Ignatian Social Justice Essay: Do This in Memory of Me

Feb 2, 2024

Last week, I participated with a group of St. Ignatius parishioners, along with several others outside of our parish, on a trip to the U.S./Mexican border at Nogales, Arizona, and the adjacent city of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. We visited the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), a bi-national organization inaugurated in January 2019 by six United States and Mexico organizations, including the California Province of the Society of Jesus and the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. KBI’s vision is to help make humane, just, and workable migration between the U.S. and Mexico a reality. Its mission is to promote U.S./Mexican border and immigration policies affirming human dignity and a spirit of bi-national solidarity.

Our Kino activities began at a meeting with Father Peter Neeley, a Jesuit priest involved in Kino’s educational activities. Father Pete likened Kino’s mission to the instructions of Jesus to his disciples at the Last Supper—“Do this in memory of Me.” Father Pete explained Jesus’ request to his disciples, and to us, is a request to pour out ourselves in service to others. This past week, I experienced that this is precisely what the Kino staff and volunteers do each day to serve the needs of its guests. I observed the palpable sense of love and concern that everyone at Kino had to help those who sought out Kino’s services. Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, where Kino’s migrant shelter is located, can be dangerous. Still, Kino is a place of quiet refuge for its guests, who are treated with great respect and are surrounded by compassionate people carrying out Jesus’ instructions to his disciples at the Last Supper.

During our trip, we had the privilege of meeting with the migrant families staying at the Kino shelter. We served them several meals and played with the Kino children during the afternoon recreational period. The toys you donated for the children brought them great joy. It was wonderful to see the smiles on the children’s faces as they played with the puzzles, coloring books, and games that you generously donated. We appreciate the support you gave us before and during our trip—donating your toys, sending blessings, and your prayers for us while we were away.

We saw firsthand the palpable love and concern expressed by all the Kino staff and volunteers for their guests. They also bring great enthusiasm to their work. While I could recount many examples of the compassion and care that the Kino team demonstrated for its guests, I was particularly struck by one example of this. During our stay, a young girl celebrated her 15th birthday at the Kino shelter. While there was a cake and birthday songs to help her celebrate, it was a bittersweet and very emotional moment for the young lady because she had recently lost her mother to cancer. The girl’s mother was unable to receive medical care because the nearest public facility for cancer treatment was over two hundred miles away. Toward the end of the celebration, one of the volunteer cooks, probably around the age of the girl’s grandmother, came out of the kitchen and held the girl in a long, warm embrace. No words needed to be exchanged for the girl to understand the deep love and compassion the Kino cook expressed to the young lady at her Quinceanera, her coming-of-age 15th birthday party.

Last Saturday, Father Pete told us that participating in an encounter at Kino is a life-changing experience for many. It certainly was for me.

— Jim Skarzynski, Ignatian Social Justice Ministry