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 echo their call for an end to antisemitism.
The U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph joins with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and countless groups and individuals across the country and in Pittsburgh to condemn the slaughter of our brothers and sisters at Tree of Life Congregation in the community of Squirrel Hill. ¶ Our hearts are heavy and our souls are pained at the intrusion of anti-Semitism and violence in God’s sacred space. We join with LCWR and Catholic sisters across the nation to extend our sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives. We will mourn with you. We will pray with you. We will walk with you in the spirit of God’s love. ¶ We recognize that shootings at synagogues and schools, churches and mosques, in our homes and on our streets have become all too common. The current political climate and growing polarization of our communities feed hate and spawn violence.
As part of the U.S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph, we echo their call to action during this election season.
As mid-term elections draw near, one thing Americans can agree on is that we are a deeply divided country. Frustration, bewilderment, and distrust abounds and manifests in everything from cynical resignation to turning on one another. Madeline Albright once described the experiment of democracy as paradoxical: equally characterized by fragility and resilience. These challenging times have exposed the delicate nature of our body politic, and will test our nation’s spirit of resilience as never before. ¶ As a nation, political vitriol, vastly compounded by the echo-chambers and bad behavior of social media, threaten the very institutions on which we’re founded. The news cycle is dizzying — making the upcoming election feel like we are nearing a panicky crescendo. In some ways it seems like the most consequential midterm election in American history—and those paying attention, regardless of political affiliation, are full of anxiety about its outcome and implications. But those who strive to keep the faith count on the hope that it is never too late for real, meaningful change that can lead us into a positive future.
As part of the U.S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph, we call the U.S. federal government to protect immigrants. The Federation released the following statement today.
We, the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, join with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in strongly opposing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s proposed changes to the public charge regulation. We view such changes as yet another attempt by the Trump administration to restrict immigration and punish immigrant families, to force parents to make impossible choices between the well-being of their families and the prospect of future citizenship.
¶ The rule changes would dramatically increase the barriers to lawful status for low-income immigrants and their families. It could dissuade parents from obtaining benefits for which their children qualify out of fear that they may not be able to regularize their immigration status in the future. Lack of access to public-benefits programs will increase poverty, hunger, homelessness, and disease, as well as decrease children’s school attendance and general well-being.
¶ This stark attempt to target the most vulnerable within the immigrant community violates the tenets of our faith and threatens the values of our nation. We are called by our faith to welcome the stranger and care for the most vulnerable and we are challenged by our national values to promote the welfare of our children and tend to the common good. If we want our communities to thrive, all families in those communities must have access to the care and services they need — and to which they are entitled as human beings. The Trump administration’s proposed changes to the public charge regulation threaten all of us.
¶ As Sisters of St. Joseph, committed by our heritage to embrace the Gospel message of unity and reconciliation, we urge people of faith to call for the protection of immigrants, especially those who are most vulnerable, and to register their objections to this unreasonable and mean-spirited proposal during the 60-day comment period.
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.