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Edition No. 173— May 27, 2021 
We Are All Part of Christ’s Body
Freeman Coliseum, San Antonio, TX
By Maryanne Zakreski SSJ
Freeman Coliseum, normally a sports and concert venue located in San Antonio, Texas, was rented by the Federal Government to house around two thousand refugee boys aged 13-17 until the end of May. The ultimate goal was to place the boys quickly into a in new family.

I did not know what to expect upon my arrival. Security on every level was very evident.  After checking in I ventured over to the massive hall which doubled as a dormitory, arts and crafts room, gym and movie room. It was divided into 35 pods each consisting of about 30 cots. Around the edges were activities included soccer, crafts, and painting and learning. I found the sheer size of the operation at Freeman Coliseum overwhelming. There are probably as many workers as there are boys. Hundreds of folks, paid workers, come in daily shifts. There are pod leaders, security, doctor’s counselors, supervisors, case workers and more. Because they have worked there for weeks they are vulnerable to the emotional ups and downs of daily transitions and loss of the guys for whom they have cared so much. 

The day I was assigned to pod 30A, which included 23 boys, was among the most personal experiences for me. We roused them from sleep around 7:30 and lined them up immediately for breakfast, from there directly to the bathrooms. Pod Leaders needed to escort the boys everywhere from bathrooms, to showers, to calls, etc. What deepened that impression is the fact that most of the boys were dressed in gray. It reminded me of Eichenberg’s image of “Jesus in the Breadline.” 

Stories that made an impact on me include: a woman who was a Federal employee relayed that some parents in Central American put their children out on the street to fend for themselves.  Another that surprised me is parents selling their homes to give money to smugglers to transport their children to America, while they consequently made themselves homeless. 

The process for a safe release can be very challenging. It is relatively easy for family reunification if the relationship can be easily proven. The process becomes more complicated with friends and sponsors. They might give up on the process because they are afraid. Consequently, the immediate future of those boys will be a trip to another center and perhaps eventually be placed in the foster care system. 
During the day many of the refugee boys made gifts and mementoes for the adults who had been so supportive of them. Origami flower bouquets, bracelets, etc. were made quietly and with great focus in spite of all that were going on around them and the stories they held inside.

During the day many of the refugee boys made gifts and mementoes for the adults who had been so supportive of them. Origami flower bouquets, bracelets, etc. were made quietly and with great focus in spite of all that were going on around them and the stories they held inside. 
On Tuesday when I left to return to Philly I was waiting in the San Antonio airport terminal when some Spanish teenagers came into my area. I recognized one who had sat at my table making God’s eyes. He came and sat beside me. Even though I could not talk to him, nor he to me, I got the distinct feeling that just sitting there beside me was in some way comforting. I realized then that in my limited capacity to really interact with the boys that whatever I could do was enough.  Sitting side by side we could sense the presence of God, and that was enough. 

During my time at Freeman Coliseum I met many people. Everyone was devoted to the well-being of the refugee boys. The boys, too, were amazing in their resilience, in their ability to play, create, and interact in spite of all that had happened to them. There was a sense of unity, with a focus on compassionate care. I sensed that we are all part of Christ’s Body.
Gathering for Peace
Saint Joseph Villa
May 23, 2021
On Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021, sisters, associates, partners in mission and friends gathered at Saint Joseph Villa  to pray for peace in our hearts and in the hearts of all people throughout the world.

Sister Owen Patricia Bonner SSJ, led the prayer service. “With our eyes open on a world both miserable and sinful, but a world worked on by the Holy Spirit, we pray to our loving God. Grant us a sense of urgency to activate the forces of goodness, of justice, of love and of peace in our World.”

Through prayers, song and silence participants prayed for the many needs in our world and an end to racism, gun violence and human trafficking. 
Pictured from left: Marian Behrle SSJ, Joyce Ballerino SSJ, Pat Madden SSJ
and Eileen Marnien SSJ
Loving God, through your Son you gave us an example of how to love one another and how to embody this love by accepting and serving one another. Give us the strength to continue working to bring forth your kingdom here on earth, where all are welcomed and all know compassion, grace and mercy.
Sister Cynthia Ludwick SSJ proundly holding her sign.
by Julie Gabell, SSJ Associate
ABSENCE. Does it “make the heart grow fonder?” Or mean “out of sight, out of mind?”

When Villa Zoomers met this month after a three-week break in schedule, they had an opportunity to decide. As moderator Sister Sharon White SSJ responded to refugee needs on the Texas border, restrictions relaxed at the Villa and most of us delved into summer. Slowly life did an about-face. Small individual prayer groups, family visits, downstairs dining and trips to Boscov’s resumed. Though most agreed that the “old normal” still eluded us, we settled into familiar patterns and breathed a cautious sigh of relief.

If nothing else, COVID I9 had changed our direction. Villa Zoomers now decided to meet bi-weekly on Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. for discussion and skip Sunday gatherings altogether, leaving more time for retreat, visiting and summer activities. When we do get together on Wednesdays, June 2, 16, and 30 we will continue with Pope Francis’ encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, and other timely topics that include opportunities for advocacy for systemic change. Villa Zoomers will be reminded of dates and subjects for July and August. This summer schedule will be reevaluated in the Fall. 

And so begins our “new NOW!”`
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"With the help of God's grace and in fidelity to our founder's expressed wish, we live and work lovingly among all persons with a special preference for those who are poor, which calls us wherever we are to be in union with them."
                         — SSJ Constitutions #21
Editor, Sister Carole Pollock SSJ | 215.248.7269 | |