Open arms, open hearts

Posted on: January 9, 2020 11:00 am
Tags: Jpic, Associates, Volunteer,

by Jan Ferguson, SND Associate and member of the SND Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Commission

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”  (Matthew 25:35) 

Since May of 2019, sisters and associates have helped with meeting the needs of asylum seekers traveling on buses from the southern United States border to new homes all over the country. As members of the Sisters of Notre Dame Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation commission, we volunteer with Cincinnati Immigrant Transportation Assistance (CITA). CITA is one of many similar groups which go to bus terminals to welcome and assist immigrants as they make their way to their new home.

Asylum seekers, or asylees, go through a preliminary processing at detention centers along the border. Once they are issued a court date which will determine their status, they are released from detention centers and permitted to travel to their next destination. They have few or no personal belongings, they face language barriers, and they often endure long bus trips, sometimes lasting days. Buses often run late, so they miss connections and need to be re-ticketed.

As volunteers, we greet traveling immigrants at the bus station with hot food, sandwiches, water, snacks, personal care items, coloring books, and stuffed animals for children. Sister Maria Francine Stacy, who is fluent in Spanish, translates when needed and as a courtesy to help the immigrants get new tickets and find the correct bus. She assures them in their native language that we are there to help.

CITA meets two buses a day, seven days a week. The Sisters of Notre Dame JPIC team is regularly scheduled to meet the 11:30 a.m. bus on the fourth Saturday of the month. 

Many sisters and associates are involved in this outreach. The incredible volunteers in the sewing room have been invaluable. The immigrants often arrive at the bus station carrying what few belongings they have in plastic grocery bags. The SND Sew-So Group has made countless cloth bags that we routinely give out. The immigrants are also very susceptible to our cold climate since their homeland is tropical. In response, the Sew-So Group has sewn blankets for adults and children, as well as adorable hooded capes for toddlers. 

In early 2019, CITA organized a donation drive to provide volunteers with supplies to give immigrants. Many boxes of diapers were donated and needed to be assembled into a package with four diapers and eight baby wipes. Our team was able to package more than 900 diapers in 2019! In December, sisters in Lourdes Hall Care Center assembled care packages containing personal products like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, and snacks. They also made care packages for children. These come in handy because the buses are frequently delayed. Instead of having an hour layover, immigrants may only have ten minutes or in some cases may not be allowed to get off the bus. We can quickly give them these care packages.

There are several ways to support this outreach.

1) Volunteer your time packaging items and/or delivering at the bus terminal. Contact Jan Ferguson directly at 859-496-6503 or to get started.

2) Donate cloth and flannel to the SND Sew-So Group. Contact Jo Ann McQueen at or call 859-291-2040 to arrange drop-off.

3) Donate Kroger or dollar store gift cards, which will be used to purchase supplies. Send to "Sisters of Notre Dame, Office of Mission Advancement, 1601 Dixie Highway, Covington, KY 41011." Include a note that the card is for JPIC immigrant outreach.

4) Donate online at Include comment that donation is for JPIC immigrant outreach.

Suggested links

USCCB National Migration Week January 5-11

The Blessing Project

Lent 2019 - JPIC Reflection



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