ERIE — “We’re going to serve and to encounter our sisters and brothers; to honor another person’s dignity, and to provide food, shelter and clothing,” Patrice Swick, director of the Office of Social Justice and Life said in an interview prior to leaving for a two-week service outreach in El Paso, Texas.
“Any time an individual’s dignity is not being upheld, any time a sister or brother is in need, it stirs in us some kind of action,” she said.
The millennial already has responded to this call in numerous ways. She spent two years as a primary school teacher in Tanzania with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. And she considers herself “blessed and privileged” to have served in Haiti and Guatemala, and to have made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
“Any time I’ve encountered another culture and been welcomed into a new land, it was transformative to me,” she says. “It really influenced my faith and how I understand the universal church.”
And so, in her role as director of the SJL Office, and with the support of Bishop Lawrence Persico, Swick secured a grant to travel to El Paso where she is working with the Annunciation House.
“My main job is going to be cleaning and cooking and helping with basic necessities so people can function and feel whole again,” Swick said. “I’ll be helping with things we often take for granted, like a shower, clean clothes, fresh sheets, a warm meal and clean drinking water.”
Upon her return to the diocese, Swick hopes to share the stories she will gather and to help provide clarity for those wading through conflicting information regarding the border between the United States and Mexico.
“I’d love to come to parishes and to schools,” she said. “I’m planning on hosting events of solidarity where we can learn what we can do as a church about this issue and better understand the reality our sisters and brothers are facing.”
Swick said that whether the need is in jer backyard, across the state or across the world, she feels compelled to do what she can.
“This is one way for the diocese to be in solidarity not only with those we are serving, but also with our fellow dioceses across the US who are serving and answering this call to hospitality.”
Those interested in learning more about Swick’s time in El Paso can read her blog, Encountering love, at https://encounteringlovesjl.blogspot.com/