An Appeal for Mercy

Yesterday I received an email from a friend in Rome, Italy.  I share it, asking that you join us in prayer:

“We would like to involve all believers to pray for the next persons who could be executed this month. The execution of Dexter Johnson in Texas (a man who has had for a long time a pen pal of Sant’Egidio), and that of Stephen West in Tennessee are both scheduled for August 15, the very day we celebrate the Assumption of Mary into heaven.  That’s why we seek her intercession, so that 2 lives may be spared without more bloodshed.”

Sant’Egidio is a Christian community born in 1968, in a secondary school in the center of Rome. Today it’s a network of communities in more than 70 countries of the world. They pay attention to the periphery and peripheral people, gathering men and women of all ages and conditions, united by friendship through listening to the Gospel and voluntary commitment to the poor and to peace. While they have long had  correspondence with prisoners on death row, they recently sent a “Compassion” newsletter, inviting others to receive a pen pal (member of Sant’Egidio) for friendship and spiritual support.  Since then, 100 more prisoners on death rows around the United States have taken up the offer. Please pray for Dexter, Stephen, and all of these.

I was in prison and you came to me.

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Let Your Heart Break

Last weekend, I saw a video of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Conversation with Melinda Gates. In it, Gates speaks of the many trips she’s made to very poor sections of the world and her need, upon return, to decompress, to be alone, to let in the pain she has seen, to “let my heart actually break.”

Just back from the Texas border and service with immigrants at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, I know our group is living with plenty of heartbreak.   The broken face of Jesus was everywhere, as was his love and beauty. So we continue to let it in: men in line for belts and shoelaces, women in line for shoes; travelers praying the rosary, tears streaming down their cheeks; children waiting for a simple bowl of soup or overjoyed with a mini tootsie pop; a 15 year old boy with chicken pox, a 14 year old girl with newborn baby; ALWAYS, from everyone, “gracias” for any small gesture or smile.

Our volunteer group was amazing.  They sliced dozens of loaves of bread (even when frozen!), and cut watermelons, carrots or mangoes by the crate.  They served meals, unpacked and sorted donations, cleaned up after sick kids, employed Spanish phrases, and stood for hours to serve the needs of others.

 

 

 

 

We continue to let the experience in.  And while our hearts have been broken, we are deeply grateful for the privilege of meeting these brothers and sisters who have changed our lives.  And we remain in solidarity with those who serve the poorest among us, not just one week a year, but day in and day out.

 

 

One World, One Family

Bitter sweet feelings as we are writing this. Today, we said goodbye to many of the people who worked with us throughout the week. With their help,  we were able to attend to the needs of many, many travelers: preparing food, serving food, collecting donations, distributing clothes, and working with the sick.

Describing the Catholic Charities Respite Center does not do it justice. You need to be there to truly experience the obstacles that the travelers have to endure. Looking into the eyes of the sick, scared, hopeful, and very grateful travelers, you will be transformed for ever.
Today, we woke up and headed to another day of service. As we walked through the double doors past the security guards, we instantly went to work. We cleaned, cooked, organized, passed out clothes/food, and played with many children. At 1:00, a new group of volunteers came to release us at our stations so we could take our lunch break. Soon after, we came back and got to work.
At 4:30, we had the opportunity to visit the local area. After that, we walked to a local food trucks court called “The Yard”.  Now we are heading to bed to get rested for another memorable day.
Through our experience this week, we have seen how immigrant people are beautifully able to rise above all differences and unite as brothers and sisters.
                                                                                                    Kayla and Faith

Day Three of our Serviam Experience

Today we set out to our service site and were surprised when we did not see too many people in the reception area. When we entered the clothing area, we realized that everyone was just in the inner area.  We immediately got to work, preparing breakfast, distributing clothing and whatever else needed to be done.  Upon entering the clothing area, we realized that everything was totally mixed up and we needed to shut the station down for a few minutes to reorganize the clothing which was everywhere.  In less than 15 minutes we were all set to begin the work of welcoming our guests with a change of clothes and shoes, if needed.  The kitchen crew did an amazing job feeding the many hungry guests and had the experience of not being sure if the promised lunch donation was really going to arrive.

What is amazing to see is the number of guests who volunteer their services to help cook, clean and distribute clothing.  One of our guests today was cleaning and tidying and when asked where her shoes were, she humbly responded, “No tengo zapatos.”   In a manner of minutes, she had shoes as one of our volunteers made sure that she had what she needed especially after she had been so helpful during the day.  Such simple actions cause one to be humbled by all that is happening.

After our group left for the day, we returned to our Basilica Hotel for a quick shower and change of clothes and we went out to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.  It was a nice way to end the day.  After dinner we came back and had our reflection and sharing session.  During this time, we focused on where we saw/met Jesus today.  Our responses were often in the faces of the men, women and children that we had encountered during our day.  Each one shared how they saw Jesus in the faces of those we served today and in the faces of many of the other volunteers.  Even though we are not able to take photos of these faces, I believe they will forever be imprinted in our hearts and minds.

Sr. Pat

 

Hola! Day 2

Starting off the day, everyone packed a healthy lunch that we would take downtown with us to the center for a quick lunch. As we arrived at 9, the center swarmed with groups of people of all different ages. Our small group split up to conquer the tasks of that day, whether it be helping out in the kitchen, giving out personal hygiene products, or sorting and giving out clothes to those who needed new articles. A few of our people went in the back, sorted out donations of hygiene products and put them into little family bags. While serving lunch, a little boy named Joseph* kept coming up to us asking how to say basic words in English.

The lunch shifts are very hectic due to the number of people who need food, but there are always travelers there who step up and help us serve the lunch. They are all very noble, serving the others before grabbing their own, even though they had been working already to help with the food. When it was our turn for lunch break, we took a little stroll downtown to eat our picnic lunches. We sat outside and soaked up the sun, finishing with frozen yogurt! Closing out the day, we served soup for dinner, sorted and passed out more clothing, and overall lent a hand to those in need. 

Returning to our hotel near the Basilica, Sister Rose gave us a backstory on the Church and  Our Lady of San Juan. Shortly after, we all piled into our cars and ate dinner at Luby’s – which was a first for most! Putting an end to our eventful day, we came back to our hotel to reflect on the day and eat some more ice cream! We reflected and shared on the people who impacted our lives and how we are trying to help restore human dignity to these persons!

-Chloe, Hope, Cameron

*Names were changed for safety