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Our Work at La Frontera in Laredo Texas

by RSHM Eastern American AreaCategory: Updates

Mary Lang, RSHM, and Clare Horn, SHM Extended Family, answered the call for volunteers from Catholic Charities USA, to provide assistance and comfort to migrants and asylum seekers at the U.S. southern border. They will be working with Catholic Charities, Diocese of Laredo, TX at their La Frontera shelter from June 10 through June 25. Clare asks you to join them each day of their journey in saying the “Our Father,” asking God to embrace our brothers and sisters at the border.

Laredo, Texas with a pop. of 260,000 appears dry and barren with spotty green areas. The downtown historic district where our hotel, La Posada, is located could easily be taken for a pueblo in Mexico with its cobblestone walkways and central plaza. The San Agustin Cathedral built in 1775 by the Spanish dominates the plaza where people come to sit in the early morning before the temperature rises to 100+ during the day at this time of year.

Two women in short-sleeve shirts pose for a picture on a sunny river bank in front a clear river, trees, and a blue sky.

A short walk early one morning brought us to a beautiful park on the Rio Grande River, the natural border between the USA and Mexico. As we stood on the bank of the river, we saw a few Mexican fishermen and we spoke to a lone US fisherman on the USA side. He said the water is too deep at this point for anyone to attempt a crossing. Next to the park are the looming international bridges and buildings of the ports of entry for the USA and Mexico.

During our short drive each morning to La Frontera, the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center, we notice how depressed the area looks. Many stores are boarded up due to an economic downturn and the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost half of the international trade between the USA and Mexico passes through the port of Laredo and so its economy revolves around the import-export business with many working in the warehouses.

On Saturday, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Mary, we spent the morning helping to prepare a Haitian family for their departure. Almand, his wife, Marie, baby Maria, and 3-year-old son, David would be leaving La Frontera for their journey to Miami that morning. Almand’s brother had purchased bus and airplane tickets and offered them shelter. The family had fled Haiti and lived in Brazil for 6 years until Almand lost his job due to the economic crises and COVID-19. The family could not live on the $150 a month provided by the Brazilian government. They decided to make the long and treacherous journey to the United States to seek a better life for their family.

We helped the family find needed clothing, diapers, travel packets, and food for the trip. David was very energetic and we played ball with him as his mother nursed the baby. Then we cared and comforted the children as the parents showered and gathered their documents and belongings. Although under pressure to leave on time Sandy Ramirez, the shelter’s coordinator and bus driver showed much patience by allowing the family time to shower and get organized. Sandy stated she always tries to be respectful of the family’s wishes although she must hurry the families so they won’t miss their bus or plane. We were struck by her joy in serving others.

As the family boarded our bus, we had a few moments to say goodbye and wish them hope, strength, and love as they begin another journey. It was an emotional experience for all. Marie smiled in thanks as tears welled up in everyone’s eyes. We gave the family money donated by one of our sisters. We thought of the loving compassion of Mary and all that she pondered in her heart during her family’s difficult journeys. What must Marie be pondering in her heart as she left us that morning?

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