Profile - Debbie Northern - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
Home » Our People » Missioners » Profile – Debbie Northern

Debbie Northern


Year Joined MKLM: 1999

Country: U.S.-Mexico Border

City: El Paso, Texas

Ministry: Encuentro Project

Ministry Area: Peace and Justice

Goal of Ministry: Educate about the reality of migration at the U.S.-Mexico border by accompanying groups for the Encuentro Project immersion trips to El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

Nonviolence Focus:

Reconciliation/Restoration. The migrants coming to El Paso have experienced violence in their home countries and all the way to the border. The Encuentro Project immersion program allows participants to hear their stories and become advocates to change the negative narratives in the U.S. about migration and to reach out to migrants in their areas to help them with their needs and provide a place of healing.


Ministry Context:

When the participants learn the history of immigration in the U.S. and the lack of humane policies, they can advocate for better treatment of migrants and changes to laws and policies that cause harm.


Current Ministry:

Debbie is the Encuentro Project Assistant and House Manager in El Paso, working with the immersion trip program, which teaches participants about the realities of migration to the United States. When there are no immersion trips, Debbie assists at migrant shelters.


Personal Data:

Debbie is originally from Warsaw, Virginia, and before joining Maryknoll Lay Missioners she served as Catholic Campus Minister at Radford University in Radford, Virginia, for 12 years. She graduated from Longwood College (Virginia) with a BA in English. Debbie also has an MA in physical education (sports communications) from the University of Iowa, an Ed.S. degree in counseling psychology from James Madison University (Virginia), a Master’s in Pastoral Studies from Loyola New Orleans (LIMEX), and a second BA in Spanish from Radford University.

Debbie originally served with Maryknoll Lay Missioners at St. Augustine University in Nyegezi, Tanzania, and taught journalism. She then transferred to El Salvador and worked at Contrasida. That program accompanies those affected by and infected with HIV/AIDS, promotes human dignity and provides training courses. Debbie assisted at the clinic and taught about gender-based violence, HIV prevention, and building self-esteem, with participative education methods.

She also served 10 years at the Maryknoll Lay Missioner Offices in Ossining, New York, as part of the Mission Services Department. Her work involved preparing and implementing the orientation program, outreach to returned missioners, and assisting with the admissions process. Debbie was involved in St. Ann’s Parish and served in prison ministry at a men’s maximum security prison.

In August 2021, she transitioned to El Paso, Texas, to work on the U.S.-Mexico border.