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‘The borders came to us,’ and we must answer the call

Note: This piece, written by Sister Sue Paweski, SP, was originally featured in Global Sisters Report, as part of the series, “Welcoming the Stranger.”

As women, children, and men from Venezuela poured out of buses into unfamiliar streets of Chicago, seeking refuge from the political horrors of their beloved homelands, I heard someone say, “The borders came to us!”

And the next remark was, “What can we do?”

The Migrant Ministry

The answer to that question was the effort of Ascension Parish that began what eventually became the formation of the Migrant Ministry by the Catholic parishes of Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. (The Catholic parishes of Oak Park are Ascension and St. Edmund, St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy, and St. Giles parishes).

The Migrant Ministry is providing food, clothing, medical services and weekly showers for our sisters and brothers in dire need.

Migrant Ministry is also providing the Oak Park community with the opportunity to live the Gospel values by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and caring for one another.

These are not acts of charity, rather this is what justice calls us to do.

The ministry of the Oak Park churches began with Ascension Parish fostering a Venezuelan family in an apartment.

Through the efforts of the parishioners and clergy from the Catholic parishes of Oak Park, more housing was made available.

At present, five Venezuelan families are receiving assistance. That initiative sparked the flame of compassion as members of parish communities organized and created the Migrant Ministry to what it is now, a well-organized community of care and outreach.

Overwhelming Response

The response has been overwhelming and gratifying. Clothing is accepted on Monday mornings and there is such a great response that some clothes are offered to other charitable outlets.

Underwear, socks, sweaters, hats, gloves and jackets are provided to the migrants who are experiencing their first Chicago winter.

Masked volunteers glance at each other apprehensively when the shivering people gratefully accept the jackets, knowing that we are not yet in the throes of winter.

When the doors open, the people are brought into a room filled with sandwiches, beverages, cookies and various treats.

The services include showers; medical staff from Loyola Medical Center; English language classes, staffed by bilingual teachers.

The presence of the pastor and parish staff members whiz throughout the former rectory, answering questions, thanking volunteers, lifting containers of clothing and food with encouraging smiles, and a few phrases in Spanish, to our approximately 500 guests per week.

Answering the Call

Other faith communities have answered the call. Volunteers from surrounding suburbs are committing hours to sorting clothing, setting up tables and chairs for breakfast, English classes, and the medical station. Then the cleanup!

The church is the drop-off place for the clothing and that needs to be made ready for Mass the next morning.

The rooms need to be vacated and cleaned for the next week. All accomplished by volunteers who are living the Gospel values.

I am on the parish staff and I can attest to the many calls we receive on a daily basis inquiring about how people can help with the Migrant Ministry.

When I am despairing of the violence and cruelty in our world, my spirits are lifted by the outreach to help those who have little to nothing and are thrust into a desperate situation.

There are those who decry the assistance the asylum-seekers are given, citing political reasons. I hope they would come to the ministry and witness the families who are served. Jesus gives no provisos for meeting the needs of our sisters and brothers.

The borders came to us and we’re compelled to answer the call.

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Sister Sue Paweski

Sister Sue Paweski

Sister Sue has been a Sister of Providence since 1998. She currently serves in pastoral ministry at St Catherine of Siena-St Lucy, St Giles Parish in Oak Park, Illinois. Prior to that, she ministered as Co-director of the Providence Associate relationship with the Sisters of Providence.

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  1. Avatar Debbie Griffey on March 2, 2024 at 7:05 am

    I love everything about this! The borders have come to us and it is within our power to be there for them. The Migrant Ministry is answering the call!

  2. Avatar Maria Price on March 2, 2024 at 8:30 am

    What a beautiful, hopeful response.

  3. Avatar Paula Modaff on March 2, 2024 at 11:42 am

    Susan, I am with you in being heartened by this good news amid so much absolute chaos in the media. Keep on keeping on. Adelante!

  4. Avatar Eileen Horan, PA on March 2, 2024 at 2:04 pm

    This response to the migrants’ needs gives me hope! Thanks for sharing and encouraging the rest of us to do the same.

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