In our continuing effort to get to know the IHM Sisters of Monroe, Mich., we’re providing a brief overview of their global ministries. We say “brief” only because their efforts are so expansive and impressive, that we can’t do it justice here.
As mentioned in our last blog, while the sisters originally began as teachers, they have added a variety of ministries, including outreach into poor communities and individuals in need. The common element in the IHM Sisters’ ministries is to “heed the call of God, regardless of where in the world it takes us.”
Their early work began in Puerto Rico in 1948 and they have since opened missions in Grenada, West Indies; Honduras; Ghana, West Africa; Kenya; South Africa, Mexico and among Native Americans in the United States. They’ve also assisted Vietnamese orphans and refugees.
And, since around 2022, IHM Sisters from congregations in Monroe and Scranton, Penn., and the Oblate Sisters of Providence (OSP) in Baltimore, have established a community in McAllen, Texas, called OSP-IHM Border Ministry. The sisters engage in direct service to asylum seekers at the southern border who need temporary respite and help contacting their sponsors in the U.S.
To get a sense for what their experience has been at the border, following is an excerpt from a monthly update by Elvia Yolanda Mata, IHM (Scranton): “Encountering God on the Journey.”
“Everything that moves has life. For there to be life, there must be movement. Migrant people are in continuous movement. Not only moving physically but, above all, their spirits are in movement. It is in the process of movement that new experiences emerge. What are the reasons that migrant people are willing to be on the move? They journey in search of life, a better life for their families. They must leave their countries of origin, not because they want to, but because in their countries their lives are threatened. It is during their journey that they frequently come face to face with death, but it is also where they find a new meaning in their life. It is there in uncertainty that they encounter God . . .
A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to participate in the Eucharist where several of the migrant children received the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist. The children ranged in age from one year to 12 years old. The joy of the children and their families was very evident. Talking to some of the parents and children who had received the sacraments, they clearly expressed how they felt the presence of God accompanying them during their long and difficult pilgrimage. That precise moment of receiving the sacraments meant much more to them than can be expressed here in words.
At other times, we have reflected that migrants travel just with what they are wearing, their important documents and some other small belongings. Something that really caught my attention that day was that, although their clothing was very simple, all the children who were receiving the sacraments were wearing something new: a hairpin, a pair of pants, a blouse, etc. What touched my heart the most was that they were all wearing new shoes. This seemingly unnoticed detail made me ponder many things. Perhaps these children in their short lives had never had the opportunity to wear a new garment, but that day was a special day. That was a special encounter with God, their Lord, who had protected them on their way. It caused me to think about what “new garment” (new thoughts, vision, attitudes), I need to wear each time God meets me in my daily life. There is definitely an invitation to keep moving so that my life does not stagnate.”