Guest post: letter from the desert


Today’s guest post is written by Fr. Marciano (“Chano”) Lopez Solis, A.A.
Fr. Chano is a member of our new community in El Paso, Texas, based at St. Francis Xavier Parish. Our efforts at the parish focuses on meeting the spiritual and material needs of migrants; our presence along the U.S./Mexico border allows us to carry out this work that is at the heart of our Assumptionist charism “to go wherever God is threatened in man and man threatened as the image of God.”

Hello, my name is Fr. Marciano Lopez Solis, A.A., better known as Father Chano. I have wanted to join the new foundation community since I first heard about our Province’s plan to serve the most vulnerable among us, particularly those who decide to leave their homeland to seek a better life for their families. I participated in the Zoom conversations in which this project began to take shape. The process has been characterized by docility to the Holy Spirit; we do not know where He comes from or where He is going, or where He is going to take us.

After discerning and researching options, the Province decided to establish this project in El Paso, Texas, which is one of the most significant places in terms of the number of migrants who have long since decided to make their home here and also because of its proximity to the border wall.

We decided to accept a parish called St. Francis Xavier; here we are establishing a shrine for migrants, and are working to make this closeness to the vulnerable a reality. Brothers Peter Precourt and Ronald Sibugan arrived first, although in different months. I arrived in El Paso on April 7, 2021.

My experience here is minimal since I have only been here for three months, but in this time I have noticed that those who live here are very enthusiastic. Their lives have been marked by the struggle to improve the living conditions of their families. Some of the people I am getting to know came here with their grandparents or their parents more than 50 years ago. They have made an effort to preserve their customs, their traditions, the style of food, etc.

The parish is small and has a particularity due to its proximity to the border. It is a meeting place for those coming from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and their family members who already live here in El Paso. Every day there are people in this area waiting for their relatives. Those going to Ciudad Juarez come here as well, leaving their cars in the parking lot of the parish.

Consequently, our presence here has led to close contact with migrants. Additionally, I have enjoyed the contact with those who already work directly with migrants in the area, such as the Religious of the AssumptionAnnunciation House, and other groups.

We are accompanying a small, active group of parishioners called Los Campaneros del Santísimo Sacramento. They come from far and wide to offer their assistance at the parish – both with organizing the parking situation and on Sundays selling burritos, sandwiches, sodas, etc. to collect funds for the parish. It is our mutual hope that we will work together, in the spirit of Fr. d’Alzon and his lay associates, on future projects to serve the most vulnerable.

Last week the community had a meeting with the founder of Annunciation House, Mr. Ruben Garcia [Article: The Washington Post on Mr. Garcia’s work at the border, 2019], which greatly motivated us for the work ahead. The challenges are many: the climate, the laws, the small size of our community, the needs of migrants ranging from the most basic (food, clothing and shelter), to great needs such as health, legal, spiritual and emotional support.

It is a difficult situation for people who already live here but have not yet achieved legal status, as well as for families that have been separated, with some family members having been deported while the rest continue living in the United States. This separation has led to the creation of Hugs Not Walls, a program which “allows Mexican immigrants with irregular status and unable to return to Mexico an opportunity to meet for a few minutes on the international border.” This year 150 families were able to enjoy a brief moment together – the reunions were filled with hugs, tears, and sighs of relief.

There are very strong stories. We know we are just a drop of water in the middle of the desert, but from here we will continue to reach out at the border wall.