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!

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With some of the college student volunteers!

A beautiful mother with her son!

A beautiful mother with her son!