Reflections from the Border Part 4: Catholic Charities NY in Arizona

Posted on May 29, 2019 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

The Extraordinariness of the Ordinary

The Department of Homeland Security is releasing thousands of detainees at the southern border to relieve overcrowding, overwhelming Catholic Charities agencies that serve these immigrants. The increasing stream of asylum seekers is expected to continue throughout the summer.

To show solidarity and provide support, Catholic Charities NY deployed a team of staff volunteers to help one of our sister agencies in Arizona.  The need is both great and varied as the local Catholic Charities agencies are inundated.

Our volunteers are sharing their insights and updates. 

Today we publish the second of two eyewitness reports by Richard Espinal.  He brings to the experience the special discernment he has honed as Catholic Charities NY’s associate director of parish and community engagement.  Please check out his final report.

By Richard Espinal

The Benedictine Monastery in Tucson, Arizona, currently run by Casa Alitas of the Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona has been receiving migrants or “travelers,” as form of waystation or shelter, in between their release from custody by U.S. Border Patrol or I.C.E. I was able to spend a week at this “albergue,” the Spanish word for shelter, and learned that it was much more than that.

While most folks tend to talk about escaping their daily routine, the reality is that these things give us a certain sense of security, of normalcy. During my time at the Benedictine Monastery, I noticed how some of the travelers would seem to come alive doing the most mundane of chores. In the hands of some of the women, broomsticks were like magic wands, casting a spell of familiarity, which allowed them to feel, I suspect, safe and secure. The men would sometimes busy themselves lifting boxes or carrying bags; they would stand around discussing travel schedules and studying maps. They reminded me of the men, like my father, who stood around street corners and store fronts with friends, discussing everything under the sun, not knowing much and yet seemed so full of wisdom.

L- Richard Espinal 

Afternoons brought soccer, coffee around a TV, and children playing games, in other words, normal life and with that, came a sense of family. "Veterans" would look out for the "rookies," children were watched over, while Mom or Dad were trying to make phone calls, and whenever someone was leaving for the bus station, the goodbyes and prayers were heartfelt and often came with hugs.

For the first time in weeks, perhaps even longer, the travelers have had the opportunity to reconnect with the ordinary and in doing so, the transformation that I witnessed was simply extraordinary. Strangers became friends, friends became family, and a shelter became a home, even if just for a short while.

Read the full series here:

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