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The Transient Southwest

Blog Headers 2022-23

Editor’s Note: Overseas Lay Missioner Julia Pinto shares glimpses, through poetry and prose, of the ever-changing nature of accompanying migrants on the U.S.-Mexico Border region.  

Few people around,

fewer things to do and see,

Why do attachments here

Seem to form so easily?


Neighbors, volunteer friends, confidantes,

It all feels in vain.

Mucho dolor en mi corazon as they leave.

My heart is full of pain.


Minutes or hours,

Migrants don’t often stay for long.

We form a meaningful connection,

And so quickly they are gone.


Once the bandaid is ripped off a dozen times,

One would think it shouldn’t hurt anymore.

I want to close myself off to the hurt,

Stop my spirit from getting bruised and sore.


How it must be for a migrant, I wonder,

Parting with family and home,

Losing loved ones along the journey,

And then having to go on alone.


Unshakable faith carries many forward.

I hear it from migrants again and again;

“No tengo miedo,” they tell me,

For there’s always one constant Companion.


They know they are never truly alone,

Finding strength in Your deep faithfulness.

No, You will not leave nor forsake them.

Through all of the loss, the loneliness.


With great love we risk great agony;

Without pain there can be no compassion.

Lord, please keep me soft toward others,

Open, present to each interaction.


Besides saying goodbye to four of my closest local friends in my seven months in Arizona/Agua Prieta, mission on the southwest border has brought me through countless more farewells.

I cared for a woman with some minor injuries and felt our souls connecting. I first saw her standing alone behind the other migrants, as I was off to the side, looking out for what else needed to be done. We locked eyes and both started awkwardly laughing for some reason. We sat alone together and chatted (in Spanish) about her desire to enter the US and reunite with her young kids there. She said she didn’t belong to a certain religion, but I could feel her strong spirituality as she shared her story with me. Like flowers bringing beauty and comfort in the springtime, some friendships are only meant to last for a season. Maybe some of those seasons are 10-20 minutes long. There was sadness as we hugged and parted ways, and there was also joy in the shared, sacred moment of encounter. She inspires me with her incredible strength and courage as she journeys alone and strives to be reunited with her children.

September 20 was my last time seeing these three kids at the migrant shelter in Agua Prieta. I am astounded by what they have had to go through in their short lifetimes—I mean, traumatized in their hometowns and forced to uproot their lives. I prayed in the morning for my time with them. The kids were well-behaved this time, sitting and “doing school.” Reading, writing, science, math. Coloring, stretching, giggling as the 4 year-old boy pretended to read from a book and talked to the robot figure he made out of building blocks. They said goodbye to me as if they didn’t care, not knowing that my heart was aching at the thought of never seeing them again. Attachment to me does not make sense and seems pretty foolish in this context, since we barely know each other. I put my all into loving them well for the short time we shared together, and I gave them a bit of love and laughter in a time that was turbulent and stressful for their families. Even with the heartache and impermanence of it all, I would absolutely do it all over again.

Reflection Question: What is a relationship that was meaningful to you, even though it only lasted a short while?

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Julia graduated from The University of Texas at Dallas in May 2015 with a BS in Mathematics and a Math Teacher Certification at the ripe age of 20. She taught Geometry, Algebra 2, Precalculus and Statistics for four years in a public high school in Richardson, Texas, as well as another year in a private school in Takoma Park, Maryland. Julia’s desire to serve and minister like St. Francis drew her to Washington D.C. to work as a Publications and Communications Associate with the US Catholic Mission Association through the DC Service Corps program, where she researched and helped support various mission organizations around the world. This call to mission now pushes Julia to venture beyond D.C. to serve as a missioner on the US-Mexico border. In her free time, Julia enjoys reading, working out, dancing, meeting strangers, and solving all kinds of puzzles.