Dominican Sisters of Springfield Went to the Border to Serve Asylum-Seekers

Sister Marcelline Koch, OP (left) Sister Anita Cleary, OP (right)

Springfield, Ill.—On Sunday, November 11, Springfield Dominican Sisters Anita Cleary and Marcelline Koch will travel to El Paso, Texas to volunteer at a Catholic shelter for asylum seekers called Annunciation House.

“We’re going because Annunciation House and other shelters like it in El Paso are experiencing an increase in the number of families with children who are being released to the streets by Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” said Sister Marcelline. “All of the refugees coming to Annunciation House are families and individuals that Immigration did not place in one of their detention facilities. The vast majority of refugees released are parents with one or two children.”

Sister Marcelline is the justice promoter for the Springfield Dominicans and Sister Anita is a team member at Jubilee Farm, one of the sisters’ sponsored ministries in Springfield.

Joining them on the trip will be Kathryn Raistrick and Julie Wullner, both of Springfield, who are friends of Jubilee Farm. The four women will be in El Paso for a week, doing whatever Annunciation House staff need them to do. “That could be anything from cooking to cleaning to accompanying the refugees to appointments,” Sister Anita said. “What we do is not as important as our presence and support for these families who are fleeing the violence and poverty of their home countries.”

In Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras as well as Mexico and Brazil, extortion and the threat of violence are pervasive, according to organizers at Annunciation House. They also say that law enforcement is compromised in many communities, making credible protection of citizens there non-existent. As a result, many families—feeling the threat especially to their children—are fleeing. A second major factor is severe poverty, especially in many areas of Guatemala, that leaves families struggling to feed their children.

The four women are driving a van-full of food and toiletries donated by local dentists and church groups.

In a memo announcing the trip to the entire Dominican congregation their prioress general, Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP, wrote “We cannot all go to the border, but we can send some! We are grateful to Sister Marcelline, Sister Anita, Kathryn and Julie for serving in our name. May they be a healing presence to these, our neighbors.”