After [the astrologers] had left, the angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream of Joseph with the command: “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you otherwise.”Matthew 2:13
Joseph was given the task of keeping his young family safe. How many men and women today feel the same urgency because of the dangers that force them to flee: gang violence and extortions, grinding poverty without the possibility of employment, ecological destruction of their homes and livelihood? Like the Holy Family, fathers and mothers today choose the dangers of flight over the danger of fighting a reality that is impossible to overcome.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are committed to reach out to the dear neighbor—our brothers and sisters who leave untenable situations in search of a safer life, a life of dignity. The words of Dr. Jacqui Lewis capture how we sisters see the immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, the people who arrive at our borders by plane, car, boat, bus, train, on-foot:
Love crosses borders and boundaries; it makes new cultural rules; it cares for the stranger. Love turns strangers into friends. Fierce love is rule-breaking, border-crossing, ferocious, and extravagant kindness that increases our tribe. . . . In any relationship, fierce love causes us to cross boundaries and borders to discover one another, to support one another, to heal one another. When we do this, when we go crazy with affection, and offer wild kindness to our neighbor across the street or across the globe, we make a new kind of space between us. We make space for discovery and curiosity, for learning and growing. We make space for sharing stories and being changed by what we share. This is the space of the border . . . of both/and. . . . We can learn to see the world not only through our own stories, through our own eyes, but also through the stories and worldview of the so-called other. . . . We simply must open our eyes, look across the room, the street, the division, the border—and reach out to that neighbor, offering our hand, our compassion, and our heart.
In our new blog series “Our Border Brothers and Sisters,” we would like to present the stories that our sisters and associates who have had border experiences would like to share. We are grateful to them for their generosity. It is our hope that these stories will open us to seeing and understanding our brothers and sisters in greater depth because, as Colum McCann once said: “You can’t hate someone when you know their story.”
Our first border story is below.
Her Eyes Tell the Story
When I was a volunteer at Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas in May of 2021, I had the privilege of serving refugees seeking asylum in the United States. The refugees came mainly from Central and South America. Each person, each family, had their own story, but there were common threads such as grinding poverty, loss of income, fear of violence from gangs and oppressive governments. In spite of all these terrible things and the strenuousness of the journey, so many families maintained a hopeful joy. I could see the spark in their eyes.
However, as I look back on my experience in El Paso, it is a young woman from Haiti that immediately comes to my mind. There was no spark of hope in her eyes. I could only see a blank look that conveyed a sense of desperation. I could never get her name. She spoke only Creole and could only converse with a few other young women also from Haiti. These young women were animated and often laughed as they tried to communicate. But she was different. Her erratic actions and demeanor reflected anger, hurt and defeat. She never joined in the laughter.
When I returned home from El Paso, I learned more about the conditions in Haiti. I also learned that many Haitians had traveled for years, roaming from one South American city to another looking for work. Some Haitian families and individuals were resilient and had the strength to continue with hope. But for some, like this woman, the journey is stealing their soul. Who knows what abuse they have suffered.
I pray for this woman each day and place her in the protection of God’s mercy. She symbolizes for me the injustice in our world and all that is wrong with our country’s immigration policies and practices. Will there ever be home and hope for her? I cannot, I will not forget her.