Written on: November 7, 2023
Sisters Diane Bardol and Bridget Connor have returned to El Paso, Texas to work with refugees and asylum seekers coming across the border from Mexico. We will be posting the notes Sister Diane sends us for you to share in this experience.
After a flawless flight, Sister Bridget and I arrived in El Paso at 12:15 p.m. We got a cab to Holy Family Refugee House where we met the site coordinator of the day who showed us the lay of the land. She said she would meet with us the next day to get our schedule for the week. That didn’t happen; looking back, we see that is pretty much the pattern of life here! Schedules are merely an illusion. The only sure thing seemed to be that Mondays would be our day off, until it wasn’t! Schedules are fluid at best! We worked eleven hours on Monday. The kind of work we did requires a little history of the location but that’s for another time.
As I said, we arrived Saturday and after the whirlwind tour of the buildings, a bus arrived with 37 guests and we got put to work immediately doing whatever someone thought should be done at the moment, including in-take which neither of us had ever done. There was a 5:15 Mass across the street that we thought would be best for two reasons. First, it was in English and second, we seemed to be free!
So we walked in the church at 5:10 PM. Only one other person was there, a woman who probably was the sacristan. The quiet was very restful, but after forty-five minutes it became “distractful”. Where was everyone?
At about 5:55 PM, we heard some voices and then choir practice. Six o’clock the priest arrives in no particular hurry. Finally, the light dawns — our phones didn’t change to mountain-time, only central-time so we were an hour early! That was the first time in my life that I was that early!
The liturgy was well worth the wait. The homily was excellent, directly connecting the scriptures to current real-life happenings. And the choir was superb, great music and great voices. What a gift!
Finally, Monday morning we sat down with the other out-of-town volunteer who arrived the same day as us and decided which shift we would take for the rest of the week. Sister Bridget and I would take the 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift and Monica would take the 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. shift.
Next week we will do the reverse. However, living on site, we are really on duty 7-7. Monday, we were also going to have mass in the little reflection room at 10 a.m. Just as the altar was ready for mass, someone came bursting in saying a bus had just arrived with 37 guests. So, our celebration of the Eucharist became Receiving our Guests. Another gift.
The actual work of welcoming consists of many steps:
Here, one doesn’t become entrenched in any one area.
So far this week we have received approximately 150 guests, LOTS of children, infants to young teens, are included in that number.
Some are able to leave the same day, some overnight, and some may have to wait two, three, or more days. Two days this week we didn’t receive any guests. That was disappointing, but not without work. There’s always something more to do!
One last note. I asked the person who leads prayer before meals to include a prayer for peace, as Sister Denise had shared with us Pope Francis’ request for prayer and fasting for peace in all the countries where war prevails. Friday night, one of the volunteers led the rosary with our guests and included the intention for peace. The prayers of those who have suffered so much from violence themselves are surely very powerful!
With love from El Paso and gratitude for your love and support,
Sister Diane and Sister Bridget