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By Anne Vidacovich, Anne Carey and Mariellyn Kuske, SSND Associates

As School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) associates, we served at Casa del Refugiado (Casa) in El Paso, Texas, and we will never be the same because of our experiences. Of our group, Anne Vidacovich is from Irving, Texas, Anne Carey is from Florissant, Missouri, and Mariellyn Kuske is from Waverly, Minnesota.

Associate Liz Swartz works in the Hygiene Room, which is full of supplies to provide to the immigrants who come through Casa in El Paso.

Annunciation House, a non-profit organization, has been offering hospitality to migrants, immigrants and refugees along the El Paso border for over 40 years. Casa is one of five facilities operated by Annunciation House and by far the largest, a 125,000 square foot converted warehouse, it opened in the spring of 2019 to respond to the flood of asylum seekers released by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents onto the streets of El Paso. Casa offers short-term services to guests released by ICE, assisting them to arrange transportation to their sponsor, who often lives hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away.

Anne Vidacovich: The emotions I experienced as I drove a mother and her daughter to the airport remain with me. I continue to pray that the person who paid for their transportation and who is sponsoring them, truly cares for them. I pray the mother and daughter will not become part of the ever-increasing problem of vulnerable people who are trafficked.

Anne Carey: I remember meeting a mother and her 7 year old daughter from Central America. The daughter was deaf but very observant and expressive. As a non-Spanish speaker, I instantly bonded with the little girl. We communicated with smiles and gestures. Every morning, I still say a little prayer for this mother and child who traveled to Tennessee, praying for a positive transition for the young girl and her loving mother.

Associate Mariellyn Kuske and Anne Carey folded clothes during their volunteer time at Casa in El Paso.

Mariellyn Kuske: My time in El Paso helped me to examine the priorities of my life. While helping families select an outfit in the clothing room, I realized I was practicing my faith. I showed love and respect for each person in the clothing room. This experience allowed me to get to know and be of service to the poor. Being present in love, while eating lunch with the guests, I felt love. When I worked in the laundry room, I knew I was providing bedding for a safe, clean place for the guests to rest. Following this experience, I have set some new goals for my time as an SSND associate. I am using the SSND Shalom website to educate myself on the immigration laws. I am reaching out to the president and congress, pressing them to make laws more humane. Join me in using Voter Voice by choosing a letter to send to your representative! It is an easy way to contact our elected officials, add a personal message and work to make the government actions more humane to refugees.

We want to thank our past and current provincial councils for providing us a place to stay during our volunteer experiences, the sisters who set up Casa, and Sisters Elizabeth Swartz and Dolorette Farias who demonstrated warm SSND hospitality to their adopted region. Their efforts and support made our experiences possible. Gracias!

Learn more about SSND associates.


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