Year Joined MKLM: 2000
Country: U.S.-Mexico Border
City: El Paso, Texas
Ministry: Casa Vides, a shelter for migrants and asylum seekers released from ICE or CBP detentions; “La Tilma” food pantry and night shelter program of Sacred Heart Parish; Encuentro Project border immersion program.
Ministry Area: Justice and Peace – Migrant ministry
Goals of Ministry: To accompany migrants and asylum seekers through hospitality, education and advocacy. To raise consciousness and transform immersion participants on border issues.
In Coralis’ ministry, Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ nonviolence focus is reflected in relationships that promote respect and dignity of life — relationships with migrants, asylum seekers, shelter volunteers, participants in Encuentro programs and local communities. The overarching goal: Do no harm to all of God’s creations.
COVID vulnerabilities, stalled economies, government corruption and an increase in the control of organized crime contribute to the push factors that lead people to come to the U.S.-Mexico border to seek refuge and find safety, security and economic opportunity to better their lives and those of their children or relatives.
Encuentro Project participants come from various schools, universities and parishes to learn about the true issues facing the border and the migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who come here. Participants commit to an experience of transformative service and solidarity.
“The United States is in the midst of an historic period in its immigration history,” said a March 2023 report by the Migration Policy Institute that summarized current immigration trends. In early 2023, the country is “facing a changing composition of the immigrant population, pandemic-related pent-up demand for permanent and temporary visas resulting in extensive backlogs, record pressure at the U.S.-Mexico border, and somewhat decreasing public support for expanded immigration. Legal permanent and temporary immigration rose in 2022 after a few years of chill brought about by the COVID-19 public-health crisis and the Trump administration’s restrictive policies and rhetoric.”
At the shelters: For Gospel spirit of service and solidarity, I accompany our guests (migrants, refugees and economically vulnerable people of the border region) through hospitality, advocacy, education on their rights and ways of living in the U.S. I also assist in transitioning them to their final location by contacting their sponsors or relatives to arrange the purchase of their travel tickets. In certain circumstances, I refer them to our resource contacts in their new locations, who can assist them settle well. The majority are grateful to experience loving care at our shelter, which for many is a respite from their travel ordeals.
At the Encuentro Project: As group guardian, I accompany our participants throughout their stay through the various activities, talks, meals and evening debriefings as scheduled. For many, the highlight of their border experience is planning the meals, shopping for ingredients which they will cook, serving those meals and sitting down and eating with the migrants, sharing one-on-one with them. More than anything else, this activity opens our participants to the migrants’ reality as they hear first-hand about their ordeals to reach El Paso. They leave El Paso changed and eager to share what they have experienced with their families, community and friends.
Coralis was born in the Philippines and graduated with a liberal arts degree in international studies from Maryknoll (now: Miriam) College in Quezon City. After moving to the United States, she lived in San Francisco, California, raising five children and working as an investment banking firm administrator. She was active in St. Cecilia Parish, San Francisco, and volunteered with the San Francisco HIV & AIDS Suicide Nightline.
In 2000, Coralis began her journey with Maryknoll Lay Missioners, serving in Kenya. Most recently she coordinated the HOPE (Helping Orphans Pursue Education) Project in Mombasa. During her 19 years in Kenya, Coralis also served in an epilepsy clinic, at a secondary and vocational school for deaf persons, a rescue center for trafficked and abused children and young adults, and at two health dispensaries.
Based on her experiences, Coralis co-authored the book What’s So Blessed About Being Poor (Orbis Books 2012).
Coralis says, “After being a lay missioner in the Archdiocese of Mombasa for 19 years, I felt called in 2019 to support the newly opened Maryknoll Lay Missioners presence at the U.S.-Mexico border. Soon after I started working in El Paso, the COVID lockdown started, and the need was even greater. That is how God’s timing worked for me and how I was meant to be in El Paso.”