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Nuns on the bus; nuns in the desert

Nuns on the Bus are coming!

nuns on the busNETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus, the Catholic social justice lobbying group, is making a stop on their current tour at Providence in the Desert, a Sisters of Providence (SP) ministry in California, on Thursday, June 13. The bus will stop in rural Thermal and then go to visit our students’ homes from there.

Providence in the Desert brings English language instruction to immigrant field workers in the isolated trailer parks where they live. We Sisters of Providence came here in 2002, having learned that it was considered the most underserved area of the San Bernardino Diocese.

The first Nuns on the Bus tour traveled the Midwest during the last presidential campaign publicizing the plight of the poor and unemployed as Congress considered a new federal budget bill. There was much about it in the mainstream media. The current tour seeks to promote just immigration reform.

In our present situation, many field workers are vulnerable to injustice. Some employers withhold wages, overtime, etc., because the workers are afraid to complain. Or they call in Immigration when the work is done. I’ve never known people who work harder than these field laborers. We need them; they need us.

Sister Carol Nolan, at right, teaches English to two of her students at Providence in the Desert in California.

Sister Carol Nolan, right, teaches English to two of her students at Providence in the Desert in California.

The preparation has begun. I’ve driven through the parks to make sure the bus can get in. We have almost all the permissions for the bus to visit the parks. We have flyers to give to all our students, though most of them will be at work. Our friend Jose will keep me posted on where they can be seen working in the fields, mostly picking grapes at this time of year.

I have written a letter to the editor of the local paper, NETWORK is sending an article and hopefully we can get some TV folks out here.

Today it’s about 105 degrees here in the desert. I hope it’s as hot as hell on June 13, so we will all see and feel what life is like for these people who pick our food. This is not work many of us would like to do.

If the immigration reform being lobbied for goes through as hoped, the folks who are working here now could be safe and could have the chance to become citizens. “Guest workers” used to come every week to work and then go home on weekends. When the U.S. tightened laws and made that too difficult, people started bringing up their families. They are human beings, after all.

When the documentary, “Third World California,” premiered in Chicago some years ago, a man in the audience said, “In the news it sounds as if we are dealing with terrorists, but these seem like really nice people.” To which we said, “Yes! These are really, really nice people.”

The nuns on the bus will tour some of the isolated trailer parks, such as this one, where Providence in the Desert brings English-language instruction to immigrant field workers.

The nuns on the bus will tour some of the isolated trailer parks, such as this one, where Providence in the Desert brings English-language instruction to immigrant field workers.

This week I visited a lovely couple who work in the fields and who want very much to learn English but who are afraid to travel to where our current beginners’ class is located. They are afraid of “la migra” (immigration police.) This breaks my heart!

Let’s pray that the coming of the Nuns on the Bus will shed new light on all of us about the need for immigration reform that is realistic, just and compassionate.

Read more about the Nuns on the Bus visit to Providence in the Desert.

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Sister Carol Nolan

Sister Carol Nolan recently retired from ministering at Providence in the Desert in Coachella, California, a ministry she founded in 2002. She currently lives and volunteers at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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