St. Francis Border Mission, Elfrida, Arizona
The Franciscan fraternity based at Saint Francis Mission Church in Elfrida, Arizona, attempts to serve the Church and the vulnerable people on both sides of the Mexico/USA border at Douglas, AZ/Agua Prieta, Mexico, near where we live. We are a small, prayerful, contemplative fraternity of minor brothers in mission.
What we offer
As a community, we ourselves do not have a structure or institution to serve migrants. We partner with those groups and organization who need of volunteers to serve the poor and marginalized. We try to balance our ministries with basic human needs and religious accompaniment as well as working to promote more just public and private social structures. We are a “Laudato Si” fraternity, and we actively participate in the universal seven-year action plan for all societies, sponsored by the Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope Francis, as expressed in the encyclical letter with the same title: “Laudato Si.”
How you can partner with us and and join our cause
We encourage you to join us in helping out with any of these missions and organizations where we share our personal and fraternal gifts:
Migrant Resource Center
Agua Prieta, Mexico
MRC provides direct humanitarian assistance. Migrants who have tried to enter the US are caught and unceremoniously put through an opening in the wall, finding themselves stranded in Mexico. About 30 yards from this gate, the SSND Sisters, OFM Franciscans, Presbyterian Church and local Catholic parish are there to help, The MRC volunteers keep the refrigerator full of sandwiches, make soup and simple hot meals, supply underwear, socks, clothing, bathrooms, showers, medical attention especially for blisters, and comfortable outdoor shaded tables to eat, relax, recover, and plan what to do next. Coffee, water, granola bars are on-hand as well as personal and group legal help for the next step. Hygiene items are kept on hand as well. The MRC, with 24 hour service, attends an average of 50 to 100 men women and children each day in this one border crossing town in Arizona. A kind word and appreciative listen go a long way to soothe the incredible struggles many have and there is sometimes an opportunity for a few moments of prayer and solidarity.
Centro de Atención al Migrante Exodus (CAME)
Agua Prieta, Sonora, México
After their first contact at the Migrant Resource Center, many recently deported migrants need shelter. CAME welcomes them with open arms, providing shelter meals and, of course, a cup of coffee. CAME is a place where migrants know they are safe and cared for while they decide what to do next. Just three months prior to its 21st anniversary, CAME moved into its newly expanded facility supported by the Catholic Church on both sides of the border,where they are now able to host up to 100 people each day.
Healing Our Borders
A man pulls a cart full of crosses. Three crosses safely cradle against his chest, uniform and white. Two of them read names. A man’s name, a woman’s name, the third reads “desconocido,” unknown. The first two have birth dates. The third, only the date their remains were found in the desert. Behind him are a dozen people holding crosses. Many white faces, a few Hispanic, mostly retirement age, a couple younger adults. “Some of these people have my name,” Someone says, looking at the cross he holds in his hands. A line of cars heads into Mexico—people on their way home from work, to see their families, to do some shopping. One of the cross-bearers faces them and calls out the name on their cross. They raise the cross high. The group’s response: “Presente!” – “PRESENT.” We remember you. We pray for you.
The Healing Our Border Vigil has organized international vigils every Tuesday evening continuously since 2001 by physical presence and by Zoom to honor the thousands of migrants who died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border by carrying crosses that bear the names of the dead. Franciscan brothers and lay missionaries regularly participate in these celebrations assuring that those who died are respectfully remembered and prayed for, as well as attempting to communicate with the families of those lost who have no way of knowing what has happened to their loved ones.
Tucson, Green Valley, Ajo, Sasabe
The OFM Franciscan brothers from the Elfrida fraternity, among several other ministries, actively collaborate as volunteers in various aspects of the Samaritans’ activities. Helping with the Centers, water distribution in the Sonora Desert, gathering supplies for the aid center on both sides of the border, and informing others of our firsthand experiences serving in the desert and saving lives. Since July 2002, the Samaritans have been rendering humanitarian aid to migrants in distress in the Tucson sector of the borderlands, providing medical care, food and water. As people of conscience and faith we respond directly, practically and passionately to the crisis along the USA/ Mexico border.
The Samaritans’ work is based on the principle of civil initiative, described by Jim Corbett, co-founder of the sanctuary movement: “When a government fails to respect and protect basic human rights…it is the responsibility of citizens to act in defense of these rights.” But Corbett adds: “Our responsibility for protecting the persecuted must be balanced by our accountability to the legal order.”
Samaritans are united to respect human dignity, and to promote professional, purposeful relations with everyone we meet in the desert and along the border.
Frontera de Cristo: Integral cross border ministries of the Presbyterian Church
Agua Prieta, Sonora, México
Support for women’s production cooperative, men’s carpentry shop with public sales, community garden, and Just Coffee production, processing and direct commercialization to USA from Chiapas, Mexico.
Casa Alitas Program of Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona (Diocese of Tucson)
Casa Alitas provides hospitality and humanitarian aid for asylum-seeking migrant families who are released by ICE and Border Patrol to continue their journeys in the United and Casa Mariposa (catholic Charities Soup Kitchen). In 2021, Casa Alitas welcomed nearly 3000 guests from Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, Peru, Nicaragua, India, China, Guatemala, and many other countries. They provide not only shelter, but food, psychological support, travel planning, missing family reunifications, airport escort services, medical support, legal referrals, selection of clothing, Indigenous language services, child activity kits, cell phone distribution, birthday celebrations, and much more.
Pilgrimage of Remembrance
Chochise County, Arizona
A diverse and changing group of volunteers located in the Sonoran Desert, on the US-Mexico border. We also have visitors from around the world who join in our work. The work of this project is to remember migrants who have died in the desert in Cochise County, Arizona by planting commemorative crosses near the spots where they have died. These crosses are handmade, carried into the desert by a group of volunteers, and planted at the sites where these people died. This work is in part supported by the School Sisters of Notre Dame.