Sister of Divine Providence leads nursing students to experience Catholic social teaching at the border

Sister of Divine Providence leads nursing students to experience Catholic social teaching at the border

Submitted by Maura Baker (staff writer Messenger, Diocese of Covington newspaper – May 10, 2024 article reprinted with permission)

Every year, a group of nursing students from Thomas More University venture to the southern border of the United States. Led by Divine Providence Sister Kay Kramer these students visit the Brownsville Diocese in South Texas to work at the diocese’s refugee respite center, as well as the Holy Family Birth Center. 

Sister Kay, a nurse and midwife herself, welcomes these junior and senior students, who have completed all their maternal child health coursework, to join her in this hands-on experience. She herself found a visit to the southern border years ago to be “life-changing.”

“I brought this up to the faculty at Thomas More, and they agreed it would be a good experience for our students,” she said. 

Sister Kay said that the experience is centered and built around Catholic social teaching. “Particularly,” she said, “Catholic social teaching as it relates to immigrants through the care of immigrants and working with immigrants.”

“It’s an experience for the students to really be stretched and to broaden their understanding of migration through the lens of this Catholic social teaching.” 

The foundation of Catholic social teaching, according to Sister Kay, is the “dignity of the human person, and the Church’s commitment to life flows from the dignity of the human person.” 

Thus, she said, “the Church’s approach to immigrants flows from our belief in that dignity … there is a belief that people have a right to seek a safer, better life.”

Sister Kay also said that Catholic social teaching also teaches that countries have a right to control their borders, but that countries have a responsibility to “establish immigration policy that is compassionate.”

Prior to leaving for the border, Sister Kay has students reflect on these social teachings as an important part of the experience, as well as to “reflect on how dependent the economy in the United States is on immigrant workers.”

In addition to this catechesis, students who travel to the border earn technical experience as well. At the Holy Family Center, an out of hospital birth center, students experience childbirth in a “different way,” working alongside the center’s nurse midwives and registered nurses. At the refugee center, they help with donations and serving food to the people sheltered there. “We play with the children,” said Sister Kay, “we assist with providing prenatal care to the pregnant women who are there. The kind of professional work that we do really focuses on maternal child health as well as any of the other things that come up when you’re volunteering in a shelter.”