El Paso, USA. The Prefecture of Apostolate of the US-Canada Province organized an Encounter on Migrant Pastoral Care at Dominican Sisters Retreat House, El Paso, Texas from February 3 – 6, 2020. Twelve Claretians and a few lay associates from the US-Canada Province who are serving the immigrants in different places of ministry participated in the encounter.
Elena Segura, the director of the Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education for the Archdiocese of Chicago, animated the encounter with Fr. Fernando Ferrera, CMF, the Prefect of Apostolate. The encounter employed the “see-judge-act” method to explore the global, as well as the US migration in its multiple shapes and forms, and consequences for the struggles of the immigrants.
The first discussion of the encounter was on SEE and dealt with ‘Pastoral Migration: an immigrant-led ministry for service, justice, and accompaniment in parish communities.’ Elena Segura shared the reality of migration in several parts of the country and the Church’s response to it. Fr. Carl Quebedeaux, CMF introduced the civil society team from the various organizations that work with him in Ciudad Juárez with the thousands of migrants and refugees: Sr. Maria Antonia Aranda, IHM, a religious sister, Dr. Leticia Chavarria, Karina Breceda, and Emiliano Diaz. They shared information on the situation of migrants in and around the El Paso/Ciudad Juárez border from different perspectives, and on global migrant realities.
On the afternoon of February 4th, the group visited Annunciation House, the largest volunteer organization offering hospitality to migrants and refugees in the border region of El Paso. Since 1978 it has provided shelter, clothing, food and other basic necessities for hundreds of thousands of migrants, mostly from Mexico and Central America. Ruben Garcia, now 70 and the longtime director of Annunciation House, explained the story of migration before and after the Trump administration. According to him, the number of arrivals into US territory has drastically dropped, since 2019, to around 100 – 200 per day from thousands a day, earlier. He explained the alarming situation in Ciudad Juárez as more than 12,000 asylum seekers, who were waiting for their court hearings in the US, have been sent to Ciudad Juárez. That doesn’t include the more than 20,000 people waiting in Ciudad Juárez for the chance to cross the international border and apply for asylum in the United States. He pointed out that it is very important to establish more facilities to accommodate and assist the migrant and asylum seekers in Ciudad Juárez, as there are only a few shelters in Ciudad Juárez. He invited the religious congregations to take strong measures to serve the migrants and refugees on the Mexican side of the border.
Later, the group crossed the international border into Mexico to visit the Claretian activities with the migrants and refugees there. They encountered the hard realities of the city at the very moment they entered into the city. There had been a shooting incident in the city, roads were closed and there was a strong military presence in the city. The visiting Claretians had an opportunity to talk to several migrants and refugees in the shelters they group visited.
Fr. Rohan Dominic, CMF animated the JUDGE part of the process on February 6th. His presentation was on the reality of migration from the teachings of the Church and the Claretian Congregation, and civil society including the United Nations. He mainly based his reflection on “Erga migrantes caritas Christi” (Love of God Towards Migrants), published by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of the Migrants in 2004 and “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope”, the Pastoral Letter Concerning Migration from the Catholic Bishops of Mexico and the United States (2003). He also shared the rights on migration from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets relevant to Migration.
The group came out with many suggestions for the Claretian Migration Mission at the Border and for the Claretian Pastoral Care of the Migrants during the ACT process facilitated by Fr. Fernando Ferrera, CMF. The group discussed what else could be done as Claretians in facing the migrant crisis in the country. Proposals and suggestions on strengthening the border mission and migration ministry were listed for the Provincial Government’s study and planning.
The encounter made the participants realize that, on one hand, Claretian pastors have to facilitate the ecclesial integration and participation of migrants and refugees and provide them with needed pastoral care in their own parishes. And on the other hand, and at the same time, they will also need to know the current immigration policies in the United States and work for the reform of the system as leaders of the community.