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Saturday, 29 June 2019 16:17

Maryknoll Nuns at the Border

Written by Mary & Manny Hotchkiss
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Mary and Manny Hotchkiss – Portland Chapter

Maryknollers, including Affiliates, have been attending to the needs of migrants at the US-Mexico border. (Affiliates have written about helping at McAllen, TX, and on page 8, Don Gonzalez tells about El Paso.) Sr. Lil Mattingly, MM, responded graciously to our email when we arrived in El Paso in April. She arranged for us to meet the Maryknoll sisters working at the US Border near El Paso and hear their stories. Sr. Lil and Sr. Maggie Sierra are both working with immigrants in El Paso. Sr. Susan Nchubiri, MM, who is based at Maryknoll, NY, is working with them for a month responding to the massive increase in refugees from Central and South America.

Sr. Susan Nchubiri

Sr. Susan is working at a shelter in El Paso, Casa del Refugiado, which just opened in April. The converted warehouse is already providing services to 300 people. It is connected with the Annunciation House, which has been serving immigrants in El Paso for 40 years. Sr. Susan has been with Maryknoll for 16 years. A native of Kenya, she said that she is learning some Spanish through this work at the Border.

Sisters Lil and Maggie are both nurses and worked together in Bolivia, but they have been in El Paso for several years. Sr. Lil works at yet another immigrant refuge center. The ten refugee centers near El Paso together receive over 700 immigrants daily. 

Sr. Lil Mattingly

Sr. Lil noted that the Spanish vocabulary is a little different here, especially some idioms. Sr. Lil and Heidi Cerneka (See page 6) had attended a number of protests together, one at Tornillo, TX, recently in the news for its massive immigrant youth detention center. Lil had earlier participated in SOA Watch gatherings and received a prison sentence after “crossing the line” at Ft. Benning.

Sr. Maggie Sierra



Sr. Maggie loves her work as a children’s chaplain, but her doctor has her resting from her usual work for a few months. She came with a bag of tricks, jokes, and little gifts. Since she didn’t have children to care for, she kept us entertained with paper jumping frogs, little shirts made from folded paper money, and drawings she made of us. Her hands never stopped moving the whole evening!

The sisters commented,

  • My hope is that Affiliates, myself included, could look for ways to educate the people around them. There’s a lot of ignorance about the border.
  • People of faith need to learn to talk to each other, even when they have very different political views. We all want health, happiness for our families, etc.
  • People need to come and see.

Sr. Maggie sent an email later saying,

God does not ask us to ask if people we help have all their immigration papers in order, or are they legally asking for asylum, before we feed, clothe and give them something to eat or give them shelter. I think we have to be people of Hope. The poor have hope because they have children and every parent wants their children to get an education, health and housing, and to be safe.

The Diocese of El Paso is still asking for volunteers to work at the migrant refuges. See www.elpasodiocese.org/.

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