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



All Here

It took awhile to get our whole Ursuline Summer Service group here, but as of last night at 9:15, all are present.  Four of us had difficulty getting out of St. Louis because of storms, which meant missed connections and almost a 7 hour wait in Houston.  We had to relax, read, chat, and settle in until they called our flight to Harlingen.  All this meant a very late arrival in San Juan, after midnight, and we were glad to have Sunday as a free day before beginning work at Catholic Charities.

Sr. Pat and Cameron joined us from New York on Sunday morning, so we did grocery shopping in the afternoon, then took a ride to see where we will be working and  the famous Rio Grande river.  It is striking to see our border lined by barbed wire and metal barriers. There were long lines of cars waiting to come into the U.S. The weather is very hot, well above 100 degrees with a feel of more than 110.  We are becoming more and more aware of what the immigrant people we will meet have already endured.

By Sunday evening, our last two volunteers had arrived, and we took time for orientation, planning and prayer. We’ve received many notes from Ursulines around the country, promising us prayer and support.  Friends and families are also with us in spirit, we know.  Thank you to all!  More news will follow throughout the week.

Not Pawns, But Persons of Human Dignity

In less than 2 weeks, 8 Ursuline Summer Volunteers will gather for a week of service at the Humanitarian Respite Center sponsored by Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas.  The group includes students and alums of Ursuline schools in St. Louis and New York who know well the meaning of SERVIAM–I will serve.

The byline for our place of service is: Restoring Human Dignity on the Border.  We will share in this mission as we help create hope and restore dignity to the most vulnerable among us.  We expect to sort donated clothing, clean, sweep, mop, make sandwiches, clean showers and bathrooms, make soup and prepare for the afternoon rush—that rush being when the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement brings guests by bus from their holding center.  Recently, 500 to 900 people a day have arrived.  We’ll be on call to assist families, children, and regular staff in whatever ways possible.

How will we restore human dignity?  Well, stay tuned, because we’ll be blogging right here during the week.  I imagine our efforts will include Spanish greetings and smiles of welcome; provision of a change of clothing, toothbrushes, chapstick, food; babysitting and playing games with children; and a loving sendoff to the bus station for the next leg of the journey.

It’s hard to imagine doing all this without also experiencing heartbreak.  Our service group will take time each evening to reflect, pray together, and draw strength from words of Jesus and of St. Angela.  We’ll be support for one another.  We’ve chosen to be together for this week because we share values that are rooted in our Ursuline spirit of service and our deep desire for human dignity for all persons. We’ll keep before us the wisdom of Pope Francis:

Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women, and men who leave or are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.

Joy and Responsibility

Yesterday, the graduating seniors of Ursuline Academy, St. Louis, were inducted into the school’s Alumnae Association.  It was my privilege to give a little reflection for that ceremony, so I used the opportunity to remind them of the worldwide Ursuline family they belong to. I emphasized both the joy and responsibility of this. It’s a joy because the Ursuline Cross, Serviam shield, and name “Ursuline” can be discovered all over the world and remind us of this international sisterhood.

It’s also a responsibility, because it means we live in solidarity with one another. When there is a tragedy, natural disaster, war or struggle elsewhere in our world, we have family in those places, and we must pray for them, care about them, find out what can be done to help them.

We Ursuline Sisters are preparing for a General Chapter in September in Rome.  Each geographical province of the Roman Union Ursulines has chosen sisters to attend that meeting, where the vision for our life and mission will be discussed.  Before they go, those who will participate have been invited to visit and get to know better another region where our Sisters are.  This, also, is an experience of the joy and responsibility of belonging to our world-wide Ursuline family.

Sr. Ita of Indonesia visiting St. Louis and our Central USA province

Pray for us, and pray for our students, that while we delight in the vastness of the Ursuline outreach, we may also really take to heart St. Angela’s words: “Be bound to one another by the bonds of charity, esteeming each other and helping each other.”

Sr. Jean visiting France

This is the Day

This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad, we pray over and over in Easter week. This is the day–today and every day–  Jesus, the Risen one, lives among us!

–as we pray in cathedrals, or mourn their burning,

–celebrate with family, or grieve with those who suffer for being Christian,

–enjoy the simple pleasures of everyday life: hockey victories, blooming gardens, warmer days, a morning cup of coffee, the enthusiasm of young persons preparing to graduate. This is the day to meet the Risen Christ.  It’s time to smile and show how very glad we are that he is with us in it all!