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Serving the Poor at the Casa Juan Diego Clinic: Entering the Wounds of Jesus

by Angel Valdez

Holly came to Casa Juan Diego as a Catholic Worker after her graduation as a nurse from Villanova University.

Being a Catholic Worker means rising every morning and, like Moses, heeding God’s call to “remove the sandals from my feet,” for truly the place where I stand is holy ground (Exodus 3:5). All day long, people bring us their stories. They open up their wounds before us; those of their bodies and the sufferings of their hearts too. By grace we begin to realize the divinity of this invitation.

Here at Casa Juan Diego, I have the great privilege of working in our clinic. It is my joy to sit and listen to each patient as they let me in to a glimpse of their life. On Fridays, we begin around 5:30 a.m. Before unlocking the door, I stop in the chapel to thank Jesus; to ask him to be my hands and my eyes this day, and to pray for our patients. Some mornings, it is still dark outside, and there is a line of people waiting patiently at the door. A few have arrived as early as 3:30 a.m. just to be sure they would have a chance to see the doctor. As we greet each other, I’m met with the familiar response to my morning welcome of “¿Cómo está?”:Estoy aquí, gracias a Dios.” I’m here, thanks be to God. It is the common and authentic song of gratitude of the buena gente.

by Celia Thomson

I know that the morning will be filled with both joy and sorrow. There will be many folks we can help. There will be others we cannot. The Salvadoran woman with hypothyroidism and anxiety has not taken medication in six months because she not had work. She is sad all the time; is it depression or does she miss the two sons she was forced to leave eight years ago, after death threats from local gangs? A woman from Honduras has thorns wedged into her shin bone and tells me she got them somewhere between Mexico and la frontera during her journey on foot. The elderly man with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and an amputated leg begins to cry when he discovers we can help cover the cost of his insulins. A man with worsening neuropathy wonder how he will continue working if he keeps losing feeling in his legs and hands.

Some things we simply don’t have the resources for, like the man who has been walking on a broken foot since his work accident, and the diabetic who needs emergency eye surgery. There are burns we can’t heal, kidneys we can’t dialyze, pregnant mothers we can’t assess (but we can help in other ways). And then there always remain the harder things: mothers we cannot reunite with their children, fathers we cannot find work for, questions we don’t have the answers to.

In this work, Christ is revealed to us all day long. We are bathed in the light of His Presence, if only we have eyes of faith. That light doesn’t always look radiant. Sometimes it looks tired, and worried about this month’s rent. Sometimes it looks like a deteriorating body after years without medical care. Sometimes it appears only as the darkness of loss; the shadow of a disappeared brother, a murdered son, a miscarried baby. But almost always, there is a joy and deep faith that leaves me profoundly humbled. When we enter into the stories of each soul placed before us, we tread upon sacred ground. We enter into the very wounds of our Jesus. He comes to us in diabetic foot ulcers and infected teeth. He comes to us in need and deserving to be cared for.

Houston Catholic Worker, July-August 2018, Vol. XXXVI, No. 3.