San Antonio — GSR Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series on sisters helping migrants who are crossing Central and North American borders in pursuit of a better life in a new country.
Sr. Pat Connolly threads her way past dozens of families lining the third-floor halls of San Antonio's Travis Park Church. In former Sunday school classrooms filled with blue and green cots, some 270 immigrants from Central America, Haiti and the Congo will take shelter tonight, a stopover on their way to what they hope is a new life in other parts of the country. As Connolly passes, they tug at her arm and pepper her with questions.
A woman holds up a leaking baby bottle and asks if there is another. Around the corner, two young Haitian girls point to their bare feet. Are there flip flops available, one asks? Moments later a young girl says she is hungry.
"Lo siento," sister says shaking her head. There is no food in the overnight shelter. "I'm sorry."
On this June evening, Connolly and Sr. J.T. Dwyer, both Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, join volunteers helping border crossers after they are released from Texas Border Patrol stations and detention centers. They are among some 1,000 Catholic sisters in border states who have been ministering to immigrants seeking safety in the U.S. since the surge began last fall, according to Leadership Conference of Women Religious estimates.
Some help at temporary shelters, offer travel assistance or even send shoelaces to replace those confiscated by border agents. Others pray, donate funds or join protesters, such as Sr. Jean Durel, a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word, who was arrested for lying down on the U.S. Capitol floor on July 18.
Volunteering as part of the Interfaith Welcome Coalition's mission to assist migrants, the San Antonio sisters avoid talking about themselves. They prefer to focus on the collaborative efforts of various groups who came together when immigrants, primarily families, overwhelmed the city in March. Yet it is the sisters' ability to build relationships with those they serve and those in authority that has made a lasting impression on coalition leaders.