[Province of St. Louise – USA] The arrival of unaccompanied minors from Central America to the border of the US in Texas has reached a crisis level. Three local communities of Province of St. Louise are located in this region. Three Sisters, a midwife, a pastoral chaplain and a lawyer, have been sent to serve as volunteers with these migrant women and unaccompanied minors and will stay in these houses for the next month. One Sister writes about her first experiences:
We just returned from a shelter in McAllen TX, run by Catholic Charities. Sacred Heart Church has donated its parish center and there are air conditioned respite tents in the parking lot. The city has supplied a medical mobile home, doctors to man it and tents for respite as well as a police presence for safety. The city picks up the families with children released by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and brings them to the shelter while they await their trip to meet up with their families.
During our tour, a lady from Guatemala came into the shelter, all alone. Suddenly, every volunteer (about a hundred in all) starting clapping for her as she walked toward registration. Apparently, it is customary in Central America to clap when a welcome guest enters your home, city etc. It was so moving. Interestingly, 75% of all the women who come through this shelter have been pregnant. As God would have it, Sr. Janina, the midwife, will be working at this shelter which has a full medical mobile unit.
The respite tents had young mothers with babes in arms. They were exhausted and seemed to be more passed out than sleeping. All of the women are very skinny and young. A few emaciated looking young women slept with toddlers. At the time, there were about 30 single parents and very young children in the tents. There were no teenagers here, except the moms.
Then more families came. We clapped like Jesus Himself walked in the door…because He had. All seemed to appreciate the welcome, too. All of the kids had shoes which had holes and were dirty. And, they had no shoe laces, just like prisoners. They would get new shoes here.
The shelter is organized and has a process. After the families are welcomed and applauded, information is taken and then they are off to get food. After food, they go to the showers and get new clothes because many are coming with lice and scabies. They also get enough clothes for the journey. They have a really nice play area for the kids to just be kids.
No one stays at the shelter more than 12 hours. They can rest in the tents as several were doing when we toured. They get awakened at 04:30 and are taken back to the bus stop for their trip to their family in another part of the US.
The Director said they hope to introduce spiritual and emotional care by Spanish speaking religious. As God would have it, Sr. Sherry will work here as of tomorrow. We heard that the immigrants are fearful because they do not know what to expect. As God would further have it, I will do Know your Rights lectures and will include the need to be wary of traffickers who may be friendly and speak Spanish.
Catholic Charities is spearheading a lot of these shelters. All the volunteers looked very tired too- please pray for all of them.
Sr Mary Ellen Lacy, DC
Adapted from FamVin.org/en/