Back in 1977, I attended the first annual Franciscan Brotherhood Experience vocation weekend at Mayslake Retreat House in suburban Chicago.
It was a glorious experience of being with 30 friars, from different ministries and lifestyles. Although it was 45 years ago, I still remember well the anticipation to be part of Franciscan community and life.
Since 2005, I’ve been assigned to live along the Arizona/Mexico border. Back in 2005 I helped organize a “Franciscans Along the Border” meeting in Topawa, on the Tohono O’odahm reservation, 15 miles from the Mexican border. Then in 2008, two other friars and I organized another Franciscans Along the Border gathering, this time in Socoro/El Paso. At those meetings I met Ruben Garcia and others from Tucson, Phoenix and El Paso.
But this gathering in 2022 was a Franciscan Border Experience extraordinaire. In addition to seeing Ruben Garcia again (challenging us to organize a bus of 50 migrants to settle into the interior of the country), we also met Marisa Limon Garcia of Las Americas. Marisa explained to us the Franciscan roots of Las Americas. Since its founding in 1987, they have offered legal help to 40,000 migrants from 70 countries. Dylan Corbett, the founder and director of Hope Border Institute gave us a concise summary of the history of the southwest, and the great need to respect all the people and cultures, those settled and those on the move. He said his boss is Pope Francis! Finally, Tom Smith, OFMConv. Hosted us at Holy Cross retreat in Mesilla Park, where they have housed hundreds of migrants over the years during the weekdays when there are no retreats going on.
There was so much more to our days together, including our wonderful hospitality at Guadalupe Retreat, and our well-organized van rides/car rides to get around town. Special thanks to Lori and her collaborators/volunteers who organized our days together!
–David Buer, ofm