BROWNSVILLE, June 30 - The work continues, as the many Catholic Charities workers and volunteers seek to address the needs of the women and children who have come to us from Central America and Mexico.
Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley is coordinating the diocesan response to this humanitarian crisis. "Is this a crisis?" people ask me. It is for the children, and therefore it is for us. They are frightened, disoriented, and often dehydrated. Having lived on sparse and unhealthy sustenance for the four to six weeks it took to travel through the interior of Mexico, their digestive systems cannot easily adjust to a regular meal.
We have two sites operating currently: one at Sacred Heart Church in McAllen and the other at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Brownsville. Thanks to the cooperation of city officials in McAllen, Pharr and Brownsville, we are able to provide meals, a change of clothing and most importantly a friendly face to soothe their fears. In McAllen, the mothers and children can take a shower and change clothes and eat something healthy before going on their way. We are hoping shower facilities will soon also be available at the Cathedral site in Brownsville.
These are some of the shower facilities set up at Sacred Heart.
We have received many donations from local individuals and organizations. Trucks arrived last week carrying food and clothes and water from the generous response of the people of the Diocese of Corpus Christi. Food and clothing are being received by the Food Bank in Pharr, Texas, for later distribution as needs arise.
Once they are processed by federal law enforcement, many children and mothers find their way to our transition centers, like the one pictured above in McAllen. Many do not. Those that do, find the kind of assistance I described above. Also, doctors and physician assistants check for immediate medical needs. Dehydration is the most common problem. Sometimes it is a life-threatening problem.
As many have said, what we are seeing unfold in front of our eyes is a humanitarian and refugee reality, not an immigration problem. For our part, the Church must respond in the best way we can to the human need. At the same time, we ask our government to act responsibly to address the reality of migrant refugees. A hemispheric response is needed, not simply a border response. And we ask that the government to protect the Church's freedom to serve people.
The whole Valley owes Sister Norma Pimentel, MJ, Director of our Catholic Charities, and her little army of assistants and volunteers a huge debt of gratitude. What they have been able to do is amazing, especially in serving as a catalyst for Valley-wide support and cooperation. And to the parishioners and volunteers serving at Sacred Heart in McAllen, and Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Brownsville, a profound thanks for showing us all the face of a generous commitment to serving with open hearts and open doors those in need. The Lord Jesus Crucified and Risen is indeed among us. He is in the one who suffers; He is in the one who serves.
Daniel Flores is Bishop of Brownsville. The above guest column first appeared on the Bishop’s blog. Readers can find the blog at this address: http://bishopflores.blogspot.com/