"What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12)
The doorbell rang while we were at breakfast a couple of weeks ago. It was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. At the door was a Hispanic man who explained that he had just arrived from Venezuela fifteen days ago. His father and his daughter were staying back at the hotel (which was serving as a shelter for refugees), because it was the feast of the Virgin Mary. He needed work boots for himself and his father so they could get a job the next day. I found the sizes that they needed in our clothing pantry. He was elated and filled with gratitude. We said a prayer, and he was on his way.
Each Wednesday afternoon we have a regular ministry where we typically serve about 20 to 30 people. Some come asking for clothes, a bag of groceries or a sandwich and a cup of coffee. Others come to talk or to pray. Some are regulars who make their stop at the convent part of their weekly routine.
However, for the past couple of months the number of people coming to the door on Wednesday afternoons quickly escalated from 20 to 60 and then hundreds of new faces, young and old, single young men and families with children. The doorbell rings nearly every day with refugees who have recently arrived, many from Venezuela or Ecuador, travelling thousands of miles to make it to the U.S. border. The men are eager to get a job and have been asking for las botas para trabajar (work boots), and the families were asking for las chamaras y las botas para invierno (winter coats and winter boots.)
The Capuchins have been referred to as the “minutemen of the Church,” responding at the last minute to the current need. When this immigration crisis arose, and hundreds of people were coming to us, we thought God was asking us to step in to be the minutemen that would serve the refugees in whatever small way we could. Our generous benefactors quickly responded to our requests for winter coats and work boots. With other donations we ordered hundreds of pairs of winter boots, and a sister went to the store to investigate hard hats. We thoroughly enjoyed her recounting her report of shopping for the hard hats at dinner that night!
Many of them came to the door with looks of desperation on their faces. Repeatedly I witnessed their desperation being transformed into joy and gratitude as they received boots and clothes.
As a mother tries to be attentive to the needs of her children and a father seeks to provide, we have tried to be attentive to the needs of the refugees, and God our Father has certainly provided in abundance. It is a privilege to serve the refugees who have fled their homeland and to be the ones to welcome them and let them know that they are received and cared for by the Church, their Mother.
Sr. Mae Therese, CFR