When Hurricane Florence was bearing down on the Carolinas and the East Coast, it had not occurred to us that it would affect immigrant travel. When we received a call that immigrant families who had been released from Immigration were trapped in Houston because no buses were running to the East Coast, Catholic Workers here went into our emergency action mode. When new twenty people arrived, we purchased more mattresses to help to accommodate them. This group included quite a number of fathers with their adolescent sons. We had rice and beans and other basic foods and clothing for them. Volunteers tried to help them make contact to reschedule immigration court appearances. When the buses began running, the travelers continued on their way.
Then a flow of refugees from the Congo began, challenging our ability to speak French.
We emphasize in our clinics at Casa Juan Diego and Casa Maria care for diabetics. We are reminded of the importance of this medical service as people who have lost a limb or are now blind because of diabetes come to seek help.
One woman we will call Sonia who has had diabetes since her childhood and is now blind, has come in several times with her three-year-old acting as her guide. He now has started pre-K, so she comes alone on MetroLift.
We have seldom seen such joy as Sonia’s when she received her talking glucose measuring machine to check her diabetes. She has to inject insulin, but has been unable to read her diabetes testing machine to know how much insulin to use. When our CW nurse Marie Abernethy explained how to use the machine and she heard it reading out her sugar level, for the first time in Spanish, Sonia was overwhelmed.
Jose is in a wheel chair after an accident. He just graduated from high school and is beginning at community college. When he came for his monthly assistance from Casa Juan Diego he asked if we had a computer to help him with his school work. Fortunately, we had received a new laptop which we were able to give him. Education is his hope for the future.
Those Who Pray for Us
The very ill and the paralyzed who come for help often tell us they are praying for us, that they know that we have a heart for the poor. We ask that they pray that the Lord may give us wisdom for our work. We are very grateful for their prayers, even though we believe that part of the reason for their prayer is that if anything happened to Casa Juan Diego, there might be no one to help them. The people tell us that they know the Lord loves the poor and those who suffer.
We know that many of our supporters pray for us as well, as you tell us when you write. Your participation in our Works of Mercy by your support and your prayers makes all possible.
One of the young men in a wheel chair who comes for help has received a deportation order. He hopes no one can find him at his house. He cannot sleep at night, or be at peace during the day because he is overcome with anxiety about what will happen to him, how he will live, if he is deported.
Grateful for School Supplies and Uniforms
It was a joy to distribute to families the large numbers of school supplies and uniforms donated to Casa Juan Diego. We are grateful to those who brought the backpacks, notebooks, crayons, markers, rulers, and all the things the children need, and to the many volunteers who helped to organize all these things so that they could be given to those who needed them.
More Difficult Moments
Among the many sick and injured people we see each day, each month, inevitably some die. We remember Olvin, a young man who came in each month, only surviving the pain because of his kidney disease through morphine. Each time he came Olvin asked if we had any raisins, his favorite which brought him comfort. We were glad to find a box of raisins now and then in our pantry to give him along with more basic foods. It was hard when Olvin’s wife recently came to tell us he had died.
Forgive Us If We Cannot Help Immediately When You Bring Us Things
We rejoice to be able to respond to the needs of many. However, it can be overwhelming.
One afternoon one of our Catholic Workers, not so young any more like some of us, was trying to respond to eleven different poor people at the door all seeking help of one kind or another. At the end of the line came a woman with donations of clothing asking for help in bringing them in. Our CW explained that she was quite busy, but she would come when she could. She continued to look for backpacks and school supplies for those at the door, to put together foodstuffs for others, to find for former guests the things they had been unable to take when they left the house, to look for what our houses for the sick and injured needed from the list they had just presented – and for medicine another was picking up after having seen our volunteer doctor in the clinic.
In the middle of all this, the CW asked a teenage girl who was with her mother seeking help, if she could assist the donor to bring in her donations. The donor did not accept the girl’s help, but came back to Marie to ask sharply if she had forgotten about her.
Another donor was irritated when a young staff member took care first of a man in a wheel chair that she was already helping to carry packages of food and adult diapers we had given him. The donor, who had brought a pair of pants to Casa Juan Diego, worried that the injured man was staring at him. Our CW explained that the man could not see very well and was trying to see where he was going.
A Historical Perspective
In this difficult time I a trying to keep a historical perspective by reading Dante. Thanks to notes in Dorothy Day’s Diary, I searched out a used copy of The Inferno of a translation and commentary by Dorothy Sayers.
Thank You All
Thank you to all of our readers who participate in our works of mercy, those who support us in so many ways. Pray for us that we may have patience and wisdom in the midst of very busy moments.
Originally published in Houston Catholic Worker, October-December 2018, Vol. XXXIII, No. 4.