Ministry at the Border

Border Logo-2022

Pictured below are the core group of sisters who have establishd a community in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. This creation of an inter-congregational community is a concrete expression of our charism.

In McAllen, Texas and in Reynosa, Mexico, the sisters can engage in direct service to asylum seekers who need temporary respite and help contacting their sponsors in the US.

Anderson, Mary Elaine
Sr. Mary Elaine Anderson
Scranton IHM
Sr. Elvia Mata Ortega
Scranton IHM
Kuhn_Sister M. Rose Patrice
Sr. Rose Patrice Kuhn
Immaculata IHM
Carmen Armenta LaraSr. Carmen Armenta Lara
Monroe IHM


Updates from the OSP-IHM Border Community 

February 2024

Recent news reports about the US-Mexico border and the increase of migrants crossing the border may have some of you wondering about our commitment to welcome asylum seekers to the US. A few might be asking if our ministry at the border is legal and if we are serving “illegal” immigrants. Carmen, Elvia, Rose, and I would like to reassure you that our ministry is not only legal but a necessary and loving humanitarian response to the plight of migrants fleeing violence, oppression, unemployment, and hunger in their countries of origin.

You also probably have read or heard that US border towns are overrun with migrants wandering the streets. In McAllen, Texas, that is not true, mostly due to the work of staff and volunteers at the Humanitarian Respite Center (HRC), which is sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Brownsville. Migrants at HRC, where we volunteer four or more days a week, have either crossed the border with the CBP One App, which allows them to request an interview with immigration at a port of entry and start the asylum process, or they have handed themselves over to Immigration on the bridge or US soil with the purpose of requesting asylum. All migrants at HRC have documents from Immigration and a date to attend immigration court in a city near to where their sponsors live.

In Reynosa, Mexico, we join with Franciscan and Mercy sisters and Jesuit priests to minister to migrant families living in the Casa del Migrante, a shelter sponsored by the Daughters of Charity. We encourage the migrants waiting to cross the border to use the CBP One App, even though it may take months to get an interview with Immigration at the Hidalgo Bridge. The families at the Casa del Migrante have food, shelter, and access to physical and mental healthcare. Although about 80% of them were assaulted and/or kidnapped in Reynosa or during their journey to the border, they are safe within the walls of the Casa del Migrante. A longer stay at the Casa del Migrante means that there is time to create community among migrant families, give spiritual and emotional support to adults, and teach children through art and games basic skills that they will need when they finally are able to attend school.

In contrast, Senda de Vida 2 is an encampment that at times has held almost 3,000 migrants. There is not enough food to feed everyone there, so we have used some of our donations to help address the food scarcity. When we visit migrants in Senda 2, we bring a listening ear and a loving heart. Many migrants in Senda 2, as well as those living on the streets of Reynosa, lose hope that they will ever receive an appointment with Immigration using the CBP One App. The fear of being kidnapped, robbed, or physically harmed while waiting impels them to hand themselves over to Immigration.

So… what is happening in terms of numbers of migrants crossing the border? We can only share with you what we have seen. Like many of you, we too wonder what is behind the increase or decrease of migrants crossing the border at any given time of the year. We have been here long enough to know that the population of migrants fluctuates, not unlike that of global migration.

Throughout November and December, there was a surge of migrants crossing the southern border. Since about January 8 that number has decreased, and there are fewer migrants arriving daily at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen. When we asked HRC personnel and others who are knowledgeable of immigration policies why there was an increase followed by a decrease in migrants crossing the border, we were given these possible reasons:

• There was an increase in migrants crossing at the end of 2023 because there was a concern about possible US policy changes in the new year.

• Cold weather impacts migration, and fewer people cross the border.

• After US and Mexican officials met on December 27 to discuss the large number of migrants crossing into the US, Mexico has placed more restrictions on migrants who can cross the bridge and hand themselves into US Immigration.

The fluctuation in numbers has not affected our commitment to asylum seekers. In the name of all IHMs and Oblate Sisters of Providence, we continue to accompany our brothers and sisters waiting in Reynosa, and we also welcome migrants who arrive in McAllen. It was precisely because we desired to serve migrants on both sides of the border that our congregations chose to establish a mission in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. We thank you for your prayerful and loving support. You inspire us to be a presence of God’s unconditional love at the border.

ME Anderson _ Dec 2023 Border

Sister Mary Elaine Anderson and
child from Haiti create a picture of
the three kings.

January 2024

Celebrating the Feast of of Our Lady of Guadalupe:

OLG - Elvia playing guitar
Sister Elvia Mata Ortega animates singing to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe.

OLG Procession
Sister Mary Elaine Anderson and children at the Humanitarian Respite Center prepare for a procession on the Feast of of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

December 2023

The Overflowing Migratory River by Elvia Yolanda Mata, IHM 

Migrant families in line to receive food

There is a lot of talk about migration. There are thousands of articles and publications on the subject, and it seems that everyone has their own opinion on the matter. But we have forgotten to ask the people who migrate what they feel about this reality that they live in their flesh. Undoubtedly,some have been interviewed by the media and surveyed by researchers. While this information collected can be valuable in informing the public and providing statistics on the issue, it fails to fully address the depth of trauma, pain, injustice, and desperation they endure.

The reality is that their situation is far more complex than it appears. I am not intending to disqualify the hard work that individuals and local and international organizations are doing to help alleviate this humanitarian crisis, but my point is: if there are so many people, groups, and organizations working on this, why is this migration phenomenon still so overwhelming? What are we doing wrong that we are not able to respond to the demands of this ongoing crisis? What pieces are we losing sight of that prevent us from channeling this overflowing migratory river?

Indeed, migration is global, but it is well known that certain countries are seen as destination countries because they apparently offer more opportunities for a better life. The United States is one of the countries with the highest
demand for entry. Everyone talks about their "American dream," a dream that today, more than ever, has become a nightmare from which we cannot wake up.

As I try to figure out answers to my endless questions, through my own experience, I know that thousands, millions of people carry wounds so deep in their bodies and souls that no human being should ever have to carry. I have been able to see, hear, and feel their stories of pain, sadness, despair, and anguish.

How is it possible that more than 281 million people have been forced to migrate due to the terrible living conditions in their countries of origin? (IOM, 2023) This number continues to grow every day.

How is it possible that the countries through which they travel do not establish fair and comprehensive policies to allow them safe transit? Where is the international protection that should be offered to people on the move not
by choice but for survival? Where is the humanitarian response of the receiving countries? Why do we criminalize and demonize the desire of people to seek a better life for themselves and their children? What is wrong with that
desire? And is that not the very reason for the advancement and growth of society as we know it?

An important piece that has not been addressed is that those who have the power to make just laws have failed to recognize the human dignity of our fellow human beings. People are increasingly faced with the urgent need to leave their countries of origin and the reduced possibilities of reaching their destination, which puts them in a situation of vulnerability where their lives are at risk, and those who manage to survive are marked for life by the trauma.

We cannot be indifferent to this reality. The lack of opportunities, as well as the danger in their countries of origin, the hostility of the countries of transit, and the selective and restrictive response of the countries of destination
jeopardize the harmony and mental health of the entire global society. In the absence of real and concrete actions, we are all collaborating to create a society sickened by the level of trauma faced by our brothers and sisters along the way. We are allowing organized crime (drug cartels) to continue to grow its economic empire at the expense of the lives and mental stability of nations everywhere.

Let's wake up now from this nightmare! Let's help make our brothers and sisters’ dreams come true! There is still time to save our world! There is still time to recognize each other as sisters and brothers! There is still time to create just policies for all! There is still time to create a better world! The time is now! Let this be the time!

November 2023 

Women at the Border by Mary Katherine Hamilton, IHM

S Mary Katerine at Casa del Migrante 2023
Sister Mary Katherine
at Casa del Migrante

S Gio at Humanitatian Respite Center 10-23
Sister Gio at the  Humanitarian Respite Center

During the past summer, several Monroe IHM Sisters and Associates volunteered for two-week periods at the recently established Oblate Sisters of Providence/
Immaculate Heart of Mary (OSP/IHM) inter-congregational community house in McAllen, Texas. The McAllen community – Mary, Comfort of Migrants – currently has four core members: two sisters from Scranton IHM (Sisters Mary Elaine Anderson and Elvia Mata Ortega), one sister from the Immaculata IHM community (Sister Rose Patrice Kuhn) and one from Monroe IHM (Sister Carmen Armenta Lara). Over the past year, the four sisters have been volunteering with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, providing respite support to migrants who have crossed the Mexico/U.S. border. Each week they also visit camps in Reynosa, Mexico, offering their presence and support to persons awaiting news about their U.S. Immigration appointment.

The crisis at our southern border is real. So, too, are the political and policy challenges in desperately needed immigration reform and the courageous national and international action required to address the root causes of such massive migration. Like a ‘canary in a coal mine,’ the increasing global migration of persons – asylum seekers, refugees, immigrants, and many displaced persons – who leave their countries due to war, genocide, drug violence, climate change, or natural disasters cries out. It speaks to a deeper crisis of personal and social dislocation and ‘homelessness’ experienced by many in our world.

The human face of dislocation lingers with me after my time as a volunteer in the McAllen community this past summer. Families lying on mattress pads on the floor of the respite center, exhausted from months of travel, men asking for shoelaces because everyone had to surrender theirs at the detention center, mothers seeking diapers and milk for their infants and basic items such as toothpaste and shampoo so they might regain a modicum of their own sense of personal hygiene. There was also the vibrancy, agency, and generosity of spirit offered by an adolescent young woman who came to the rescue of this older Sister who did not speak Spanish, leaving me wondering if Maryland – her journey’s destination - knew how fortunate it would be if they recognize her gifts and her ingenuity. These human beings want what we all want: a place of safety where they can imagine a future for themselves and their families, a place to call home.

There are more than 350 million migrants on the move globally. These ordinary human beings are exposed to what we would find unimaginable and intolerable conditions, at the mercy of forces beyond their control, characterized by other people’s narratives, not their own. The hunger for genuine hospitality and welcome is one of the most urgent needs of our time. In an interconnected 21st century, no one can be entirely at home unless everyone is at home. The McAllen community resides in the borderland, facing enormous challenges and endless possibilities, crossing borders of all kinds, witnessing the richness of intercultural communities, and embracing the Gospel call to help co-create the Kingdom of God – a place called home.

Read more about this inter-congregational effort at:

October 2023 
Update by Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM

On Sunday, September 24, the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, Sister Terry Saetta, RSM, invited our core community of IHM sisters, living and ministering at the border, to participate in a vocation event at Sacred Heart Parish in Edinburg, Texas. Rather than present three separate stories featuring each of the IHM congregations—Monroe, MI, Immaculata, PA, and Scranton, PA—we chose to weave our stories together in a display of five panels that portrays the movement of the Spirit in IHMs from our foundation in 1845 to the present moment.

Panel Display 5 with IHMs

The first panel focuses on Theresa Maxis, her roots in the Haitian community of Baltimore, her role as a founding member of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, and her response to Redemptorist missionary Louis Florent Gillet’s invitation to found a new congregation of sisters in Monroe, MI. Subsequent panels depict how IHMs today continue to embrace the missionary zeal of St. Alphonsus, proclaiming the redeeming/liberating love of Jesus to all, especially the most vulnerable. The fifth and final panel highlights the collaboration of the OSP and IHM congregations at the US-Mexico border and the invitation to sisters from each of the four congregations to live intercongregationally and interculturally as they accompany migrants in McAllen, Texas, and Reynosa, Mexico.

Sister Elvia Mata Ortega is a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She currently is doing her field practicum in The Human Mobility Institute. Doctor Luis Torres-Hostos, Founding Dean and Professor in the School of Social Work, recently awarded Elvia the Presidential Research Fellow, which provides one year of full tuition and a stipend for her work as graduate research assistant. Congratulations, Elvia!

Elvia and Doctor Torres

August 2023
Update by Sisters Linda Filipponi and Joan Rychalsky, Immaculata IHMs

Philadelphia IHM Sisters Linda Filipponi and Joan Rychalsky volunteered to serve migrants in McAllen, Texas, and Reynosa, Mexico, from July 22 to August 5. They lived and worked side-by-side with the core community of sisters who are part of the OSP-IHM Collaborative Mission and Ministry at the border.

Joan and Linda at Senda 2

Sisters Joan Rychalsky and Linda Filipponi stand in the midst of the migrant tents in Reynosa

Sister Joan says this about her experience at the border:

Even though I was anticipating this trip to Texas to assist in this border ministry in some small way, I could never have imagined the basic reality of the migrants’ situation, the emotional impact of our ministry there and the wonderful blessings of this journey.

The reality of the migrants’ journey is overwhelming and heartbreaking. For those migrants who travel long distances to reach one of the border camps in Mexico, there is not only some relief in arriving at the border but also great anxiety in waiting to see if they will be allowed to cross the border. They could wait anywhere from a few weeks to a year. Their living conditions are challenging at best. Still, the migrants find joy in their families and fellow companions with whom they can share their circumstances, stories, concerns and hopes. The migrants enjoy when the sisters visit the camps because their presence brings hope, kindness, compassion, and empathy as well as periodic activities and crafts for the children. If and when the migrants receive permission to enter the US, staff and volunteers at the Humanitarian Respite Center endeavor to meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. They help them get in touch with their sponsors and arrange their travel.

The emotional impact of watching all this unfold day by day was heart-rending as well as beautifully touching. I just wished I could do more to help these hopeful people reach their destinations. Some days, Linda and I worked on clothing request forms but it was especially fulfilling to us to volunteer at the Respite Center’s Pharmacy/Supply area. To experience their gratitude and joy in receiving such basic toiletries and medicine was most humbling. We might have touched their lives with some very basic supplies, but they touched our hearts with their warm gratitude and loving smiles.

Among the many blessings of this trip was the privilege of spending time with these beautiful people and their children. We saw how little they have but also observed their struggles, hopes, dreams and goodness. Hopefully, our actions demonstrated our compassion and care. Their plight reinforced our awareness of the many blessings we enjoy each day and often take for granted. Another gift of our ministry here was experiencing God’s providential care when we needed it most; i.e. Not knowing any Spanish and a language translation chart appeared just in time to help us meet the basic requests of hundreds of migrants. Lastly, we merely passed through the lives of these migrants for a short time, but they will live in our thoughts and prayers forever.

Joan at Casa del Migrante

Sister Joan Rychalsky teaches children in the Casa del Migrante in Reynosa, Mexico, how to make a pinwheel.

Reflecting on those two weeks, Sister Linda writes:

Even to begin to reflect on my experience at the border ushers in a flood of emotions, but I will simply focus on one image that had its greatest impact on me – and that is the faces of the children. For many reasons they quickly became and continue to be a meditation for me. The beauty, brightness and depth that shone through their eyes and smiles was remarkable. I marveled that, after all they had been subjected to, they could look this beautiful – even as they walked shoeless around the dirty floors of the Respite Center in Texas and gliding their newly crayoned butterflies through the air around the encampment among the tents in Mexico. In their innocence and their trust in their parents’ love, and in all of us who cared for them, they knew a sense of security and of being loved. They stirred my soul!

Then, there were the children who looked lonely. On my first visit to the Respite Center, I saw a little girl sitting next to her father, crying as he tried to encourage her to eat the warm meal that was provided for them. When I walked up to her, to try to console her, her father looked up at me and said that “she misses her mother.” I asked Rose if she had anything that I could give her. She gave me a small, beaded bracelet and I offered it to her, but she remained sad. I wished that there was something more that I could do for her.

The next day, Joan, Rose, and I went to Omega 99 (Think Dollar Tree!) and bought as many colorful hair ribbons and bows as they had in hopes of brightening the faces of the little girls!

Our desire in Texas had been to bring some small amount of help, joy, and hope to the migrants we met there. By clipping hair ribbons on the heads of the little girls, we hoped to help ease some of the trauma they experienced in the most deplorable and dire of circumstances. We had hoped to see more smiles on the faces of the children—and their loving parents—and fewer lonely children “missing their mothers.”

July 2023
Update by Sister Elvia Yolanda Mata, IHM

Encountering God on the Journey

Everything that moves has life. For there to be life there must be movement. Migrant people are in continuous movement. Not only moving physically but, above all, their spirits are in movement. It is in the process of movement that new experiences emerge. What are the reasons that migrant people are willing to be on the move? They journey in search of life, a better life for their families. They must leave their countries of origin, not because they want to, but because in their countries their lives are threatened. It is during their journey that they frequently come face to face with death, but
it is also where they find a new meaning for their life. It is there in uncertainty that they encounter God.

There are many shortages and difficulties that migrants face during their journey, but the lack of food is one of the most painful shortages. I believe that those of us who have not had the experience of feeling hunger can find it difficult to comprehend the sensation of losing, little by little, the smallest reserve of energy that one’s body has. At the same time, these migrants must keep moving in order to obtain any food and thus maintain an energy level that will allow them to continue their journey.

I suggest that it is very similar in their spiritual lives. When they are on the road, they realize that not only their body needs nourishment, but also their spirits. It is in that experience of weakness and being deprived that God comes to meet them, to nourish them, to strengthen them so that they can continue their journey.

The story of the people of Israel appears to continue to be present in a real, tangible, and concrete way in the here and now. Thousands of migrants continue to leave their countries in search of a better quality of life for their families. On that journey, they experience the need to be filled and nourished by God and they discover the strength that allows them to continue on their way.

A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to participate in the Eucharist where several of the migrant children received the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. The children ranged in age from one year to twelve years old. The joy of the children and their families was very evident. Talking to some of the parents and children who had received the sacraments, they clearly expressed how they felt the presence of God accompanying them during their long and difficult pilgrimage. That precise moment of receiving the sacraments meant much more to them than can be expressed here in words.

At other times, we have reflected, that, migrants travel with just what they are wearing, their important documents, and some other small belongings. Something that really caught my attention that day was that, although their clothing was very simple, all the children who were receiving the sacraments were wearing something new: a hairpin, a pair of pants, a blouse, etc. What touched my heart the most was that they were all wearing new shoes. This seemingly unnoticed detail made me ponder many things. Perhaps these children in their short lives had never had the opportunity to wear a new garment, but that day was a special day. That was a special encounter with God, their Lord, who had protected them on their way. It caused me to think about what "new garment" (new thoughts, vision, attitudes) I need to wear each time God meets me in my daily life. There is definitely an invitation to keep moving so that my life does not stagnate.

Also, the fact that each child was wearing new shoes goes far beyond the simple fact of having a pair of new shoes. For a migrant, shoes are a vitally important possession to accomplish their journey. It enables them to keep moving and to keep searching for life. It is also for me an invitation to change my "shoes" (ideas, attitudes, ways of seeing life) that no longer help me to walk. Let this be the time to change "old shoes" and to put on new shoes to continue our personal journey and at the same time to continue our congregational walk in order to discover God who continues to meet us despite the fears, doubts, challenges, and uncertainties that we may encounter. It is in movement that God comes out to meet us when we take the time to notice.

June 2023 
Update by Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM

Sr. Elvia teaches migrant
women how to
make paper flowers

What is Title 42, Title 8 and the CBP One App?

On May 11, 2023, the US government finally rescinded Title 42, a health policy that was invoked in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at US borders. Title 42 allowed US authorities to use the pandemic as justification for swiftly removing migrants crossing the US-Mexico border without hearing the requests and cases of asylum seekers. With the dissolution of Title 42, Title 8, the pre-pandemic law that governed the deportation of migrants, again forms the primary legal basis for US immigration policy.

Prior to the dissolution of Title 42, Homeland Security implemented the CBP One App. It is a mobile application which migrants in central or northern Mexico, who are seeking to travel to the US, use to schedule an appointment at one of the southwest border land ports of entry. One of the purposes of the CBP One App is to bypass intermediaries and allow migrants to apply directly to Immigration for an interview without the interference of “coyotes.” Unfortunately, the app, which is considered the legal way to enter the US, has proved frustrating for many migrants. Some migrants cannot afford to buy a telephone, which they need to access the App. Others had their phones stolen or damaged during their long journey northward to the border. Large families of four or more may have a telephone, but they were unable to get interviews for all their family members at the same time. The result was that families were separated, some members crossing the border into the US while others remained indefinitely in Mexico trying to get an interview with Immigration. 

Under Title 42 families who spent several months trying to access the CBP One App without any success sometimes resorted to crossing the Rio Grande River and handing themselves over to the Border Patrol. If they were lucky, they were processed by Border Patrol, released with documents and given a date to attend immigration court in a city near
to where their sponsors live. The unlucky were “expelled” back into Mexico.

With the implementation of Title 8, migrants who cross the river and hand themselves into the Border Patrol will be “deported” and will be barred from applying for asylum and re-entering the US for at least five years. Likewise, migrants who traveled through other countries on their way to the US-Mexico border are also banned from applying for asylum in the US. In actuality, Title 8 is more punitive than Title 42.

OSP-IHM Ministry at the Border Before and After May 11

The surge of migrants at the southern border in the week before May 11 was the result of migrants’ fear of Title 8 restrictions and their frustration with the CBP One App. From May 8-15, our OSP-IHM Border Community spent mornings and afternoons at the Humanitarian Respite Center serving the increased number of migrants. The number of people and their needs were so many that it was hard to know where to begin. Many of those who had crossed had been detained for days by Immigration. They arrived hungry, sick and with only the clothes that they were wearing. Quite a few had been separated from family members and were desperate to locate their sons, daughters and husbands. We tried to use the online detainee locator service to help them find those who had been separated. But each time the system, which had not been updated, reported 0 results. It was heart-wrenching to see their disappointment and experience their anxiety.

Around May 15, the number of migrants at the Humanitarian Respite Center began to decrease. Although it is still a priority to respond to the basic physical needs (food, clothing and medicine) of the migrants, fewer people also means that we are able to sit with them, hear their stories and offer them compassion and encouragement. The smaller numbers allow us to respond to their emotional and spiritual needs.

Because the number of those crossing into the US has decreased, there is a greater need to accompany migrants on the Mexican side of the border. Since last July, we have been volunteering on Thursdays at the Casa del Migrante in Reynosa, Mexico. We now are considering volunteering two days instead of just one in Mexico with the hope that we will be able to expand our presence to Senda de Vida II, an encampment of about 2,000 migrants on the outskirts of Reynosa. It is a ministerial adjustment that we are prepared to make because of the needs of the people and one that we foresaw when we chose McAllen, Texas, as our place of residence. We started this mission knowing that the work would call us to accompany our migrant brothers and sisters on both sides of the border.

Sr. Carmen gives out medicine
to migrants at the Humanitarian
Respite Center
Sr. Mary Elaine animates
Game Day at the Casa del

May 2023 
Update by Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM

Holy Week Services at the Border

The OSP-IHM core community ministering at the border celebrated Holy Week with migrants at the Casa del Migrante in Reynosa, Mexico. The experience of walking with our suffering brothers and sisters was profoundly heart-wrenching and hope-filled.

To prepare for Holy Week, Sisters Carmen, Rose, Elvia and Mary Elaine, with the participation of the children, created a mural of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. They also helped the children to make “salvation
bracelets” with a different color to commemorate each of the four days. The mural, which was hung on the wall, and the bracelet served as visual reminders of the sacred events that take place during Holy Week.

3 - Holy Week Mural
Sister Carmen Armenta Lara with children in front of Holy Week mural

The celebrations took place in the open patio of the migrant shelter where there were no polished pews, ornate paintings nor marble sanctuary. A cement floor, metal folding chairs, wooden altar, simple cross, plastic basin for washing feet and bells from the Dollar Store made the perfect scenario for experiencing the Paschal Mystery in our midst. The reverence with which the men, women and children in the Casa del Migrante participated in the washing of one another’s feet, Via Crucis and adoration of Jesus on the cross was testimony of their faith and hope in a God who accompanies them in their suffering and promises them new life.

Elvia Holy Thurs 2023
Sister Elvia Mata Ortega washes the feet of a migrant in the Casa del Migrante

It is truly a privilege to accompany our migrant brothers and sisters in McAllen, Texas and Reynosa, Mexico.

April 2023 
Update by Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM

The OSP-IHM Border Community has a commitment to accompany high school and university students who would like to participate in the mission. Students and their chaperones stay at the Basilica Hotel which is on the grounds of the National Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle. Student service groups often choose to participate in a Border Witness Program provided by ARISE (sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Mercy) as well as volunteer at the Humanitarian Respite Center (HRC) which is under the direction of Catholic Charities. Group leaders are responsible for contacting
both organizations and setting up their schedule of activities. The sisters in the OSP-IHM Border Mission are available to meet with the students and their leaders. They volunteer side by side with them in McAllen, Texas, and in Reynosa, Mexico (if the group opts to cross the border). They also share prayer and one or more meals with them in their convent “Mary, Comfort of Migrants.

During the past five weeks, we had the privilege of accompanying the following groups: 1) Twelve students and two teachers from Holy Name Academy, Tampa, Florida (where Sister Lisa Perkowski ministers) and 2) Four students and two group leaders (including Sister Donna Korba) from Marywood University, Scranton, PA.

We look forward to meeting more students from the schools and universities where our OSP and IHM sisters minister! 

MU at HRC - Peeling Potatoes
Marywood University volunteers at the Humanitarian Respite Center
(Sister Donna Korba third from the left)

March 2023 
Update by Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM


The OSP-IHM Core Community at the US-Mexico border would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our sisters and associates who attended the presentation on February 13 via zoom or livestream. It was wonderful to see so many faces and feel the energy of our four congregations. If you were unable to join us that evening, we invite you to view the recorded presentation that depicts a little bit of the reality of our migrant brothers and sisters as well as our own experiences of community life, ministry and intercongregational collaboration at the border. 

Since the presentation, many have asked how they might donate to our OSP-IHM collaborative ministry. Monetary donations will help us to buy food, clothing, medicine, toiletries and activity materials for migrants at the Casa del Migrante or Senda de Vida II in Reynosa, Mexico, and at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. Checks can be made payable to: Sisters of IHM. They can be mailed to: Sister Rose Patrice Kuhn, IHM
Mary, Comfort of Migrants, 905 N. 50th St., McAllen, TX 78501

Schools and youth groups may prefer to collect school supplies or other articles rather than money. Donated articles might include: travel size toiletries, shoelaces, underwear, socks, t-shirts, gloves, hats and scarves. Clothing should be new. We will probably be putting together more backpacks for school-aged children and will need: #2 pencils, large erasers, glue sticks, colored pencils and crayons. No scissors or rulers please! Boxes with donated goods can be mailed to the address above.

Donated backpacks and school supplies (002)
Migrant children at the Humanitarian Respite
Center in McAllen, Texas, receive donated
backpacks with school supplies from Sisters
Elvia Mata Ortega and Rose Patrice Kuhn.

February 2023 
Update by Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM

Welcome, Carmen, to McAllen, Texas!

Core Community 2023 McAllen Texas
L-R: Sisters Mary Elaine Anderson (S),Carmen Armenta Lara (M), Elvia Mata Ortega (S)
and Rose Patrice Kuhn (I)

Sister Carmen, who is one of the four members of the OSP-IHM Core Community at the US-Mexico border, arrived on January 11 after many months of waiting for her R-1 Visa. Two Monroe IHMs—Sisters Maureen Kelly and Maria Antonia Aranda Diaz—who live and minister in Juarez, Mexico, accompanied Carmen on the elevenhour trip across the state of Texas and spent two days with the sisters in McAllen. Rose, Elvia and Mary Elaine welcomed Carmen and her companions with open arms!

2023 InterCongreg Collab at Border
Inter-congregational Collaboration at the Border L-R: Sisters Mary (OSF), Carmen (IHM - M), Norma Pimentel (MJ), Pat (OSF), Mary Elaine (IHM - S), Rose Patrice (IHM - I) and Lisa Valentini (MSC)

January 2023 
Update by Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM

Recently, Monsignor Daniel Flores, Bishop of Brownsville, received a letter from Pope Francis, thanking him for the multiple ways that the people of God in his diocese are accompanying migrants at the Texas-Mexico border. Pope Francis wrote: "I have no doubt that the current situation [of migrants] should impel us to seek the promotion and integration of those who share the same condition in which the Lord found himself.”

Welcoming and accompanying migrants who are fleeing violence and searching for a more humane way of life for themselves and their families is the loving work of all God’s people, not just those living along the southern border. The collaborative efforts of OSP-IHM sisters, associates and friends testify to the importance of encountering the migrant wherever he/she may be—on the border, in the classroom, in our churches and in our neighborhoods.

How are we OSP-IHM sisters, associates and friends responding to the plight of migrants from our own backyard?

  • Sisters at Camilla Hall (Immaculata), Our Lady of Peace (Scranton), the IHM Senior Living Community (Monroe) and the Oblate Sisters of Providence motherhouse (Baltimore) hold in prayer the needs of migrant women, children and families.
  • Students at Marian High School, Birmingham, Michigan, where the president is Monroe IHM Lenore Pochelski, collected money to purchase school supplies for migrant children who will be entering the US school system for the first time and in the middle of the school year.
  • Immaculata IHM Eileen Reilly has been volunteering with the New Sanctuary group at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia where she receives asylum seekers bused from the border, serves as their translator and gives compassionate care to them while they make contact with their sponsors.
  • Scranton IHM Donna Korba will be accompanying Marywood University students to the border in March 2023. They will serve side-by-side with the OSP-IHM Border Community at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, and the Casa del Migrante in Reynosa, Mexico.
  • During the Fall of 2022, the OSP-IHM Healing Racism Committee invited sisters and associates to attend three meetings to address the issue of advocacy for asylum seekers. The participants have written a letter to the governors asking them to work together in welcoming migrants to their states. The letter, which will be distributed once new governors have taken office, will be made available for those who wish to sign it.
  • Donations from sisters, associates and friends help feed families living in migrant camps in Reynosa, Mexico, make basic medical and hygiene supplies available for families at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen and provide art and school materials for migrant children.

The OSP-IHM Core Community in McAllen, Texas, is grateful to the larger OSP-IHM family for their collaboration and the creative and multiple ways inwhich they engage to welcome and accompany migrants both at the border and throughout the US.

Navidad - Reynosa (002)
Father Brian Strassburger, SSJ, and IHM Sisters Elvia Mata Ortega, Mary Elaine Anderson and Rose Patrice Kuhn with children in the Casa de Migrante, Reynosa, Mexico

December 2022 
Update by Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM

Sister Camille Brouillard, IHM (Monroe) recently spent three weeks in McAllen, Texas, with the OSPIHM Border Community. The sisters invited Camille to join them because of her experience serving the Haitian population in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for 14 years. At this time, many asylum seekers crossing the US-Mexico border are Haitians fleeing the violence and poverty of their country.

During her stay in Texas, Camile taught the sisters Haitian creole and also accompanied them to the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen and the Casa de Migrante and Senda 2 in Reynosa, Mexico, where she was able to speak with Haitian asylum seekers in their native language. This is what Camille writes about her experience: "We bring loving presence, welcome and God’s great love for the people who come seeking a non-violent, just place to live. The gift we receive is more than we give. To see the suffering, to see the smile at our being with the people and speaking their language, to listen to their story is to be about Jesus’ Liberating Mission indeed. I am blessed to be with our sisters from Scranton and Immaculata. Bondye beni yo! Bondye beni nou! (God bless them! God bless us!)”

We are grateful to Camille for sharing her gift of language and presence with us!

We ask your continued prayer for our Haitian brothers and sisters and all who have valiantly made the journey to the US-Mexico border. It is a privilege to accompany them in the name of all IHMs and Oblate Sisters of Providence at this time.

Creole classes
Sister Camille Brouillard, IHM (M) teaches Sisters Rose Patrice (I)
and Mary Elaine (S) Haitian creole.

October 2022 
Update by Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM  

IHM Leaders Visit the OSP-IHM Border Community 

Presidents and Core Community (002)Sisters Rose Patrice Kuhn (I), Elvia Mata (S), Mary Ellen Tennity (I),
Katie Clauss (S),Mary Elaine Anderson (S) and Jane Herb (M)
with asylum seekers in Reynosa, Mexico

Sisters Katie Clauss, Jane Herb, and Mary Ellen Tennity traveled to McAllen, Texas, on October 14, 2022, to spend the weekend in community and ministry with the sisters living and serving on the Texas/Mexico border.

On Saturday morning, they walked across the International Bridge into Reynosa, Mexico, where they were received by the Daughters of Charity and about 150 asylum seekers in the Casa de Migrante. Sisters Rose Patrice Kuhn, Elvia Mata and Mary Elaine Anderson and a Haitian asylum seeker led the people in a bilingual (Spanish/Creole) prayer. Afterwards, Sisters Elvia and Jane met with the women. Sisters Rose Patrice and Mary Ellen taught the older children how to identify, spend and make change with US coins and dollars. Sisters Mary Elaine and Katie played with the younger children.

In the afternoon, the sisters visited the Humanitarian Respite Center (HRC) which welcomes migrants who have crossed the border. Sisters Rose Patrice, Elvia and Mary Elaine explained the ways in which they minister to asylum seekers at HRC. Later, the sisters participated in the celebration of the Eucharist at Our Lady of the Valley San Juan Basilica.

On Sunday morning, Sisters Jane, Mary Ellen, and Katie blessed the community living in McAllen, Texas, and their new home which they have named Mary, Comfort of Migrants. Sister Carmen Armenta, who is still waiting in Juarez, Mexico, for her visa to be approved, participated via video on What’s App.

The prayer began with these words: “We come together here in this moment of our OSP/IHM history to ask for the blessing of God upon our response to the refugee crisis at the Texas/Mexican border. We stand here in the name of our entire community – members, associates, partners, and benefactors.”

The prayer concluded with the sending forth of Sisters Rose Patrice, Elvia, Carmen, and Mary Elaine to serve and be the face, ears, mouth, hands, shoulders, feet, and heart of compassion for our brothers and sisters at the border.

Elvia and Jane with women
Sisters Elvia and Jane with migrant women

September 2022 
Update by Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM

Of the many things that the OSP-IHM Border Community imagined doing in McAllen, Texas, studying Haitian Creole was not one of them. Yet, because a large percentage of asylum seekers are Haitian, that is exactly what we are doing!

It seems right, and even providential, that in following Theresa Maxis’s urging to “go where the need is” that we find ourselves face to face with our Haitian brothers and sisters. Theresa, born Almaide Maxis Duchemin, was the daughter of a Haitian refugee, and her maternal great-grandfather was a black slave in Haiti. As a child, Almaide attended a school for Haitian refugee children.

Could this encounter with the Haitian people and their culture be Theresa’s way of inviting us to look more closely at the roots and the legacy of our OSP and IHM congregations? Perhaps the culture that Theresa had to deny to “pass for white” is exactly what God is asking us to uncover and integrate into our lives. Learning Haitian Creole is no easy task when you are an adult. Embracing the Haitian culture and the full personhood of Theresa Maxis may be even more challenging!

We welcome the insights of our sisters and associates who have served the Haitian population and may know the culture and the language well. We also ask you to pray for both our Haitian brothers and sisters who have valiantly made the journey to the US-Mexico border and us who have the privilege of accompanying them at this time.

USA -Mexico Border

July 2022 

This core group of sisters will establish a community in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. This creation of an inter-congregational community will be a concrete expression of our charism.

In McAllen, Texas and in Reynosa, Mexico, the sisters can engage in direct service to asylum seekers who need temporary respite and help contacting their sponsors in the US.

Anderson, Mary Elaine

Sister Mary Elaine Anderson
Scranton IHM, Professed 1976

“Here I am Lord… I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”

These words remind me that all of life is a passionate response to God’s crazy love for us. That love has led me to walk humbly with the people of Peru, hold sacred the stories of traumatized women and children and accompany women in initial formation. Today, I believe that God is inviting the OSP and IHM sisters to hold asylum seekers and immigrants in our collective heart as we join with others at the border and proclaim God’s unconditional love for all, especially the most vulnerable.


Sister Elvia Mata Ortega
Scranton IHM, Professed 1997

“Yahweh then said, 'I have indeed seen the misery of my people. I have heard them crying for help on account of their taskmasters. Yes, I am well aware of their sufferings.'” Ex. 3:9

I feel called to work with my migrant people. My family and I have lived the experience crossing the Mexican-USA Border, and I know how painful that journey could be. I feel I can contribute something to this ministry.

Carmen Armenta Lara

Sister Carmen Armenta Lara
Monroe IHM, Professed 1996

"Impulsada por el Espíritu deseo continuar acompañando a los más necesitados."

Mi nombre es Carmen Armenta Lara. Soy de la comunidad IHM de Monroe MI. Trabajo en la Diócesis de Ciudad Juárez, en la pastoral. Mi profesión de primeros votos fue en 1996. Es mi deseo ser parte del proyecto para migrantes en McAllen, porque veo mucha Esperanza para nuestras Comunidades y poder continuar sirviendo a más personas necesitadas en otro lugar. Yo me considero una migrante en estos momentos como la mayoría de las personas en Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México.

Kuhn_Sister M. Rose Patrice

Sister Rose Patrice Kuhn
Immaculata IHM, Professed 1969

"Pray for us as we “welcome the stranger.” Mt. 25:35

I am grateful for my mission experiences in Chile, in Peru and in Hispanic parish communities in the Philadelphia archdiocese. After joining our sisters at the border last summer, I am delighted to be part of this collaborative community and to accompany asylum seekers in McAllen and Reynosa.

May 2022
Update by Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM

At Chapter 2018, we, Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Scranton, PA, expressed the desire to explore the future ministerial outreach of our congregation. Hidden within this desire was an acknowledgement of our diminishing and aging membership and a concern for the continuation of the mission and our role in bringing about God’s dream for our beautiful, yet wounded, world. As so often happens when we write a direction statement at chapter, we commit ourselves to something that we sense is an invitation from God and then have to listen attentively and respond to the reality before us to see how it might unfold in the future.

I believe that the plight of our brothers and sisters at the US-Mexico border is one of those invitations from God that IHMs would find difficult to ignore. Our charism and our Alphonsian spirituality impel us to respond passionately with unconditional love to the broken and vulnerable in our world. This legacy does not belong only to IHMs from Scranton but is a gift inherited and embodied by all IHMs—Monroe, Immaculata and Scranton.

Since April 24, 2022 IHMs from the three congregations have been collaborating with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of San Diego and volunteering at their respite centers in El Centro and Holtville, CA. Over the course of the next few months, more than 30 IHMs will be a presence of love for our brothers and sisters seeking asylum at the southern border.

I am humbled to serve with these women religious from our three congregations. They are on fire with the passion to love unconditionally and they come to the border with a sense of urgency to be in the midst of the pain of our world. Each day brings new challenges and requires imagination, creativity, and fresh thinking to meet the needs of the people. Our desire is to respond with joyful, loving, self-emptying and hospitable service—the IHM spirit that we inherited from Mother Theresa Maxis and the sisters who have gone before us.

We have all made the journey to the border with the conviction that we have been called by God and that we have been SENT by our congregations. The support of our IHM sisters back home has been overwhelming! We join together with IHM sisters ministering all over the United States and beyond to bring the redeeming and healing love of God to our wounded world.

I cannot help but wonder how this current collaboration of the three IHM congregations might be related to the re-imagination of our Scranton IHM ministerial outreach in the future. Is this the first of many initiatives, ministerially or otherwise, that we will take with our IHM sisters in Monroe and Immaculata as well as with other women religious across the United States and perhaps internationally? God invites and places the opportunities before us. We only need to become more conscious of our interconnectedness and be willing to respond collectively to the needs of all of God’s creation.