An update from Chava Redonnet (right), the priest at Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church (Sunday, August 8, 2021).
Three years ago we invited some folks in Batavia to get together and talk about how we might support people being released from the detention center. Fili and his family had noticed that there was a need. We wanted to respond as St Romero’s but soon realized that we needed people who lived closer to the center, and needed the input and participation of people and churches in Batavia. The group that met that first night included several pastors – Presbyterian, Methodist, UCC, and myself, as well as some folks not connected with churches. It took us a while to figure out the details, but eventually we had a sign hanging up in the gas station where people are left to wait for a bus, with a number to call if you needed help and a bilingual person holding the phone, who could alert folks that there was a need. Fili told us that we should include on the sign the message, “You are not alone.”
This past Saturday we had a picnic out at Serenity House, the first time that the group we call Los Samaritanos had met face-to-face since before the pandemic began. It was so good to see folks!! We’ve lost a few who have moved away, but also gained people. There are a handful of people who live right near that gas station and are retired or have work that allows them to respond, and they do the bulk of the on the ground work, although there are a number more who also participate. Pretty early on we connected with the Volunteer Lawyers Project, who provide free legal services to detainees, and that relationship has been fruitful. Now we are also connected with a group called Justice For Migrant Families in Buffalo. Together, we serve people – it’s hard to say the numbers because they go up and down – but I think it’s eight so far this week. Some weeks it’s just one or two, but since January we’ve been consistently busy. The messages go flying whenever there is a need, as we figure out who can respond and what is necessary. Sometimes I check my phone and there are a couple dozen messages waiting, signs of the energy and love that has gone into meeting someone’s need, hopefully letting them know that they truly are not alone.
Some of you who read this bulletin have helped us by putting together Dignity Bags with items a person might need on a cross-country bus trip, like a comb, toothbrush, snacks – and for that I am so grateful!!! (We have plenty of them at the moment, by the way, and I will write about it here when that changes).
Earlier this week, two of the men in our group drove someone to Niagara Falls, to a safe house there. That man had been in jail and then detention for 22 years, a situation that began due to his mental health issues. Some of the stories are truly heartbreaking.
After our picnic on Saturday, we had a short memorial service for a man known to several in our group, who had been at the detention center and deported to Honduras about four months ago. They’d had a message that he had been killed by a gang, there. This man had spent almost his entire life in the US, since he was about six weeks old – and he was in his 50’s. He didn’t speak much Spanish. He had wanted to write a book about his experiences in the detention center, and we hope that his story can be told. Much peace to all who are grieving for him now, his family and some members of our group.
The original idea for Los Samaritanos came from Fili and his family, and he was there on Saturday, grilling hamburgers along with Ricardo. One of the beautiful aspects of this ministry is how people from the farmworker community and the Anglo community have come together to make this particular manifestation of the love of God a reality.
There’s nothing that we need right now, except your voices, writing and calling your senators and congresspeople, and the president, to say we need a change in the laws with a path to citizenship. (Unless, that is, you live in Batavia and want to help, in which case, drop me a note!)
I am overwhelmed with gratitude – for this group, for all of you, for how easy it is to keep the lawn maintained now that we have a rider mower! – for all the beautiful, abundant grace of the the God who loves us, who sustains us, who is with us always
Love to all,
If you would like to make a donation, kindly make checks out to Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church, and mail to PO Box 10602, Rochester, NY 14610. We can also receive donations by Venmo: search for Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church.