Finding Home in the Church After Crossing the Border
A Letter from Jessica Maciel Hernandez
(Click on the letters to enlarge)
My dear friend,
I write to you for comfort, and a plea for solidarity. I would like to share something with you that at times I have hesitated to share out of fear.
I was born in Mexico City, and arrived here to the U.S. when I was seven. Nowadays you hear of many different stories of why people decide to come to the U.S., but very rarely do we actually get to share what that experience was like. I share this with you because with our recent political climate, and all the news about families at the border, I can’t help but look back at all the sacrifices my mom had to make to give me a better life.
"I share this with you because with our recent political climate, and all the news about families at the border, I can’t help but look back at all the sacrifices my mom had to make to give me a better life."
My mom worked as a banker in Mexico, and we lived a stable life, along with the help and support from family members. Throughout the years, my mom experienced a lot of fear and trauma from the banks being robbed. It seemed that as time went by, the violence, and situations kept getting worse, and her life was in danger more and more each day. Her last experience where she got held at gunpoint, was the last straw. So she made the bold decision to follow the path of some of my other family members to move to the U.S.
"Her last experience where she got held at gunpoint, was the last straw. So she made the bold decision to follow the path of some of my other family members to move to the U.S."
When we got here, there was a lot we had to learn, and a lot of different things we had to adapt to: the culture, the language, the food, the customs, and the people. What made that transition easier were the people that welcomed us, specifically the religious sisters from a congregation here where we arrived. I have always admired, and have a special place in my heart for religious sisters, because it was through them that my mom and I found peace, friendship, and a safe haven, here in the U.S. It was through them that I was able to see the living face of Christ. The way they helped my mom navigate her way through the unknown, and a new life, was a way to bring us closer to Christ and for us to know that we should always be grateful to Him.
"I have always admired, and have a special place in my heart for religious sisters because it was through them that my mom and I found peace, friendship, and a safe haven, here in the U.S. It was through them that I was able to see the living face of Christ."
These sisters have been, and will always continue to be, a big part of my faith journey. Through them, I was able to find comfort in their words whenever my mom and I would be going through a difficult situation and had an obstacle, just because we are immigrants. The support they gave my mom and I was like no other. Their constant visits, and time dedicated to my mom and I is what kept us going. Their example is what compelled me to always have a spirit of gratitude that makes me want to dedicate and serve others that are less fortunate, in whatever need they have at that moment.
Simple things, like you taking the time to read this letter, and saying a prayer for my mom and I, and all the other immigrants that are looking for a better life, are what counts. I ask that you think of me and my mom whenever you come across any injustice or discrimination, and how that has been my mom and I at some point, only because we were looking for a better life.
"I ask that you think of me and my mom whenever you come across any injustice or discrimination, and how that has been my mom and I at some point, only because we were looking for a better life."
I am blessed to have people like you in my life that look beyond stereotypes, and actually look at me as a daughter of God. Yes, I am a Dreamer, an immigrant, a graduate student, and a daughter to a single mom. But more importantly, just like you, I am your sister in Christ. I have been blessed with a life that allows me to be a helping hand to others, and to be that friend, support, or shoulder to cry on, to many others. I have only been able to be this person, because of the example I was given through faith-filled individuals such as the sisters, and friends like you. I hold people, like you, dear in my heart, because I know that no matter what comes next, and even though my future is uncertain, I’ll have people like you that will be there to show me God’s face amidst times of desolation.
Please pray for me, and for all those others that are in the same situation as me. Pray that the anxiety and fear does not overpower the hope and peace that only God can bring to our lives.
"Please pray for me, and for all those others that are in the same situation as me. Pray that the anxiety and fear does not overpower the hope and peace that only God can bring to our lives."
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I am currently the Coordinator of Hispanic youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa and getting my Masters in Theology and Ministry at Boston College. I am an only child and my mom is my best friend, and family is my life! I love going to concerts, traveling, and reading about the Saints. I love sending and receiving snail mail, and still consider long hand-written letters one of the best things ever!
Could you share a little bit about what it means to be a "Dreamer", for those of us who are unfamiliar with this?
A Dreamer is a concept/definition that was created in response to a proposed bill, which stated that some students some years ago that would qualify to receive education under certain requirements. ...that bill did not pass congress so the term “Dreamers” was left for those of us that would have qualified. Nowadays it is more used for those of us that became DACA recipients under the Obama administration. The term was given because we dream of better opportunities, in regards to education, professional lives, and lives in general, here in the U.S.
As millennial Catholic women in America, how can we be more compassionate and welcoming to immigrants?
As millennial Catholic women in America, especially if you are U.S. citizens, your voice is of most value towards immigrants. Advocacy work is what is needed for the immigrant community. We ourselves try to be that voice, but it is not always heard because we are not American nor U.S. Citizens sometimes. Through being a voice for us, whether it’s at your parish, in your group of friends, with your congress members, or in any setting you find yourself, you will be showing solidarity with us and compassion for us.
To the woman who feels like there isn’t a place in the Church for her because she’s an immigrant — what advice would you lend her?
YOU are the Church. The Church is not the Church without your personal gifts and personality. Nobody else has the right to determine whether you have a place in the Church or not. It is a God given right that you are the Church.
Fill in the blank
My favorite liturgical holiday is…
The saint I identify with the most is…
St. Catherine of Sienna
A favorite quote of mine is…
"We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become” – St. Clare of Assisi
I feel at peace when…
I’m sitting criss-cross the floor of an adoration I am in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
A current obsession of mine is…
the life of the Saints
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