Migrants benefit from Mercy Sisters’ ministry of presence

By Dennis Sadowski | Catholic News Service
Wednesday, January 8, 2020

WASHINGTON — Mercy Sister Rosemary Welsh is a nurse and for the past 44 years she has immersed her ministry in the Latino culture.

Through the lives of thousands of migrants from Mexico and Central America as well as Texans of Hispanic descent, Welsh has seen in her work in Laredo, Texas, and for a decade in Guatemala, that the needs of poor people remain much the same today as they did in 1976 when she arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border.

For that, she expressed gratitude.

“I just love it here,” she told Catholic News Service. “I love the people.”

Today, Welsh, 75, works with Casa de Misericordia, (House of Mercy), a domestic violence shelter run by her order, and a health clinic that includes a van that visits 14 sites around Laredo.

The needs of migrating Latinos are great, she said, because they arrive in the U.S. with little more than the clothes they are wearing. Her time in Guatemala from 1981 to 1991, in the midst of a violent civil war, led her to understand why people fled then and continue today to flee northward: They live in deep poverty and fear violence and they want a safe and secure future for their families.

In recent years, however, the ministry has become more difficult. Often, migrants are afraid to come to the clinic or even seek help from the shelter because they fear being discovered by U.S. immigration agents. In years past, she said, women who would present themselves at the border as a victim of domestic violence would be let into the country. “That is not working now,” she said.

Welsh said that she tells the people to whom she ministers that they will never be turned in by the Sisters of Mercy.

A native of Springfield, Missouri, Welsh is one of three Sisters of Mercy of the Americas remaining in Laredo. But the sisters have been joined by associates of the order and coworkers who adhere to the congregation’s view of the importance that they carry out a ministry of presence in line with Pope Francis’ vision for the global Catholic Church.

The Sisters of Mercy have focused their ministries on five critical concerns: Earth, immigration, nonviolence, racism and women.

“You come to Laredo and they all come together,” Welsh said.

Elsewhere in the U.S., Mercy Sisters strive to meet the needs of Latino and African immigrants who are trying to adjust to life in America and achieve citizenship at a time when the federal government is making that possibility far more difficult.




  • immigration ministry
  • migrants

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