “No one should die alone,” said the nuns.
Some international service agencies appeared to be available under tents, like the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, World Vision, Red Cross, and UNICEF, but the lines were more prominent as cars drove up offering blankets or clothes. There was a hot food distribution area with a very long line. We left around 5 pm as the clouds were coming in for the night storm. Where is hope in a foreign land when returning home means death? Their hope lies in God, who will not abandon them. We heard that over and over.
The next morning we met at a San Diego shelter, former retreat center, with 100+ cots in the gym area. The San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP), part of the PICO National Network, runs this new emergency shelter where 30 to 50 people arrive each day from a bus sent by ICE. Soon they will run out of room, but their “command central” is key! It is a room filled with computers and transportation volunteers helping each arrival get to their designated U.S. location for their immigration or asylum court hearing. In the meantime, they need to be fed and cared for. Volunteers are needed for everything, including driving to bus station or airport. Spanish speakers inquire within!!!
Our St. Joseph Workers are going this weekend to do “all that woman is capable” and Sister Patrice Coolick is planning on a month-long stay over the holidays where her nursing and bilingual abilities will be invaluable! My admiration for San Diego Organizing Project went way up when I learned that our Sister Maureen Evelyn Brown is its Co-Chairperson. We are everywhere!
May people of faith and hope respond to this emergency with full hearts!
As part of the U.S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph, we oppose Trump Administration’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule. The Federation released the following statement last week.
We, the U. S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, compelled by the Gospel and by our heritage to be responsive to the “dear neighbor” without distinction, are concerned for all of God’s creation and our sisters and brothers everywhere. ¶We stand with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in our deep concern about the release of the Trump Administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule. The proposed rule would significantly weaken the Clean Power Plan (CPP) which sought to speed the closure of coal-burning plants and the conversion to clean energy in order to reduce carbon pollution, mitigate climate change, and protect the health and welfare of all people, especially the most vulnerable.
by Sister Ida Robertine Berresheim
It was arduous work. I was just too tired. It was out of the question. To do one more grant proposal in addition to all I had already done as a board member in attempting to assist Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, would be more than I could undertake.
But stories of actions at the U.S.-Mexico border continued to worsen. Families had had to face the uncertainty of abandoning their homes in Central America and some departments of Mexico because of extortion and terrible threats of kidnapping, murder, and disappearances. They hoped to find safe haven in the United States. But within the excruciating trek, came their terrible treatment at the border. Now came the intolerable, horrible, wrenching imprisonment of parents together with separation from their children. God’s call was very clear: “Your fatigue is nothing, Ida, compared to the suffering that calls. Get busy.”
Two messages came: one from our congregation’s Sister Danielle Bonetti and one from my longtime friend, a Daughter of Charity team member. The Conrad Hilton Fund for Sisters was offering an emergency grant to help alleviate the suffering, especially of parents and children. So it was that I began the process, knowing that Director Ruben Garcia and many Annunciation House volunteers were working extremely hard, struggling with the chaotic fallout from President Trump’s Operation Hold the Line.
As the deadline approached for submitting the proposal, I felt that my entire effort might be for naught as a serious setback seemed to place my efforts in jeopardy. I met only with the greatest kindness, however, from Fund staff members who were extremely caring as they acknowledged that the setback was on their end.
Then late in the day on Wednesday, July 25, came the email announcement of a six-month grant of $50,000 from the Conrad Hilton Fund for Sisters to be used for Annunciation House during the next six months. The purpose of the gift was clearly stated: All aid necessary for the reunification of parents and children, especially physical, legal, and transportation aid. After filling out the acceptance form online and receiving the affirmation that it had been successfully submitted, I received notice that the check would be awarded within a week. Many families will find hope because our congregation could be the recipient of such a gift thanks to many who have helped to make it a reality.
“After bidding adieu to our good Sisters in Carondelet, we started on our long and perilous journey to Arizona.” (Sister Monica Corrigan, Trek of the Seven Sisters)
by Jeanne Marie Gocha, CSJ
In some ways, there are a lot of similarities between the journey of Monica Corrigan and her six companions to Tucson, Arizona and the journey Sisters Carol Brong, Chizuru Yamada and I began on March 27th of this year. Both required a spirit of adventure, complete trust in God’s providential graces, the support of our Sisters and a reliance on the goodness of those we journey with to begin a new mission within the congregation.
Though Carol and I prepared for months to welcome Chizuru Yamada into the newly formed Congregational Novitiate here in Porter Ranch, California, it all became real when Sister Miriam Ukeritis, in the name of the Congregation, accepted Chizuru Yamada’s request to enter into the next step of her discernment journey to become a Sister of St Joseph of Carondelet. The candidate became a novice whom we now call “Sister.”
After celebrating the Triduum and great feast of Easter, our first “field trip” took place as we set out on a “half Trek,” echoing the trek of seven Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet to begin a mission in Tuscon in 1870. We drove out to Phoenix to celebrate with Sister Adele O’Sullivan and other Sisters in the annual Circle the City Tea. Then we took some time to see for ourselves the wonderful ministries that Circle the City supports to serve the homeless population of Phoenix.
Sister Mary Murphy, the aficionado of the history of our first sisters in the West, joined us to begin a “mini-Trek” through the deserts between Phoenix and Tucson to visit the holy places where our early Sisters first ministered back in the 1870s, some of which continue today. We rested at Picacho Peak, felt the presence of our early Sisters as we prayed in the chapels of St. John’s in Komatke and San Xavier del Bac, and experienced first-hand how our charism continues to be lived in the staff and patients at St Mary’s Hospital in Tucson. Our journey was sweetened by the gracious hospitality of our Sisters in Tucson: Marge Foppe, Michelle Humke, Irma Odabashian, and Barbara Sullivan. A wonderful mixture of past history and present realities all lived for the sake of the Mission!
Returning home, novitiate life began to find its rhythm of prayer, classes, community life, and personal reflection. Sister Darlene Kawulok offered Chizuru insightful classes on Vatican II and its documents. Sister Ingrid Honore-Lallande shared her expertise on Ignatian Spirituality and Discernment. We are in the midst of weekly classes with Sister Anne Hennessey, CSJ from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange on Fr. Jean Pierre Medaille and our first Sisters in France in the 1600s.
We grow in relationships with those who come share a meal and insights too. The Northridge Caritas community of Associates meet at Caritas for their monthly gatherings. A Readers Circle of Sisters meets monthly for a meal and sharing highlights of their latest spiritual reading. There is also a Friday night gathering once a month of Sisters who come for dinner and theological reflection.
Sally Koch, a candidate here in Los Angeles, will join us in July as a novice. Both novices will be heading out to Rochester to participate in the Federation Novitiate beginning in August. Though you all can’t come to visit, share a meal, or teach a class, we certainly need and rely on your prayer-filled support. We promise you our prayer-filled support in return and will keep you updated on our journey.
“Now that we are settled in our new home, we trust our good Sisters will continue to pray for us, recommending the success of our mission… to our dear Lord, to the end that we may labor earnestly to promote His greater glory, and have this, alone, in view, in all our undertakings.” (Sister Monica Corrigan, Trek of the Seven Sisters)
Sisters Carol Brong and Chizuru Yamada prepare for their journey creating a timeline of events of our early sisters. and missions.
Off we go! Sisters Jeanne Marie Gocha, Carol Brong and Chizuru Yamada begin their “half trek” to Arizona.
Sisters Mary Murphy, Carol Brong, and Chizuru Yamada at St. John’s Mission in Komatke, Arizona.
Sister Adele O’Sullivan tells stories of patients who have received care at the Medical Respite Center for those experiencing homelessness in Phoenix.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet affirmed our commitment to nonviolence and called for an end to gun violence in the United States of America back in August of 2016. Once again with the tragic Parkland, Florida school shooting on Ash Wednesday/Valentine’s Day; we, as a congregation of 1,036 vowed women religious, reaffirm our commitment to nonviolence and pray for those impacted by the violence that continues to leave in its wake too many hearts and spirits broken by indescribable suffering. Far too many families are affected by violence in the homes, schools, and streets of our beloved nation.
Violence seems to be the new norm in the nation and the world. It is a public health and moral crisis that is destroying the lives, dignity, and hopes of millions of people in our country. Our intention as a people of faith is to recommit ourselves to develop and grow in our capacities for nonviolence, our capacities to love our dear neighbor without distinction, and to be a prophetic sign of unity and compassion in our world.
We are committed to a comprehensive approach to gun violence prevention that focuses on prevention of all forms of homicide, suicide, and unintentional shootings. We call upon Congress and state and local officials to enact gun laws that include making assault weapons illegal, ensuring comprehensive background checks on those purchasing guns at tradeshows, online, and in stores.
We turn to the God of mercy and peace, the God who wipes away every tear, to give us the strength to be instruments and forces of change, to be messengers of unity and reconciliation.
“Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.” (Speech to U.S. Congress on September 24, 2015)
Additionally, we, as a congregation, have signed on to a letter from the Campaign Against Assault Weapons