Dubuque Sisters Continue to Provide Assistance in El Paso

20 Apr, 2019

Recently, Dubuque Presentation Sisters Julianne Brockamp, Kay Cota and Maura McCarthy, along with Aberdeen Presentation Sister Myra Remily served for two weeks in a shelter at the El Paso/Juarez border. This experience provided the opportunity to visit with many of the families from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador risking travel with small children to seek asylum and peace. They are escaping conditions of poverty, hunger, violence, extorsion and the severe effects of climate change. In the U.S. they live in total uncertainty as they await their court sessions to determine if they will be allowed to stay in the U.S. or if they will be returned to their country of origin where they face death threats.

Sister Kay Cota expresses, “The people are exceptionally beautiful people in every way! Every day I was more impressed with the willingness to quietly wait in line. They waited in long lines – a few shoeless! All without shoelaces because ICE was fearful that someone would use them as weapons! If they couldn’t get the laces out quickly enough, they would take the shoe! One man arrived at our shelter and had to leave without shoes because we had none that fit him. Imagine the humiliation of getting on a bus or plane with no shoes!”

“One young father traveled alone with his four-month-old baby,” continues Sister Kay. “He had a large, cumbersome-looking leg lock around his ankle. He didn’t know why he got it nor when or if it would be removed. One young girl was in a wheelchair and seemed to be alone. One woman had blanket tied at her waist carrying behind her a severely-handicapped girl. Neither of them could speak Spanish. The mother carried her around like that for a day and a half at our center. Can you imagine carrying her on her back for days on end? All said “gracias” for anything that was done for them, no matter how small. The gratefulness of the people we helped was overflowing. It was an experience I will treasure and carry with me forever.”

This experience was also a special blessing for Sister Julianne Brockamp. “Our Presentation team worked at the Nazareth Immigration Welcoming Center serving in food preparation and service for anywhere from 80-138 people, interpreting medical needs for the physician assistant, making telephone calls to family members in the U.S., arranging transportation for bus and air lines, preparing travel lunches for individuals and families still facing long journeys, dispensing clothing, hygiene necessities and bedding as well as organizing cleaning procedures.

Sister Maura McCarthy states, “I was especially elated by the synchronicity evidenced in the Dubuque-Aberdeen Presentation team. While tortillas and scrambled eggs were being prepared by Sisters Myra and Julianne, the plates, cups and plastic flatware were set up by Sisters Kay and Maura. The guests were quick to offer assistance in serving the coffee and food. Lydio Tomasi described the newcomer as “Tue eres mi otro yo”—“You are my other self.” The warm hugs and expressions on gratitude of these beautiful Central Americans, when leaving, left us in tears.”

Sister Julianne adds, “An additional blessing was to spend time with other sisters and associates from across the U.S. also living at Loretto Convent. Through casual conversations we learned about their experiences in other shelters which are also part of the Annunciation House solidarity efforts with migrants. It was interesting to reflect together on the national news narratives surrounding the border dynamic and the narratives surrounding the actual encounters with the real suffering of our crucified sisters and brothers seeking asylum.”

By April 1, the Nazareth Immigration Welcoming Center was scheduled to close to provide additional space for an adjoining assisted living facility. A new space was located in a former warehouse and has five times more space than Nazareth center. This new welcoming hostel was to be operable by Friday, April 5. The Presentation volunteer team helped to clear and clean Nazareth Hall, provide food and travel packs for the remaining guests and dispatch them to their destinations with their families.