In 1978, I worked with several of my RSCJ sisters in a community in Indiantown, Florida, and it was a wonderful experience sharing life with amazing people, almost all undocumented families and young men, primarily from Guatemala and Mexico.
Part of my work was in the parish service center. We set up a storefront and had a lawyer come to town periodically so he could help people fill out their papers to apply for asylum. Sometimes folks needed to get to the hospital 20 miles away, so we’d take them and stay with them until they were settled. We were just woven into their lives, and it was a wonderful time to get to know, in a personal in-depth way, what life is like for people who come from a totally different experience of life.
We’d have fun together. I remember we’d have an annual fashion show from clothes in the thrift store, and I can still see Coca, one of my best friends and a real leader in the farmworker community, dressed up, looking so silly. We had fiestas for all the big occasions. Occasionally, we’d be at a party – and often at other times too – and somebody would be picked up by ‘the migra’ and sent back … You know, these were my friends, these were my brothers and sisters. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have enough and not have to worry about being deported were just doing what we could to make life as fully human and good as we could for our neighbors
Today, where I live in St. Louis, I accompany undocumented men and women to immigration appointments. This opportunity was presented through the Interfaith Committee on Latin America and the Archdiocese of St. Louis. From what I’ve witnessed, often, there’s no humanity in this system, and so we are caring human beings here to walk with them through this unjust time.
Written by Sister Joan Gannon, Society of the Sacred Heart.