A Franciscan Experience at the Border in McAllen, TX– by Sister Mary Ann Spanjers

I have been here in McAllen for almost a week! It has been hard to keep track of time, the days are very full.

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Texas clearly explains on its website its response to those coming to seek refuge in the U.S. “Catholic Charities responds to families in crisis. We believe that human beings who have no food, no security, no access to shower, etc. are people in crisis. We will continue responding to the needs of these families in crisis as long as there is a need. Thanks to all who have in any way or form helped thus far…all donors, volunteers, people praying for this cause, etc. God bless us all! ”

This is my current ministry–welcoming those from countries where there is active violence and life-threatening situations. The families are coming mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. ¬†They arrive at the Catholic Charities Center at Sacred Heart Parish, McAllen, TX with nothing but the clothes they are wearing. Most have been in the U.S. Immigration Detention Center for 4-5 days sleeping on the cold floor, eating one sandwich per day in very over-crowded conditions. The people are released from the Detention Center twice a day, Catholic Charities has buses to bring them to the Center. We help with meals, clean clothes, they shower, the children have a place to play, the parents are able to make phone calls to connect with the family member they will be traveling to in the States. I have also been helping with translating for a Doctor who sees those who are sick. We then help them get to the bus station to catch their busses. Most days we see between 50-80 people.

Their gratitude is very humbling. Lately, as soon as I wake up, I find myself thanking God for a warm bed and pray for those I will meet this day who had to sleep on the cold floor. One of the men I met yesterday greeted me with the phrase, “Cristo te ama!” Jesus loves you!

The immigrants and refugees ready to catch their bus after being renewed at the Center!

The immigrants and refugees ready to catch their bus after being renewed at the Center!


With some of the college student volunteers!

A beautiful mother with her son!

A beautiful mother with her son!


  1. Sister Annette says:

    Sister Mary Ann, May God bless you and all of those who are volunteering to help the refugees. Since you have shared with us some of your experiences in McAllen, TX, you and the immigrates are lifted more often in our prayers.

  2. Sister Julie Ann says:

    We are grateful that Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity are able to be at the border through Sister Mary Ann’s presence there at this time. Our prayers are linked to direct action. Our Sisters really try to live the Gospel by being present to all that the Lord places in our path each day wherever we are! God is good!

  3. Sister Mariadele says:

    Thank you Sister Mary Ann and Catholic Charities for helping those wonderful families who are in need. God is with you!

  4. Sister Karen Suhr says:

    Sr. Mary Ann, thank you for giving us a glimpse of how you and those you work with are pleasing the Lord.
    All of us here in St. Rita’s are amazed at how you are assisting those in crisis and want to assure you of our prayerful support. God ‘s blessings!

  5. We pray for you, Sister Mary Ann, and for those you serve. I am sure you are growing in God’s image and likeness as you work with those most in need.

  6. Sister Marlita says:

    Good chatting with you the other eve. The stories you shared were heart wrenching. You certainly are in touch with those truly in need of the healing touch of God. May the ministry you continue to share with these immigrants be filled with many special moments of love and care. We prayfully support you and all the volunteers who are giving their time and compassion to this cause. Stay well.

  7. Mary Ann Teshima says:

    Dear Sister Mary Ann,
    Thank you so much for posting these pictures and your thoughts. The smiles on the faces of all you encounter says it all – sharing the joy of the Gospel, giving help to those in need, welcoming the stranger. Cristo te ama indeed! God bless you in all that you do and know that our prayers are with you and all those you meet.

  8. Sister Kay Klackner says:

    I am so thrilled that you have this opportunity to serve the immigrants at the border. I’m proud that our Franciscan presence is there through you! Know of my prayers and support!

  9. Sr. Ellen Pachmayer says:

    Dear Sr. Mary Ann,
    I didn’t realize that you are in Texas already! Wow! I am so glad that you are there doing what you love to do in helping the people. I’m glad that we are represented there with you. I am sure that the Lord will do mighty deeds through you and the others serving with you . Be assured of our prayers. God’s blessing on you and all.
    Love, Sister Ellen

  10. ear Sister Mary Ann,
    What special gifts you have! Your experience in Peru serves you well. May God continue to bless you in serving needy people with loving care.
    With prayer,
    Sister Ann Joachim

    • Sister Rosangela says:

      Sister Mary Ann,
      God is surely pleased with the work you and theYou are in my thoughts and prayers. other volunteers are doing. You are not only helping the people physically buy giving them hope. You are making God present to them. God bless you as you continue this work.

  11. God reward you and all those who are working with you to care for God’s chosen people. Your expression on your face says it all…you are where God wants you to be right now. The Franciscan spirit is being proclaimed through you. Thank you and know of my prayerful support. Sister Jerianne Stelmach

  12. Hi S. Mary Ann,
    Thank you for sharing your ministry with us. Those wonderful people need you. May you be blessed in every way. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
    Sr. Pat T.

  13. Your support and prayers are so very appreciated! It is a gift to belong to my Community of Franciscan Sisters! The many prayers are assisting a great number of families! The transformation and gratitude they express is an example of God’s grace very alive! Thank you for your kind responses!

  14. HAppy Feastday MAry Ann ! It will be celebrated as no other, I suspect, as you reach out to those in need.
    May the smiles and words of thanks from those you meet today bring you the best kind of feastday
    celebration that you could ever have. Sharing love cannot be beat! Remembering your dead Dad also, of course. LOTS OF LOVE.

  15. God’s continual blessings of good health, sustained stamina and a warm, joyful heart be upon you and your colleagues as you give of yourself each day within this rich mininstry setting.

    We are all praying with you and for you and your friends during these days, weeks and months.

    What a wonderful way to be present to those in such need. Every face that you shared is radiant with joy….including yours. Peace. We are proud of you!

  16. Brother Walter says:

    I thought of you as I reflected on this Sunday’s Gospel (MT 25:31-46)…

    For I was hungry and you gave me food,
    I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
    a stranger and you welcomed me,
    naked and you clothed me,
    ill and you cared for me,
    in prison and you visited me…
    Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
    for one of the least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

    What a wonderful gift to be so clearly in the presence of the risen Lord!
    My prayers are with you, your companions, and the people you serve.

  17. Sister Jolynn Kohlbeck says:

    How happy I was to read your message, Sister Mary Ann. It made me proud to know that you are there for us who would not be able to help. Know that my thoughts and prayers are with you and your co-workers each day.

  18. Sister Ann Mary Hart says:

    Thank you for your being there for the people in such great need. Thanks for representing our Community there. You all will be in my prayers.

  19. Sr. Pam Biehl says:

    After just celebrating Thanksgiving and remembering all the things I take so much for granted every day your experience is another reminder of how much I have to be grateful for. May the people who are touched by your kindness and compassion know they are not alone as they seek a better life for their family.

    Know you are in my prayers every day as you give of yourself to those in need.

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