Sister Engages in Works of Mercy at U.S. Border

Sister Maria Fest, CDP, traveled to San Antonio in February 2023 to minister to migrants who fled difficult and dangerous situations in their countries to find refuge in the U.S. She answered the plea from Sister Elsa Garcia, CDP, Outreach Coordinator for Catholic Charities in San Antonio, to women religious: “Other generations of religious women had plagues and wars ... our challenge is pastoral care and other services to the migrants who risk all to get to our border.” 

San Antonio has seen unprecedented numbers of migrants coming from the border. Catholic Charities views Sisters as a comfort to displaced migrants in a land among strangers, whose only universal language may be faith, love and hope. The main goal of the Sisters is pastoral care and a spiritual presence. Although the ability to speak Spanish is helpful, it is not required of Sisters; interpreters are available to help as needed.    

In the two weeks Sister Maria was engaged in the ministry to the migrants, she served with three Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet from the St. Louis and Kansas areas. She said, “The four of us bonded well and worked seamlessly together where our service was needed. We offered prayer and pastoral services in a dedicated Chapel and provided for the physical needs of the migrants in the ‘Clothes Closet.’ Yes, we engaged in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy! In the Chapel, the migrants participated in shared prayer where they could voice their sorrow in having to leave their homeland, concern for those they had to leave behind, gratitude for the welcome to the U.S. and hopes and dreams to begin a new life and raise their family in freedom. In the Clothes Closet we met their needs by providing a backpack and clothing items appropriate for the area in which the migrants hoped to reside and work. While some migrants had family members in the U.S. and hoped to lodge with them until they got established, others went on to another facility with other processes in the hopes that they could settle in and eventually work. In many ways, we experienced death and new life figuratively and literally as we worked with the migrants. We witnessed the death of a 6-month-old baby and shared in the grief of the mother; the child was buried in the Catholic cemetery while she and her two other children moved to their new destination without her. We also welcomed an 8-day-old baby whose mother proudly proclaimed, ‘She was born in the U.S. She is a citizen!’ Those of us who ministered together feel that the experience was one that would bond us ‘forever.’”