Essay | Reflections on a Parish Immersion Trip: Stories from the Southern Border

Mar 25, 2024

On March 20th, Jane Rodas, Jim Skarzynski, and Kelly Quinn shared their experiences on their January KINO Border immersion trip to the southern border in Nogales, Arizona, and Mexico that consisted of nine parishioners and family members from St. Ignatius Loyola.

After Migrant Stations of the Cross, they offered poignant insights into the complex realities of the migration crisis that continues to grip our country. The speakers brought their unique perspectives and reactions, their unexpected encounters, and lessons learned.

As Jane said, “When people talk about the border, the talk can get inflamed pretty quickly.” She recounted the meeting with Border Patrol officers who said 99% of those they interact with are not criminals but simply families, many fleeing dangerous conditions and just looking for a better, safer life. Another surprise was learning that the primary role of Border Patrol right now is humanitarian, given the harsh, unforgiving conditions of the Sonoran desert, where many migrants have lost their lives.

At a meeting with Jim and Sue Chilton, 5th-generation cattle ranchers, the group heard about the problems they face with migrants streaming across their land, fences cut, and cattle lost.  Despite this, they recognize the dangers of the trip and have set up stations to provide clean water for the migrants.

Jim spoke of his experience at the Kino shelter in Nogales, Mexico, where he saw firsthand the compassionate treatment of migrant families awaiting their chance to cross into the United States. His account spoke to the resilience and dignity of those navigating uncertain paths searching for a new life. He was deeply moved when the shelter staff and volunteers surprised a young girl on her 15th birthday. Quinceañera, a celebration typically filled with joy, took on a sober tone as this young girl mourned the recent loss of her mother to cancer.

Kelly’s unexpected connection with teenagers happened on a basketball court at the Kino shelter. For Kelly, who played basketball in high school, the court was a great stage, and for three days, she played with a group of teens—girls and boys—who amazed her with their shooting skills—and all in flip-flops! For all of us, this brought home the resilience and spirit of these kids amidst challenging circumstances. For Kelly, this shared passion for the game transcended language barriers, leaving a lasting impression on her heart.

As we reflect on these stories, I hope we all may be inspired to seek out moments of connection, challenge stereotypes, and uphold the inherent dignity of every individual, regardless of their background or circumstance.

— Anne Melanson