First, I apologize for my absence from this blog as I was on silent retreat and then starting classes at Georgetown.
The tag line of Casa Chirilagua (the ministry that I volunteer with in an immigrant community in Alexandria) is “Learning together to love our neighbors as ourselves.” I have quoted the line before but it continues to strike me as I transition back into life in the US. It is so simple. And yet so difficult.
For many, the US/Mexico border seems like another world – distant enough to not be a primary concern. But as I come back, I am reminded of why I left. I went to the border because immigration is not just an issue there. It is a matter of loving my neighbor here in the US.
Last weekend, I went almost to another border – all the way north to Minnesota – as I had the privilege to go to St. Mary’s Catholic Church where I learned about their town and congregation and spoke about my experiences on the border. The two priests of this parish did not wake up one morning and decide to make immigration an issue. They decided to love their parishioners as best as they could and create a church that is a place of welcome and community. And they have made a church that is a home to a large immigrant population in the town – many of whom work at the local meatpacking plant.
The whole weekend was a reminder that there is a journey outside of the border. Many of the immigrants I met in Minnesota spoke to me about passing North through Nogales, or about their experience of deportation. I sat down with them, with an atole and hand-made tortillas in front of me, and spoke with migrants thousands of miles away from the comedor. But with people that once were on the border and know that they can easily end up there again.
After I spoke at one of the English masses at St. Mary’s a woman approached me and asked, “How can I help?” I think she was referring to supporting the Kino Border Initiative but I said to her, “You can help the most by loving your neighbor right here in Worthington.”
When I was in Nogales, I met people who had worked on housekeeping or upkeep at various universities. Who had worked in restaurants that I could feasibly have visited. Who had been in high schools across the country. Open your eyes and your heart. Your migrant brothers and sisters are in your church, at your school, and in your daily life. What would it look like for you to love them? For you to welcome them?