Dec 14, 2015


In my very Catholic family and in the convent school I attended, the nativity scenes were some of my favorite images. Those glorious golden halos around the heads of Jesus, Mary and Joseph enchanted me. They even had golden threads in some of their clothes, sometimes at the necklines and the edges of the sleeves. And the Holy Family all glowed from within, shining with a miraculous light. 

There wasn't a time in my young life that I thought about them having white skin, blue eyes or light hair. The subject never came up, and besides, a good Catholic girl in the 1950's didn't question things like that. 

As an adult, I recognized that people in the Middle East could not possibly have the "light" qualities represented in these images. Today, as thousands of people are seeking refuge from danger and terror, my meditation becomes: 

May their skin color cease to be an issue. 

May we know that we are all one people.

My we find room "at the inn" and in our hearts. 

In truth, we are all afraid of the changes that would bring....  we might actually welcome “the other.” And if we did, how would our lives have to change?  

The legacy of my ancestors feeds me in these times of mass migrations, with tales of asylum seekers who either will or will not make it to the shore of their dreams. 

pages from The History of Roberson County

“They came by varied means and were willing to suffer for a new life. The suffering endured as a result of the Russian Revolution of 1863 was the impetus for their migration to freedom.” 

In his journal, Joseph Bartula writes: 
“As a cartwright, I left my home in Pilzenski, Galacia, in 1873, and together with wife and five children, sailed for America….. In the course of the trip, I lost three sons and all the possessions I had.” 
(excerpts from A History of Robertson County, Texas, 1970) 

This capsize of an overcrowded boat in my familial imagination and cellular memory has become a classic image of our world in transition. When I saw the first reports of the Syrian refuges, I began folding paper boats.

A day of folding paper boats, during the Syrian crisis.

Boats stitched onto an old painting

Sending blessings of hope and strength to those on the journey, was as much as I could think of to do. A few days later I created a huipil, a container for their story, and for the deep emotions I had about their story that is in some way, also my story. 

 The current story is much larger than Syria itself, and I have used world maps of long ago, when all the countries were different than they are today. Everything changes, everything always has, everything always will. As wretched as these earth changes, political changes, historical changes are, I am deeply grateful to be here to witness them.