From Saturday April 27th through Friday, May 1st, several Religious of the Sacred Heart, associates and friends made a meaningful, educational trip to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. They were participating in the Border Witness Experience, led by Ramona Casas and Eva Soto of ARISE, a resource center serving the immigrant population in Alamo, Texas. Participants were Sisters Imma De Stefanis, Reyna Gonzalez, Josefina Montalvo, Diane Roche, Trudy Considine, Rose Marie Quilter and, from our Mexican Province, Chelilu Buenfil, and Socorro Martinez, along with Associate Kristi Laughlin. Sister Doretta Cornell, a Divine Compassion sister, and Leah Hardbordt, a midwife at Holy Family Birth Center, were also part of the group.
The Border Witness Experience included three to four site visits each day to organizations serving immigrants who cross the United States border in the Rio Grande Valley. The organizations are all located in Hidalgo County, the poorest county in Texas. They provide many kinds of direct service as well as advocacy for systemic change in order to empower immigrants. They operate independently, but benefit from a strong network to provide legal advocacy, counseling for battered and/or trafficked women, services for unaccompanied child immigrants, classes in English and life skills etc.
Participants talked to both the immigrant families and the diverse groups of volunteers and full time workers who serve them. They met women who had travelled from Eritrea in Africa, with small children in tow, on a journey lasting two years.
Sister Quilter wrote, “Sacred Heart Parish in McAllen, which has been ‘ground zero’ for welcoming the thousands of parents with children who have come across our border in the last year, was especially impressive.” It is that visit - along with the golden jubilee celebration of Sister Cathy Toth, RSM, a Sister of Mercy who works with the people at ARISE – that is reflected in Sister Quilter’s poem, Here We Arise.
Brownsville Bishop Daniel Flores met with the group and helped serve hot dogs and other picnic food to more than 500 children and adults gathered to celebrate the International Day of the Child, a fiesta sponsored annually by ARISE.
It was a tremendously rich experience.