I was humbled to be in the presence of courageous individuals who, seeing such great need and acting in faith without a clear idea of exactly what to do, responded with compassion to migrants in need, opening camps in Mexico or resettlement centers in the U.S. Their action was the catalyst that empowered so many others to get involved—and the net result of increasing collaboration has made a huge difference for brothers and sisters in severe need. I was drawn to ask how we, as friars of the new Our Lady of GuadalupeProvince, can respond more fully to our sisters and brothers on the border.
—Larry Hayes, OFM
It was an answer to prayer to have 20 Franciscans in habit making the rounds of visiting the shelters and meeting some of the migrants and their children. —David Buer, OFM
At the end of our inter-provincial retreat at San Juan, Texas in February 2023, we 14 OFM friars arrived at the Hildago/Reynosa International Bridge where we met Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ and received an introduction to her work at the border. We then crossed the bridge to Reynosa.
At the Senda de Vida (Path of Life) refugee camp we met refugees from Latin America and other countries as well as those who have been sent back to Mexico to await their immigration hearings. The camp is run by Sr. Norma and Pastor Hector Silva. Many wait for up two two months for their initial hearing. Mostly women and children are staying in these camps, as well as single adults, couples, and entire families. Most are staying in tents, but some small houses are under construction as well. The tents were donated by religious groups, as were most of the facilities. Sr. Norma and Pastor Hector have a great charism of getting various religious to work together on this common project.
The encounter at the border was eye-opening and powerful. The experience taught me how the situation is even more complex than I had envisioned. I believe all friars should have similar encounters to truly understand the complexity and realities that our sisters and brothers endure. — James La Grutta, OFM
Hundreds children play together wherever you look. The camp is clean and orderly, in contrast to the many refugees living outside these camps along the roads. Those outside are free to do whatever they want, while those inside have to obey the rules: no drinking, fighting, etc. Senda de Vida is surrounded by high fences for safety, and only recognized people are allowed in through the gate. Currently the numbers are down to about 300-400 people from about 700 a few months ago.
The group also visited the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, and learned about how the organization is supporting refugees (all of whom have been admitted to the US) with legal assistance, housing, clothes, and transportation out of McAllen.
In the Chihuahuan desert on the border of Mexico and Texas, where there are great human struggles and hardships, I witness the Seeds of Hope there, even their blossoming into Joy. —Dick Tandy, OFM
Brother Keith Warner, Director of the Franciscan Renewal Project at the Franciscan School of Theology in San Diego, CA organized and led the encounter, and compiled these resources for learning more about migration. RESOURCES
These stories brought tears to my eyes and heart. Jesus is alive and asks us to respond to NEEDS and there are sooo many!!!!