Christa Parra: My Experience On The Border
The border is in my blood. I am a Mexican American from a small town in Arizona near the U.S./Mexico border.
The sisters who first invited me to consider religious life know what it means to cross borders. They left Ireland in the 1950s to begin a mission in Arizona. They encouraged me to go to Peru for a few months before I entered our community. While I was there, I was inspired by our ministries and Sr. Miroslava who made her final vows. A deep desire for religious life was awakened in me. During this time, I also looked at a world map of where we had missions. I didn’t see us in Mexico or at the border and I wondered why. As I entered our community in 2008, this question stayed in my heart.
Everytime I have crossed borders and met our sisters at various international gatherings, I always share the dream of us one day being on the U.S./Mexico border.
Last October, I had permission from our leadership team to move to El Paso, Texas and work in Juarez, Mexico. I believe this is not just MY border dream, but OUR border dream and God’s mission. This location is one of the many places around the world where the need is the greatest. We are responding to a humanitarian crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people from South and Central America and Cuba have crossed this border in the last few years to seek asylum.
Last year, the U.S. government began the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) program also known as "Remain in Mexico." People seeking asylum are forced to wait for their multiple court hearings over several months and years in Mexico instead of in the U.S.. Juarez is known as a violent city with high homicide and femicide rates. Migrants are vulnerable to being kidnapped, ransomed, abused, and/or forced into human trafficking by cartels and gangs. The resources and shelters are very limited in Juarez.
For now, I am the only Mary Ward sister on the ground, but I feel we are all there. We believe that where one of us is, all of us are. We live in El Paso and cross daily into Mexico. We are part of a network of support in Juarez for people seeking asylum. We offer hospitality and resources at a port of entry in Mexico where people arrive from U.S. detention centers. We accompany men, women, and children. There are thousands of people who are waiting for their cases in Juarez hoping to make it into the U.S. one day. We also walk with a group of women and their children at a shelter called La Casa de Acogida (House of Welcome). We help at a Human Rights Center providing legal assistance, food, and clothing. We deeply love the people we are blessed to accompany. We are listening and learning a lot. We see God in our brothers and sisters.
In April, the impact of the pandemic restricted the border, put a stay at home order in place, and limited our access to these sacred spaces. The coronavirus cases are on the rise in Arizona, Texas, and Juarez among other places. I have returned to Arizona with our sisters. It was difficult to temporarily leave the border, but the dream has not left us. The needs are drastically increasing in vulnerable communities. The dream is now our reality and we are just getting started at the border… AMDG.
Reprinted with permission from July 2020 What's Happening.