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For our final episode of Season 3, we are thrilled to welcome Fr. Scott Santarosa, SJ, the former provincial of the Jesuits West Province and newly installed pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Diego, CA. Fr. Scott has become a fast friend to the two of us after visiting the Rio Grande Valley early in the year and then helping to host us on a visit to El Paso, TX, where he spent part of his sabbatical. He talks about how he’s gone from a childhood in Sacramento, to a love for Latino ministry, to his first assignment on the border. And he shares the consolation he experienced just taking out the trash at a migrant shelter after years spent working behind a desk as Provincial. Reflecting on other friends in ministry for us, we give thanks for the Mercy Sisters and IHM Sisters who regularly minister in the same migrant shelters. And we give a shout-out to our newest friend in ministry, Jules, our Toyota Sienna. We’ve had a lot of hoops to jump through to get her into Mexico, but she’s worth the wait! Oh, and in the area of current events, Title 42 is scheduled to be lifted on December 21st. It’s been the governing border policy since the pandemic started. We’ll see what happens, but we’re expecting big changes between now and the debut of Season 4 next year. Stay tuned and thanks for listening! We’ll see you next season!
We are excited to welcome Sr. Tracey Horan, SP, the Associate Director of Education and Advocacy for the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, AZ. Kino is a bi-national program that includes a shelter and soup kitchen for migrants in Nogales, Senora, and education and encounter programs, along with advocacy outreach in both the U.S. and Mexico. Sr. Tracey shares the challenges and hopes from Kino’s initiatives to advocate for immigration reform. She offers examples of how experiences of students coming to visit the border or hearing migrant’s stories helps to humanize the migrant experience and reshape the way people think about the issue. We share our own joys and frustrations (mostly frustrations…only frustrations??) with our attempts at advocacy phone calls with the staff of our representatives in Congress. And we talk about what it’s like to be surrounded by pregnant women in a migrant shelter demanding help. Not something a pair of young priests are used to facing! But they are their own best advocates!
This week, we’re taking a bit of a break from the podcast to celebrate Thanksgiving! Episodes for season 3 will continue to be released next week. For now, however, there is so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. Although the situation on the border is fraught with problems and our ministry can at times be challenging, we give thanks to God for the opportunity to accompany his beloved people on the margins, and we thank you for your support of this ministry over the past year and a half. Without the support of donors and listeners to the podcast, this ministry would not be possible. With that in mind, we thought it would be fitting to join together with all of you in prayer this Thanksgiving for migrants around the world. In this brief episode, we offer a prayer from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for all migrants and refugees. Before the prayer, we debate our favorite Thanksgiving dish - canned cranberry, the unsung hero of Thanksgiving, takes the crown! Or, at least, that’s Louie’s opinion. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish??
We are excited to welcome Tom Cartwright, an advocate and activist who volunteers with the RGV Welcome Committee and Witness at the Border. Tom retired after nearly forty years working for JP Morgan, but was inspired by a visit to a refugee camp in Greece to put his corporate skills to use on behalf of migrants. Among other things, he tracks the Department of Homeland Security flights for deportation, expulsion, or “lateral flights” that move migrants from one part of the border to another. We share from our recent experience encountering migrants who had crossed the border near El Paso, but then were flown a thousand miles away to Brownsville to be processed. What we thought was going to be the start of our weekend, turned into a frantic night of surveying about seventy migrants who were left to sleep on the street outside the local bus station. We end the episode pitching an Ignatian Camino to Spain for the summer of…2024? Who’s interested??
We are pleased to welcome Mary Bull, a house coordinator at Annunciation House in El Paso, TX. Annunciation House was founded in the 1970s to accompany the migrant, refugee, and economically vulnerable peoples of the border region through hospitality, advocacy, and education. They operate several houses of hospitality for migrants in El Paso. Mary talks about what first brought her from Michigan down to the border, and what has inspired her to continue her work there for the past ten years. We share examples of faithfulness in mission that we’ve encountered, including the two Mexican Jesuits who were killed earlier this year in the Tarahumara mountains, Fr. Javier Campos, SJ, and Fr. Joaquin Mora, SJ. We also talk about a local example of faithfulness, Sr. Edith Garrido, a Daughter of Charity working at Casa del Migrante in Reynosa. She has been rightly described as the beating heart of the shelter, and we get a laugh speculating widely about her age.
We are happy to welcome Fr. Matt Kuczora, CSC, a Holy Cross priest in law school at the University of Notre Dame. He spent the summer in Brownsville working with Project Dignity Legal Team, where he helped to set up a system for assisting migrants with “particular vulnerabilities” who are eligible to be paroled into the United States. We share our own experience helping submit cases for migrants with particular vulnerabilities, in particular, pregnant women. We talk about a couple of techniques we use to try to avoid getting overwhelmed with requests for legal aid, which have been met with mixed results, to say the least. Since Fr. Matt also lived in our community during the summer, we end the episode trying to get him to pick his favorite person to live with between the two of us. Who will he choose?!?
We are excited to welcome Astrid Dominguez, the Executive Director of Good Neighbor Settlement House. Good Neighbor is a nonprofit serving the unhoused in Brownsville, TX with meals, clothing, showers and support services. They also coordinate the migrant Welcome Center by the local bus station with other partner organizations. Astrid shares from her experience as a first generation immigrant and as a mother, and how those facets of her life inform her work for justice. We reflect on the graces that have come from keeping in touch with migrants after they’ve entered the U.S. and dispersed around the country to be with family. We caught up with our good friend Claudia at our province ordinations in St. Louis in June and took some requisite selfies with her. And we’ve hosted a couple of Zoom Masses with migrants from the Catholic community in the Reynosa plaza, despite the challenges of trying to explain time zones!
For our first episode of Season 3, we are humbled to welcome Bishop Mark Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso, TX. Known for his advocacy for the poor and vulnerable, Bishop Seitz offers a unique perspective as a leader of the Church in a border community. In this episode, he calls for a deeper conversation about migration, one that is not solely dominated by socio-political concerns, but shaped by a theological perspective that identifies the migrant experience as essential for understanding the Church. He also talks about celebrating Mass at the border wall on an altar which straddled both sides; a reminder of the unifying force of the Eucharist even amidst division. We offer our own reflection on experiences of breaking bread with migrants through our Sacramental ministry; including a 12-year-old altar server named Vincent who just can’t quite seem to figure out when to ring the bells.
Louie Hotop, SJ, and Brian Strassburger, SJ, are two Jesuit priests working on the US-Mexico border in the diocese of Brownsville, TX. This podcast explores the humanitarian response along the U.S.-Mexico border from a Catholic perspective. Season 3 will expand the scope beyond the Rio Grande Valley and include interviews with people working on other points along the border as well. The first episode of Season 3 will be released on Tuesday, October 18th. You can find the podcast in this feed and on our website (www.TheJesuitPost.org) This podcast is edited and produced by the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S. and hosted by The Jesuit Post.
In this bonus episode, Louie and Brian share updates about their ministry this past summer. They talk about their new routine for visiting shelters in Reynosa, Mexico, including celebrating Mass at Casa del Migrante, and bringing donations to the newest shelter, Senda 2. They share the story of a migrant couple who staffed the bodega at Senda 2 and surprised them by wearing some Jesuit swag! They also reflect on a visit to a Jesuit project on the southern border of Mexico in Frontera Comalapa, including a birthday party for a 10-year-old Nicaraguan girl that gave Louie the opportunity to showcase his dance moves!
In this bonus episode, Louie and Brian offer updates on their ministry and the migrant reality in Reynosa, Mexico. They reflect on the experience of celebrating Holy Week with migrants in the plaza, as the incense masked the smell of nearby port-o-potties and the sprinkling of holy water helped cool the oppressive heat. They also talk about how the plaza was cleared out in the middle of the night. Most of the migrants were relocated to local shelters, which have become the new focus of their ministry in Reynosa. There has also been an increase in Haitians on the border, so tune in to hear Brian’s best attempt at getting the names right for three teenage girls he has befriended at Casa del Migrante.
This week we are very grateful to be joined by Jennifer Harbury, co-founder of Angry Tías and Abuelas, a grassroots organization that fights for the protection of migrants on both sides of the border and works tirelessly to secure much needed supplies for shelters, including the new shelter that is being built in Reynosa, Mexico. Jennifer has decades of experience working in Guatemala and along the US-Mexico border for the rights of vulnerable people. In this interview, she speaks in stark detail about the humanitarian crisis on the US-Mexico border, a direct result of both current US policy and decades of meddling in Central America. We share about our distribution of tents and tarps in the plaza, and argue over which one of us is Sherlyn’s favorite, a 7-year-old girl we’ve befriended in Reynosa.
This week we are grateful to be joined by Hermi Forshage who is the volunteer coordinator at the Humanitarian Respite Center (HRC) in McAllen, TX and the chairperson for the Catholic Charities RGV advisory board. Hermi has been instrumental in helping us to get involved at the HRC and has been a huge supporter of our work in Reynosa. In this episode, Hermi shares stories from her years of experience working with migrant families and encourages listeners to think beyond politics and see the dignity of each person. We also share about the fiasco we created by trying to bring used clothing across the border - let’s just say we learned our lesson pretty quickly!
This week we are very pleased to release our interview with Trey Martinez, an attorney from Brownsville and a very good friend of ours. In this episode, Trey tells the story about how, through the influence of Sr. Norma Pimentel, he chose to use his legal expertise to help migrants with their asylum cases and co-found Project Dignity Legal Team. Trey also speaks openly about the topic of immigration and humanitarian aid from his perspective as a lawyer and as a person of strong faith. We also share about our own struggles of getting involved with the migrant detention system and how difficult it can be to navigate - especially when you’re trying to track down a loved one!
We are thrilled to welcome Fr. Joel Flores, the pastor of San Pedro Catholic Church in the Diocese of Brownsville, TX. Fr. Joel shares some of the innovative ways his parish has responded to the needs of the community throughout the pandemic, including transforming a trailer into a mobile chapel. He also reflects on his ministry of burying indigent or unclaimed bodies in the parish cemetery. We talk about our experiences presiding at funerals in the Rio Grande Valley, which include cultural touches like mariachi bands and wailing women.
We are excited to welcome Brendon Tucker from Global Response Management, an organization that delivers emergency medical care in crisis situations around the world, including in northern Mexico along the border. In his interview, Tucker talks about how he got so involved in a medical organization without a medical background, and the drastic medical needs in Reynosa right now. We share about our experience of “caring for the sick” at the hygiene counter in the Humanitarian Respite Center of Catholic Charities in McAllen, TX. While we are only dispensing over-the-counter medication, it still causes us both to work up quite the sweat. We’re priests, not doctors!
We are delighted to welcome Vero Dimas from the Brownsville Wellness Coalition, an organization that offers programs that promote nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Brownsville has high rates of obesity and diabetes, and it’s one of the nation’s poorest cities by per capita income. The Brownsville Wellness Coalition addresses these issues by running a local farmer’s market, encouraging local produce growers, and offering lessons in healthy eating. Vero Dimas, Executive Director of the Brownsville Wellness Coalition and a Brownsville native, talks about the wealth of the people, even among the poverty and low health marks. She emphasizes the value of not just feeding the hungry, but providing access to healthy food for everyone. We share a story about a meal with the family of the local car guard in Reynosa, who provides us with more than just parallel parking advice (although he provides that too!).
We are excited to welcome Chloe Rastatter and Christa Cook from Solidarity Engineering for our first episode of Season 2. Chloe and Christa are two of the three engineers who founded Solidarity Engineering, an organization working on the border to provide engineering solutions to water and sanitation problems, among other things. In this episode, they talk about the complexities of something as basic as providing clean drinking water, and what it’s like to work as women and engineers on the border. We share about the ways we’ve seen both the great needs for water for people in Reynosa, Mexico, and how water can make things more complicated, like when it rains!
Louie Hotop, SJ, and Brian Strassburger, SJ, are two Jesuit priests working on the US-Mexico border in the diocese of Brownsville, TX. This podcast explores the humanitarian response along the U.S.-Mexico border from a Catholic perspective. Season 2 will focus on the Corporal Works of Mercy, and include interviews with organizations who are putting them into practice in very challenging conditions. The first episode of Season 2 will be released on Tuesday, March 1st. You can find the podcast in this feed and on our website (www.TheJesuitPost.org) This podcast is edited and produced by the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S. and hosted by The Jesuit Post. And it is definitely NOT sponsored by Amazon or Toyota.
It was our great pleasure to welcome Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley for the last episode of Season 1. Sr. Norma works tirelessly on behalf of the most vulnerable on the US-Mexico border, and she is a well-known advocate for migrants and asylum seekers. If you enjoyed hearing from her in Episode 6, here is the full interview. Sr. Norma reflects on her own call to serve the poor and marginalized as a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, and she calls on all people of good will to "come and see" how Christ is present along the border. The full interview includes insights into her own prayer life and how she handles the pressure that comes with being a high profile advocate on the border.
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