Creating a greener lifestyle

May 2, 2022 by  

To learn more about the Sisters of St. Joseph Ecological Integrity Committee, CLICK HERE.

Eat low on the food chain, organic if possible. Avoid GMOs.
Eat at home as much as possible, and don’t waste.


Helping Hands could use a hand

April 22, 2022 by  

Helping Hands of Concordia has long been known for reaching out and giving a hand to those most in need in the community as well as to simple victims of unfortunate events in the area.

Now, Helping Hands could use your help.

What is Helping Hands? It’s a nonprofit ministry located in Manna House of Prayer at 323 East 5th Street in Concordia, Kansas. Ever since 1978, Manna House has offered an outreach to help those in need. Partnering with area agencies, among the services offered is assistance for utilities, medical help (pharmacy bills), travel (bus passes for the local in-town bus, OCCK bus transportation and 81 Connection bus transport), food (from our food closet), baby formula, diapers, gasoline vouchers for stranded out-of town transients and overnight housing in a motel for transients. It is a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

And Helping Hands isn’t just for Concordia. In the past year it also has assisted residents in Miltonvale, Clyde, Belleville and Glasco.

Susan LeDuc, manager of Helping Hands at Manna House or Prayer, shows how depleted the food pantry is, especially lacking essential proteins.

Susan LeDuc, CSJ Associate and manager of Helping Hands, talked Wednesday, April 20, about the current needs of the nonprofit.

Like many businesses and nonprofits, Helping Hands has been reeling under the impact of recent current events.

During the winter, area electric and gas companies were under a moratorium on the collection of past due bills. Now that the weather has warmed up, and the moratorium has lifted, all those bills are coming due. And many residents are in desperate straits trying to keep on basic utilities.

“We are seeing twice as many people seeking utility help,” LeDuc said.

“Some didn’t take advantage of LEAP (Low Energy Advantage Program) and some didn’t qualify,” she said.

Also, a recall earlier this winter on baby formula caused an alarming shortage. Helping Hands, WIC, and other area agencies have been scrambling to provide formula for mothers and children.

In addition, food chain interruptions, shortages and inflation have made keeping the food pantry stocked a problem. Basic needs, like simple canned proteins — canned chicken and tuna — hard to keep on the shelves.

Fresh meat is another difficult product to keep in stock. Manna House has a limited deep freezer storage area and is always happy to welcome the donation of meat.

How can you help?

Helping Hands welcomes donations of non-expired food, diapers, baby formula, as well as monetary donations. Helping Hands does not accept clothing donations, however it does offer vouchers to the Catholic Thrift Store for people in need of garments.

“Every dime that is donated goes to the people,” LeDuc said. “There are no administrative costs. It all goes to bills, diapers, groceries or vouchers. The Sisters cover all the administrative expenses.”

To donate, contact Manna House of Prayer, Susan LeDuc or Cecilia Thrash, 323 East 5th Street, Concordia, Kansas 66901; call 785-243-4428; or email Monetary donations also may be sent to the Development Office at Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, P.O. Box 279, Concordia, Kansas, with a note for it to be designated to the Helping Hands ministry.

If you are in need of assistance, Manna House is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If possible, call ahead and let the staff find out in advance how to best help you, or come and ring the front bell during those hours.

“Call in advance, so we can see if we can help you,” LeDuc said. “If we can’t, we have other partners we work with like the Resource Center, DVACK, area dentists, doctors and the Lions Club.”



Sisters host drive thru Spaghetti Dinner

April 19, 2022 by  

Last year, in the midst of Covid-19 precautions, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia took on what at first seemed to be an impossible task — take the beloved annual Motherhouse Spaghetti Dinner, along with the silent auction and the raffle, and turn it into a drive-thru and online event.

It sounded impossible, but thanks to the generous support of the public, the ingenuity of the sisters and the hard work of the staff and volunteers, the annual fundraiser was possible, and a success. It was a welcome change after the disappointment of having to completely cancel the event in 2020, right as Covid-19 really took hold in the area.

This year, out of an abundance of caution, the dinner remained as a drive-thru to minimize contact, and the raffle and auction again took place online. With the benefit of a year of experience and planning by the Development Staff and Culinary Team, this year’s event took off without a hitch!

Thanks to the overwhelming support and generosity of our donors and supporters, this year’s March 20 event wasn’t just possible — it was a success!

Assistant Development Director Ambria Gilliland was once again amazed by the community response.
“This year’s dinner looked a bit different, but it was so much fun. I’m grateful for everyone’s patience with us as we continued to adapt to all the necessary changes,” Gilliland said.

Some of the changes from the traditional in-person meal that had been a staple of the dinner for so many years pre-Covid?

• This year the dinner was completely done by pre-orders so the kitchen staff was prepared and to reduce waste.
• The dinner was done only as a drive-thru and carry-out.
• The usual live silent auction instead was done as an online auction on the Hansen Online Auction website out of Beloit, Kansas.
This allowed customers to review all of the items in the auction and do all their bidding and payment from the comfort of their own homes. This year’s event had 120 items up for auction on the electronic bidding site.
• Raffle tickets were sold both in advance and in person on the day of the event. However, the actual drawing was done on a Facebook Live video later that afternoon. Many of the sisters enjoyed helping with the drawings.
• There was a drive-thru bake sale table at the event. The sale included four types of cookies: monster, chocolate chip, snicker doodle and peanut butter, and four types of bread: cinnamon rolls, yeast bread, dinner rolls and banana bread.
• Sadly, there was no way to invite people inside to sit and chat with the sisters this year due to Covid restrictions. However, many of the sisters came out to help direct traffic, take food to cars or just wave at the visitors from a safe distance.

“We are constantly amazed by the generosity of our friends and donors,” said Sister Jan McCormick, Director of Development.
“I was so pleased with the outcome of the dinner. It was so nice to see everyone if only for a few minutes,” Gilliland said.

“We were excited to see several new faces come through the drive-thru. And our sisters had a blast waving at all of our new and familiar friends.”

“I want to give a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who supported this event through meal tickets, raffle tickets, donations and prayers. It’s so heartwarming to see everyone come together,” Gilliland said.
Following the dinner service, many sisters gathered in the dining room to watch and assist with the raffle drawing.

Raffle ticket winners were:
• Mary Schlick — $500
• Joyce Dinges — $250
• Kimmy Smith — $150
• Myrna Shelton — $100
• Jerome Morgan — $100
• Diane Nelson — $100
• Sherry Jeffery — $100
• Gerry Parker — $100
• Elaine Milke — Kansas City Royals baseball tickets
• Rodney Reel — Quilt
• Marsha Strang — Popcorn Popper
• Alex Sweet — $25 Apple- bees gift card
• Tom Gennette — $25 Darden gift card
• Gene Meier — $25 Buffalo Wild Wings gift card
• Kip Gilliland — $50 Darden gift card
• Philip Baker — $50 Darden gift card
• Catherine Doud — Llama
“The support from the community was amazing! The weather cooperated for the most part and it was great to see so many familiar faces!” Gilliland said.
Thank you again for your generous support. We hope you had fun.
We still don’t know what next year will bring, but we hope to see you again in whatever form the Spaghetti Dinner returns!

Marymount College sets date for reunion

April 19, 2022 by  


SAVE THE DATE: An all-school reunion and special centennial tribute to Marymount College (Kansas is underway. The celebration is scheduled October 7th & 8th, 2022 in Salina.

“The Centennial Reunion is a once in a lifetime opportunity to come together and celebrate our shared experiences as well as salute the Sisters of St. Joseph and lay faculty who were so instrumental in our lives, “, said John Arnold ’74. John serves on the volunteer Steering Committee working with others to organize and execute plans for the reunion. “The dedication, energy level and fellowship we are witnessing is more than we could every imagine. Alumni are yearning and hungry to recapture those special memories… and we’re going to have a great, fun time.”

“I am just so excited this is finally happening,” said alum Marian Labrie Salwierak. Marian and Gary Salwierak ’74 and several other volunteers are currently gathering alumni contact information. “It is fun re-connecting with people. I hope MMC classmates will provide their contact info so they can receive reunion updates and I hope they spread the word. I am particularly excited about this reunion since it marks the 50th anniversary for the class of 1972!”

The invitation is extended to the Sisters of St. Joseph, former faculty & staff and anyone who attended MMC, “As a Marymount alum, I consider anyone who attended MMC an alumni as well, so please come and join us,” said Lori Richards Swanson ’80.

Details to follow. Stay in touch (provide your contact info) and SPREAD THE WORD!

Email contact info:

Suggestions or questions:

John Arnold ’74

Marian Labrie Sakwierak ’72

Alumni Search Committee:

Yvonne Gibbons ’71, Marian Salwierak ’72, Leslie Krauledia ’73, John Maguire ’74, Kevin McCade ’75, Jay Saylor ’77, John Quinley ’79, Arrange Dillard ’80, Susan Martin Tacket ’82.

If your graduation year is not represented above and you would like to help in the alumni search, Please contact Marian:

Sister Agnes Irene keeps the library in order by the book

January 21, 2022 by  

Sisters visiting the Nazareth Motherhouse library this year have noticed some big changes. Former career librarian Sister Agnes Irene Huser has spent the past year taking on the huge task of organizing and redesigning the library with the sisters’ ease of use in mind.Sister Agnes Irene retired to the Motherhouse approximately two years ago. She was soon asked to take on the librarian job, as the sister who was the current librarian had taken on the role of archivist.

“She was just overwhelmed with the work of both roles,” Sister Agnes Irene said. “I wasn’t sure I wanted the job, but I thought, ‘Why not? It’s right here handy, and once I get it set up the way I would like it to be its not going to be that big a deal.’ So I agreed to take it on.”Sister Agnes Irene is no stranger to library work. She received her master’s in library science from Rosary College, River Forest, Illinois, in 1973, and then spent about 20 years working as a professional librarian.

Her first position was as a reference librarian in Lebanon, Missouri. “I worked in a four-county regional library in southwestern Missouri. They had a main library in Lebanon and then four branches for satellites. I was responsible for the reference work in all of those areas, book selection for the collection, and training staff in the use of reference materials,” she said. “And then just the day-to-day stuff like checking out books.”
She also spent many years as an assistant librarian at Conception Abbey, Conception, Missouri.“I was assistant librarian there for a college library which I really liked. It was wonderful,” she said. “And then my health kind of gave out on me and I’ve just had to take it really easy ever since.”

The sisters’ library is quite a change from the larger libraries of her past.
“This library is basically an historical collection, if you will. Some of the sisters here have a hard time reading or they just aren’t able to do a lot of reading any more. Often times it is a matter of going back and looking for the tried and true — something that they know from the past,” she said. “So we have a very deep collection when it comes to past theology, religious life and scripture. I’d say we probably have all the classics from the 1950s and 1960s on.”

One of her first tasks was making the collection inviting and accessible.

“When I came, these shelves were packed so full of books. All of them. You had to work to pull a book off. Then if you wanted to put one in, that became a process, too,” she said. “I thought we need to get rid of a bunch of this stuff because it is old wood and nobody’s using it. In fact nobody should be using it.”

“In addition, the shelves on the south side of the library were at random heights, some were nine inches tall, some were 10, some were 11 or 12 inches. As a result, the taller books didn’t fit.” Sister Agnes Irene said. “They were either laid down on their edges or laid down flat at the end of the row and who’s going to look for a book that way?”
Sister Agnes Irene, with the help of another sister, began the reorganization process by ‘reading the shelves.’

“That means we took the author list and we went shelf by shelf by shelf accounting for all the books. And the ones that we couldn’t account for, we pulled their cards after I was sure that they were gone,” she said. “And when we took all of that dead wood away, you can see how much space we have and it’s much easier to use and manipulate.”

She also tackled the problem of the shelf sizes. She asked employees in the Motherhouse maintenance team to put in new shelving strips so they were all the same height.
“They just did a beautiful job. When they were done we could put all the books back on. It looks uniform and neat,” she said. “It also gave us space to make a couple of shelves extra tall for over-sized books that hadn’t been able to fit anywhere before. Now they are on a shelf where they can be used.”

The extra space allowed Sister Agnes Irene the ability to set aside special shelves to highlight popular collections of books.
“We have one section on health and one on aging. We pulled those books out simply because those are books that are of interest to the sisters for their own health,” she said. “Aging is one of the things that is going on in this house, so we had those books set aside in a special place and it is clearly labeled where they are.”

In addition to special collections of topics, there are special collections of authors as well.

“I pulled the books of several authors that I know people like to read, shelved them together, and then put a label on the shelf. If they come looking for something like Thomas Merton or Telhard de Chardin or Joan Chittister, their books are labeled right where they are and they don’t have to go looking for them,” she said.

There are other special sections, such as specialized reference books, new books and magazines.

“We also have some special collections here. One is books on histories of Sisters of St. Joseph communities. Another is a history of religious women in the United States. We also have collection of Willa Cather books that Sister Lucy Schneider used when she wrote her doctoral dissertation at Notre Dame in 1967.”

Just down the hall from the library, in a collective room, a wall of open shelves contains the biography collection.

“We leave that pretty much as an uncataloged collection. Pick it up, take it, read it, bring it back. They aren’t things that we’re really riding herd on like you would other volumes,” she said. “And it gives us more room in here for these volumes, and makes them easier to find. So we did some weeding in there, also.”

With things now organized just the way she likes it, Sister Agnes Irene has more time for the day-to-day work of a librarian.

“Now basically I help people find things. I order new books if and when we want to. I just do the ordinary things that you do running the library,” she said. “Putting things away … its like I used to do in the past, only in a much smaller scale.”

“I’m pleased with the way it looks. I really am. I know that it is a much more inviting place than when I first came. You had the feeling there were books stuffed on the shelves and some of them were pretty old and outdated. It just was not a welcoming place and I just think this looks a lot better. I think it is easier for people to actually use.”

While Sister Agnes Irene started her career in education, she has no regrets about going back to college to become a librarian instead.
“I was not a good teacher. I did not enjoy teaching that much,” she said.

After much introspection she realized that library work was a much better fit for her.

“I love it. I love library work. I absolutely loved it. When I had to quit, because my health wouldn’t let me go on, I was absolutely heartbroken because I really did love it,” she said.
And now she’s back to the work she loves, just on a smaller scale.

Sister Marcia Allen’s work featured in international book of essays

October 22, 2021 by  

Journeying with Joseph is a new collection of Josephite essays created especially to commemorate the Year of St. Joseph. It was compiled by editor Mary Cresp, RSJ.

Sister Marcia Allen, CSJ, was contacted in the spring to be a contributor to the book. Her chapter entited, Joseph, the Cordial Servant, is the third chapter featured in the section entitled, Part One: Joseph’s Foundational Inspiration.

Editor Mary Cresp, RSJ, is a Sister of St. Joseph from South Australia.

“It’s a book of essays about the Sisters of St. Joseph in Australia and it’s more focused on the Australian experience of St. Joseph,” Sister Marcia said.

“The editor asked me if I would do a chapter on the spirit and spirituality of the Community,” Sister Marcia said. “I agreed to do that. As it turns out, I’m the only person in the U.S. who actually wrote for the book — everyone else is a member of their Community in Australia. They call themselves the Religious of St. Joseph rather than Sisters of St. Joseph. So they are RSJs instead of CSJs.”

However, they are related to the Sisters of St. Joseph.

“They are like a second generation of the sisters of St. Joseph as they don’t come from Le Puy, France, but they do come from France through a priest who was taught by Sisters of St. Joseph. Julian Woods was impressed by what he experienced, he invited them to Australia as missionaries where he co-founded a community with Sister Mary McKillop,” Sister Marcia explained.

She was later canonized a saint.

Sister Marcia met Sister Mary in 2003 when she came to Concordia to attend the very first Bearers of the Tradition Institute.

“She came because she wanted to know if the Religious of St. Joseph were related to the Sisters of St. Joseph in the U.S. and the rest of the world,” Sister Marcia said. “So she started here and she went to every archives in the United States and Canada. Then she ended up going to South America and Europe visiting all these congregations of St. Joseph. She ended up by saying ‘yes we are related’ to Sisters of St. Joseph.”

“Then she wrote a book called The Joseph Movement, an excellent, excellent book. This book was her next endeavor — gathering a group of essays together that explain the Sisters of St. Joseph of Australia. And she asked me to write for the book on the spirituality that goes with it.”

Sister Marcia said she found the other essays interesting reading as they explore the sisters’ work in Australia, New Zealand, Peru and East Timor.

“They are educators for the most part, but they do a lot of pastoral work as well,” she said.

A brief review by Patrick O’Regan, DD, Catholic Archbishop of Adelaine, reads, “It is often said that actions speak louder than words.’ In the case of St. Joseph this is so true. With no recorded utterances in the Scriptures, we have only to rely on his deeds. Journeying with Joseph is a timely publication not only for the Year of St. Joseph, but one which allows us to delve more deeply into how we might draw inspiration from him to follow more closely the path of being a missionary Disciple in a world deeply affected by Covid. The net is cast well and wide when you survey the topics contained in this book, and these show that while St. Joseph may not have spoken any words, his deeds were, and are, profound.”

A website for purchasing the book is available at

It also is available on most American book store websites such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Sister Philonise professes first vows

October 21, 2021 by  

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia welcomed a new member as Sister Philonise Keithley fulfilled a life-long dream and professed first vows as a canonical sister on Oct. 9 at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Sister Philonise might not have taken the expected road to become a sister, but she always knew, since she was just seven years old, that she wanted to make that commitment.

Sister Philonise grew up on the south side of Chicago, and attended Catholic schools her entire life. That’s where she first met a sister.

“My first-grade teacher was so kind, and patient. She played with us. She taught us about everything from Mass to confessions,” she said. “I knew this was my calling even at that age.”

Sister Philonise continued on in Catholic schools and attended a Catholic Dominican college. She felt a calling to the Dominicans and to living a life of service, but she knew then it wasn’t the right time for her.

“Then life happened,” she laughed.

But she said that when she spent time with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, and experienced how they treated and embraced each other, she was immediately hooked.

Now that she’s spent years in the formation process, and made a move to Kansas, she is more than ready for the next step in her spiritual journey.

“I haven’t had a day of regret,” Sister Philonise said.

“I’ve always been drawn to working with the elderly. That’s my passion. Especially people suffering with dementia,” she said.

“I’m always interested in hearing people’s stories. I’m always all ears.”

Currently, Sister Philonise is located in Hoxie, Kansas, where she, along with Sister Denise Schmitz, practice their ministry in the small western Kansas community. They moved to Hoxie in July of 2021. Previously they both worked out of Manna House of Prayer in Concordia. They call the Hoxie ministry “Manna House West.”

It’s a big change from Chicago.

“But I love it. The people have been so welcoming,” she said.

“I enjoy having the flexibility to be present in people’s lives. Whether it is helping with a blood drive, at the thrift store … there is so much to do in the community,” she said.

In her free time, Sister Philonise enjoys reading, walking and crocheting.

“Crochet seems to open my mind. I use it in prayer,” she said.

The theme of the ceremony was “There is a sacred thread connecting us to one another.”

A fitting motto for this sister with a talent for working with both people and yarn.

Sisters are Grand Marshals at Fall Fest

October 18, 2021 by  

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia were honored this fall by being named the Grand Marshals of the 2021 Concordia Fall Fest.

Fall Fest is an annual celebration that takes place in September. It is a fun-packed weekend of events, booths, live entertainment and delicious food in the downtown area of Concordia. According to the Concordia Chamber of Commerce, the event brings in over 6,000 visitors.

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, president, and Sister Mary Jo Thummel, vice president, led the way as the named co-Grand Marshals in a decorated golf cart driven by Sister Jan McCormick. They were followed by a pickup driven by Sister Lorren Harbin filled with sisters in the cab and the back, and surrounded by a large group of sisters walking along carrying banners, waving to the crowd and tossing candy to children.

The event was blessed with perfect fall weather. After the parade, many sisters stayed downtown to enjoy the booths and activities, while others helped out at the Immigration Committee booth, the Neighbor to Neighbor Open House and the first annual Sister Ramona Medina Memorial Art Show.

“We were honored to be the Grand Marshals for the Fall Fest parade. As Concordia concluded celebrating its 150th birthday, it was a good time to reflect on our relationship with the city through our 137 years here,” Sister Jean said. “It has been a wonderful and mutually beneficial relationship. We are proud to call Concordia ‘home’!”

In selecting the sisters as Grand Marshals, the Chamber of Commerce noted that it was appropriate as the city celebrated its sesquicentennial year as the Sisters of St. Joseph have been in Concordia for 137 of those years, making it their home in 1884.

A chamber spokesman said, “Over the years, the Sisters of St. Joseph have generously given their time, talents and other resources to the community. They have been pillars in the community through the hospital, nursing home, school, Manna House of Prayer, Helping Hands food pantry, Neighbor to Neighbor, the community garden, and so much more. The Concordia Chamber of Commerce thanks the Sisters of St. Joseph for all they have done and continue to do for the community.”

Sister Rita Plante publishes poetry collection

September 9, 2021 by  

“The Donkey Who Shall Remain Nameless” may be Sister Rita Plante’s first book, but she says it has been in the making since she was a child.

The book is a compilation of her original poetry recently published by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

The book is divided into sections showing her progression as a poet, containing poetry from the 1960s up through the 2020s.

“My poem collection began in the 1960s, when, as a 20-year-old my inner thoughts began pouring out. Among the poems in the book you will see the path my life took,” she said.

“Some poems are to friends and others are written as verses in birthday cards. Some are reactions to what is going on in the world around me and others pure delightful musings from my inner poet.”

Sister Rita said as she approached her 80th birthday, she had folders and folders of her poetry organized by year. She realized she did not want her poetry thrown away.

“I talked to Sister Marcia (Allen) about putting them into a book,” she said. “We’ve been good friends for years and years since we grew up in Plainville. She said yes to the project, so I typed them up and sent them by way of email and she and Sister Gilla Dubé worked together on the project.”

“They were a great team,” Sister Rita said. “Gilla is a great photographer and Marcia is a whiz with words.”

“I have so appreciated reading the evolution of Sister Rita’s poetry from one decade to another. And of her courage to share that evolution with us,” Sister Gilla said.

Sister Rita lives and writes in Silver City, New Mexico, where she has lived for 20 years.

She is a frequent visitor at the hospital, leads groups in prayer, and once a week stands on a street corner and greets passerby with a wish and a prayer for peace and a nonviolent world as she has done ever since the events of 9-11.

In the preface to her work, Sister Rita wrote, “These are my poems, coming straight from my heart. They are my story. At the time I’m writing this I am 79 years old. These poems are 79 years of the life of this quiet poet who wrote her heart out sometimes in tears, sometimes in rage, sometimes in prayer and praise and sometimes in glee. I hope you find yourself in one of the poems and it speaks to your heart.”

Since the book was published, Sister Rita has had already a book signing in Silver City, N.M., and hopes to have a signing when she returns to Concordia this fall.

The book is $15 and is available for purchase from Manna House of Prayer, 323 East 5th St, Concordia, Kansas, 66901.
For more information, call 785/243-4428 or email

The book also can be purchased at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia’s gift shop at the Nazareth Motherhouse. Call 785/243-2113 ext. 1101 or email for more information or at the Concordia Tourism Center.

But what’s the deal with the donkey without a name?

It actually has a dual meaning, Sister Rita laughed.

In “The Last Word,” at the end of her book, Sister Marcia wrote on behalf of the donkey: “And I, the Donkey? Somewhere along the life it seemed that the ‘beast of burden’ became the symbol for this poet. Life moved along, carrying the load, stalling at times and, at other times, moving in rhythm to some inner music.”

However, it also became the code word shared between Sisters Rita , Marcia and Gilla for the U.S. Mail that carried manuscripts and notes back and forth from Silver City to Concordia.

“The manuscript would go back and forth and back and forth, and at that time, the U.S. Mail wasn’t doing too well, so I said to Sister Marcia, ‘We need to send this by donkey.’ That was our little gimmick. When ‘the donkey’ would leave Silver City I’d email her and let her know the donkey was on its way, but it might take a while because the weather was bad in the winter in the mountains but that was our little fiction story along with the serious poetry,” she laughed.

“I asked Sister Marcia if we should give the donkey a name and she emailed me back that ‘the donkey shall remain nameless,’ and that name just stuck,” she said.

Sisters volunteer on Texas border

July 27, 2021 by  

Sisters Anna Marie Broxterman and Dian Hall both have been to the southern border numerous times — whether to volunteer at charities or to provide education to others with the sisters’ Border Immersion program. Most of their experiences have been with the social services and charities in El Paso, Texas, Silver City, New Mexico, and surrounding communities.
However, their latest trip to the Catholic Charities Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, in June proved to be a completely new situation for the two seasoned volunteers.

Sisters Dian Hall (left), and Anna Marie Broxterman (right) meet with Sister Norma Pimentel in McAllen, Texas.

“The sheer amount of people at this location was just overwhelming,” Sister Dian said when asked to compare the McAllen facility with her previous experiences in El Paso.
While volunteering in intake centers in El Paso they would regularly see 50-some people come in, she said. In McAllen there was easily 400 to 500 people to service in the distribution center at any one time.

“It was just a sea of humanity in one giant room,” Sister Anna Marie said. “Walking in, we were both overwhelmed.”

However they quickly found their feet and started learning the background stories of the immigrants.

The facility serves as an intake center for immigrants legally seeking asylum. The majority of people had their asylum paperwork as well as information on a sponsor that the center volunteers could contact in order to help them make bus or airline travel arrangements.

Sister Dian said she was amazed by some of the stories she was told.

“One woman told me the story of how her two sons were murdered in Honduras because they refused to join a local gang. She fled the country with her one remaining son and infant daughter. Her husband had also been murdered,” Sister Dian said. “Another young couple was at the intake center with their two-year-old daughter. They had been retained in Mexico for several months and finally came across the border for asylum. They repeatedly said they now felt safe for the first time in their lives.”

The goal of their trip to McAllen was to explore the potential for an alternative site for a Border Immersion Experience in 2022, as well as to volunteer their services with Catholic Charities.

Both sisters said that it was clear the majority of asylum seekers were here not for a free hand out, but to escape imminent harm to either their family or themselves.

“We arrived Monday, June 21, in the early afternoon. Following a brief lunch, we walked several blocks to the Catholic Charities Respite Center. What we witnessed after being buzzed into the center was totally overwhelming,” Sister Dian said. “The Respite Center, a warehouse with multiple large rooms, was filled to capacity and beyond with immigrants. A security guard generously gave us a tour.”

“The first large room was an intake center which also offered an orientation via video and a vocal presentation. Also in the room was a ‘pharmacy’ which dispensed everything from Tylenol and cough syrup to shampoo, baby formula, toothpaste, feminine products, diapers, coloring books, and crayons, ” Sister Dian said. “The demand never ended. Lined up along one wall were mattresses to accommodate a night of sleep. There also were rest rooms available.”

The next large room the sisters toured had mattresses on the floor to provide nap time for kids, Sister Dian said. On one side of the room there were showers with scheduled times for women and men.

Sister Dian said the volunteers at the intake center were religious sisters, teenagers, and men and women who lovingly helped the immigrants at the center. The volunteers cooked meals, bagged dry milk, handed out toiletries and necessities, and interacted with each immigrant.

Tuesday morning the sisters wasted no time in providing service — Dian in pharmacy and Anna Marie in dispensing clothing.

On Wednesday, the sisters were able to spend a short period of time with Sandra, a coordinator on duty from Catholic Charities who provided them with contact information for other agencies in the area. This would give the team a clearer picture of educational opportunities for a possible future Border Experience.

Sandra asked the two to run some errands which included purchasing bags to be used by the families, bottles and sippy cups.

On Thursday they departed, but spent the morning visiting the local Catholic church and purchasing a few needed items for the center at a local store.

Sister Dian said that as they walked to the center to deliver them, they saw Sister Norma Pimentel, a Missionary of Jesus Sister, who serves as the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. When Sisters Anna Marie and Dian commented that younger volunteers might be more of an asset to the center, Sister Norma reminded them that all are needed, and wisdom and age is so necessary and important to the people being served.

“It was a gift to be in the presence of so many generous and loving men and women as we walked among our brothers and sisters from throughout Central America and Mexico. The need for volunteers at the border is great.”

For more information on volunteering at the Catholic Charities Respite Center visit their website at

While we were waiting at the McAllen Airport for our ride to Dallas, we met two families who had been at the Center the previous day. Both families were on the plane with us to Dallas and were taking a connecting flight to Charlotte and to Baltimore to be united with family members. It was good to see them in route to be with their family.
It was a gift to be in the presence of so many generous and loving men and women as we walked among our brothers and sisters from throughout Central America and Mexico. The need for volunteers at the border is great, and something tells us that we will see McAllen again in the very near future. We are still discussing the possibility of planning a Border Experience in McAllen in 2022, but no definite decision has been made.

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