'Servant to the guest' ministries at the border - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
Home » U.S.-Mexico Border » ‘Servant to the guest’ ministries at the border

Lent 2021 newsletter

Coralis Salvador, U.S.-Mexico Border

Handing out meals to street people on Thursdays

Spring greetings from El Paso!

It was heartening to see some ads during the Super Bowl with the theme of unity and oneness — positive re-enforcement for the new year. It’s now almost a year since I began my “servant to the guest” ministry at Casa Romero Shelter and Sacred Heart Parish.

‘Mario,’ the balloon man

The parish focuses on care for the individual person, a hallmark of Ignatian Spirituality. Its feeding program at La Tilma is one of their hallmarks. On Thursdays, the chef cooks meals that we hand out to street people and migrant workers huddled in street corners as they hope and wait to get a job for the day. On Fridays we give out dry goods and fresh hot meals to the elderly and to marginalized persons or families and deliver meals to homeless people.

Mario [not his real name] is one of the street people I often see on Thursdays. He sits quietly in his corner hoping for alms. He busies himself making different shapes of balloons (crowns, animals or flowers). He recently surprised me when he gave me a flower balloon matching the color of my dress before I handed him our bag of food. He wore a big smile with teary wide eyes as I received his gift. It felt good to see his joy and be connected to him. Since then, I have looked forward to our encounter on Thursdays.

James is the chef at La Tilma. He has abundant energy and joy as he gives of himself through shopping, preparing and cooking meals for the people we serve. On any given day, we could be one to three volunteers assisting him. He has amazing culinary skills in creating delicious, nutritious food using ingredients donated to the program.

James is in front of the stove from early on or until late in the evening to prepare big meals for hundreds of families, single men and women. He loves his work, and the busier he gets, the more energy he gets. I’ve learned much from him and enjoyed working with him. With the accompaniment of music, we sing and move to its rhythm as we cook and pack the food. As we distribute the packed meals around the blocks, he takes time to listen and talk to people. James’ empathy for these people has enhanced my understanding of their lives.

I am relieved to have completed my two shots of Moderna COVID vaccines and grateful that I experienced no reaction. Our director at the shelter had arranged it since we are at significant risk welcoming asylum seekers.

At the shelter, we are now preparing to receive 60 or more guests daily as a result of the “Remain in Mexico” policy being phased out and asylum-seekers being allowed into the U.S. while their immigration cases are being heard in court. We are confident and ready and look forward to being there for them.

Thank you for your ongoing partnership in serving God’s peoples, and please know that we could not do our work without your support.

Have a fruitful Lent! Muchas gracias and blessings,

Friday food distribution at La Tilma


Coralis Salvador
Coralis is a community volunteer at a shelter for asylum seekers released from ICE or CBP detentions and at “La Tilma” feeding program of Sacred Heart Church in El Paso, Texas. She previously served with Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Kenya for 19 years. She is the co-author of the Orbis book What’s So Blessed About Being Poor?