Oct. 17, 2023 – In July 2021, the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province missioned a small team of Jesuits to serve in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border. They met with Bishop Daniel Flores who articulated their mission to “read the reality and respond to it.” Since then, they have strived to do precisely that.
Today that ministry is officially launching as “Del Camino Jesuit Border Ministries.” The name is drawn from the popular devotion of Our Lady of the Way (“Nuestra Señora del Camino” in Spanish). Many migrants turn to the Virgin Mary in prayer, and this devotion was especially important to the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Del Camino Jesuit Border Ministries focuses on pastoral accompaniment, sacramental ministry, and humanitarian aid with the migrant population on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Jesuit Fathers Flavio Bravo and Brian Strassburger and Jesuit Scholastic Joseph Nolla visit shelters in Reynosa and Matamoros, Mexico, and in McAllen and Brownsville, Texas, to greet migrants and celebrate Mass. They bring humanitarian aid like reusable cups and bowls for people to eat, baby wipes and powdered milk for young children, and hygiene and cleaning products.
They accompany people like Claudia, a migrant from Honduras who fled the country with her teenage son after he was nearly beaten to death by the local gang. Claudia and her son spent eight months in Reynosa waiting to seek protection in the U.S. The Jesuit team visited Claudia twice a week in the plaza where she was living with other migrants. They dropped off humanitarian aid to be shared with those most in need and celebrated Mass under a shade tent. Claudia would always ask for a special blessing and then insist on feeding the Jesuits with some home cooked Honduran dishes, prepared right in the plaza over an open fire. She never cooked the same dish twice.
They accompany people like Walter and Jacky, a couple from Ecuador who arrived in Reynosa right as the U.S. launched the CBP One app, a new means required for scheduling appointments at the border to seek protection in the U.S. Jacky had her phone stolen in southern Mexico, and Walter’s phone had dropped in a pothole and was damaged beyond repair. They had no way to request appointments daily through the app. The Jesuit team found a local friend who offered them his old phone, which allowed Walter and Jacky to download the app and eventually get an appointment. Jacky fell on the ground weeping when they got the phone: it was the lifeline they desperately needed.
They accompany people like Edwin, a migrant from Venezuela who came to the border with his wife and children. They traveled overland, including crossing the dense and uninhabited jungle that connects Colombia and Panama called the Darien Gap. Edwin is a skilled barber, so he set up a small tent in the encampment of Matamoros and started cutting hair as a way to feed his family as they waited to seek protection in the U.S. Edwin lent his electrical connection to the Jesuits every time they came to visit, so they could connect their speaker and celebrate Mass. And he gave Fr. Bravo a haircut!
These are just a few of the many stories that mark the accompaniment of Del Camino Jesuit Border Ministries. If you want to know more or help support their ministry, visit their website at delcamino.org and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.
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