Religious women walk with immigrants on their journey in this new land
I have always had nuns in my life, and at age 60 my life has not changed. When I was young we were taught catechism by nuns. When we had special events like Ash Wednesday, receiving our ashes right after school, they were there herding us around, helping Father with a church full of elementary and secondary school-age children.
Today I have a different relationship with nuns. They are my colleagues, mentors and friends. They were the people in my life that first taught me by word and deed about Catholic social justice. They were the women who would leave bags of food on my father's family's house steps to help feed his 20 brothers and sisters. They helped in every way they could to make his family life and that of many other families in the neighborhood less socially poor.
Some of you may know Sister Kathleen. She is a Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ. She has lived and worked in Gary for many years and now lives in my neighborhood in East Chicago. She and I have known each other for many years, as we have both worked under the Catholic umbrella in this diocese. I know her much better now, because in her order of nuns she has become the co-chair of the overwhelming subject of immigration and all this entails. We had many conversations on this subject, and then she decided to put the words into action.
In January Sister Kathleen and Sister Barb gave a month of themselves to an effort of the Catholic response to the federal detainment of women and children at our border in El Paso, Texas. She and Sister Barb were part of the welcoming body of Catholics at a nursing home owned by Sisters of St. Joseph in El Paso, Texas. They would tend to whatever these families needed. The food was supplied by parishioners of the Catholic churches in El Paso. There are four for-profit detention centers in El Paso, but everyone at this (St. Joseph) center was a volunteer.
Sister Kathleen is a passionate woman. When she spoke of seeing the moms and children that come in very fearful of everything, not knowing what is coming next, you could feel her frustration. She and Sister Barb worked at quelling that fear by helping orient these families and just plain showing love.
I asked Sister what was the one thing that stuck out from her experience with these families. She stated that we need to be brothers and sisters to these families by helping them understand that this is the beginning of their journey here, but that there will be people to walk with them on this journey. Part of who we are as Catholics is accompaniment. These nuns have shown their commitment to Catholic Social teaching by accompanying these families. They are one of many examples of who we should be as Catholics. I am proud to know and love them.
Adeline Torres is director of the Office of Multi-Cultural Ministries. This column appeared in Spanish in the Northwest Indiana Catholic edition dated March 29, 2015.