The Catholic Church at its Best

I was fortunate enough to spend Holy Week with the people working on the Mexican-American border that separates Nogales, Arizona from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.  The name of their group is the Kino Border Initiative*; they attend to the needs of those who are detained in the United States and deported to Mexico.  The deportees are not criminals; they simply have no documents.  The United States Border Patrol returns them to Mexico by the busload.  Since the great majority of them were stopped walking across the desert, they have nothing except the clothes on their backs. 

The Kino Border Initiative is run by Jesuits from the United States and from Mexico, plus an order of Mexican nuns.  By far the biggest thing they do is provide a soup kitchen where they give a meal in the morning and another in the afternoon to the detainees who come to them.  They can attend to about 250 in two sittings at every meal. The nuns also have a shelter for a small number of women.  The whole project is less than two years old and some day they hope to have an adequate shelter for both men and women.  It was a surprise to me how cold it can get in the Tucson area at night.  Some only had a t-shirt to wear.  The great majority of those who eat at the soup kitchen have to sleep in the street until they can collect enough money to move on.   People who work with the Initiative also treat blistered feet and ingrown toenails.  When they have some clothes, they provide them too

It was a good place to spend Holy Week.  Those who go to the soup kitchen are just like Jesus: beaten down, totally defeated and in a hopeless situation.  When they come in and take a place in the dining room, someone from the team of religious welcomes them and explains to them that they (the religious and volunteers at the soup kitchen) do not represent either the Mexican nor the United States government.  They are there, they tell them, representing the Catholic Church.  Frankly it was a time when one could be proud to be called a Catholic.  It was the Catholic Church at its best. 

*Eusebio Francisco Kino was a Jesuit who explored that part of the southwest in the seventeenth century.  There is a statue of him in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, representing the state of Arizona.


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