Border Experience participants learn about life, culture and poverty at U.S./Mexico border

May 30, 2017 by

While dawn was breaking early on Friday, May 26, a group of Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia and their guests at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia, Kansas, had already been up and stirring, preparing to make what they expected be a life-changing run for the border. Nine women left that morning to take part in what’s called “A Border Experience” — a one-week expedition that fully immerses one into the life and culture on the U.S./Mexico border.

This group, which includes women from Iowa, Nebraska, Lawrence and Concordia, will see first-hand the struggles of immigrants as they visit shelters, missions, agencies and the cooperatives that serve them, Sister Anna Marie Broxterman said. They expect to return to Kansas on June 3.

The experience is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia as a part of their commitment to Gospel living and nonviolence, which includes standing in solidarity with undocumented immigrants.

Participants will be staying at the Sisters’ Grandview Convent in El Paso, Texas. Sisters Missy Ljungdahl and Donna Otter live there and will help organize the experience while in El Paso. Sisters Christina Brodie and Judy Stephens, of Concordia, will be staffing the experience as well.

Sister Judy said this is her fifth time participating in the Border Experience.

“Our purpose is more learning and consciousness raising,” she said. “We’ll spend time in the area that is about 15-20 miles into Mexico and the U.S. It’s a land all unto itself.”

The trip offers a wide variety of experiences, depending on each visit. On this current expedition, participants spent time with Father Peter Hindes, 93, a Carmelite, and Sister Betty Campbell RSM in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Sister Christina Brodie said. Both have ministered extensively south of the border and were able to share their insights on immigration, poverty and injustice in the area. Another stop included the Centro Santa Catalina Women’s Cooperative.

The cooperative is a sewing co-op created to help poor women in Juarez to be able to support their children. It was started by two Adrian Dominican nuns in 1996, Sister Judy said. Their hand-sewn products are sold in the U.S. with the money raised being shared equally among all the women in the co-op. Most live in handmade shacks, mostly made out of cinder blocks, on the city’s former garbage dump. The cooperative is the only source of funds for these women.

The Sisters of St. Joseph have been offering some sort of Border Experience since 1996, said Sister Anna Marie Broxterman.

“The trip is for experience and education,” Sister Anna Marie said. “Not for service. The trip is a truly communal experience with participants joining in cooking for the group, prayer and nightly sharing and reflection on the events of the day.

A second Border Experience is planned for June 30 through July 8. Space is limited. Applicants will be honored on a first come, first served basis.

The cost to participants is $300 per person. Sisters of St. Joseph cover the additional expense. Also, participants will be responsible for purchasing their own food as they travel to and from El Paso.

The Border Experience is organized by members of the Sisters of St. Joseph Immigration Committee: Sisters Anna Marie Broxterman, Dian Hall, Judy Stephens, Christina Brodie, Marilyn Wall and Janet LeDuc.

For more information on applying for the upcoming Border Experience on June 30, visit www.csjkansas.org, or contact Sister Judy Stephens for more information: (785) 243-2149 or jstephens@csjkansas.org.

Photos taken in Texas courtesy of Sister Christina Brodie (with more to come)

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