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Edition No. 175—June 11, 2021 
Reflection on Trip to Laredo 
Kay Coll SSJ
An LCWR invitation to come and see and be with the migrants at the Border assisting in the Catholic Charities services of welcoming, feeding, clothing and relieving them for this moment of their journey stating that, although helpful, speaking Spanish wasn’t required to register, had my name on it. Sister Pat McGinley SSJ agreed to go with me and we left for Laredo May 16th.

They came, the migrants—from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Haiti. They were families. The first week it was mostly young mothers with little children. More dads arrived with them the second week. Laredo was the last stop on their journey before meeting with family members or sponsors who would be responsible for them and who would purchase their airplane or bus ticket out of Laredo. The large groups came on buses to LA Frontier, the Humanitarian Care Center, and were accompanied by Border Patrol in cars. 

All were tested, including little children some of whom screamed and squirmed so the nurse let the parent swab and the child received a candy or a cookie. This tore at our hearts, but who knows what other terrors the children have been through?

Pat and I stayed and helped with the serving of the food. Upstairs there were rooms with clean sheets on mattresses on the floor, all kept immaculate by Sandy, the Operations Manager. Showers were available also. It was way after midnight when we left that evening. The staff was still there.

I can’t express how special this was for me as a member of the Advocates for Immigrant Detainees. I’ve protested outside detention centers in Hudson and Essex County, inspected the Elizabeth Detention Center,  marched on behalf of immigrant rights in Trenton and elsewhere and prayed at vigils for years and in our Congregational prayers and community, to be here at this time. This was on site, coming face to face with those on the journey was something else. And that journey for some took a month or more. Having read about some of the things that went on with the coyotes who were only interested in making money, one woman said out loud, “Only God knows what I’ve been through.” Then, I say what would any of us do if we were in a terrible situation.  A little  hope, a possibility is better than doing nothing to change the situation. Yes, even though only a small percentage make it to be card carriers, they will flee and  do their best to be one of them. Only the children have no voice in that treacherous journey. 
I worked a good bit in the Ropa Clothing Room. Spanish language wasn’t needed, the invitation said, but it surely left an emptiness when helping someone find something and not fully understanding what he/she was saying. 

I confess that I thought it would be a contemplative experience for me and it was that but more. A quote in the Global Sisters Report under Fratelli Tutti says “It is the one in need or hurt who helps me to see where I am in my spiritual growth.” I saw myself adhering to the “One change of clothing”, “Only three in the room at a time”. Watching a boy around 8 or 9 come in and out with different adults and carrying more clothes his size in his hands, I signaled to him not to come in anymore. Finally, I realized what was going on as I called him over to me and took his hand and said that I’m sorry. I am here as your friend and asked him to say that he was sorry also, which he did. Then something lifted from me as I realized the grace given to me was not a “feel good” grace because you eased someone’s suffering but a “let go” grace of what you are doing. To confirm it all, someone had donated a large bag of fortune cookies and each of the volunteers took one. Mine read “Forget those things that aren’t  worth remembering.” Let go, let go, and let God it was telling me.

Pat and I had shifts starting after breakfast or lunch and ending around 6:30 or 7:00pm. The second week we started around 7:30 am which meant breakfast had to be provided and what that would be was up to us. Pat, who said she can’t cook, managed to produce some kind of tortillas with meat and cheese. 

A feeling of community, the realization that we are all in this together emerged. Becky, Sandy and Elizabeth were paid staff. All the others volunteered. During our time there were two Ursuline Sisters, four Benedictines, a Maryknoll, three Religious of the Holy Name, a married woman and one member of a lay organization. We shared and exchanged together and felt the common spirit among us. We knew we had to do more politically, to advocate for change in  what drives the migration, to address the unjust immigration system that turns its back on  the migrants seeking asylum and deports them or puts them in detention centers. I am truly grateful for this stretching and enriching experience.    
VILLA ZOOM: The Serious Art of Dialogue
by Julie Gabell, SSJ Associate

Today we live in a world where a sense of true dialogue is needed but is often lost in a miasma of self-service and misinformed truth. Fake news and false assumptions, nurtured by a feverish exchange of views on social media, demand that we sort through what we think and believe at every turn of the page. It is to our advantage at this point to stop and listen to the murmur of our heart.  

Pope Francis tells us that those who are open to a respectful exchange of ideas are ahead of the game. By listening from the outset with a mind amenable to sharing the views of another, we take that first step towards reaching an acceptable agreement. Yet, to get there is not always easy. When the wrappings of true dialogue are stripped from the package, they often reveal a battered psyche and a hard-fought struggle.

Last week Villa Zoomers saw in Fratelli Tutti that an indispensable element of authentic social dialogue is openness to the spirit and desire for the common good. On so many occasions we have faced off with the need to discern the truth, to find where the Lord is leading us. But what is truth when we all have a little bit of it? “In a true spirit of dialogue,” counsels Pope Francis, “ we grow in our ability to grasp the meaning of what others have to say and do, even if we cannot accept it as our own conviction.” 

We live at a time when change is inevitable and direction is illusive. It’s a time  to join hands and abandon our heart to the workings of the Spirit.
Saint Joseph Villa
Boardwalk Dinner
A heartfelt Thank You to Dining Services who planned and served a wonderful 
Boardwalk—themed dinner. You can tell from the pictures that the sisters and lay residents enjoyed themselves.
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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 | |