Sister Darlene Pienschke, SDS felt called to minister to immigrants at the U.S. southern border and responded to that call in July. Here she reflects on what she has witnessed and experienced in her first two months there.
I see immigrants’ stories as history metaphorized. The narratives of these journeys express imagery of the motivation and convictions underlying immigration. It is not immigration itself, but the significance of their stories as a whole.
A migrant’s journey is likened to a light shining in their darkness. Here, the most obvious light shining in their night, leading them to life, is the border of Tucson, Arizona.
I believe those of us volunteering at Casa Alitas, see the Immigration Center as a palpable and realized departure from darkness into light. It is where ‘shepherding’ begins day by day all through the night.
When bus loads arrive by the hundreds, or vans of forty to fifty are dropped off at the door by ICE, the ‘multitudes’ embody the symbolism of light and darkness.
Cross-culturally, this imagery has a resonance of meaning. ‘Darkness’ experienced for days and possibly months is associated with tragedies during custody or along the way, or, days of fending off hunger, fear, cold, gloom, lostness, and danger. Only God can know what strengthened their hearts, or fortified their yearning for the dawn! It is a striking image of a migrant’s human condition.
Welcomed at Casa Alitas, cups of fresh cold water are poured and served. Oranges and bananas are personally handed to each to momentarily satiate thirst and the hollowness in stomachs, until hot soup and bread is shared, a symbol of communion.
Then each is attended by medical staff to treat chronic sickness, injuries and illnesses acquired along the way. These human acts of goodness and kindness done with respect and dignity become an antidote to a striking image of SALVATION.
In the relief of being relieved and offered protection and privacy, migrants are awakened from their dreaded nightmares, enabled to see that their night is over, in the light that they, and their children are safe and sheltered. In this light there is life associated with possibilities of a new beginning.
Today religious texts often attribute ‘new beginnings’, with symbolism of a ‘new creation’ associated with the dawn of light and dispelling of darkness and fear. “Let there be Light” is the first of God’s creative acts. Light is a metaphor for God’s illumination of the path to walk. “Your Word, Lord, is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”
Encountering, listening to hear these immigrants’ stories, and experiencing through them, Our Savior’s Saving Action of leading and delivering families from a slavery in lands of cruel threats overshadowed in the darkness of overpowering political dominance, evil and death, is truly a Salvatorian Ministry. For they, who have now crossed-over, not the Red Sea, but a border that symbolically means for them, God’s light shining a path before them, there is life.
For Americans across our country who have embraced the yolk of sponsorship of our migrants, they not only symbolize the gospel but give witness in living Our Savior’s mandate to “welcome the stranger”. These are the blessed who will help to bring the immigrant’s light of dawn to full light of a new day.
Sister Darlene Pienschke, SDS