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Border Ministry Chronicle
Sr. Judy Lu McDonnell
September 12, 2023, Nogales, Sonora, Mexico
Dear Sisters, Family and Friends,
Muy Buenas dias! Here I am on Day 12 in Nogales on the border with Arizona enjoying my day off from volunteer presence with the Kino Border Initiative (KBI). These days have been very full of new learnings, new friends, new community of Sisters, new skills, lots of “work”, lots of laughter, and sometimes tears.
The altitude here is 3,829 ft. and the temperature these days in the very dry air has ranged from the 90s into the low hundreds. These facts present their challenges when walking uphill in the afternoon sun when necessary or serving breakfast to migrants lined up (“camping”) with all their belongings along the wall to the entrance of the DeConcini US Point of Entry from Mexico. (More about this later.)
Let me tell you a little bit about the Kino Border Initiative. It is a binational, inclusive Roman Catholic organization created in 2008. It was inspired by the spirituality of the Jesuits and a Community of Mexican Sisters, the Missionaries of the Eucharist. It operates out of “Both Nogales”, across the border from each other in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. The Vision of KBI is Migration with Dignity and the Mission is to promote humane, just, and workable migration. The services provided to migrants are: meals and clothing, counseling with a social worker, psychological counseling, medical assistance, immigration legal orientation, and referrals to immigration attorneys.
The current executive director is from the US and her staff are from the US, Mexico and Colombia–an amazing group of bilingual, professional, dedicated women and men. They have presented us, the five Sisters in the September volunteer group, with in-depth orientation on the local reality and the migrant reality, as well as how to welcome migrant families and some single men and women. We meet with them shortly after their arrival and solicit biographical information that we enter into a database as a way of registering the guests and determining their immediate needs. The kitchen staff also instructs us on how to correctly peel and chop vegetables, pat tortillas into shape, and stir scrambled eggs in a pot so large that the spatula reminds me of a Kayak paddle!
My new local community consists of four other Sisters and me, of course. Some of you know Sister Cecilia Canales of the Mission San Jose Sisters. The others are: a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet from New York, Doreen; a Sister of St. Francis from Wisconsin, Eileen, and a Sister of St. Francis from Korea, Pia, who is my roommate. Pia does not speak English, so we are immersed in Spanish. We are a lively group and share cooking and household chores when not at KINO center. Two of us are in our eighties, one in her seventies, and the two “youngsters” in their fifties!
On a typical day, we report to the Center at 7:30 for kitchen duty to prepare hot breakfast and lunch for 300 or more guests. Only 80 of these actually have shelter at the Center at any given time. The others come from other shelters for the services offered by KBI or are recent arrivals to the area seeking food and shelter and help in seeking entry into the US as asylees or other types of immigration.
After serving breakfast to those at the Center we either move on to sort and organize donated clothing, greet and register new arrivals or help distribute clothing to those who request it. Or, we join the team to take breakfast to migrants at the US Border Crossing, DeConcini, that I mentioned above.
I hope this gives you a sense of where I am, with whom I am sharing life, and what I am about these days.
I have much more to share in future communication about my trek into the Arizona desert with an immersion group of staff and faculty from Santa Clara University. I also have some stories about my walk along the Border Wall (El Muro) and a book review session with the authors of Voices of the Border. Hasta la vista!