Up Front and Personal

Becoming Immersed At the Mexican Border

By Father Charles P. Keeney

In the Roman Missal is a Eucharistic prayer titled “Jesus, who went about doing good” which is suggested to be used appropriately for refugees and exiles. Below is an excerpt from that prayer:

“Open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters; inspire in us words and actions to comfort those who labor and are heavily burdened. Make us serve them truly, after the example of Christ and at His command. And may your church stand as a living witness to truth and freedom, to peace and justice, that all people may be raised up to a new hope.”

Through Catholic Extension I spent three days on an immersion experience in Texas and Mexico where I witnessed this prayer brought to life in the ministry of extraordinary members of our church.

My eyes were opened in Reynoso, Mexico to the needs of our brothers and sisters living in a tent city as they waited their turn to be interviewed for asylum status in our country. Then our eyes were opened in the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas where the United States Immigration Service transports migrants who have been granted asylum to be helped by Catholic Charities as they legally make their way to their relatives and friends already living in this country.

In both places we saw members of our church inspire us with their words and actions as they comforted so many people who labor and are burdened.

Often if you ask a person in Spanish “Como estás?” they will answer “en la lucha” or “luchando,” meaning they are struggling or in the struggle of life.

Sister Norma Pimentel tells her critics and supporters that all she is doing is “lifting up the dignity of human life.” Bishop Daniel Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville preached the golden rule to us and explained that he directs all of us to treat others as we would want to be treated. He and Sister Norma are actually being sued by a Catholic group for their words and actions. Critics argue that they are breaking the law by helping undocumented people.

Sister Norma points out that she is not only NOT breaking the law, but she is helping the legal process by assisting the migrants who have been granted asylum. The United States government and the local city government both ask her and Catholic Charities for the help they are providing. Bishop Flores insists he is following the law of Christ: love your neighbor as you love yourself.

I got a chance to see an ordained bishop, professed religious women, and members of the laity following the example and exhortation of Our Lord to serve others.   

I thank Catholic Extension for the experience they offered me.

Father Keeney is director of the Diocese of Brooklyn’s office of Propagation of the Faith.