Representatives from the Diocese of Tucson, including Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Leonette Kochan, attended a recent gathering of the HOPE Border Institute (HOPE) in El Paso, TX. HOPE is an independent grassroots community organization working in the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez-Las Cruces region, that seeks to bring the perspective of Catholic social teaching to bear on social realities unique to this region and to deepen solidarity across borders.
This gathering coincided with the twice-yearly meeting of the Tex-Mex Bishops (bishops from the Texas and Mexican border dioceses), which enabled the bishops to occasionally join the Institute conversations.
The approximately 75 participants from various social ministry organizations around the country included USCCB representatives from CRS, USCCB, Migration and Refugees Services, and Catholic Legal Immigration Network. Outcomes of the gathering included the participants setting priorities and SMART goals related to immigration in the areas of Theology (faith-based actions), Advocacy, Education/Formation, and Action.
One highlight of the gathering was an interfaith prayer service and blessing at the Anapra, NM border with participants from both the U.S. and Mexico border towns. Prayer was led by Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso and included witness talks by a DACA student and the wife of a refugee being held at a detention center.
A second highlight was participating at Mass and breakfast with approximately 50 refugee asylum seekers, which included parents and children. Mass and breakfast was held at the refugee center on the grounds of the EL Paso Diocesan Office complex. All of the bishops from the Tex-Mex dioceses joined the refugees and HOPE participants for Mass and breakfast.
Our tradition of honoring the dignity of each person was truly visible in the compassion and welcome extended to the refugees at Mass, with celebrant Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio and all present, and through the courtesy and elegance with which they were served at breakfast. Needless to say, all departed the HOPE gathering inspired and challenged by our call to ministry among our migrant brothers and sisters.