I am in Douglas, Arizona, with the SSNDs who live and work here: Judy Bourg, Lucy Nigh, Pat Ferrick and Helen Jones. It has been such a wonderful and a challenging experience for me; moments that I also recommend to other Sisters who have never had an experience with immigrants at the border. Different situations have touched me deeply. Here are some of them.
The desert in Arizona is a quite inhospitable place: there are no trees, just bushes, and all of them are full of thorns, making the ground unsuitable for a person to lie down or sit on. Also, the sun is very hot, and there is no shade. In the desert, the days are very hot; however, the nights are cold. Can you picture the suffering of people, including children, over many days, walking during hot days and cold nights, without food or water, unable to sit on the ground because it is full of thorns?
Another strong experience for me was a vigil in Douglas’ streets, holding crosses with the names of people whose bodies were found in the desert. These people were trying to cross the desert in order to get into the United States. But for some reason, perhaps they were sick, they were left behind with little water or food. During the vigil, we carried crosses which had the names of people whose remains had been found. The most powerful moment was when each person present called the deceased person by name or “no identificado/a” and all who were in the group responded: “presente!”
The next day, we went to “plant” a larger cross where a body was found. It was close to the airport. We planted the cross within a Native American prayer ceremony.
Another powerful experience was to see the Sisters working with the immigrants/refugees in the shelters in Agua Prieta, Mexico and Tucson, Arizona. In Agua Prieta, these people are waiting for asylum in the US. In Tucson they are waiting to travel to their sponsors to begin the asylum application in the courts. The Sisters join the local volunteers in providing medicine, food and English classes to the immigrants. Also in Agua Prieta, they support and work with migrants who work in a carpentry workshop. They also support a women’s sewing and garden cooperative.
As a Brazilian, I know that we have and struggle with many social problems in America. However, in the ministry of the SSNDs in Arizona, I was able to see that there are many Americans who care for the suffering of those who are not from their country. Many Americans are not blind to the causes and consequences of immigration in the 21st century. The Sisters are making visible the SSND charism: to be one in Christ.
Sister Mirian de Medieros is a Brazilian SSND who is currently living with – and learning English from – the SSND in Mankato, Minn. She wrote this account as part of her English learning practice.