I am an old woman, but a new Catholic. At the age of 68, I have recently – joyfully! – celebrated the second anniversary of my First Communion.
Adults who are received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church are expected to find their place in the life of the Parish. I struggled with this. I waited for an invitation to participate, but none came. I volunteered for several of the ministry teams but was not welcomed by any of their organizers. Following the example of Saint Thérèse de Lisieux, I looked for simple things that needed doing and just did them. If there was trash on the church lawn, I picked it up. If there were weeds in the flowerbeds, I pulled them. If the assigned Lector didn’t show up for Mass, I walked to the Ambo and read the Word of the Lord. I felt like a loosely-attached appendage to the Body of Christ -- an earlobe, longing to be a strong necessary opposable thumb.
In late April this year, I received an email containing a link to a video conference out of Georgetown University. A panel of experts was discussing the possible outcomes of the end of Title 42 planned for early May. The last to speak was Bishop Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso. After some beautiful remarks about the borderlands as a liminal space where it is possible to encounter Christ in service to the suffering displaced people there, he looked into the camera and said, “Come to the border. Services for the asylum-seekers are mostly provided by volunteers, and volunteers are not coming now because of uncertainty about the end of Title 42.” He mentioned several organizations that needed help, among them Annunciation House, a network of shelters run by a Catholic non-profit. As soon as the conference ended, I went to the Annunciation House website and filled out the form for volunteers, thinking, “They will never want an old lady who speaks no Spanish.” Within a few hours I had a response: “Can you be here May 5? Can you stay a month?” I put new tires on my car and drove to El Paso.
I spent four weeks working at Casa Papa Francisco, which houses mostly women with children. Management for the volunteers was provided by women religious and lay missioners. My tasks were simple: Wash the bed linens and hang them out to dry. Help with meal preparation. Play with the kids. Transport the moms to hospital to nurse their babies in NICU. Arrange plane or bus tickets to final destinations. Print the boarding passes. Hug them good-bye. After years of frustration, anxiety, and despair about the impossibility of a political solution to the complex causes and effects of migration, I found myself in a position to satisfy the simple but intense needs of a few individuals. This experience was a great gift to me from Annunciation House, and I will never forget it. My month in El Paso restored my hope for a supernatural solution for the human race and for our common home, which will be accomplished by grace, by prayer and by simple tasks done by many with great love.
Written by Gina Boccetti, a community member in North Carolina.