This month the executive secretary of the Franciscan Network on Migration and other team members had the opportunity to visit several of our collaborating organizations in Mexico and the United States.
September 28, 2021
Casa del Peregrino Shelter, Divine Mercy Parish, Cholula.
Lori Winther, Fray Gabriel Romero, Fray Agustin Garcia, Alejandra Conde, Sister Flor Ramos, Sister Guadalupe Vazquez, Bety Toxqui
After the first organizing meeting of the RFM-Mexico Team, several of us visited this shelter in Cholula. The shelter is currently closed to overnight guests, but continues to provide food and clothing to migrants. We met with Ingrid, a Honduran migrant who is now settled in Puebla and runs the service to migrants. She discussed how they are assisting migrants and how she confronts coyotes and other negative elements.
October 1-2, 2021
Casa de los Pobres, Tijuana
Lori Winther, Fray Gabriel Romero
We met with the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Peace who run Casa de los Pobres and viewed their facilities. https://www.casadelospobresusa.com/ Sister Maru, Sister Antonia and Sister Gudelia provided an overview of the organization and a tour of the shelter. Casa de los Pobres was founded in 1955 to serve the local community in the neighborhood where the organization is located. The shelter is currently providing housing only on an emergency service. However, they offer a hot meal every day, weekly grocery bag, clinical services, social services, school scholarships, and referrals for legal and other services. Their assistance is available to anyone who requests it and they receive a large contingent of migrants. Fray Gabriel and Lori presented the work of the Network and invited the sisters to join. Provincial Fredy Galvez, OFM also participated in the visit, accompanied by Mr. Cornelio, who began serving the migrant population on his own several years ago, and has recruited the help of many people in his town. Through his restaurant in “El Hongo,” he provides food and clothing and a place to sleep to migrants in a space adjacent to the restaurant.
Casa Franciscana in Guaymas, Sonora
Lori Winther, Fray Gabriel Romero
Casa Guaymas is a mission project of the Santa Barbara Province in the United States. Casa Franciscana has a clinic and dental care, a soup kitchen, a food distribution program, a backpack program for kids who are in school, assistance to nearby indigenous communities, and a migrante attention program in the train depot in Enpalme. They also have a small room in the back of the clinic for excepcional cases where a migrant family might need to stay for a few days. We accompanied the team to Empalme with the team both in the evening upon arrival and in the morning the next day. They “megaphone” up and down the rail lines to invite the migrants to come and receive water, food, clothing, and medicine. Other activities included visiting: a homebound and bedridden man who had fractured his hip, the food distribution program which serves both local homeless people and migrants, the Yaqui communities at Guasimas de Belem to distribute food, clothing and toys.
Comedor San Francisco, Mazatlan
Lori Winther, Fray Gabriel Romero
We visited Fray Juan Sagau and Fray Agustin Garcia, and the other friars at Parroquia San Francisco in Mazatlan. The San Francisco parish has large symbols communicating its welcome of migrant people on a large banner and a donation box on the door. The first night we participated in the Transit of San Francisco, a liturgical drama organized by the youth and friars. The next morning there was a mass and the blessing of the pets for the Feast of San Francisco. Later they gave us a tour of the atrium where they receive migrants, the kitchen they use to prepare food for them, a patio where they have plans for an urban garden, and the house where arriving migrant families stay. At the time we visited, there were no migrants there. We also visited the train tracks where the migrants get off, a precarious setting both for migrants and for passers-by. Under the bridge is a drug trafficking hug, where traffickers recruit migrants to sell. The pillars were painted with various murals, including Santa Muerte, a symbol that drug traffickers have adopted as their patron saint.
October 6-8, 2021
Ite Nuntiate Community, Elfrida, Arizona
Lori Winther and Sister Flor Ramos
Brothers David Buer, Ignacio Harding, Hajime Okuhara, Kevin Hamzik, and Phillip McCarter (OFMs) welcomed us in Elfrida, Arizona. The Ite Nuntiate community has been present on the border for 16 years. Ite Nuntiate is an expression of insertion into the life and experience of the local community is now being promoted in the order not as a separate unique lifestyle, but as a mandate for all religious to live amongst the people.
David gave us a thorough overview of the breadth of their work in the region. They noted various entry points on a map, and pointed out the Tohono O’Odham Nation Reservation west of Elfrida in Arizona, where most of the migrant deaths occur. He recounted that in 2005 and 2008, there were two efforts to coordinate the border work with other Franciscans in El Paso. Those franciscans are no longer there, so they are no longer meeting. However, there is a strong, ecumenical collaboration with the many groups and churches in the área. Every year during the last week in May, the “Diocese Without Borders” organizes an annual pilgrimage from the border to Tucson. It takes 7 days, and runs for 120 km in the desert. The Diocese Without Borders collaboration, which has representatives from the Tucson, Phoenix, Hermosillo and Nogales dioceses, launched in 2001 to bring solidarity across the border. The friars of Ite Nuntiate also participate with the Samaritans and No More Deaths groups for water runs in desert.
The friars are actively involved in with initiatives run by the Presbyterian Church’s “Frontera de Cristo” project. We visited the migrant welcome center “Centro de Recursos para Migrantes” in Agua Prieta where the friars several times per week from 4am to 12pm and assist with food, medical care, clothing, and referrals for migrants who are deported and those arriving to the border area. We visited the center, and met two sisters who also work there, Sr. Judy, SSND and a sister from Mexico. In Agua Prieta we also visited the C.A.M.E. Shelter (Centro de Atencion a Migrantes “Exodo”), Cafe Justo and coffee roasting project, and a center for carpentry, sewing and gardening cooperatives. The sisters, the Presbyterians, and the friars are all working collaboratively in these projects.
We are truly grateful for the warm welcome and inspiration given to us by all of the members of the Network that we visited, and we thank them for sharing their work and their lives with us.