What's Happening


Exterior of Casa Papa Francisco

March 7, 2024, El Paso, Texas – During a February 9-27, 2024, volunteer session in El Paso, Texas, Sister Janice Brown, OP, ministered to immigrants crossing the U.S.-Texas border and heard personal stories about why they needed to leave their homeland and about their journeys to the United States.

Sister Janice served at Casa Papa Francisco, one of three Annunciation Houses in El Paso, Texas. Annunciation House serves as a place of hospitality for immigrants who are released from detention centers and are on their way to family members or friends in the United States who sponsored them. 

White woman with short blonde hair, her right eye closed, wearing a white turtleneck and a gray patterned jacket smiles at the camera Sister Janice was one of 11 volunteers who arrived together at Annunciation House and received orientation from Ruben Garcia, founder of Annunciation House. Because she was staying with the local Sisters of Loretto, she was assigned to serve at the closest house, Casa Papa Francisco. 

Nearly every person who came to the site "had the documents that are required to enter the country legally,” Sister Janice said. “They had gone through Border Patrol. They had gotten a court date.” After spending time in detention centers, the immigrants come to Annunciation House for rest, a meal, perhaps a change of clothes, and help in getting transportation to their sponsors’ home in the United States, she said. During her volunteer time at Casa Papa Francisco, immigrants traveled to join their sponsors in New Jersey, California, Colorado, Florida, and other places in the United States, she recalled. 

The hope is that Annunciation House guests stay for a short time before reconnecting with their sponsors. “Sometimes, the people don’t even stay a full day,” Sister Janice said. “If they can get transportation arranged, they can leave the same day. They might get a good meal, wash their clothes, and be on their way.”

Volunteers help to keep Annunciation House operating by completing numerous day-to-day chores. “I stepped into the working zone of the hospitality house 100 percent,” said Sister Janice. “We served wherever we were needed.” This included unlocking the doors in the morning and locking them in the evening, registering the guests, preparing meals, helping with the laundry, overseeing guests who worked in various areas, and cleaning the kitchen and other areas. 

But while these duties are essential, Sister Janice emphasized a greater dimension to her volunteer work at Annunciation House: being present to the guests and listening to their stories. “I don’t speak much Spanish,” she said, adding “Google Translate was my friend.” However, she understood and listened to many of the immigrants’ stories. 

One woman – whose husband was already in the United States – came with her children. They were kidnapped by a gang and held for 20 days while they called her contacts demanding money. Another woman had to pay $7,000 to a coyote – a person who charges immigrants to smuggle them across the border - to transport herself and her son to the United States. 

Another woman, on her way from Mexico to the United States, was drugged, raped, and abused. “She found herself in the hospital, and she didn’t remember any of it,” Sister Janice said. Her leg was so severely cut that she lost circulation and had to have her leg amputated to survive. “Casa Papa Francisco took her in,” she said. “She got a prosthesis and is trying to learn to walk on it.”

Immigrants and volunteers attend Mass in the chapel at Casa Papa Francisco. They sit in folding chairs in front of a priest at the altar with a large hanging cross on the wall behind him

Immigrants and volunteers attend Mass in the chapel at Casa Papa Francisco.


Sister Janice said several groups come together to help the immigrants. Along with the volunteers at the Annunciation House, other organizations serve in various ways. Las Americanas Border Servant Corps in New Mexico helps immigrants when they’re dropped off at the airport. Sisters of Loretto help with transportation, laundry, and gathering donations. “It’s quite a network of volunteers,” she noted.

“The resiliency of the people is amazing to me, that they go through all of this and are so vulnerable,” Sister Janice said. “They’ve gone through a lot of tough times but remain grateful and open.” 

Sister Janice advised people who volunteer at Annunciation House or similar houses of hospitality, even in the midst of a great deal of physical work, to be present to the guests. “There’s lots of work to do, but the presence and being welcoming are extremely important,” she said.

Sister Janice was at Casa Papa Francisco during the time that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Annunciation House, seeking to close it down. She pointed to the tremendous support that Annunciation House has, from Oscar Leeser, Mayor of El Paso; several state representatives; and Bishop of El Paso Mark J. Seitz, DD. 

Annunciation House “has a lot of support from the community, and it would be tragic to stop the good work,” Sister Janice said. Supporters stand behind the work of Annunciation House as part of the “Gospel mandate” to serve people in need. “We are called to welcome the stranger,” she said. “I think we are meant to be in a relationship with people who are vulnerable and in need.”  

Watch the press conference by supporters of Annunciation House from February 23, 2024.

white folding chairs around long tables covered with blue tablecloths in a tiled room with a cafeteria line at one end.

The dining room at Casa Papa Francisco is the scene of meals that restore immigrants newly arrived from the detention center.


A group of 10 Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, and friends, dressed in winter coats, head into the Michigan State Capitol Building

March 6, 2023, Lansing, Michigan – About 20 Adrian Dominican Sisters and friends joined a delegation of more than 140 Michigan advocates, lobbying their legislators at the Michigan State Capitol for the passage of a bill that would again permit immigrants – regardless of documentation – the opportunity to apply for a driver’s license. For years, Michigan had such a law, but it was rescinded in 2008. The 2023 bill to reinstate that practice is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks. 

Drive Safe Advocacy Day was organized and sponsored by Strangers No Longer (SNL), a network of Circles of Support in Catholic parishes, congregations, schools, and immigrant communities to support immigrants, advocate for a comprehensive and humane immigration policy, and educate the public. 

The Advocacy Day involved scheduled, 20-minute meetings of the advocates with their legislators. In all, 27 state representatives and 18 state senators met with their constituents to discuss the issue of allowing immigrants to have a driver’s license. Advocates came from around the state, from organizations such as Catholic and Protestant parishes; Catholic schools; immigration advocacy organizations; and congregations of women religious. In addition, participants met at the end of the day to share their experiences. 

Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, an immigration attorney and Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters Immigration Assistance Office, spoke in an interview before the event of the hardship of not having a driver’s license places on undocumented immigrants. “Especially in rural Michigan, there is no way for people to get around to any place – to go any place,” without a driver’s license, she said. “People are forced to drive without a license” in order to get to work or take their children to school, daily risking arrest and even deportation if they are stopped – and risking the safety of others who share the road with them, she said. 

“In the past, there were no questions asked about immigration status” when an immigrant applied for a driver’s license, Sister Attracta explained. “You need a form of ID.” But if immigrants are not permitted to get a driver’s license, they are also not permitted even a state ID. Having some state identification “gives them some security when they go to pick up a prescription or at other times when they need to be identified.” 

Sister Attracta cited incidents in which immigrants working with the courts for their immigration status had to pay people to drive them to go to court, to visit her office, or to take their children to school. “This is so unfair and unjust because if they had a driver’s license, they would at least have that much security – and it would save them a lot of money,” she said. “For many of them, it’s almost impossible. Many lose their jobs because they can’t get back and forth to work.” 

In its suggested script for the meetings, SNL offered a similar rationale for the bill. “Most of us take for granted life’s routine tasks, such as driving to work, going to a doctor’s appointment, taking a child to school, going to church, or picking up groceries. All of these situations require a driver’s license.” In the script, SNL also emphasized that the bill would make provisions to ensure that immigrants who are not U.S. citizens would not receive voter registration – a concern of many who oppose the suggested law.

Most members of the Adrian Dominican contingent met with State Representative Dale Zorn (R-Onsted), each in turn speaking of personal experiences with immigrants and offering her own reasons for backing the legislation. A group of five Adrian Dominican Sisters brought forward the same case to State Senator Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe). In addition, the Adrian Dominican contingent was invited to a short, impromptu meeting with Senator Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), Senate Majority Leader, who encouraged them in their efforts to lobby for the legislation.

State Representative Dale Zorn, standing, speaks with a group of seated Sisters.

State Rep. Dale Zorn discusses the proposal for a bill to permit all immigrants – regardless of status – to apply for a driver’s license.

“I found Dale Zorn to be a listening person,” said Sister Carleen Maly, OP. “I think we were mutually engaged because of his interest in clarifying what the need was.” As Director of the Adrian Rea Literacy Center, Sister Carleen is a long-time advocate for immigrants. “My personal reasons are our learners who are immigrants, primarily from Mexico.” She said 70% of the literacy center’s learners come from Mexico and another 20% from other Spanish-speaking countries. “For me, it’s personal from hearing their stories,” she said. 

Sister Virginia “Ginny” King, OP, an Adrian Dominican Sister who lives in Warren, Michigan, met with her State Representative, Lori Stone (D-Warren). “She was so supportive,” Sister Ginny said. “She has supported previous times [a similar bill] has been introduced, but it’s never made it through.”  

Sister Ginny noted the complications that arise for immigrants who are not permitted to get a driver’s license. “If you get into an accident, you lose everything if you are driving illegally,” she said. Immigrants need to have the legal ability to drive to work and to other daily activities, she said, adding the importance of treating all people with dignity. “We’re a country of immigrants,” Sister Ginny said. “We have to be welcoming.”

Sister Helene Kloss, OP, who recently moved to Adrian from Florida said the experience “was an eye-opener for me. I learned a lot listening to the questions and the experiences … of the other Sisters.” She said the idea of not having access to a driver’s license for the daily activities of life – taking children to school, going to a hospital, going to work – was new to her. Sister Helene said she was grateful for the opportunity to “show support for those who don’t have much, and they need to be able to drive.” 

Sister Patricia McDonald, OP, was among the Sisters meeting with Rep. Zorn. “I got energy from talking to other people.” She added the participants in the meeting with Rep. Zorn were “engaging and alive about what is still to be done.” She was also impressed by the staff members and secretaries of the legislators, who were “very engaging and really seemed to be on top of why we were there – and thanked us for coming.” She was also impressed by the students who attended.

Sister Beverly Stark, OP, said she was impressed by a group of young immigrant students she’d seen, and the impact that they had on the legislator they met with. She said that her own participation in the lobby day was an important aspect of her own efforts at justice and peace. “I’ve had a long commitment to social justice, and I could see that this was an issue that demanded social justice and was willing to do what I could to help bring it about.”

Sister Patricia added her own commitment to advocating for the immigrants and for anybody who doesn’t have a voice. “We are speaking for the people to bring about justice,” she said. “I thought it was a solid use of our time and I think we made an impact as an organization.”

Feature photo at top: Members of the Adrian Dominican contingent head into the Michigan State Capitol for the Immigration Advocacy Day.



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