Page 1

66188_CvrFlap_Q7:#4 Ft-Bk Cover & Flap Q4

3/31/08

12:36 PM

Page 1

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province Ministries Foundation 1884 Randolph Ave. Saint Paul, MN 55105

Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID St. Paul, MN Permit No.1990

POSSUMUS

excerpt from

Prayer for Migrants and Refugees Lord Jesus, help us by your grace, To banish fear from our hearts, that we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister; To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity, while responding to their many needs; To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us; To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring.

S P R I N G 2008 H U M A N M I G R AT I O N

We Can

Providing quality to build on for over half a century. Since 1949, James Steele Construction has focused on the highest quality workmanship in the construction of commercial, institutional, industrial and residential buildings, including extraordinary projects like this church. We

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

are very proud of our skilled craftsmanship as well the special relationships we’ve forged with our clients. One such relationship is with The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. We recognize the impassioned work the Sisters

Please tear off and use this bookmark as a companion in your reading and prayers.

do and we gladly support their network of help and hope for those most in need.

James Steele Construction Co. 1410 Sylvan St., St. Paul, MN 55117

651-448-6755 www.jamessteeleconstruction.com

A Publication of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation


66188_CvrFlap_Q7:#4 Ft-Bk Cover & Flap Q4

3/31/08

12:36 PM

Page 2

WE CAN: Seeing The Future According to the Executive Summary of U.S. Population Projections: 2007- 2050 (Pew Research Center, February 2008), big changes are ahead for the U.S. population. By 2050:

“They had passed the bitter ordeal of leave-taking with friends and relations; they had looked for the last time on the graves of parents and children, gazed tenderly and affectionately on the well-remembered spots of their childhood, with feelings which no pen has ever yet or ever shall be able to describe. Some had left fathers and mothers, and sisters and brothers; some had left wives and young families, dependent on the mercies of a cold and callous world, who sustained themselves with the thought that, with God’s help, before long, they would be able to send the first remittance to cheer the desolate homes they had left forever.”

• the population of the U.S. will rise (from 296 million in 2005) to 436 million. 82% of the growth will be due to immigrants and their descendents. • 1 in 5 Americans will be immigrants compared with 1 in 8 in 2005. • the Latino population will triple to become 29% of the U.S. population. Blacks will remain at 13%, and Asians will rise from 5% to 9%. • non-Latino whites will become a minority at 47% of the population.

Read More About It We recommend these three books on the subject of human migration: Global Families by Meg Wilkes Karraker, The Middle of Everywhere by Mary Pipher and Tribe of Women by Connie Bickman. For additional resources, visit www.csjministriesfoundation.org.

Peter McCorry, Irish nationalist and newspaper editor, 1870

Possumus is Latin for we can. It sums up the drive and willpower that identifies the Sisters of St. Joseph as one of the most influential non-profit organizations working in Minnesota in the past 150 years..

FOOTNOTES 1 James P. Smith and Barry Edmonston, The New Americans: Economic, Demographic and Fiscal Effects of Immigration, 1997. 2 ”Rethinking Gains from Immigration: Theory and Evidence from the U.S.,” Giovanni Peri, 2005, Univ. Of California-Davis. 3 “Myths & Facts in the Immigration Debate,” American Immigration Lawyers Assn., 2003. 4,5,6 Immigration In Minnesota: Discovering Common Ground, The Minneapolis Foundation, October 2004. 7 “Questioning Immigration Policy—Can We Afford To Open Our Arms?” Friends Committee on National Legislation, 1996. 8 2005 Economic Report of the President. Government Publishing Office, 2005. 9 Stuart Anderson, The Contribution of Illegal Immigration to the Social Security System. National Foundation for American Policy, 2005. 10 U.S. Census Data. 11 Report from The Associated Press, Jan. 2008. 12 The U.S. Department of Labor. 13 Department of Homeland Security.

S

haring the richness of the world.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet can’t take care of the strangers among us without the support of friends and neighbors like you who believe in this mission. Sometimes that support is physical or emotional. Sometimes it’s spiritual. And sometimes it’s financial. If you think what we’re doing to help new immigrants is important to our way of life here in Minnesota, please consider supporting us. Maybe you can’t be on the front lines of the immigrants’ struggle for justice, but you can write a check. Maybe you can’t volunteer your time to help an immigrant family learn English, or settle in a new home, or learn the job skills they need to survive, but you can open your wallet. Maybe you can’t dedicate your life to “knowing the heart of a stranger,” but you can give a generous donation to the Sisters of St. Joseph. Let your gift be an acknowledgement that we are all one people, looking out for each other in a turbulent world. To make a donation to support the programs of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, please visit www.csjministriesfoundation.org Or send your check in the envelope provided to: Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province Ministries Foundation 1884 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105

Remember, you don’t have to be a saint or a hero, or be rich, to do enormous good. You just have to be willing. Thank you. Visit us on the web at www.csjministriesfoundation.org for updates on previous articles you read in Possumus.

17

Move toward a world of hope, reconciliation, and justice for all people. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Achieve universal primary education. Promote gender equality and empower women. Reduce child mortality. Improve maternal health. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Ensure environmental sustainability. Develop a global partnership for development. From the United Nations Millennium Development Goals

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation www.csjministriesfoundation.org


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:31 PM

Page 1

POSSUMUS

H

uman migration

As this issue of Possumus goes to press, the topic of immigration is getting a lot of attention. From the news you read here in Minnesota, it would be easy to assume that it’s a local or regional issue. But immigration is not aimed at us in particular; it’s global in scope. You might say this human migration has been going on since we first left the trees for a better life on the savannah. Today, everywhere in the world there are people on the move—due to war, famine, ethnic cleansing, poverty, human trafficking, natural disasters, and so on. A much broader issue than who is documented and who is not, this burgeoning human migration affects governments, economies and, perhaps most of all, the well-being of the families and peoples doing the migrating. Historically, Sisters of St. Joesph (CSJ) have always had an interest in this issue. For us, it is not a matter of politics. We believe it to be simply a matter of humanity. Caring for strangers in our midst is a logical extension of our mission that asks us to care for “the dear neighbor” regardless of his or her status. Human migration is a concern where we, as Sisters of St. Joseph, see the need for both positive systemic change and increased justice. As you are about to discover, we’ve made it a major part of our work, here and around the world. Sister Irene O’Neill, CSJ Executive Director Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation

1


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

HUMAN

3/31/08

12:31 PM

Page 2

MIGRATION

Immigrants don’t come to Minnesota because Minnesotans are nice. They come because the federal government has designated our state an official Refugee Resettlement Area.

THE BEAUTY AND THE TRAUMA. The world today is a world in transition. International borders are becoming more and more porous. By most estimates, tens of millions of people are on the move on any given day. But today in St. Paul, the whole restless immensity of this human migration comes down to one frightened woman. Desperate and alone, she rings the doorbell at Sarah’s...an Oasis for Women. She steps into the vestibule and waits. As a staff member unlocks the inner door to this place of refuge, one part of her transition ends. But another has just begun.

The immigrant women who knock on this door are alone simply because they have left everything behind——their husbands, their children, their parents, their jobs and, of course, their homes. In many cases, they arrive at Sarah’s...an Oasis for Women with only what they can carry in a backpack. Some come seeking safety from torture or persecution in their home country. Some have seen family members murdered. Some are victims of domestic abuse or human trafficking. Some come simply in hope that life will be better here for themselves and ultimately, for their families. But from wherever they come, for whatever reason, these women have a certain commonality: they are alone, homeless, and desperate. They’re looking for a sanctuary. Here, at a former Sisters of St. Joesph (CSJ) convent in a quiet neighborhood in St. Paul, they discover a place of respite and serenity. “As it turns out,” says Sarah’s director, Sister Margaret Kvasnicka, “Oasis was exactly the right name for this place.“ Sarah’s...an Oasis for Women, founded in 1996, is an extension of the Sisters’ mission to serve the “dear neighbor without distinction,” even when that neighbor comes from a world away. One or more Sisters are always on staff at

Sarah’s, and one Sister --Susan Smith CSJ-currently lives in the house fulltime. Social agencies refer women to Sarah’s, and there is almost always a waiting list. Sarah’s can take only 29 residents at time. But over the past 10 years, more than 500 women from nearly 50 nations have rung that doorbell and stepped inside for the very first time. The first CSJ any woman meets at Sarah’s is Sister Margaret. In her office, the resident-to-be is warmly welcomed. The house rules are explained, and, on this first day, life goals are agreed upon that will eventually result in the woman’s departure from Sarah’s. “You come to Sarah’s in order to leave,” Sister Margaret tells her. This is the first of many mantras each woman learns during her time at Sarah’s, and the first of the many evaluation meetings she will have with Sister Margaret as she works her way toward a life lived on her own.

2


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 3

In the past year (June 2006-July 2007), Sarah’s was home to 42 women. During that time, 17 became secure enough to live on their own, while 25 were still working toward that goal at year’s end. Throughout Sarah’s history, nearly 90% of residents have found employment. Given that success rate nearly 500 women may have been kept off the Minnesota welfare rolls because of the time they spent at Sarah’s. In so many ways, Sarah’s is an oasis of hope. The low-slung building that houses Sarah’s...an Oasis for Women is set well back from the street. It is as unassuming as possible, in order to keep its location a secret. (Some of Sarah’s residents have reason to fear for their lives.) As for the interior, it would seem somewhat institutional

were it not for the abundance of beauty and color coming from the collection of ethnic art and textiles that adorns every room in the house and adds to the U.N.-like atmosphere. Of course, the real purpose of this eclectic decor is to make residents from various cultures feel at home. The public rooms at Sarah’s include a learning center (named Sarah’s Well, because past residents thought every oasis should have a well); equipped with computers and internet, a laundry room; parlors for sitting, visiting and watching TV; a kitchen commodious enough to prepare a meal for dozens of people simultaneously and, of course, a dining room that seats all the residents, staff and their guests at cozy round tables. Because this building used to house only Sisters,

3


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

HUMAN

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 4

MIGRATION

The average immigrant pays nearly $1800 per year more in taxes than he or she consumes in public benefits.1

it includes a chapel. In this lifetime, the Catholic icons have been replaced by more interfaith adornment and the pews have all been turned invitingly toward the center of the room. Now anyone may worship and find solace here. At any given time, there are residents of many faiths at Sarah’s. The resident rooms resemble dorm rooms: a single bed, a bureau, a desk, a chair, and a small closet originally designed to hold a Sister’s two habits. On the desk, there is a telephone that can be used to contact family left behind. The private phone number and the key to the house represent autonomy beyond these women’s wildest dreams. Indeed, Sister Margaret tells us, the first few days at Sarah’s can be overwhelming for these emotionally and physically exhausted women. One former resident, Naima (not her real name) from Somalia, walked the hallways at her residency interview tearfully exclaiming, “It is so beautiful here. How can a home be so beautiful? Is it just for me? Can this be my home?” In exchange for a secure, serene home and access to all the social services these women so desperately need, Sarah’s encourages responsibility. There are conditions to be met in order to remain here. Sister Margaret explains: “Our residents must be 19 years old or more, and enrolled in school to learn English. Ideally they should have

a job. And of course, they must be willing to live responsibly in community.” That includes performing their share of the household chores. By the time they leave Sarah’s, they’ll know what they need to know to manage an American home. It costs the Sisters of St. Joseph $700 a month to house each resident. There is no fee for the first two months. After that residents are asked to donate up to one-third of their income for room and board. “I break the rules when I need to,” Sister Margaret says. “But occasionally, I have to tell a woman this just isn’t the right place for her.” The pain of having to ask anyone to leave Sarah’s is visible on Sister Margaret’s face as she speaks. The Associate Director at Sarah’s is Cheryl Steeves, who is responsible for day-to-day building operations, which includes the safety and security of all these women. In spite of the traumatic stories she hears in these halls, she enjoys this work. “I actually feel like I have some ongoing role in a person’s life. Here I can see the difference I’m making. I can feel it. That makes it so worth it.” Krista Senden has a slightly different perspective. She is one of the current group of St. Joseph Workers, a volunteer and leadership program for young women, operated by Sisters of St. Joseph. In service for a year at Sarah’s, she has become an active advocate for the immigrant women. “We keep tabs on what’s happening in

4


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 5

HUMAN

MIGRATION

Low-skilled immigrant workers negatively impact the job status of high school dropouts, who are only 9% of our population.2

legislation right now on the federal and state level,“ she says.“ And we give our legislators stories about the lives of the women here at Sarah’s.” But Krista has a more down-to-earth job, too. “I coordinate the Wednesday night community meal here at Sarah’s.” It’s a cross-cultural meal, prepared by the women themselves, where pizza may share the table with curry or plantains or African rice. “We all know how healing food can be,” says Krista. “Well, it’s a healing thing for these women, too.” Residents and staff sit down together to share the meal, to celebrate the week, to share stories and just be together. Sharing stories of the past and present is an important part of life at Sarah’s, especially among the residents themselves. Somehow the women from various continents break down the cultural, religious and language barriers and become like members of an extended family. “They visit with each other, tell each other why they’re here and what they’ve been through,” says Sister Margaret. “They become like a permanent support group.” As hard as it is sometimes for the staff to listen to the women’s horrific tales, Sister Margaret knows even they don’t get the whole story. She says, “What the staff knows about these women’s lives, the beauty and the trauma, is only the tip of the iceberg.” And when even the part she hears becomes too much to bear? “God sees that I have time alone to shed my tears for them,” she says. One of those life stories belongs to a former resident named Ayoko, a refugee who fled civil war in Togo, Africa. She sums it up simply: “Some people had guns, some didn’t.” She arrived at

Our Vision Sarah’s fosters the self-empowerment of women in community through life skill development, advocacy and referral services.

Sarah’s complaining of pain in her hip that now requires her to use a cane. No one is quite sure how it happened, nor has it yet been properly diagnosed. Because of it, Ayoko cannot perform any of the menial jobs she might be qualified for. In spite of this, she laughs easily as she tells how much Sarah’s means to her in perfectly adequate though heavily accented English. (“Ayoko took three classes in English at once while she lived here,” Sister Margaret explains. “She wanted to learn it so badly.”) Ayoko believes “Father God gave me this home to live in.” However, she also holds God responsible for having shortened her stay when she received a premature opening in public housing. “When you are here,” she says, “life is easy. You have all the things, the stuff you need, and all the help, too. On your own, it is not so easy.” When she’s able to come back to Sarah’s for a visit, she says, “I am coming home.” In those four words, Ayoko sums up the essence of Sarah’s. Many of the women refer to this place as “my mother’s house,” remembering the time when their lives last felt this safe and secure. As Sister Margaret puts it, “Sarah’s will always be their home, and we will always be their mothers in this country.” ✝

5


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 6

ILLUMINATION

W

elcoming the stranger.

There’s a wall being built at our southern border that aims to keep people out of our country --the very people who shingle our roofs, work in our fields and orchards, cook our food at restaurants, and clean our hotels. From Chiapas near the Mexican-Guatemalan border, Sister Lilly Long reports on her blog that she has seen the infamous train pull out with men, women, and children clinging to its sides, hoping to make it north to a better life. A nurse practitioner, Lilly is working in a shelter that cares for people who have lost limbs trying to jump onto the train. Immigration issues touch most of us. In one CSJ ministry here in St. Paul, a teacher of 25 years drops out of sight. Her husband has immigration issues. A woman from Eritrea who lived at Sarah’s…an Oasis for Women sat in detention for months, her paper work hung up because of a man she refused to marry. Our CSJ Justice office works with Liberian immigrants, refugees from civil war who seek permanent resident status and have “delayed enforced departure” status until March 2009. People migrate to find a place to thrive —— fertile soil, abundant food, paying work, plentiful water. Human beings always have. DNA testing traces the peoples of every continent back to

central Africa, where human life arose. In our time, wars, famine, and disasters push people out of their homes, beyond borders. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, ends with the migration of the children of Israel to Egypt in search of food. Exodus, the second book, begins with the outcries to God from these migrants, the Hebrews, whom the Egyptians enslaved to build their cities. The Bible records that God hears the cries of the slaves and sends Moses to set them free. Jesus finds one of his great commandments (“Love your neighbor as yourself.”) among the laws that remember the Hebrews’ migrant experience. He identifies with the least among us in his description of God welcoming into blessedness those who gave drink to the thirsty, fed the hungry, visited the sick and imprisoned, clothed the naked ——and welcomed the stranger. “What you have done to one of the least, you have done to me,” (Matthew 25.37-40). The Earth is God’s; its abundance is for all. The work of sharing what every human being needs to live ——food, water, shelter, education, health care ——is our call and our responsibility as human beings and as Christians. In a way, all of us immigrated to this land of promise and depended on the hospitality of others. ✝ Joan Mitchell, CSJ

6


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 7

TURNING POINT

O

n the border.

My personal turning point came when I left the farm in North Dakota to put my double major in Spanish and History Education to better use. My aunt is a CSJ who worked in South America. I was considering teaching Spanish, but she encouraged me to use my language skills to connect with people and with the Latino culture, which was very different from my own. So I came to St. Paul, and entered the St. Joseph Worker program run by the CSJs. It’s a volunteer, social justice program for young woman who want to make a difference in the world. For my year of service, I chose to work in the St. Mary’s Health Clinics as an interpreter. This work with the Twin Cities’ Latino population not only improved my Spanish but also opened my eyes to the problems immigrants have making their new lives in this country. I heard from them first-hand about their personal lives, their struggles. How much they missed the families they left behind. I began to question. Where do these people come from? Why do they come? To learn more, I opted for a second year in the SJW program. But by this time I wanted to serve the Latino population in a more intense way. I moved to El Paso, Texas, in August of 2006 and began working with the CSJs and other

volunteers who welcome immigrants to Annunciation House. At the house, we provide hospitality in the form of beds, food, and social services to men, women and whole families just coming over the border. It’s my job to provide for their immediate needs (namely, food and water) and then to explain the rules of the group home to them. During the time they are allowed to stay with us (from a week up to 7 months), we help them to formulate a workable plan for moving on —— finding jobs, a place to live, a school where they can begin to learn English. Like all human beings, these people have a profound need to connect. And even though they’re filled with fear, they have such a strong faith. Their lives affect me greatly. I ask myself, what don’t I have that they have? Why do I need so much? It’s like everything down here happens under a microscope. I could stay here and do this work my whole life. This is reality; this is real life. This is where I’m supposed to be. ✝ Cindy Schlosser St. Joseph Worker

7


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 8


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 9

SOUL Within ten years of arrival, more than 75% of immigrants speak English well. Experts say it takes 10 years of immersion to become fluent in any language.3

W

here they come to become.

The first wave of immigrants came to Minnesota from Germany, Sweden and Norway in the 1800s. Like today’s immigrants, they initially settled in mono-ethnic neighborhoods, experienced discrimination, and established businesses that catered to their fellow émigrés. Undoubtedly, they also felt an intense pressure to assimilate as fast as humanly possible. So how did our ancestors make that almost unimaginable transformation from immigrant to American? The answer then was the same as it is now: they learned English.

Believe it or not, back in the year 1900, a whopping 29% of Minnesotans were foreign-born and speaking native languages other than 6 English at home. One hundred years later, about the time we started to notice all these exotic new strangers among us, the percentage of immigrants in our state had actually fallen dramatically ——to 7 5.3%. Only 5.7% of that number reported that 8 they could speak little or no English. Since 2000, the number of immigrants moving into Minnesota annually has increased, and so has the need for English language education. Meeting that challenge head-on is the mission of Learning In Style, the English language school run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Learning In Style (LIS) is housed on the second floor of the Calvary Baptist Church building in South Minneapolis, in a neighborhood that has become heavily and obviously ethnic. “Most of our students live so close they walk to school,” says LIS Director, Sister Agnes Foley. No one knows for sure how many students are enrolled at any one time because, as Sister Agnes says, “Life happens to immigrants more unpredictably than it does to us.” That makes steady attendance

problematic for some. But she calculates that there are 20 to 25 native languages being spoken in the hallways everyday. Indeed, right before classes begin for the day, the hustle-bustle in the timeworn hallways —— the sounds, the colors, the textures ——is reminiscent of a busy marketplace in some far-off land. The map of the world. On the wall just outside the community kitchen, a large world map is posted for everyone to see. Every time a student arrives from a country of origin that’s new to LIS, a red dot is stuck to that location on the map. Today that map is awash in red dots spread over 5 continents. It’s plain to see there is hardly a country on earth that has not been represented here at LIS since it opened its doors in 1994. The students at LIS are adults, mostly in their 20s and 30s. A typical student might be brand new to this country, having been sent to LIS by family members on arrival. On the other hand, he or she might have lived in Minnesota for years, simply getting by. One of the biggest motivations for foreign-born Minnesotans to become more fluent in English is so they can talk to their own

9


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 10

SOUL Immigrants earn about $240 billion a year, pay about $90 billion a year in taxes and use about $5 billion in public benefits.4

children who have learned to speak it in public school. Some of the students at LIS might have learned a few words of English in refugee camps. Some were college-educated professionals back home who simply never learned English. But a substantial number of students, especially those from rural areas of the globe, have no schooling of any kind. They have never been in a classroom, owned a book, held a pencil. They are illiterate in their own language, let alone in English. They have to begin at the beginning.

It takes a dozen or so faculty and administrators to keep Learning In Style going. Most are Sisters of St. Joesph while some aren’t, but they take pains to avoid making a distinction. “We don’t say Sister because there are so many religions here. We say Teacher. That’s what we all have in common,” says Teacher Judy Madigan, CSJ. The teachers at LIS are mostly former elementary school teachers. Knowing how to teach reading is essential. They don’t know the languages their students speak——which results, by default, in total immersion English classes.

The beginner’s class. “Light-ning,” says Teacher Martha Kieffer, CSJ, pointing out the word on a worksheet. “What is…light-ning?” a Somali man asks. Immediately, three Somalis at the end of the table begin to chatter in their native tongue, trying to explain the concept to each other. Students helping students isn’t just allowed , it’s encouraged. Teacher Martha colors in the lightning on the line drawing with a yellow crayon. “Oooh,” they all say, as they begin to understand. The sound of the word, the letters, the drawing, and the real life event suddenly make sense. “Light-ning, ” they exclaim. Over and over, “Light-ning, light-ning, light-ning.”

The intermediate class. Today the students in this class take turns speaking out loud. They explain in English what they used to do for a living in their native countries as well as what they do now. Their stories have a certain poignant uniformity. Bus driver, now janitor. Nurse, now janitor. Chocolate maker, now janitor. Teacher, now janitor. The last to speak is Patricia. She was a dental assistant in Mexico. She too is cleaning office buildings to feed her family. “But I am studying English very hard,” adds Patricia proudly. “I want to be a dental assistant again someday. ” Although the LIS teachers don’t know much about each student’s personal story, one that their teachers do know is that their students are eager to learn. “Before they come to this country,” says Sister Agnes, “they think the streets are paved with gold and we’re all rich. Then they get here and they say ‘Oh, you have to work very hard.” And that’s exactly what they do ——in spite of all the odds stacked against them.

10


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 11

SOUL An increase of 10% in the foreign-born share of the workforce lowers wages for native workers by only 1%.5

The teachers tell of students who work two or three jobs every day to provide for their families in a way they couldn’t have in their countries of origin. Those who come to afternoon classes most likely worked all night. They always seem to have some kind of trouble or strife in their lives, and yet they overcome it all to get to English class. “They’re so focused,” computer teacher Margaret Olson says. “And they always thank you when they leave the classroom.” Teacher Judy chimes in, “One woman told me the other day that she thanks Allah every day for this school.”

student is an older Somali man. He was well educated in his previous life, and he speaks four languages —— unfortunately, none of them is English. There’s a Latino man who speaks English very well, but he’s come to Learning In Style to learn to read and write it. At the fourth station, there’s a young African woman who has stopped in here for extra help after her regular English class. She’s absorbed in a child’s alphabet game. Teacher Margaret explains, “She’s learning her letters by listening to that song, you know, the one we learned as kids.” A- B - C - D…

Advanced class. The topic for today: understanding popular terms. There is polite attention as Teacher Margaret Karbon finishes explaining the term “or so. ” “I’ll be there in 10 minutes or so.” But she really gets the class’s attention when she asks how many have noticed signs that say “No Public Restroom.” “It doesn’t mean there is no bathroom,” she tells them. “It just means you have to be a customer to use it.” The relief on the students’ faces is obvious. Eating in restaurants has just become a more pleasant experience for them and their families.

All instruction at Learning In Style is offered free of charge to those in need of it. Teaching English is, of course, the main focus. But Math, Computer, and even Citizenship classes are also taught. The social worker on staff, Carol Kelley, helps students with the complexities of day-to-day living in their adopted country. She says her heart aches for the situations in which these newcomers find themselves. “They just want to do what they need to do to support their families,“ she says.

The Sisters keep the classes purposely small, so that the students can be given personal attention. Along with support, understanding and wisdom, the whole staff gives their students the utmost respect. As Sister Agnes says, “We should never forget, just because someone doesn’t have an education doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent or haven’t done all kinds of outstanding things in their life. They are, and they have.“

Social worker’s office. A young woman comes in to the office to get a form from Carol. In her best English, she tells Carol, “I’ll be in the chicken.” Carol is stumped for a moment. Then it dawns on her. “Do you mean kitchen?” she asks. “Oh, yes, chick-en…is cluck, cluck, cluck,” mimes the woman, both of them laughing now. “Right, that’s chicken, and that’s kitchen,” Carol says helpfully, pointing across the hall. “Now we’re communicating.” ✝

Computer class. Four computer stations occupied; four different life stories. One woman, in her 30s, is from Togo. A teacher in her native country, she’s learning quickly. One

11


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 12

PURPOSE “Illegals” contribute $20 billion to the Social Security system every year.9

A

bundance hidden in plain sight.

Sister Char Madigan, along with two other Sisters of St. Joseph, founded St. Joseph’s House in 1976. The old 5-bedroom house near the intersection of Portland and Franklin Avenues served as temporary shelter for neighbors in need. Because Phillips has long been the poorest neighborhood in Minneapolis, the need for affordable housing, as well as the shelters themselves, grew more permanent over the years. Drive by that corner today and you won’t believe your eyes. St. Joseph’s House has turned into Hope Community —150 rental housing units strong. Where there was once homelessness and hopelessness there is now a revitalized community.

population, but now at least a third of our community members are foreign-born people from Africa, South and Central America, Asia. Very few are European.

Q This must be a very sought-after neighborhood among the working poor. How do you decide who gets in?

A Anyone who qualifies and can pay the rent is welcome. But our units are always full and nobody ever wants to leave.

Q Do the locals and the immigrant people get along well?

Q What exactly does

A At first the immigrants and the native born

Hope Community consist of?

residents would get mad at each other. To try to help, we started Listening Sessions to bring the African-Americans and Somalis together. Once they started to talk calmly together, the locals realized the immigrants were their brothers and sisters. They began to understand they had common needs, hopes and values. They all very much wanted to have a good life. Everybody does.

A We have hundreds of residents now, living in 150 rental units ——old houses, prefab houses and new apartment buildings. All of it is subsidized by donations. Some qualifies as affordable housing; some doesn’t. It’s a mix. But we’re very aware of the concern over gentrification here. We want to continue to serve the people who live in this neighborhood.

Q What did you and the Hope staff learn from these talks?

Q And who are the people

A The more the staff and I listened the more

who live here?

we understood that these people don’t want to be taken care of. They want to be able to become who they are, to make their own way. They don’t want to freeload.

A They’re poor and working class people who can’t afford regular housing. The average income for a family living in Hope Community is $17,735. When we started St. Joseph’s House, it was mostly a Native American and African-American

12


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 13

PURPOSE The percentage of the U.S. population that is foreign born is lower now than it used to be.10

Q These people who come to this

Q What do you say to people who think

country are often from tribal, community-oriented cultures? Does that help them live cooperatively?

immigrants are a detriment to society?

A They are far from it. The immigrants in

community get together?

this neighborhood are the abundance hidden in plain sight. Just look. They’re turning this neighborhood around. My perception is that they work so hard. I was visiting one of our 4-plexes one day and I saw a chart on the wall. There were 8 beds in that building and they had assigned 3-hour shifts for each bed. They’re sleeping in shifts and working 2 or 3 jobs to get what they want. They have strong spiritual values. They’re generous and respectful.

A There’s a community center and an educational

Q Have you seen community members

A It’s so hard to judge, but I think so. “It takes a village to raise a child” is an African mantra, after all. And many of these people come from places where housing isn’t safe. So they’re very appreciative of our by-laws. If you’re caught with drugs, or causing violence, you’re out.

Q How often does the whole center in this building as well as another space just for kids in another building. We just had a Martin Luther King Day celebration here. Everyone contributed ethnic food. There was singing and dancing. Somehow they seem to understand each other in spite of the language barriers. You know, it’s not the staff that makes this place work. It’s the people in the community. I think it’s a tribute to them, a triumph of the human spirit.

become more and more American as time goes by?

A We see them long term. We see them getting citizenship, education, jobs, their own place, their kids getting married. The same as anybody, really. Maybe that’s the important thing. To see the other not as an other, but as someone just like you with the same deep drives, desires and values.

Q It’s remarkable what you’ve

Q You must have a unique perspective on what people go through to get to America.

accomplished here. It must be very satisfying to see.

A When I think of the grief that people come

A Well, no...it’s not what I did. It’s all of us

with, and the sorrow...that’s always been true of immigrants, you understand. You have to leave everything you know behind, everything you love, and you can’t go back. The older they are, the harder that is, I imagine.

together that have made Hope Community what it is. To me, coming together as a community is really the antidote to violence, despair and fear. It lifts up everybody. ✝

13


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 14

PERSPECTIVES As of January 2008, a backlog of more than a million citizenship applications from documented immigrants is waiting to be processed by the federal government.11

L

ives that begin again.

When we think about immigrants in America, we too often think about the struggles and the strife. We forget to think about the personalities not yet formed, the ideas not yet thought, the lives not yet lived. With the three stories here, we invite you to put aside the politics of immigration and think about the possibilities. Not about how far they’ve come, but about how far they can go.

Mee Moua, born in Laos in 1969, lived in a bamboo hut with a dirt floor. After the Vietnam war, Moua’s family fled to the Thai refugee camps. In 1978, they moved to the United States where Moua obtained undergraduate, master’s and law degrees. In 2003, Moua was elected to the Minnesota State Senate from District 67 in St. Paul. Now in her third term, she is the highest-ranking Hmong-American politician in the country. As the oldest child, I was the first to speak English in my family. I became the interpreter as my parents dealt with the courts and with doctors. I learned to navigate those systems. I saw firsthand how demoralizing and burdensome it was to the spirit and soul of my parents to have to be on public assistance. I saw them dig night crawlers and sell them to bait shops for 10 cents to take care of us kids. I think those of us who are first are the success generation. We have a deep burning desire to make something of ourselves because we owe it to our parents ——so that all their struggles will have been worthwhile. It gave me a passion for poverty policy work which eventually led me to politics. To go from a bamboo hut to these halls of marble and granite…yes, it is remarkable. If I do nothing else in my life, I’m proud I’ve done something to fulfill some of my parents’ hopes and aspirations. I come to my office everyday with a strong sense of purpose to represent my local and global community. Mee Moua, Minnesota State Senator

14


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 15

PERSPECTIVES According to the Department of Labor, there will be a shortage of 2 million workers in low-skilled jobs by 2010.12

Teresa Kim is among a handful of foreignborn Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her family came to St. Paul from Korea in the 1970s, sponsored by her sister. For the first few years, she did manual labor in factories, cleaned offices, worked in a hospital at night, all the while taking English language classes in the daytime —— the normal things immigrants do to get by. But in 1987, her beloved older sister passed away in Korea, and her death became a major life crisis for Teresa. Following my sister’s passing, I became very depressed and felt lost. But then I took a class and Sister Agnes was my teacher. I was very touched by her. When I found out she was a Sister of St. Joseph, that moment was my calling. I had looked for meaning for my life and prayed for it. And there it was. Even though I wasn’t Catholic and could barely speak English, I thought, wow, what a life that would be! It normally takes 7 to 10 years to become a Sister. But as an immigrant with all the usual barriers to overcome, even as I learned Catholicism and how to live in community, it took me 16 years to take my final vows. When there was conflict, I didn’t know if it was caused by language, culture or personality. Every day was a challenge. But now I’m a Sister working with the immigrants at Learning In Style, which is very rewarding to me. But here they tease me. They say now I speak Korean with an American accent.

Antonia Carrera’s name has been in the news twice. The first time was when she and her husband chased and held a driver who had struck 11-year-old Gladys Reyes and then dragged her for a quarter mile. The second was when she befriended Benjamin Ruiz, who survived a tragic accident, losing both legs and most of his arms. Ruiz was undocumented and has since been deported, but Antonia still worries about him. Maybe because Antonia, now fully documented, came here as an “illegal,” too. I came to California from Mexico with my aunt when I was 14. I didn’t know a word of English. I started working and taking classes. I got married, had kids, and moved to Minneapolis. Because life was hard for me, I like to help people when I can, especially Hispanic people. I enjoy seeing someone with a smile because of something I did. When I learned Benjamin was to be sent back to Mexico, it broke my heart. I remember his face when he told me he had to go back. I mean God is everywhere and for everybody —— for all people. He didn’t mean us to have different countries. But I love both my countries, I do, and I think both governments have a really big responsibility. Nobody wants to come here illegally; it’s too much danger. They just want to have a better life. Is that wrong? I guess we can’t change the world, but we can do a little bit. We can break the ice and start finding the good in each other.

Sister Teresa Kim, CSJ Antonia Carrera, Good Samaritan

15


66188_Text_Q7:#4 Possumus Layout Q6

3/31/08

12:32 PM

Page 16

VOIC ES About 75% of today’s immigrants have legal permanent visas. Of the 25% that are undocumented, 40% overstayed temporary visas.13

O

ne person’s story.

What does it mean to be an “illegal” immigrant in this country? It may mean exactly what you think it means: a clandestine and dangerous border crossing, constant threat of exposure, fear of deportation, years living in the shadows. But in reality, “illegal” simply means undocumented. And many undocumented immigrants don’t fit the above description at all. They are in this country without permission simply because of a bureaucratic snafu. One such person is Maria. That’s not her real name, but this is her real story.

explained that my father was a U.S. citizen and that makes me one, too. That is how it’s supposed to be. Automatic. I asked for a resident visa. But they said no. They told me to go away and wait. Wait for 2004 and then I would get my papers. My father came here and told them, but they didn’t care. I paid for a lawyer and he also told them I am an American citizen. But in 2008 I am still waiting. With no visa, I can’t go back to Mexico. They say I can’t work here either with no visa, but I have to. So I buy fake numbers--Social Security, green card. I have a good job now.

My grandparents were Mexicans, but they lived in the United States. My father was born in Wyoming. So I am the daughter of a United States citizen. He moved to Mexico and married my mother, a Mexican, and that’s where I was born. My parents both worked, but it was a hard time. In Mexico, you work and work and you don’t make enough to live. When I was 14, my aunt traveled to California and I went with her. I had a vacation visa. All legal. I went back home, but then I wanted to travel again. I visited relatives in Minnesota. I liked it here...the downtown was nice, I liked the way the snow looked on the pine trees. For the next 20 years or so, I crossed back and forth across the border many, many times with temporary visas. Finally, I got to be an age when I thought about the future, how I wanted to be able to support myself. And I decided this time I would stay in Minnesota forever and work. This was 9 years ago. When my temporary visa was expiring, I went to immigration and

It pays $6.25 an hour. I can make $46 dollars a day here. On that, I can live with my relatives and send money home to my parents, too. In Mexico, it would take 2 days to make $46, but it would cost more than that to live for 2 days. How are you going to do that? You can’t. I love my homeland, I do, but I blame the Mexican government. The politicians get everything and the people get nothing. So that’s why mexicanos come here, no matter how dangerous it is. We just want to work, to feed our families. We don’t think illegal or legal. We want to live a better life, that’s all. ✝

16


66188_CvrFlap_Q7:#4 Ft-Bk Cover & Flap Q4

3/31/08

12:36 PM

Page 2

WE CAN: Seeing The Future According to the Executive Summary of U.S. Population Projections: 2007- 2050 (Pew Research Center, February 2008), big changes are ahead for the U.S. population. By 2050:

“They had passed the bitter ordeal of leave-taking with friends and relations; they had looked for the last time on the graves of parents and children, gazed tenderly and affectionately on the well-remembered spots of their childhood, with feelings which no pen has ever yet or ever shall be able to describe. Some had left fathers and mothers, and sisters and brothers; some had left wives and young families, dependent on the mercies of a cold and callous world, who sustained themselves with the thought that, with God’s help, before long, they would be able to send the first remittance to cheer the desolate homes they had left forever.”

• the population of the U.S. will rise (from 296 million in 2005) to 436 million. 82% of the growth will be due to immigrants and their descendents. • 1 in 5 Americans will be immigrants compared with 1 in 8 in 2005. • the Latino population will triple to become 29% of the U.S. population. Blacks will remain at 13%, and Asians will rise from 5% to 9%. • non-Latino whites will become a minority at 47% of the population.

Read More About It We recommend these three books on the subject of human migration: Global Families by Meg Wilkes Karraker, The Middle of Everywhere by Mary Pipher and Tribe of Women by Connie Bickman. For additional resources, visit www.csjministriesfoundation.org.

Peter McCorry, Irish nationalist and newspaper editor, 1870

Possumus is Latin for we can. It sums up the drive and willpower that identifies the Sisters of St. Joseph as one of the most influential non-profit organizations working in Minnesota in the past 150 years..

FOOTNOTES 1 James P. Smith and Barry Edmonston, The New Americans: Economic, Demographic and Fiscal Effects of Immigration, 1997. 2 ”Rethinking Gains from Immigration: Theory and Evidence from the U.S.,” Giovanni Peri, 2005, Univ. Of California-Davis. 3 “Myths & Facts in the Immigration Debate,” American Immigration Lawyers Assn., 2003. 4,5,6 Immigration In Minnesota: Discovering Common Ground, The Minneapolis Foundation, October 2004. 7 “Questioning Immigration Policy—Can We Afford To Open Our Arms?” Friends Committee on National Legislation, 1996. 8 2005 Economic Report of the President. Government Publishing Office, 2005. 9 Stuart Anderson, The Contribution of Illegal Immigration to the Social Security System. National Foundation for American Policy, 2005. 10 U.S. Census Data. 11 Report from The Associated Press, Jan. 2008. 12 The U.S. Department of Labor. 13 Department of Homeland Security.

S

haring the richness of the world.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet can’t take care of the strangers among us without the support of friends and neighbors like you who believe in this mission. Sometimes that support is physical or emotional. Sometimes it’s spiritual. And sometimes it’s financial. If you think what we’re doing to help new immigrants is important to our way of life here in Minnesota, please consider supporting us. Maybe you can’t be on the front lines of the immigrants’ struggle for justice, but you can write a check. Maybe you can’t volunteer your time to help an immigrant family learn English, or settle in a new home, or learn the job skills they need to survive, but you can open your wallet. Maybe you can’t dedicate your life to “knowing the heart of a stranger,” but you can give a generous donation to the Sisters of St. Joseph. Let your gift be an acknowledgement that we are all one people, looking out for each other in a turbulent world. To make a donation to support the programs of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, please visit www.csjministriesfoundation.org Or send your check in the envelope provided to: Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province Ministries Foundation 1884 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105

Remember, you don’t have to be a saint or a hero, or be rich, to do enormous good. You just have to be willing. Thank you. Visit us on the web at www.csjministriesfoundation.org for updates on previous articles you read in Possumus.

17

Move toward a world of hope, reconciliation, and justice for all people. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Achieve universal primary education. Promote gender equality and empower women. Reduce child mortality. Improve maternal health. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Ensure environmental sustainability. Develop a global partnership for development. From the United Nations Millennium Development Goals

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation www.csjministriesfoundation.org


66188_CvrFlap_Q7:#4 Ft-Bk Cover & Flap Q4

3/31/08

12:36 PM

Page 1

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province Ministries Foundation 1884 Randolph Ave. Saint Paul, MN 55105

Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID St. Paul, MN Permit No.1990

POSSUMUS

excerpt from

Prayer for Migrants and Refugees Lord Jesus, help us by your grace, To banish fear from our hearts, that we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister; To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity, while responding to their many needs; To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us; To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring.

S P R I N G 2008 H U M A N M I G R AT I O N

We Can

Providing quality to build on for over half a century. Since 1949, James Steele Construction has focused on the highest quality workmanship in the construction of commercial, institutional, industrial and residential buildings, including extraordinary projects like this church. We

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

are very proud of our skilled craftsmanship as well the special relationships we’ve forged with our clients. One such relationship is with The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. We recognize the impassioned work the Sisters

Please tear off and use this bookmark as a companion in your reading and prayers.

do and we gladly support their network of help and hope for those most in need.

James Steele Construction Co. 1410 Sylvan St., St. Paul, MN 55117

651-448-6755 www.jamessteeleconstruction.com

A Publication of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation

Possumus - Spring 2008  

Spring 2008 Human Migration

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you