From Border Control to Chrism Mass

22nd March 2016 - by Nathalie Marytsch

Rosemary O’Leary, a teacher based in London, shares her experience as a member of the small group of Columban contacts in Britain spending Holy Week 2016 on a Columban Exposure Visit to the US-Mexico border.  

After a good rest, we were prepared and ready to seize the day. Now that we have acclimatised to the weather and to the time difference (slightly), we began our day having a brief introduction by Fr Bob about the Columban Mission Center.

Then we all piled into the van, along with 11 fold-up chair and off to the American Border Control we went. We were pleasantly greeted by two Border Patrol officers Joe and Giovanni. Open to the elements, we sat by the Anapra Fence with Mexico behind us. Joe and Giovanni talked to us about what their jobs entailed and what they experience on a day to day basis, giving us some background to the fence’s history and the experiences they have had during their time patrolling the fence.

Before this talk I had a very negative impression of the words ‘Border control’ but this talk made me feel humbled by the sheer passion they have for both sides of the fence, and the concern these officers have for the humanity they were trying to sustain on a daily basis.

We returned to the Columban Mission house, to receive a talk by Molly Molloy a Border and Latin American Specialist and the Librarian at the New Mexico University. She spoke to us about the fence that separates Mexico and USA and how different this fence is, where it stretches from San Diego to Brownsville, and how the landscape differs.

She also introduced to us the rate of crime that exists in Mexico, and how devastating it can be for people living there, often facing desperate situations, which may lead to some Mexicans venturing over to the USA illegally. This talk gave a great insight into the gang culture and crimes that lead to someone wanting to risk their precious life to better themselves and that of their families. It just showed us that however the height of this fence is built; say it be 30ft high someone will always be desperate enough to build a 31ft tall ladder.

This evening we attended a bilingual Chrism Mass, in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in the diocese of El Paso. The service was led by the Bishop of El Paso, Mark Seitz, and 70 of his fellow priests.  We witnessed this important service for the church and it was a privilege to be a part of this rich in music and full community service. It was wonderful to end the evening with a great group photo opportunity with Bishop Seitz.