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Sick and Injured Immigrants Share Their Stories

Visiting With the Sick and Injured

Immigrant Praying
by Angel Valdez

When people come to Casa Juan Diego for help, we hear many tragic stories, but see the beauty of families helping each other.

When the sick or injured come for help, if there is family, or if they are able to live alone, we help them directly. We address the need, but we also try to ask how they are and hear a little bit about how they are doing. Listening to their stories makes little difficulties we have seem minor by comparison. We cannot do everything for them, but we can help a little, as Dorothy Day said, putting in a few loaves and fishes and praying that the Lord will transform them. Unfortunately, we cannot help all those who are ill, but we assist many families.

The names of those mentioned here have been changed to protect the innocent.


Maria came last week as she does each month. She is vey ill with diabetes and uses a rolling walker. Her husband is seriously ill with cancer. They are both elderly and have a lot of pain. When we asked Maria if everything was OK, she replied, “I just want to die.” As we prepared to help her, and as we were thinking of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we asked her if she was from Mexico She said, no, but my husband is. I am from Honduras. We then asked her if she was a devotee of Our Lady of Suyapa (as Mary is known in Honduras). She smiled and said yes, and then began to recount miracles that Our Lady of Suyapa had worked. We said to her, “Talk to Our Lady of Suyapa.” It seemed to comfort her.


We help Juan (in a wheel chair) and his wife and their child with some assistance each month. His wife works at a fast food restaurant, but of course, her salary is not adequate.

We noticed that our list had a notation that Juan had been shot when he was assaulted. We asked him if they had ever caught the criminals. They had not. He said the Crime Victim’s fund had provided him with a wheel chair, but no funds. After he showed us where he had had a tracheotomy because of the wounds, he told us that he had paid a lawyer $3,000 and had given him all his documents. The lawyer (if he was a lawyer at all) promptly disappeared, absconded, with the money and the documents. Juan is trying to get his documents again and hopes to find another lawyer. We said, please ask our advice before you get another lawyer. He immediately asked, and we gave him the information about the legal services at Catholic Charities.


by Angel Valdez

We had a call about a man who had just been released from immigration detention because he was so ill. He had no resources for obtaining insulin for his diabetes and he needed dialysis. Because his diabetes was so advanced, he could not see. One of our volunteer doctors always asks to see the most difficult medical cases. As that doctor was coming, we scheduled Rodrigo an appointment. That morning Rodrigo also appeared in the entrance of our Rose Street house, still in a hospital gown. He had been sent over from our clinic in order to get help in obtaining a Gold Card for the Harris Health system, for which he had been denied. We made some suggestions to help him with the maze of paper work required. While we spoke with the couple, he kept begging us to help them. Rodrigo was on a walker, but his wife said he becomes too tired with it. Fortunately, a wheel chair had recently been donated and we were able to give it to him. We en-couraged them to come back to the house after seeing the doctor to receive groceries to take home for them and their children.


Jairo had a stroke several yeas ago. His wife cares for him and comes to Casa Juan Diego to receive partial help with the rent each month, adult diapers, and food. We asked her how everything was going. She usually answers that question by saying that everything is the same, day after day. This time, with tears in her eyes, she told of his having a thirty-minute seizure and spending several days in the hospital. Now he cannot sit up very long. His wife always thanks us profusely and asks God to bless us. It should be the other way around. We should be thanking her for all that she does for Jairo.


Rosalinda’s husband came for help for the month. When we give them food (they have two teenagers) we try to find protein to send, because Rosalinda has serious diabetes. Her leg was amputated, she is in a wheel chair, and she can no longer see. This family lives in the Greenspoint area and their apartment was flooded in the recent rains. When we asked how Rosalinda was doing, her husband said she becomes anxious, somewhat desperate, because her world is all dark. He and the teenagers try to distract and help her.


Mark has known the immigrant men in our community for many years. Most of the men have always been very respectful and helpful. He has known a few, however, as rather tough street guys. When those who are a little rougher around the edges become ill, they turn to Casa Juan Diego for help.

Leonardo came recently. His glucose level was out of sight (over 800). We got him to the hospital and he was hospitalized for several days. Upon discharge, we purchased his insulin and a diabetes machine and strips for him. He came back in a few days with unbearable pain. This time the hospital diagnosed pancreatic cancer. We do what we can to help, with rent and food. He is very apologetic about asking for help.


A priest in a local parish occasionally assigns people to come to Casa Juan Diego to help with Works of Mercy as their penance when they go to confession. Visiting the sick is a good Work of Mercy, and we arranged for one penitent to visit (along with one of our Catholic Workers) one of the people we help.

Friends who assist with rehabilitation for the injured had asked us to help Rebeca who is in a wheel chair from a debilitating disease. We had been helping with the rent, but we had never had the opportunity to visit her. When the visitors went to see her, they discovered various needs with which we could help. We gave her some MetroLift tickets and food and arranged for friends of Casa Juan Diego to visit her, because Rebeca is very alone.

Two Men Who Need Prostheses

Two men came in recently to ask for help with purchasing a prosthesis, since they had lost a foot or leg. We agreed to help with a part of the cost. One amputee, and the wife of the other one, tried to insist on coming to Casa Juan Diego to volunteer. Not only were they in no shape to volunteer at present, it is not our custom to ask that people volunteer as a condition for receiving help.

However, we do ask something of those who come for help and whose health or situation may one day improve. Our response was our usual. We do this work (with the help of so many of our readers) because of Matthew 25. In that chapter of the Bible the Lord tells what will happen at the end of the world when he comes again. He will separate us into the sheep and the goats, and he will say to the sheep on his right, “Come you blessed of my Father, because when I was hungry you gave me to eat, thirsty and you gave me to drink, sick and in prison and you visited me, I had nowhere to stay and you took me in.” Those on the right will say to him, “When Lord, when did we do those things for you?” And he will answer, “When you did it for the least of these my brethren, you did it for me.”

As we tell the story we remind the person who has come for help that we do this work because of Matthew 25, but Matthew 25 is for everyone, not just for Casa Juan Diego. It is also for the poor and the sick, in whatever way they can help.  Many people in our society want to help, but never see the poor. Surely the poor who come to us will meet other poor people each day. At that moment, when they see another person in need, we tell them, it will be like a light coming on. They will realize then that that is the moment to repay Casa Juan Diego by helping that other person who needs assistance.

Houston Catholic Worker,  June-Sept. 2016, Vol. XXXV, No. 3.