I was a stranger and you welcomed me

Fr. Phil Ley stands outside of Posada Guadalupe
Fr. Phil Ley stands outside of Posada Guadalupe

Posada Guadalupe, a shelter in San Antonio, Texas, was founded as a response to Jesus’s challenge at the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” For the past ten years, it has offered hospitality to indigent immigrants, mostly young adults who have nowhere else to go.

The importance of this work in the Church was highlighted recently by Pope Francis when he brought refugees with him back to the Vatican after a visit to southeastern Europe. We have an obligation to see the face of Christ in all we meet, to be instruments of God’s love in the world around us.

The Big Give S.A. is a 24-hour online giving event on May 3, 2016 (midnight through 11:59 p.m.). Please consider supporting Posada Guadalupe, not only during the Big Give, but through your year-round giving.

The following is an explanation of Posada Guadalupe’s life-transforming work, a combined effort by Conventual Franciscan Friars and lay volunteers in the San Antonio area.

POSADA GUDALUPE
A LIFE CHANGING MINISTRY

 Beginnings

It was in October of 2006 that we opened the doors to our first residents. One was a man from Mexico who was sick with diabetes, the other was a man from Guatemala who was injured in an auto accident. They both remained with us for about two months, before moving on, just before Christmas.

After their departure we had no one for about five weeks. Then, I received a call from Casa Marianella in Austin, asking if we could take a man who needed dialysis. We took him, and since that day we have not been without residents.

posada 1Early on, we took only people who were sick or injured, usually referred to us by one of the local hospitals, men for the most part, but we have housed a few women, too. After about two years, we were getting calls from RAICES, a group of immigration lawyers, asking us to take in their clients who had aged out of the detention centers for unaccompanied minors. Now, these young people make up the majority or our residents.

Who are these young people?

It is this group that presents us the major challenge. Teenagers in general require a lot of attention, but those who come to us, come with lots of emotional baggage. Most of these kids leave home to escape the dire poverty they live in, domestic violence or gangs, or all of the above. Frequently they have been abandoned, abused or neglected by their parents, and have a very hard time trusting anyone. Besides all of this, or because of it, they tend to have a very low self-esteem.

These youth stay with us anywhere from a few months to more than a year, while they go through the process of acquiring legal status through the Immigration court. This time varies considerably from person to person. Having been abandoned, neglected or abused by one or both parents, a minor can apply for legal status in the United States.

Posada Guadalupe tableAs one might imagine, this is not an easy ministry. Each resident has his own way of doing things, or, as is more often the case, of not doing things. We have to be on top of them to make sure the house is kept clean—they all have their turn to clean. I am reminded of what Dorothy Day said about working with the poor: “Life itself is a haphazard, untidy, messy affair.” I’m also reminded of what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “Love until it hurts.”

And to be sure, it often does hurt. How can it not hurt when a young man tells you his father used to tie him up and then beat him. Others tell us they don’t know who their father is. Or when a young mother says she feels guilty eating what we serve in the shelter, knowing that her children in El Salvador are hungry. None of this is made up. Stories of this nature are not the exception, they are the norm. Nobody wants to leave their homeland. But when life is so difficult, so violent, so seemingly without hope, we begin to understand how a person (even a child) is able to make the decision to leave home and strike out on his/her own, heading to the United States, even though the odds of making it alive are not great.

Pursuing Dreams - News from Posada GuadalupeHaving mentioned all this, one might conclude that the young people at the Posada are on the fast track to failure. However, we have had a number of success stories. Five or six of our young men have gone to work for La Michoacana, a meat market that has agreed to employ anyone we send them, as long as their documents are in order. Others have found employment on their own. One recently finished a course in Job Corps and plans to continue his studies to become a nurse. Some have chosen to remain in San Antonio, while others have opted to go elsewhere in the country. We currently have six who go to local high schools. The good thing is that, little by little, they all become independent.

How you can help

As mentioned above, our residents need a good bit of attention, they need to know that they are loved. To continue with this ministry and to be able to reach out to more people in need of our service, we need financial help. You can help by sending your donation to: Posada Guadalupe, P.O. Box 5712, San Antonio, Texas 78201