Walking with the Women on the Other Side of the Wall

February 5, 2020

By Sisters Beth Dempsey and Mary Cleary

A woman from Guatemala abused by her husband walked from Guatemala to Mexico with her two daughters seeking asylum.

Sister Beth Blesses Daisy
Sister Beth Blesses Daisy

Another woman, Daisy, a mother of three, has been living in a tent with her husband and children since August; she has nearly two months to go, since their asylum hearing is not until March.

These are some of the women we met at the border in Matamoros, Mexico, when we spent two weeks volunteering at the Humanitarian Center in McAllen, Texas, a respite center run by Catholic Charities in the diocese of Brownsville.

The center, where Sister Anne Connolly ministers, now serves detainees in Matamoros, Mexico. We began our days by making 200-plus sandwiches and assembling care packages of diapers, wipes, powdered milk and oatmeal. Next, we drove about an hour with other volunteers to get to the border. There, we packed all the items in wagons and walked across the bridge to distribute the much-needed supplies to those who were lining the sidewalk of the encampment. When there were leftover items, we walked through the encampment to find those migrants still in need.

Children at the Border
Children at the Border

That is when we met those two women. Daisy came out of her tent carrying her daughter in her arms with another daughter at her side. She had a heavy heart and felt the need for a blessing. She asked if we came with a priest, but when Daisy learned we were Sisters of Mercy, Sister Beth gave her a blessing and made the sign of the cross on her forehead. Daisy’s eyes filled with tears of gratitude!

The woman from Guatemala was desperate. After walking more than 1,100 miles with two young children in tow to escape an abusive spouse, she learned that she needs a preliminary credible-fear screening at an embassy or consulate outside the United States prior to being considered for admittance to the U. S. for asylum purposes. She knows that whatever the outcome, she cannot return to her home, since her husband will probably kill her.

Sister Mary encountered a young brother and sister when she was handing out rosary beads. The children are always anxious to receive whatever is brought from the Humanitarian Respite Center. The next day, the women and children were wearing the rosaries around their heads.

Sister Mary Walks with Children
Sister Mary Walks with Children

These are just three of the myriads of stories told and untold from the lives of women, men and children waiting to cross the border. If you are looking for a place to send financial support, get in touch with Sister Anne Connolly. Learn about our immigration laws and policies and advocate to make changes. Keep hounding your representatives in Washington. Think of people who are willing to take in a family, waiting to find a place to call home. And, last but not least, pray! We believe prayers can move mountains, break down barriers and change lives.

Read more stories about Mercy on the border here:

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  1. Anne connolly

    We still miss you Mari and Beth!

    Indeed we want to pray deeply as every sign from administration in Washington is to make life in this country for these migrants more impossible each day. We unite in prayer!

  2. Katie Mindling

    As we listen in to the live session of the House Oversight Committee and hear how the administration is attempting change the definition of poverty to make the statistics look better while continuing to remove and readjust downward programs and to reduce sorely needed funds to help the most vulnerable – we stand with those who are putting their own lives out to help, to support, to lobby, and – like Mary and Beth – to join Anne and others all along US/Mexico borders who model compassion.

    “All I wanted was to serve the poor since that seemed to be what God
    expected of me” Catherine McAuley.

  3. Doris Gottemoeller, RSM

    Thank you for your merciful work! My prayers are with you and for you!

  4. Katherine Mroz RSM

    Congratulations on your ministry “at the border”
    You both have alerted me to pray and petition for these people who need so much and have so little!

    Katherine Mroz RSM

  5. Pat Kenny

    At a time like this, we are desperate for stories like these to restore our faith in the possibilities of making a difference in a chaotic world. Thank you, Mary and Beth, for your time and efforts at the Border, and Anne for your untiring commitment to those who need a smile, a listening ear and attention to their basic needs.

  6. Catherine Walsh

    Thank you for this important story. My prayers are with the migrant women, men and children, and with those walking with them!

  7. Anna Saltzman, RSM

    Heartfelt prayers and ongoing advocacy. Thank you for being there.