Had I not heard from other volunteers that the two Sisters who run La Posada Providencia, Sisters Zita and Therésè, are veritable “Energizer bunnies.” I had a major clue when Sister Zita met me at the Harlingen airport on December 1, 2012 and whisked me off to attend a parish dinner honoring Bishop Daniel Flores on his 25th anniversary of ordination. The Sisters are on call all hours of the day and night as they care for the men, women and children who live for varying lengths of time at the shelter. For most of these people, who are seeking legal asylum in the U.S., La Posada is as close to a home as it can possibly be. Without it, most would be forced to live on the streets.
Any time of the day or night, the Customs Enforcement and/or the Immigration Service officials can call to inform us that someone is being cleared to leave the detention center (where all asylum seekers are taken to once they arrive on U.S. soil). Sister Zita fields the call, starts up the engine of the van and then drives to pick up the man, woman and/or child from the bench outside the Immigration building. They arrive at La Posada with only the clothes on their backs, no money, no family to turn to for help and without knowing the English language. Many have been held in the Immigration compound for days, or even weeks with no facilities for bath or shower. Sister Zita welcomes them with soap, toothbrushes, and other personal hygiene items, clean towels and bedding, a phone card to phone home and a shoulder to lean on.
Posada is a Spanish word; it means “lodging and rest.” That second definition, rest, is lost on Sisters Zita and Therésè. They are continually serving whomever arrives on their doorstep. When they are not tending to client needs, they are engaged in fundraisers like the huge garage sale a parishioner hosted during my stay. They are now selling tickets for their annual January brunch fundraiser, Hands & Hearts, which is held at a local community college. They teach English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for two hours each weekday in both the morning and afternoon. They serve lunch and dinner to their La Posada “family” each day and encourage them to learn life-skills such as housekeeping, handyman and gardening skills.
As a volunteer, I helped at the garage sale, ran errands, drove clients to and from appointments, took them shopping, tutored a woman from Eritrea and another from Sri Lanka, and helped teach ESL classes in the afternoon. But mostly, I watched in awe and gratitude. Gratitude that there are selfless individuals who answer the call to minister to these discarded, abandoned souls who, in many cases, have risked life and limb to get to our country where they may live without fear. Gratitude for religious communities such as the Sisters of Divine Providence and the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate, who recognize the need and send Sisters to serve. Gratitude for the opportunity to witness the Sermon on the Mount and the words of Christ practiced out loud in daily life here in this holy place.
Albert Einstein said, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” The simple act of volunteering furnished me with an up-close and personal view of this maxim. In my case, it was better to receive than to give.
~ Pat Montgomery, Associate
Sisters of Divine Providence