Traveling anywhere with one or two little ones is quite a feat, especially with each ones’ supplies for the journey. Can you imagine having four or five children and traveling through extremely dangerous foreign land, unable to communicate and having no help?
At first you might have a little luggage, money, and energy, but by the time you get a little closer to your destination, you no longer have anything—no travel bag, money, dignity, or hope. If you make it to a free country, there is not even water or food, let alone a greeting or welcome. Sometimes you have been robbed, lost a child from abduction, a partner through violence and violation of your being. There is no food or water; breast feeding is only a little consolation for the smallest child but there is no milk. Dehydration, drowning, death, and starvation are everyday experiences. One of the little ones arrived in 100-degree weather, freezing yet wearing a heavy sweater, with no desire for water or a snack. Upon questioning, the mom said they spent three days in ICE with little or no covering and a very cold environment.
I was blessed with the opportunity to spend ten days with families being processed before they joined their sponsors in the United States. The medical professionals at Holding Institute tested them for COVID, separated those who were sick, and vaccinated the non-infected adults who then proceeded to the Catholic Charities La Frontera Shelter for needed services for their journeys to their sponsors. Watching mothers breastfeeding their children and receiving the vaccine at the same time was an inspiration. Can you imagine the waiting, waiting, waiting for water, a snack, a meal, a shower, shoelaces to replace those which had been removed by ICE, a ticket for travel (or a bed if there is no ticket)—but most of all, waiting for safety and welcome.
Paperwork is very difficult for those who are illiterate, speak a language not familiar to the processor, or do not have much information about their sponsor. Can you imagine processing hundreds of people each day, sitting outside in 100-degree weather and having only three or four people doing the paperwork? But they are at least able to provide the journeyers space to settle, water, food, and lots of love from those who came to help them during the waiting, waiting, waiting. Help is desperately needed and, while the ability to speak Spanish is most helpful, love in every language is the same. I feel so proud of our Dominicans using their technology skills to process people, using their sparse skills with Spanish, and giving a smile to the little ones. These families’ faith in the Creator is all they have, along with great courage. Their stories are horrifying.
Can you imagine leaving the shelter after three days of processing and then waiting at the airport entrance for direction, not knowing how to proceed to Customs. As we waited for our return flight to Newark, we were able to help several families. They were very easy to recognize, with all their belongings in a little, red “Save The Children” bag.
It was a great gift and blessing to be able to work with the medical professionals at Holding Institute and to give service at La Frontera Shelter by helping to provide the families with food, clothing, toilet necessities, comfort, and lots of love! I learned that a heart-to-heart connection is a powerful way to give hope to these families who are so desperate to find a place of safety and a way to provide for their children. Often during my time in Laredo, we cried together, in each other’s arms. I give thanks to our congregation for the opportunity to have the experience and blessing of being close to God with these faith-filled people.
– Sister Margaret Mary O’Doherty, OP
Sister Margaret Mary recently returned to her native
New York after more than 40 years of ministry to the
Native American community in Montana