Responding to the call at U.S. Southern border

July 23, 2019 Rod Hochman

When the Catholic Health Association issued an urgent call for help at the U.S. Southern border in May, caregivers from Providence St. Joseph Health stepped up to answer the call. Our first team of volunteers deployed to McAllen, Texas, in June, and a second team is on the ground as we speak.

They’re serving at the Humanitarian Respite Center operated by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, where refugees are being taken in droves after being released from detention. Immigration officials are dropping off up to 1,000 people per day, up from 200 a day earlier this year.

A humanitarian crisis
The center has become a critical transit point where families get oriented to their next steps, connect with their U.S. sponsors and ensure they board buses and planes with food in their stomachs and clean clothes on their bodies.

Our volunteer teams are pitching in wherever there is a need, from cleaning showers and cooking to handing out supplies. They are also engaged in the simple act of being present with people in a difficult time.

Our volunteers describe the conditions as a true humanitarian crisis – a sea of people who are exhausted, hungry and traumatized. Abject poverty and extreme violence are driving people from their homes in Central America, including Guatemala, where PSJH has been doing international work for years.

“Having seen the poverty and suffering in Guatemala, we understand the impulse to migrate,” said Aimee Khuu, PSJH executive director for global and domestic partnerships. “There is simply no clearer call to consciousness than to respond to the suffering of the migrant at this time.”

PSJH T-shirts are a sign of hope

The interconnection between our work in Guatemala and the crisis at the border today is abundantly clear. In fact, a few families we served in Guatemala recognized our team in McAllen by the blue PSJH T-shirts we wear on our service trips. It’s incredibly moving and humbling to know that PSJH and our caregivers are a sign of comfort and hope for people who have survived a long and treacherous journey.

Our Mission calls us to be a source of healing love in the world, especially for those who are poor and vulnerable. And as Pope Francis reminds us, migrants and refugees are among the most vulnerable populations in the world right now.

That’s why PSJH has been an active voice for migrants at the federal level. Through our advocacy efforts, we helped secure a $4.5 billion federal aid package to address conditions at the border.

Call to action

If you feel called, you can get involved by making a donation to Catholic Charities USA. In addition to an initial gift of $20,000 from our Community Partnership Fund, Providence St. Joseph Health is also offering matching contributions up to $100,000.

My sincerest thanks to the PSJH caregivers who have stepped up to respond to the crisis, especially Carrie Schonwald, who rapidly formed our first volunteer team and will be leading this work over the coming months.

I am tremendously proud that our people are working side by side with the formidable Sr. Norma Pimentel and her team at Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. I am humbled by their courage and ask that you please keep everyone at the border in your prayers.

How to get involved


About the Author

Rod Hochman

Rod Hochman is president and CEO of Providence St. Joseph Health, a national, Catholic, not-for-profit health system, comprising a diverse family of organizations serving Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

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