In a Gospel spirit of service and solidarity, we accompany the migrant, refugee, and economically vulnerable peoples of the border region through hospitality, advocacy, and education. We place ourselves among these poor so as to live our faith and transform our understanding of what constitutes more just relationships between peoples, countries, and economies. – Annunciation House
Sister Susan Gatz is currently volunteering with the Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, where she is helping to provide hospitality to the thousands of refugee and immigrant families each week. In the Vincentian tradition collaboration on the border is happening across the Sister of Charity Federation to make the best use of resources and better serve those in need. Sister Susan shares the following.
The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati home in New Mexico is where I am staying. About 30 minutes away from Nazareth House in El Paso is where I volunteer. The work is hectic. We get about 80 or more people each day brought by ICE on a bus.
ICE brings them to us after they are processed and approved to seek asylum. They have papers with their picture and fingerprints. Most have been in detention for at least a week or more. They are exhausted and so anxious to get to their families. Most have nothing but what they are wearing. We do have some clothes but not enough for everyone. We try to make them feel welcome and that we are there to help them.
We register them, assign rooms, feed them supper, breakfast, and lunch. We then contact their families who buy bus or plane tickets and then we find drivers to take them to the bus station or airport. Next, we pack food bags for them to take. Most are gone within 24 hours. And a new group comes in the afternoon. We usually have 100+ people in the building at any one time.
My Spanish is doing pretty well, but it takes extra energy to concentrate. Each night I am exhausted when I reach back to the Nazareth House.
I so admire the long term volunteers who have been doing this work for years. Volunteers who work at the center. Volunteer drivers. Volunteers who cook meals for over 100 people three times a day. Volunteers who wash the linens and cleans the showers. People who bring supplies. Yesterday a couple showed up to just get a tour of the place and ended up making hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we use for the food bags! It is a network of caring that runs on love, a shoestring, grit, and faith.