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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

457 I don't think God cares if we are Mormon or Catholic. It's what we do with our gift of life.

Day 457: Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

Solidarity, esperanza (hope) and our future: A Sister's dispatch from the border.

(We are All Family at Casa Alitas)

Sr. Darlene Pienschke of the Sisters of the Divine Savior in Milwaukee has spent two years ministering to migrants at Casa Alitas in Tucson, Arizona, where she is often inspired by the perseverance of those seeking a better life. But one of her most profound encounters came not at a center serving migrants, but at the apartment of an elderly American woman:

(Sr. Darlene Pienschke of the Sisters of the Divine Savior)

At Christmastime, I received a phone call from my beautician, Letty, a lovely woman who gathered and donated baby clothing after hearing of immigrant mothers giving birth at Casa Alitas. Letty told me she had shared about my ministry at Casa Alitas with another of her clients, Joan, and now Joan wanted me to contact her.

When I called the next morning, I could hear appreciation in her voice. Joan invited me to her home, saying she needed to talk to me in person. She explained she was elderly, unable to drive, and living with her daughter "way out in the desert." I arranged to visit the next day.

It was a joy for us to meet — and humbling. Joan is 100 years old, mentally sharp, and lives in a second-floor apartment. Her loving daughter lives downstairs. Joan crochets baby caps and blankets and has piles of each, which she generously gives away.

When Letty spoke with Joan about the immigrants' poverty, the dangers they were fleeing and Casa Alitas, the possibility to actually meet a nun who worked there stirred this woman, poor in spirit and heart. In meeting me, Joan would determine if I might be the path to realize her lifelong dream to help the poor in a tangible way.

Spiritually, her heart and mind were one, set on a deeply personal and spiritual conviction that Jesus calls us to care for the poor. Her single-minded focus was to complete the important business to make her own mission come true.

Joan was at ease, with a gentleness in sharing her thoughts. She spoke about what Letty had shared and her lifelong interest and prayer for the poor. Then Joan surprised me, acknowledging that I was a Catholic sister and she wanted me to know she was Mormon. I told her I didn't think God cares if we are Mormon or Catholic. He made and loves us all and wants us to know him and the importance of how we live and care for one another.

Then Joan got up and retrieved an envelope. She told me she wanted to give to Casa Alitas for the care of the immigrant poor. Her check was for $2,100 — the sum of her retirement check. I was taken aback and voiced my concern that she would give away the entire amount. Her daughter gently interrupted to express support of her mother's decision. She explained her mother's reason for inviting me to her home was to meet me and learn about the ministry at Casa Alitas to help in making her decision.

Never had I experienced such complete self-emptying than in Joan's gift. It was as if the gift was a prayer. For Joan, I believe it was first a deeply spiritual offering to God, and then a gift for the poor. I was deeply moved by this holy expression of love for God and neighbor by a woman who personifies "poor of heart" and "solidarity with the poor." I will forever remember that holy moment.

I was deeply moved by this holy expression of love for God and neighbor by a woman who personifies 'poor of heart' and 'solidarity with the poor.'

We said our goodbyes, each of us deeply moved and grateful for our time together. As I drove away, I did not know if I would encounter this lovely 100-year-old saint again.

Several months later, Joan and her daughter phoned to ask if they could drop off crocheted baby caps and blankets. When they arrived, I invited them in, but they were on their way to another stop and only visited briefly through the car window.

Then, the week after Easter, Joan and her daughter stopped for a second visit — their purpose was to have me look over another check, to be sure Casa Alitas was spelled correctly. It was Joan's final stimulus check — $1,000. Again, I was beyond words to express their selflessness. I was sad to see them go so soon, but it gave my heart joy that, in spite of wearing masks for protection, we could meet again in a friendship we will forever cherish.

Story written by Dan Stockman for the Global Sisters Report

ANNOUNCEMENT: Alice Waco celebrates her Birthday with her Emmaus community on Friday at the Schneider's home:

No gifts necessary - but if you'd like to support Alice's favorite non-profit please make a check out to: Friends of Cantera.

Cathy and Peter will have a basket for checks.

If you want to send a check directly: Please send to

Friends of Cantera

c/o Sandra Jumonville Brown

2021 Pollard Parkway

Baton Rouge LA 70808

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