Work at the Humanitarian Respite Center in Texas
Updates from Maudette Carr – October 2021
On October 17, 2021, three Sinsinawa Dominican Associates and two Sisters headed to McAllen, Texas to begin a week of work with Catholic Charities at the Humanitarian Respite Center c/o Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. Money was collected from our St. Giles Community to help Catholic Charities and the families crossing the border asking for asylum here in the United States. Here are some updates and pictures from Maudette Carr:
MY TIME SPENT AT THE BORDER… By Maudette Carr – I had the privilege once again to travel to the border. For me it was the most natural thing to do. They came each day tired and hungry. Many needed shoelaces for the journey. Each day was busy, busy… long and sometimes chaotic… but real. ¿Bolsa? ¿Cordones? ¿Desodorante? ¿Por Favor? [Bag? Shoelaces? Deodorant? Please]. I am so grateful for your prayers and to be part of a parish that provided donations that made it possible for me and another Sinsinawa Lay Associate to do major shopping trips to buy things that we were running low on.
They waited in line to be processed. They waited for food, clothing, personal hygiene items, these small essentials in helping them feel comfortable once again with a sense of dignity. They waited with patience. They were always very appreciative of the littlest act of kindness given. They live in hope, a precious thread for life, helping them get ready for the next leg of their journey.
I was disturbed seeing men and women, mothers with infants and children arrive at the Respite Center with electronic monitors on their ankles. Every time I saw one on the ankle, I could not help but see them as shackles that were used during slavery and on slave ships during the Middle Passage. Treating the immigrants as if they were criminals. Treating them less than a human being.
I was heartbroken after meeting so many immigrants fleeing violence from their home countries who traveled weeks over dangerous terrain only to wait months in Reynosa, Mexico in crowded tents to seek asylum in the US and who, may be denied asylum after enduring months of legal processes only to be sent back to the dangerous lands from which they fled.
But I am given hope by the Humanitarian Respite Center and other organizations where immigrant families can come. I was given hope by the smallest gesture we strived to return the dignity that was systematically taken away from them. When they are released and come to a place that is filled with compassion, the healing, the transformation of becoming human again begins to happen instantly and you see it in their faces.
I believe that when you see and have this encounter you will change. I know that I have been changed. Pope Francis challenges us to open our hearts to the human suffering that we see before us. It captivates and transforms us. Something happens in us and there is an encounter that we come to together. The presence of God. The only way to know it is to be present and experience it. When we can allow ourselves as a people to live out the gospel in practical ways, we bring our faith into action.
DAY 1 – Sunday, October 17 – Arrived to the Rio Valley, safe. There are six of us Dominican Sisters and Associates staying here in McAllen, TX this week. We are volunteering way south at Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center. Upon arriving Sunday I had my first encounter with two immigrant women with children in the airport asking for assistance to find their gate. Memories of my first border trip.
DAY 2 – Monday, October 18 – We arrive at the respite center 7:30 am each morning. Organize supplies and medicine for families, give out clothes and organize activities for children. Today, me and one of the other Associates went out shopping four times to the local stores to buy shoelaces, leggings for women, bags for them to carry what we give them, and little toys for the children – rings that light up and pop-it toys were a big hit! Thanks to all of you at the parish and FMC for your generous donations to purchase these items and more.
My time here is spent in the “Farmacia” when not shopping. Most of the families that we have received are from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti. They have been allowed to cross the Border seeking asylum. The Border patrol has checked them out and they have tested negative for COVID. They have been held in detention and now have been released to the respite center so that their “sponsor” (usually a relative) can be called. It is the responsibility of the sponsor to get a air or bus ticket to transport the family to the sponsor’s home.
Maudette, Mary, and Felice
That afternoon Sr. Norma Pimental, MJ Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley accompanied Mary Goonan, Felice Maciejewski and I (we are Sinsinawa Dominican Associates) to a border-crossing experience to Reynosa for a visit to the vast encampment of people who are waiting to migrate to the U.S. There are more than 2,000 people, mainly from Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Many of them have been there for months. The man in the photo below shared that his wife and children are still back in Honduras and the stuff animal in the tent is a reminder of his children at home. He says he’s been waiting since February, nothing has happened and he is going to return home.
DOCUMENTARY “OH MERCY” – If you are able to watch “Oh Mercy” which features Sr. Norma, you can get a glimpse of the life in the camps. It is a very moving 12 minute film. CLICK HERE for an English version without subtitles or CLICK HERE for English with Spanish subtitles.
Families from Honduras and El Salvador
DAY 3 – Tuesday, October 19 – ¡MUCHAS GRACIAS! Your donations were well used for what was most needed. I am so grateful for donations that were given by individuals in the Parish and Family Mass Community to purchase things that were needed.
Felice and I did major shopping at Walmart a few times to buy things that we were running low on. Large size pampers, outfits for boys and girls – sizes 3-6 as they were the ones most needed, socks, underwear, onesies and outfits for newborns, skull caps for infants, toothpaste, combs, deodorant for men and women, adult cough medicine, and tote bags to carry their items, all purchased with your donations. I bought out ALL the shoelaces, leggings, tote bags to carry their things, pop-it and rings that light up for children in the local stores across from the Respite Center as they were the most economical.
DAY 4 – Wednesday, October 20 – Today, 2 Jesuit priests came to celebrate mass at the Respite Center with the immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and the volunteers. It was all in Español. The priests gave a special blessing to those who would be traveling today.
Permission given by Sr. Norma and the immigrants to take any of the photos shown!
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” – Maya Angelou