What is it like to live and be pastorally present in a border state such as Arizona?
As Sisters who live in the Mission Diocese of Tucson, we share a southern border with Mexico, an eastern border with New Mexico that also borders Mexico and Texas. We have a western border with California that borders Mexico. In addition to these borders of states and countries, we in Arizona have borders within our state. The Sovereign Nations of the indigenous Native American people recognize borders that we frequently cross without notice or awareness as we travel the US Highways to and from our destinations. Sometimes we see road signs that advise we are “Now Entering the Native American Nation” and leaving it as we drive along the highways.
As a native of Arizona, meeting and greeting travelers from various points of origins we, as family and communities of faith within this border context, saw each traveler as a gift and treasure to receive with gratitude and welcomed them to extend our desert hospitality.
Border crossing was a given reality and as we crossed from “our familiar boundaries” into other boundaries. We noticed how the landscape, plant life, and horizons had a particular beauty and unique challenges that could be dangerous to the unfamiliar traveler. Only the experienced amongst us could tell us stories of past journeys that held us in breathless suspense as the story unfolded. Stories that made known the hidden dangers, the mercy and kindness of strangers, the burning heat of full sun, and the occasional breeze that cooled the body at a most critical time. We learned to read the landscape, look for animal trails and identify plants and cacti that were edible. We learned that there are cacti to avoid, such as the Cholla that releases its spiny sharp needles to anything that moved close by because it was drawn to the magnetic pull of the person or animal. The desert can be hostile to the newcomer and indeed it is deadly to the inexperienced.
This cultural and local knowledge carries with it a deep appreciation of hospitality, such as the rancher who leaves water out under mesquite trees for the humanity of migrant immigrants, desperate to leave the unknown dangers in their land to take a faith risk in God’s providence and mercy of strangers.
We give thanks for the many volunteers who make rescue searches in the desert to save lives. When they find the lost, the dying, and the remains, they too will pray in gratitude for this Mission of God that tugs at their heart and their humanity to reach out as believers that everyone is a son and daughter of God, therefore their brothers and sisters in the Name of God.
We give thanks for the partnerships of non-profits with Border Patrol to rescue the lost and receive the remains of the many women, children, and men whose families need to know what happened to their loved ones.
We give thanks for the forensic teams that reverently receive the remains and work with the Consulates to identify the dead.
We give thanks to the volunteers who go out into the desert to place a cross at the site of the now documented dead with their names on their cross that has been blessed and photos taken to send to their loved ones in their country of origin.
We give thanks to you for your prayers, your advocacy on behalf of the poor whose voice was heard by our Merciful God.
Let us pray for all immigrant migrants as a people of Faith, itinerant preachers on the Emmaus Roads of humanity’s desert. Let us light a candle in remembrance and open wide our hearts, minds, hands and
Walk as St. Dominic did and travel the road of mercy and Eucharistic hospitality to be and become the Bread of Life and Cup of Joy.