GNSH at the Border- Fall 2022

Written on: October 10, 2022

With Love From El Paso, Texas

Week 4:  October 16 – 24 

Dear Partners in Mission,
I hope this collection of vignettes is a good way to sum up our El Paso mission.

“Abuela, Abuela, Abuela”, cried a little boy as I was going upstairs Sunday evening. He was sitting on the stairs with his mother and father, but missing his grandma and I reminded him of her! How many times can your heart melt in one day?

There’s a little girl running around, as proud as could be, dressed in a soft, snuggly nightgown that Mary found for her in the donation box. I don’t know how many times she ran up to Mary and hugged her.

I just learned that many of the people who have come to us have come from a detention center where they had only bread to eat and where things like baby bottles were taken from them. I now know why they come so hungry! One baby needed formula, but didn’t have a bottle. Mom was trying to improvise, but hadn’t yet succeeded. That detention center is right next door to Casa Romero (now closed) where Eileen Connor and I worked in 2019.

There’s a Venezuelan family here whose brother-in-law somehow became separated from them as they were escaping. They are waiting here to hear from him, of course fearing the worse, while hoping for the best. But after so many days, hope is wearing rather thin. The man showed me a video he took of a small section of their escape through the jungle and up the mountain! It rains every day and they were clay from head to foot. I can only ask, “Who would ever attempt such a trip if it weren’t a matter of life and death to remain!”

Today, Oct. 19, we learned that as of Oct. 25, Annunciation House will no longer be using the Budget Inn. We aren’t privy to the details, however, we knew this was coming. The guests who are now coming are mostly T- 42 Streamline Exception. This makes for very slow days, since they need very little by way of hygiene products or clothes.

Our last day! I met a Haitian woman, her husband and three children, all T-42 Exception, who will be leaving for Philadelphia on Monday! Small world.

So ends another privileged month at the El Paso border!

Mary and I thank you all for your love, interest and support. May we never forget the extraordinary gift these sisters and brothers are to us and to the U.S. And may we never lose an opportunity to defend their right to migrate!

With love and prayers,
Sister Diane and Mary Bardol

WEEK 3:  October 9 – 15

Dear Partners in Mission,

Sunday was a lo-oo-oo-ng and rather sad day. Very few families were sent to us and as far as we are concerned, that’s not good! We may be just beginning to experience the effects of the new Venezuelan Policy that went into effect Oct. 12.

Monday of the 1,196 refugees released today we are to receive 45 family members and 10 Streamline T- 42 Exception refugees. However, BP made a mistake and brought the 45 to Holy Family which put them over capacity and we had no new guests! It was not a good day for us and definitely challenging for Holy Family. I don’t know how they coped!

Tuesday made up for yesterday and the day before. We received 101 family members in 2 separate drop offs and 10 Streamline refugees. This was more like it; very busy, but very exciting. It’s such a joy to welcome them. Mary stayed at the bus as they got off and cheered them on to me where I met them and cut off their wrist bands. As I said before cutting the wrist bands is a wonderful metaphor setting one free. For some, though, it’s a painful reminder of the family they had to leave behind. Today Mary got to test her Spanish in a new way; she did intake. That was somewhat like baptism by fire, but she liked it and will no doubt be assigned to do it again.

Wednesday is our day off this week. Mary and I are going to venture out to a movie theatre that is supposed to be in walking distance and have lunch at a little Mexican restaurant.

Thursday new migration enforcement policy regarding Venezuelans is being felt. Fewer numbers being released; fewer numbers being received. It is supposed to keep the migrants less liable to the victimization of traffickers, which may be true, but those attempting to cross illegally will be sent back to Venezuela and the dangers of poverty and death from which they were fleeing. At best it’s a mixed bag! In the midst of all this, I watched as a baby took his first wobbly steps. How life giving and hope filled is that!

Friday about 200 Red Cross blankets were delivered. What a blessing. The weather is definitely getting cooler and our guests are not at all prepared for temperatures in the low 60’s with strong winds. Their rooms have heat, but you probably can imagine what it’s like to contain small children in one room all day!! Socks, decent shoes and jackets or sweaters are in very short supply or non-existent. So what you see is a lot of children playing with blankets wrapped around them. Even adults are wrapped in their Red Cross blanket.

So ends week three!
With love and prayers,
Sister Diane and Mary Bardol

WEEK 2: October 2 – 8

Dear Partners in Mission,

Sunday liturgy was life in action, liturgy in living color. Here’s how it was celebrated. Border Patrol brought seventy-five family members to join those already here. As soon as they arrive they are seated and their wrist bands are cut off and they are told they are free (the penitential rite) and can call home. Then they hear the good news in the form of a welcome speech and what they can expect to happen while during their stay. After hearing what is expected of them during their stay, they can pick up their hygiene kit from me (our offering to them). Communion is an all-day-every day happening! It is a unique sharing in each other’s life. There are tears and plenty of laughter. At the dismissal, (their departure) many stop to say “Gracias” with a hugs and kisses. That gratitude is most definitely reciprocal. How could you not be grateful for the privilege of being with these special sisters and brothers of ours?  Remember eucharist comes from the Greek word thanksgiving! Certainly they are headed for difficult times, but I hope with the sure knowledge and experience that they are loved!

Monday we received 90 family members. We ran out of toothbrushes (again) and other items for their hygiene kit, but the most crucial item of all were pampers size 3, 4 and 5. Several little toddlers had to grow up fast and wear pull ups since that was all we had! Later in the afternoon someone brought in two large cartons of toothbrushes she had been driving around with in the trunk of her car!! A staff member had to make a pamper run. It was a particularly happy day – lots of laughter and joy. How wonderful! I’m on call tonight, which means if anyone needs anything after 10 p.m. they knock on my door. At 2:30 a.m. a mother and her teen age son knocked to tell me they were leaving for their desired destination! That was good news.

Tuesday we received 100 family members of the 1,105 being released. Every morning we receive a text from ICE/BP/FAMU/OFO regarding refugee releases, where they are going and their ETA which is usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Many come with colds, sore throats, fevers, upset stomachs and headaches. The garden variety of ailments brought on by who-knows how many months of difficult travel. I have the scary task of determining what medicine to give. When it’s for children, I try to follow the advice of the parent.

I’m on call tonight. At 10:20 a mother knocked to say her two year old has a fever. So I went to the dispensa, picked up the thermometer, children’s Tylenol, measuring cup and put them in a zip lock bag – my doctor’s bag! Indeed the child’s temperature was 102.6. I gave her the Tylenol plus a second dose and told her to come to me if she is not responding or if the 3 fever is climbing. Needless to say with no formal   medical background I was very nervous. Thankfully no knock in the middle of the night. I went to see them around 7 a.m., temperature was 101.3 not good, but better. More Tylenol. About 10:30 a.m. there she was sitting on the concrete step eating Cheetos!

Wednesday of the 1,033 refugees released by the various agencies, Budget Inn received 100 family members. We must have been short on workers because chaos reigned supreme! But as usual all worked out, even the cereal and other supplies arrived, not on our schedule, but as Sunday’s reading from Habakkuk says, “…the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”

Thursday, my theoretical day off, I went over to the Soluna Hotel to get my usual 2 morning cups of real coffee. As I was walking back one of the 3 year olds saw me and came running to give the best morning pick up anyone could have, a huge hug!  Shortly after that, I spent a couple of hours with our IT man to get me technologically connected. Later, I walked to the grocery store. Shopping isn’t my favorite thing to do, but it is a little bit of diversion!

Of the 1,205 refugees released from the various immigration agencies, we received 95 family members. I have no idea how they determine who or how many go where. But I wasn’t at a loss as to how to spend the rest of my day off! One can’t simply walk away from that scene.

Friday, my email is down again! Of the 1,292 refugees released today we received 100, the daily routine being the same. However, the early morning hours are getting chilly and our guests are feeling it. We have no jackets or sweaters to hand out, so it’s all about doing with what you have! I found some sheets and bath towels in the dispensa. They make an okay substitute for a blanket! I’m on call tonight. I hope all is calm!

Saturday My sister Mary arrived at 3 p.m. We left for 5 p.m. Mass at 4:25 and arrived at church in time for the first reading! I missed calculated the distance and time it would take to walk to church! It actually took 45 minutes walking at a very fast pace! Round trip was 5 miles! That wasn’t the best way to welcome my sister! Nevertheless we’re still talking and for now we’re both helping with breakfast, lunch and supper and working in the dispensa.

So ends week two!
With love and prayers,
Sister Diane

WEEK 1: September 24 – October 1:

Dear Partners in Mission,
Thanks for your interest in our life with the immigrants. My flight from Philadelphia to El Paso was flawless! I arrived in El Paso 12:20 p.m. on time and so did my suitcase! Sam, an Annunciation House volunteer picked me up and gave me my orientation on the short drive to the Budget Inn.

The Budget Inn and Soluna Hotel are owned by a former refugee family who want to pay their success forward. They are making available 28 rooms in the Soluna Hotel and 35 in the Budget Inn to accommodate migrants sent to Annunciation House. Annunciation House has 17 other locations serving the immigrants. These two motels are on the same grounds. Two tents are set up in the parking lot; the large one serves as a dining room and the smaller one serves as the intake area. This set up makes our work a little easier. There are no cooking facilities so meals are purchased from fast food businesses and received from donations. The motel employees do the laundry and ready the rooms. Life is good!

 Now for what really matters. The guests have been mainly from Venezuela. However, on Sunday they were also from Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Cuba, Dominican Rep. Nicaragua, and Peru, (in alphabetical order). Today, 9/26/2022 a number were from Turkey.

 Now for what really, really matters!

Sunday I got lots of hugs and kisses from God! These people are so beautiful! They are so grateful for what we take for granted. I’ll try to remember this the next time I run out of toothpaste or aspirin or anything else so ordinary and get annoyed.

Monday was like Christmas! My main work is the dispensa. That’s where everyone comes after their intake paper work is completed to receive toiletries and meds if needed. There was disappointment, probably more on my part, when I had to tell them there were no tooth brushes or shampoo or deodorant! Then late afternoon tooth brushes and shampoo arrived and still later socks arrived! What joy!

Tuesday was another Christmas! This time the gift was deodorant. Great Celebration! We received about 105 family members today from all over.

Wednesday when there was a noticeable “siesta time,” with the help of a local volunteer, we organized the very small dispensa, which by now was making caring for the guests needs very difficult. More boxes than space! There even was time to fill zip lock baggies with baby formula and wipes. I even had time to stand back and admire! All day long guests come in with sore throats, low grade fever, and stomach problems. I learned a wonderful trick from the mother of a toddler who didn’t want to take the medicine that I had poured into the measuring cup. She dipped her finger into the medicine and put it on the baby’s tongue! It tasted good so no resistance. Needless to say I use that trick a lot!

Thursday is my day off. I used the morning to scout out a church and much to my surprise the nearest one is St. Joseph’s, the same one I’ve been attending every time I was here. It’s about a half hour walk from where I’m staying, quite doable. Theoretically my shift is 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. so the 5 p.m. Saturday Mass is perfect.

Friday was another one of those “out of days” – out of tooth brushes, out of tooth paste and out of deodorant. After my shift I went to the Dollar store to replenish the tooth brushes. They had 24, but what’s this among so many! A few hours later 4 gigantic boxes of everything we needed, plus more was delivered! Why would I ever expect less?!

“Divine Providence, You are the Provider of all things.”

Saturday we received 95 family members, but that was before any of the current guests left. Great confusion for a long time! First time there wasn’t enough food for lunch. Good thing there were enough sack lunches left from Friday.

So ends week one!

With love and prayers,
Sister Diane Bardol, GNSH

top image courtesy of Robert Hickerson/Unsplash


2 thoughts on “GNSH at the Border- Fall 2022

  1. Sr. Katharina Maria says:

    Thank you for being Christ to those who are coming to the house! You are God’s gift to those in need!
    Sr. Katharina Maria

  2. Lorraine Kennedy GNSHA says:

    Oh my goodness, I had a very slim idea of what you, and your sister Mary were doing in El Paso. Your stories shared re-enforced the the gift of Divine Providence. Which you both were a great part of giving to all those in need. God Bless you both & all the other Angels who are participating in time of great need.
    Safe travels home. Can’t wait till we meet again!
    Much love and Blessings,

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