Our second day of service was one that I will remember for a long time. I got a great 7 hours of sleep and woke up before my 6AM alarm. The Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan has a 'bilingual' mass at 6:30 am. The readings were in Spanish and the gospel was in English. The homily was to be in both English and Spanish so I was ready! I was so effective at nodding along with his Spanish homily that he assumed I understood what he was saying so he skipped the English version. One of the beauties of the Catholic mass is that, no matter the language, the mass is the mass. It was a beautiful and moving experience just being in the presence of believers and in the Presence of Jesus.
I'll try not to obsess about food but it's hard when a) I'm a foodie b) the food is so good c) sharing a meal with friends (old and new) is so special. Breakfast is simple but oh, so good. The Basilica's cafeteria offers ten breakfast taco choices for $1.50 each that rival any breakfast I've eaten. Since we are only here for four mornings I won't get a chance to sample them all - so I may just have to come back!
Our group was to meet Srs. Ann and Pat at the Church of Our Lady of Guadelupe at 9:30 am. Since there was bound to be some traffic we left early and arrived at about 9:10 so we took advantage of the time to explore the grounds. As our meeting time rolled around, two things took place: people started arriving to the church for a funeral and we discovered we were at the wrong Our Lady of Guadelupe!
After a phone call we set our GPS to the right OLG and met up with the two wonderful Maryknoll sisters and about seven women and men from the parish. Spending the morning learning about the lives of these folks was eye-opening. Hard-working, loving, faithful, our community would be blessed to have them a part of it. We heard stories about their families, interactions with border patrol, life close to the border. One story told during our small group session was very powerful and puts the issues into focus. Two years ago during Holy Week, some parishioners participating in the Passion play headed to a sister parish for practice. Upon returning, they were pulled over by border patrol and detained. Their costumes still in the car. It was 2AM by the time their pastor, Fr. Mike was able to get them released from detention. It was an emotional time for the congregation. Understand, these were all American citizens or people legally here in the United States.
Lunch was a special event - the ladies of the parish made tacos and sweet breads for us to enjoy with them. Chorizo, cactus, chicken, pork. Yum! Having Spanish speaking members of our party was invaluable to us. Both Mario and Dianne were able to translate flawlessly - although there were a few "in" jokes that I'm sure the rest of our party missed! After lunch, we traveled the 3 miles to the Rio Grande River and walked to the river's edge.
Our afternoon was again spent at the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Respite Center. To understand the beauty of the story that I will close with it's important to understand a bit of how the Respite Center works. After immigrants are processed by the border patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), they are bussed to the respite center. The children are washed and fed while the parents begin the work to travel to their destination in the US. Calls are made to their US contacts, bus tickets are purchased, a hearty soup is provided and then they go 'shopping' in the center's donated clothes area and new undergarments. Finally, they can shower and change into their new clothes. During this time the children are cared for by volunteers who play with and care for them.
While one little boy's mother was going through this process, showering, eating and getting her family's travel figured out, he (this beautiful 6-year-old little boy) was scared that he had been abandoned, lost. His brother was with him but the boy was convinced he was left. There were a few people who tried to console this young boy but he would have none of it. That is, not until Mario approached him, spoke to him, reassured him joked with him and got him to smile. Up until that point, close to the end of the day, Mario had been feeling a bit out of place. I am convinced that one of the reasons Mario is on this trip with us was to be there for that boy. I've heard it said that Jesus doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called. Today Mario was called, he was equipped and he performed. It is a thing of beauty when you can see Christ, through Mario, working to console the inconsolable.
Continue to pray for us as we pray for all of you.