Skip Navigation

Day 5: The Ministries of Sister Eileen Mahony, CSA

November 01, 2019
By Pat Belongie, CSA Associate

This blog post is part of a series reflecting the experience of six CSA associates as they visit the sisters in Bisbee and Tuscon. The views expressed here are their own personal reflections on the time spent near the border and with the sisters; they are not necessarily endorsed by the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes.

Associates with Sister Eileen

Joy crept into our hearts today, guided by Sister Eileen Mahony, CSA, we entered the world of hope and possibility. Beginning at Saint Elizabeth Health Center, where Sister Eileen works in family practice, she gave us a brief history of the center and it's functions. As we toured the facility, we were amazed and in awe of the medical team and staff, their professional care, and its impact on the lives of so many in the fields of oncology, family medicine, women and children's health, behavioral health, social services, dental care, and eye care.

We felt deep gratitude for their service and commitment to their patients, realizing communities throughout our nation can accomplish great things when working together.

Associates at Casa Alitas

After a brief lunch stop at Culver's, it was time to visit Casa Alitas, the respite center for asylum seekers. Our heads filled with data from the past week, Sister Eileen was able to clarify the journey of those seeking asylum in the United States.

Arriving highly traumatized and exhausted, the refugees exit the buses and are met by the volunteers and welcomed into the center. After a gentle hand washing they are given fresh water and fruit followed by homemade chicken soup. I can only imagine their relief being in this building, once a juvenile detention center, now transformed into a place of warmth and light.

Screened medically by the volunteer medical staff including Sister Eileen, the healing so desperately needed is given with the utmost attention and care.

Guided by Sister Eileen, we tour the facility starting at the welcoming center, to the clothing store, recreational areas for art, sports of basketball and soccer, movies, the medical area, garden, and a chapel for prayer. Along the way colored pictures made by the children and art pieces fill the spaces of this incredible refuge.

After the tour we had the opportunity to be with the children and families coloring pictures, using play dough, and carving pumpkins. After being at Casa Alitas and with great care the children are able to smile, be creative, and a few even learn to count to ten with the guidance of Associate Mary Beth Nienhaus.

Upon leaving, we knew this experience had etched a very special place in our hearts transforming our souls and we would never be the same again.

Day 4: 20 Seconds of Due Process

November 01, 2019
By Mary Beth Nienhaus, CSA Associate

This blog post is part of a series reflecting the experience of six CSA associates as they visit the sisters in Bisbee and Tuscon. The views expressed here are their own personal reflections on the time spent near the border and with the sisters; they are not necessarily endorsed by the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes.

Our first adventure of the day ... visiting Sister Kathy at the ranch. Sister Kathy’s ministry is overseeing the building and grounds. You can tell she loves what she does by her many projects ... building a labyrinth, birdhouses, etc.

Sister Kathy with her fruits

Then, off to Tucson, saying good by to the picturesque landscape.

Walking to streamlining

Today would be a lasting memory to all of us as we visited the Federal Courthouse to see the “streamlining” of those people who illegally crossed the border. Picture this ... over 100 men and women walking into the courtroom ... shackled in chains, hand and feet. Seven detainees were called and stood before the judge who read them their rights, stating their consequences: 6 months in detention, a $5000 fine, and a $10 processing fee. Appointed lawyers were called to stand by each of the detainees. All detainees pleaded guilty. The judge then waived all the penalties imposed. However, each detainee now has a misdemeanor criminal record for their first attempt to cross the boulder. They were immediately put on a bus and driven across the border. Wanda actually timed the amount of time the judge spent with each detainee. In twenty seconds, their lives were changed forever! The process left us perplexed and ashamed ... what a dehumanizing process.

Later that day we visited with Sisters Nancy and Eileen who shared their amazing stories. Sister Eileen will take us on a tour tomorrow.

Day 2: Approaching the Big Picture

October 29, 2019
By Wanda Roehl, CSA Associate

This blog post is part of a series reflecting the experience of six CSA associates as they visit the sisters in Bisbee and Tuscon. The views expressed here are their own personal reflections on the time spent near the border and with the sisters; they are not necessarily endorsed by the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes.

Sister Susan at her desk

                Our day began with a visit from Sister Susan, our lawyer on the border. She began to fill in the blanks describing the process of navigating the laws and restrictions governing entry of migrants and asylum-seekers into the U.S. Next, Sister Susan outlined her role in preparing applications to naturalize, to renew resident cards, and to immigrate family members—getting documents in order, checking backgrounds, and referring cases to lawyers in the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

                Drowning in facts that made it seem impossible that any person could get the green light to enter the U.S., we headed to the border at Naco, Sonora, Mexico. We followed Sister Mary Rose along the labyrinth of paths that led to the check in station.  Beyond were the rugged streets of Naco. We walked on paved, rocky dirt streets, and then red clay roads, past abandoned buildings and homes surrounded by walls. Repurposed corrugated tin was prevalent. Used in buildings, walls, and homes, the corrugated tin seemed to be the common denominator that bound the community together. A sense of gloom permeated the village punctuated by the barking of dogs who guarded homes or the feral dogs that stood sentinel on street corners … haggard looking animals with no homes. Even the main street lacked a sense of normal industry.

                We walked into the Asadero Los Molcajetes restaurant, one of three tables of “gringos” and felt a sense of welcome and peace in the owner’s welcome.  Many of us felt God’s touch in the host’s patience in explaining the menu and in answering our questions. Reality reasserted itself when we returned to the streets.

Border wall with cameras and razor wire

                The cemetery visit pointed out the stark divide between rich and poor. Elaborately decorated gravesites sheltered from the sun by awnings, sat side by side with raw, mounded, dirt-covered graves simply marked with hand-written dates. At the back of the cemetery, a road brought us face to face with the symbol of the ugliness of our pilgrimage—the wall. Our group grew quiet. Confronted with all that wall implied, we kept our own counsel as our eyes followed the long wall through the desert that traveled east toward Texas and west to California.

Associates listen to a woman's story

                The wall took on a new meaning that night when our group welcomed a Latino friend of Sister Mary Rose. The woman’s story gave life to Sister Susan’s account of the migrant and asylum-seekers struggles to make a better life for their families.  She recounted the ordeals of her family … her wish to help her grandchildren overcome the PTSD symptoms from seeing people shot in the street in Naco, Sonora, and the trauma of watching their mother being led away in handcuffs by the Border Patrol when she applied for asylum. We heard the grief in her voice as she shared the heartbreak of holding her sobbing granddaughter who longed to be reunited with her mother … her mother who was waiting for her court date in a federal detention center in central Arizona.

                Her story and thousands of stories like hers put into perspective the drive and commitment that fuels Sisters Mary Rose, Susan, Christi, and Kathy, the heart and soul of their operation, to seek justice every day for oppressed people.

Day 1: Self-discovery Awaits

October 28, 2019
By Carol Braun, CSA Associate
Group of CSA Associates

This blog post is part of a series reflecting the experience of six CSA associates as they visit the sisters in Bisbee and Tuscon. The views expressed here are their own personal reflections on the time spent near the border and with the sisters; they are not necessarily endorsed by the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes.

Our first day of pilgrimage was a travel day. We flew into Tucson and drove our van over the rugged mountainous desert terrain observing the stark difference in landscape from the bright fall colors of Wisconsin. The pilgrims were travel weary but invigorated by the hospitality and welcome of the sisters and associates as we arrived in Bisbee. We shared a meal, stories, and conversation settling into our new home for a few days. We bonded through our shared experience, laughter, and our first evening of reflection and prayer. We are open to new discoveries about ourselves as we enter the new spaces and encounters that tomorrow brings.

Recent Posts

11/1/19 - By Pat Belongie, CSA Associate
11/1/19 - By Mary Beth Nienhaus, CSA Associate
10/29/19 - By Wanda Roehl, CSA Associate
10/28/19 - By Carol Braun, CSA Associate
10/21/19 - By Sister Eileen Mahony, CSA
10/3/19 - By Dusty Krikau
10/3/19 - By Dusty Krikau
10/1/19 - By Dusty Krikau
9/30/19 - By Dusty Krikau
8/30/19 - By Eileen Mahony, CSA

Archives