Jesuit Novice Reflects on Accompanying Migrants and Refugees

11 January 2024|Chloe Gunther

Jonathan Jue-Wong, n.S.J., second-year novitiate with the Midwest Jesuits province.

JRS/USA’s Caminar Contigo program responds to the needs of people arriving at the U.S. – Mexico Border. Through legal services, emergency assistance, and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), the program walks with people on their migration journey. The Migrant Accompaniment Network, highlighted in the story below is one component of the Caminar Contigo program. If you are looking for ways to support more people at the border, visit this page and consider partnering with us.

“God invites each one of us to accompany one another; it’s one of life’s greatest gifts,” said Jonathan Jue-Wong, n.S.J. He is a second-year novice with the Midwest Jesuits  province. Last fall, as part of his Jesuit formation, Jonathan spent time ministering with the JRS/USA Migrant Accompaniment Network (MAN).

The MAN connects people who have recently arrived in the United States with JRS/USA volunteers in their new cities so that they have a community to lean on and someone to help them navigate things like public transportation, obtaining housing, or going to doctor’s appointments. Jonathan recently sat down to talk about his experiences at the U.S. – Mexico Border and how accompaniment has guided him on his path to becoming a Jesuit priest.

“So much of how I approach accompaniment as a novice comes out of how I have experienced accompaniment in my own life,” Jonathan said. While discerning if he wanted to enter the Jesuits, Jonathan ultimately felt called by God when he recognized a desire to live in community and practice a faith that actively works to create a more just, compassionate, and humane world. He was drawn to the beauty of how Jesuits accompany each other as brothers, as well as the people of God.

“Being a part of the Jesuits means entering into that brokenness in the world and understanding that’s exactly where the Holy Spirit wants you to be,” Jonathan said.

Being a part of the Jesuits means entering into that brokenness in the world and understanding that’s exactly where the Holy Spirit wants you to be
Jonathan Jue-Wong, n.S.J.

During his first year as a novice, Jonathan’s journey included a month-long pilgrimage in which, starting with only $35 and a one-way bus ticket, he relied on the kindness of strangers in New Mexico and in El Paso, Texas. On his pilgrimage he stayed with Sacred Heart Church in El Paso, a Jesuit parish, for a week. Sacred Heart had converted part of their space into a shelter for migrants arriving at the U.S. – Mexico Border.

There, Jonathan first experienced accompaniment with Latin American migrants and refugees. Conversations with people at Sacred Heart helped him realize the integral role of mutuality in accompaniment.

“Even with the little Spanish I spoke, we talked about our families and shared our dreams and hopes. In our conversations, I learned that this type of communion requires encounter, dialogue, and mutual sharing,” he said.

With this intention and experience, Jonathan said he was excited when an opportunity arose to help support the work of JRS/USA’s Migrant Accompaniment Network. The MAN is coordinated from El Paso, TX and managed by JRS/USA staff.

On behalf of the MAN, Jonathan researched different individuals and organizations throughout the country that might be able to accompany migrants arriving at the border. In keeping with the Jesuit ideal of “cura personalis,” or care for the whole person, he looked into a variety of agencies and groups in multiple cities that could meet different needs including legal, educational, maternal and infant care, counseling, housing, recovery from domestic violence, healthcare, and others.

In working with both migrants and volunteers, Jonathan has reflected on the Ignatian idea of a God who is laboring alongside us.

“Within migrant ministry it has been so abundantly clear how God is laboring with his children as they labor towards safety, hope, and flourishing lives that reflect their God-given dignity” he said.

One poignant moment he pointed to happened on his pilgrimage. He was accompanying a migrant friend to the airport in El Paso as she was leaving to start a safer life in another U.S. state. “Checking her in at the airport, taking in her joyous smile as she posed for a photo in front of the terminal’s large American flag, saying goodbye, it’s moments like that that really shape your heart; you see God laboring. And you know he is at work.”

Jonathan’s message to the greater JRS/USA community is that there is never a shortage of opportunities to serve God whether it be through financial stewardship or volunteering in your parish or faith community.

As we grapple with world events, the antidote to this despair, Jonathan says, is being attentive to invitations to serve God and recognizing the people God has lovingly placed in your life who are accompanying you.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Migrant Accompaniment Network or exploring other ways you can connect with JRS/USA, visit this webpage.