Camino de Paz: A Pilgrimage for Migrant Families

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Last summer, I had a conversation with my wife and daughter at the dinner table about the challenges migrants are facing as they come across the border. We were struggling to come to grips with the painful fact that we knew children and families on the border were in pain, and we knew they needed help, but we didn’t know what we could do to be helpful.

We didn’t want to just be sad or just be angry. We wanted to find a way to help.

Shortly after that, I had the distinct honor of visiting the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in the Rio Grande Valley with Anna Matis and Karina Chapa, and seeing that center really solidified my desire to help in some way. The place was clean and well-ordered, but it was a very sparsely equipped building, with people sleeping in chairs or on the floor, leaned up against the wall. It was clear that this center, try as it might and even with its incredibly dedicated volunteers, just wasn’t able to provide enough for all of the families in need who had recently been detained at the border.

These people had faced such hardships and such risk coming into the United States. They were exhausted, and they were far from home. There was one little boy there—he couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven—who looked an awful lot like my son JP, and seeing him, I was acutely aware that “there but for the grace of God go I.” I can’t pretend to know how our migrant brothers and sisters are feeling, but I couldn’t help but think that, if I’d been through all of this with my family, a soft bed would make a world of difference.

Wasn’t there something we could do to help give them a more comfortable place to stay?

It was around this time that I learned about the work Sister Norma Pimentel has been doing to give migrant families a more dignified place to wait for their cases to be processed. She, along with the Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley, have purchased land in McAllen to build a new, much larger respite center that will better meet the needs of these families as they wait to begin their lives in the United States.

I had been meditating with my family and colleagues on how we could help, and raising money to contribute to the construction and support Sister Norma and CCRGV’s efforts seemed like the perfect way to make a concrete contribution.

A few weeks later I mentioned my visit to Dr. Michelle Yzquierdo, and we started talking about doing a walk to show support and raise money for the construction of the new building. As the idea grew, and more and more of the people I shared my idea with expressed support, I couldn’t get the notion that this should become a pilgrimage out of my mind. Through the years of my training down in the Valley, I had come to know and love the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Vallea traditional pilgrimage site of the areaand it only made sense that our support of the CCRGV Humanitarian Respite Center would be connected to that tradition.

So here we are, counting up the dollars and counting down the days until our 11-mile pilgrimage along the border.

On April 13, 2019, we’ll start near the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Weslaco, stop at several churches along the way, and wind up at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle. We’re looking for a team of forty educators to join us on our pilgrimage, and we’re looking for donors to help us raise funds we can deliver to the Catholic Charities of the RGV to put toward the construction of a new, more livable, more dignified home for migrant children and families at the border.

Our initial fundraising goal is $5,000, but the team at CCRGV needs to raise $5.5 million, and we would love to be able to provide more than just a drop in the bucket. Will you help us meet and exceed our goal, either by signing up to walk with us or by making a donation to support families in crisis at the border?

Read more about the Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley here, and visit our GoFundMe page to join our cause. (And to see why others are walking, check out the videos in our FlipGrid!)

Thank you, everyone, for all your support. This project means the world to me and to the Seidlitz team, and we couldn’t do it without you.


Update: On Tuesday, February 12, we learned that the McAllen city commission members voted to terminate the CCRGV’s permit for the current respite center, meaning the CCRGV has just 90 days to relocate to a new facility. The mayor of McAllen and other city officials have pledged to help the organization find a new facility, but this news only heightens the urgency of our work.

Now more than ever, the CCRGV needs its own livable, dignified facility outside of McAllen’s residential areas, and we are humbled and honored to do what we can to support their initiative.

Thank you to all who have donated so far! If you’d like to get involved, click here to learn how.

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