Living in and from the heart of Jesus - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Summer 2022 newsletter

Deirdre Griffin, SSJ, U.S.-Mexico Border

“We are not numbers. We are people.” One of three crosses erected for veneration on Good Friday in Anapra, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

“Where heart beat, there was Christ for me.”
—Jessica Powers, OCD

It has been a very full couple of weeks. In the midst of leadership transitions at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center (the immigration legal services agency where I help support asylum seekers), moving to a new home in a neighborhood closer to my ministries, and exciting planning for a visit with Maryknoll Lay Missioners leadership, I found myself feeling overwhelmed and inclined not to go to the gathering at our local parish on Friday evening. I was going to try to be wise and just stay home!

But then I accomplished more than I thought I would that morning, and I began to let myself reflect on the feast day, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Its observance wasn’t a central part of my faith experience growing up, but it has become part of my prayer and minstry since early discernment about joining Maryknoll Lay Missioners.

Jesus on the Cross – the artist, a young girl, is staying at a shelter in Mexico while waiting to apply for asylum in the U.S.

As grace would have it, our Maryknoll Lay Missioners community has deep connections with Sacred Heart Parish, the Jesuit parish here in El Paso. When our friend James texted details about the celebrations, including a procession and Mass with the bishop, it became clear to me that this was an important community event, so I decided to go. What joy! Truly, the heart of Jesus was beating with new life in the young people confirmed at Mass and in the feasting and dancing that followed in the parish hall.

So what does it mean to live in and from the heart of Jesus? This heart that raises up the lowly, heals and liberates those who suffer and are cast aside, delights in our growth in holiness, and assures each and every person of God’s unconditional love, even when we desert and betray him?

I was blessed by an image of Jesus’ heart on Good Friday. My friend Sister of Charity Romina Sapinoso invited me to join her in Anapra, a poor border colonia of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, west of El Paso, for the parish’s annual Stations of the Cross. The procession through the neighborhood culminated in a veneration of the cross atop a nearby hill in the desert.

Along the road, we met a mother and her children staying at a local shelter while awaiting the opportunity to request asylum in the United States. Her daughter was carrying a painting she had created of Christ on the cross, overlooking the Rio Grande and the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Precious, life-giving water flows from Jesus’ heart, winding its way into the river. His blood stains the border walls. His flesh is one with the sands of the desert and the bodies of the people from all over the world experiencing his suffering in this time and place.

The young artist was asked to stand in front of one of the crosses with her painting as the community approached. It was an invitation to reverence this beautiful child, with whom and through whom Jesus suffers and invites us to redemption today.

“Our planet is pulsing with the struggles of more than 90 million people who are currently displaced from their homes. Only a very small percentage of those people legally qualify for protection as refugees or asylum seekers.” I paused for a moment in hope that the magnitude of this truth might begin to resonate for the earnest group of young men with whom I was sharing breakfast this morning.

My “Immigration 101” presentation was part of their high school service-learning experience here in El Paso. When their teacher asked me what I would recommend as a reliable resource for their future learning, my response came clearly, albeit as a bit of a surprise. I encouraged them to continue to enter into relationships with people who are marginalized in their communities, and to take responsibility for what they come to know of Jesus’ heart through those experiences.

Birthday celebrations with guests and volunteers as Casa Vides shelter in El Paso, Texas.

Cultivating this lived experience of the revelation of God’s love in our lives is a distinctive aspect of our Catholic tradition. Each day, I know more surely that this way of encounter, of communion in the world, tends the flame of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!

Deirdre Griffin, SSJ
Deirdre Griffin, a Sister of St. Joseph of Springfield, Massachusetts, is based in El Paso, Texas, where she works as an immigration lawyer with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, assisting migrants at Annunciation House shelters.