'Building right relationships in the love and compassion of God'
$20,000 grant supports migrant families in Trempealeau County
Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration are called to meet migrant families in our communities, at the borders and beyond. In 2017, a new path was forged to take FSPA to the places where our brothers and sisters are coming face-to-face with hardships: Encuentro@theBorder.
It is a mission that has driven Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Marie Kyle, Linda Mershon, Antona Schedlo and Laurie Sullivan, along with FSPA Justice and Peace Promotor Pat Ruda, to Trempealeau County in Wisconsin, where Coulee Region Immigration Task Force is leading the challenge to serve migrant families in need.
The mission of CRITF is to welcome, advocate and educate in the service of new and established immigrants in the Coulee Region of Wisconsin. The task force hosts various community events throughout the year with the intent to educate the general public on current immigration issues and provide support to migrant communities through their naturalization in the United States.
One of the events is People Fest, a multicultural celebration of food, music, dance and theater held annually during the summer in La Crosse. While COVID-19 forced the organization to cancel this and many other events, says Greater La Crosse Area Diversity Council Executive Director and CRITF Chair Arlette Rodriquez-Miller, it afforded time for members to focus efforts on helping the migrant population affected by recent job loss and reduced work hours during the pandemic.
Recognizing great need in Trempealeau County, the task force applied for a grant through FSPA with a plan to assist suffering migrant families throughout the area. FSPA, acting as the fiscal agency for CRITF, generously awarded a $20,000 grant which supplied 25 families in need with money orders of $750 each, as well as food items like rice, beans and corn flour.
On June 12, Arlette, Pat (who serves as CRITF treasurer) and other task force members traveled to Arcadia, Wisconsin, to personally deliver the food items and money orders. Soon after, FSPA received numerous thank you cards from these migrants showing their great appreciation for the gifts they received.
These cards, however, do not conclude this story of action for the mission of social justice. After surveying aid recipients, CRITF is assessing the data, determining and prioritizing greatest need and continuing to provide assistance accordingly throughout the fall season.
Sisters Marie Kyle, Linda Mershon, Antona Schedlo and Laurie Sullivan share why they believe it is important for FSPA to be involved in the ministry of social justice.
Sister Marie Kyle
“When I signed up for the Coulee Region Immigration Task Force at its founding, I was interested primarily in learning about the legal aspects of immigration and how people entered the United States. As I stayed with the program and learned the personal stories of persons who came here seeking a better life, I found deep commonalities with their human hungers.
Many had been displaced from their family farms by multi-national businesses that took over their land. Many families were separated on their journey north and their suffering was more than I think I could have withstood. As I encountered these persons, I met caring, strong, brave, resilient, energetic and loving people. Here many work in service jobs and send some of their earnings home to support the rest of their families.
Why do I choose to stay involved? It is the relationships and deeply human connections that develop with persons in our human family. Indeed it is these relationships that stretch me as I encounter people of another culture with similar human desires; in these relationships both of us are changed.”
Sister Linda Mershon
“FSPA has a history of serving the people of Latin America through our ministry Global Awareness Through Experience and the mission in El Salvador. Many of our sisters have worked in and around the border and in other Latin American locations. We have built true friendships with them. This gives us a special interest in helping the ones who make it to the United States and struggle with our unfair immigration system. Our intentional work in the community has made us sensitive to the needs of immigrants.”
Sister Antona Schedlo
“I was so heartened to hear of all the excellent work that the Coulee Region Immigration Task Force accomplished to help the Hispanic community during this time of uncertainty. The group went above and beyond to see that their rent was paid and they had food to eat, clothes to wear and other supplies that they needed. My only regret was that I was quarantined and unable to help them.”
Sister Laurie Sullivan
“As Franciscans called to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, the Gospel and in fraternity, we strive to be in solidarity and on the margins where we encounter the person of Jesus in our brothers and sisters and all of creation. Following the example of Jesus, our involvement in the ministry of social justice is an active participation in building right relationships in the love and compassion of God.”