Since when is celebrating one’s 18th birthday something to dread? (Sister Mary Ann Spanjers experience with refugee teens in Tucson)

BorderMass_1The opportunity to be at Mass, with three of my Franciscan Sisters, with over 30 teens from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico last evening filled me with profound helplessness and pleading prayer to Jesus for these youths. These teenagers are living at a government center, here in Tucson, for unaccompanied minors who have come to our border seeking life. They are fleeing dangerous gangs, violence, assault, rape and death.

After Mass I approached one young woman in tears. She is dreading her approaching birthday. Next Saturday she will be 18 yrs old and will be transferred out of this center, where she has lived in peace and security for the past two months, to an adult center of detention. Thanks be to God, she is not being sent to the prison in Florence, AZ where many of the teenagers are imprisoned when they turn 18.

Please join me in prayer, as we enter this time of Lent, for these teens and all refugees. Pray that our political leaders will do the right thing to help these young people, not imprison them or send them back to an unthinkable violent country where they have no hope. Pray that they have the inner strength to rely on Jesus’ love in their lives and that we may be instruments of His love and peace.

I have no pictures to post out of respect for the vulnerability of these young people. So I am posting a picture from a Mass on the border where people on the Mexican side of the border reach through the fence into Nogales, Arizona, to receive Holy Communion from the Bishop of Tucson, Gerald Kicanas.