Disturbing images of children at the border were flooding the daily news. During the height of the immigration crisis, an invitation went out for volunteers to minister to those arriving in Texas to be processed through Catholic Charities of Laredo. In collaboration with a larger initiative of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the Dominicans of Springfield pledged financial and human resources to provide a compassionate presence for those seeking asylum with weary yet hopeful eyes. Sisters Anita Cleary, Judi Hilbing, and Pat Stark embraced this radical ministry in the name of the congregation.
During their two weeks of service in May, the sisters did all they could to live out the Gospel imperative to shelter the homeless, welcome the stranger, and feed the hungry. They cooked meals and sorted donations. They packed food, pampers, clothing, and personal hygiene items to distribute to those who would continue their journey after receiving overnight accommodations, a shower, and a hot meal. Children ages six and under, when accompanied by an adult, would arrive each day. Using generous donations, the sisters went to dollar stores and bargain basements in search of simple toys and new shoes for the children. Judi found joy in the midst of suffering as “I unpacked the shoes and watched them go away quickly on dancing feet.”
Looking into the eyes of each immigrant, the sisters viewed the interconnectedness of life with renewed clarity. Anita knew that work at the border isn’t just about ministry to those seeking asylum. It is also about “protecting individuals who are being trafficked and supporting members of the LGBTQ+ community.” It is about the value of kind words. Spoken by Pat and echoed by all, “Gracias a Dios, our loving God reaches beyond borders! We are all one family. We are all God’s children.”
Sister Judith is a member of the JUST Words editorial board. This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 Volume of JUST Words. View full, digital version here.