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
ElviaMataOrtega
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 by Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM


February 2023:

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:

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:

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.


IHM Leaders Visit the OSP-IHM Border Community 
October 2022  

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:

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.

ElviaMataOrtega

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:

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.