Gifts of Love: Sisters of Charity, BVM gathered at Mount Carmel Bluffs in Dubuque, Iowa, to purchase items needed by Venezuelan immigrants arriving in Chicago. The outreach gifts, purchased via Rapid Response Wish List on Amazon, are intended to help keep the children, women, and men warm this winter in the cold Windy City.
The Office of BVM Life and Mission invited BVMs to respond to the call for help from Chicago service agencies to address the needs of immigrants arriving in the Windy City. Over 3,000 Venezuelan immigrants were bused to Chicago from Texas. The agencies have struggled to provide immediate needs, short-term placement, and establish long-term services.
In this Season of Giving, BVMs prepare to answer the call. On Dec. 15, sisters gathered at Mount Carmel Bluffs in Dubuque, Iowa, to “Listen, Learn, and Serve.”
A Call to Listen and Learn
Attendees viewed a recent panel discussion with BVM sisters sharing their experiences of helping immigrants in Chicago. BVMs Peggy (St. Cabrini) Geraghty, Mary Ellen (Davidette) Meckley, and Rose Mary (Sebastian) Meyer shared personal insights about the crisis and what Sisters of Charity, BVM can do.
The panel addressed the questions, “What do we call this community of people who are being bused to Chicago? Do we call them immigrants, migrants, asylum seekers? What would be the best language to use when describing this community?”
Peggy Geraghty, BVM answers, “The word migrant refers to someone who moves to other places in search of work or better living conditions. The word immigrant refers to those who have moved to foreign countries permanently for work or better living conditions. Each individual person on that bus could fit into either category depending on their current situation is. Are they here as a permanent resident? Or have they come just temporarily to find work or better living conditions . . . it could be a mix of those on any one of those buses.”
Discussion turned to immediate needs. Rose Mary, who is now retired, shares, “When these people arrived, they had been on the bus for quite some time. They needed food. They needed shelter. Because Illinois is a sanctuary state and Chicago is a sanctuary city, the Governor was there, the Mayor was there, and social service agencies were there . . . As you can imagine, this has been quite a strain on social services.”
Although the services have been strained, the migrants have been embraced. Mary Ellen exclaims, “When the people exited the bus, they were welcomed. It is really heartwarming to know that we are doing this.”
Peggy expressed a “certain amount of pride in our Diocese.” She shares how the parishes of Chicago have been invited to “step up” and assume responsibilities alongside Catholic Charities who is providing services and placements.
“I didn’t grow up here, so I’m very aware that this city has always been a place of people from many different countries,” Rose Mary states. “I think that’s extremely important that we continue working in this area.”
After the presentation, BVMs participated in prompted table conversations about personal experiences working with immigrants, local options for helping, and sharing “take-aways” from the video and discussion. Sisters were urged to share an insight from their table discussion with the larger group.
Teri (Teresa) Hadro, BVM shares, “Congregationally, we’ve been able to direct a lot of our financial resources to groups who work with immigrants.” Funds have been allocated to help with immigration lawyers through Catholic Charities, food banks, food pantries, and The Lantern Center. “There are multiple ways in which all of us have contributed over the years,” with plans to continue to do so.
Judith (Eugene Mary) Callahan, BVM updated sisters on what is occurring in Dubuque, stating that there has been “great progress with the Marshallese community” and that there is currently an influx of Guatemalan immigrants to Dubuque, who are in need of help . . . particularly young unwed mothers. She concludes, “The biggest thing we need to do is not so much to directly help the immigrant, but to help the people against it . . . education is a big role, we need to do whatever we can to break down those barriers.”
Mary Martens, BVM spoke of the Presentation Lantern Center where she previously volunteered, “I think Dubuque is exemplary in the way the city and caring people have reached out . . . at least 71 countries have been represented by the immigrants that have come to the Lantern Center.”
Sisters around the room shared stories of both a joy in the tremendous support and a concern for the challenges that still lie ahead.
Anne Buckley, BVM pondered, “Is there some little, practical thing that someone could spend some time at [age] 84 helping in this situation, that’s what I’d like to know.” The Office of BVM Life and Mission was able to answer that question.
A Call to Serve
Sisters were invited to shop from a checklist of needs for immigrant children, women, and men. The outreach gift suggestions included a variety of winter clothing needs such as hats, sweatshirts, socks, and gloves. The Office of BVM Life and Mission processed the orders through the Rapid Response Wish List on Amazon and purchased the following Gifts of Love from BVMs:
- 14 winter hats
- 11 men’s sweatshirts
- 25 women’s sweatshirts
- 5 packages of t-shirts
- 16 pairs of gloves
- 7 pairs of pants
- 9 sets of toddler sweatpants
- 12 packages of socks