Regardless of your religion or the location of your neighborhood, chances are very likely that your life has been influenced in some way through the ministries of Catholic Sisters. Why? Because Catholic Sisters throughout history have been dedicated in their service to all persons – regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or economic status. Many of our nation’s hospitals, schools and social service agencies would not exist today if it were not for the courage of faith-filled women who founded them over 100 years ago.
A Legacy of Caring for the Oppressed
The rich history and heritage of the Sister of Charity of Cincinnati contains many inspiring stories of innovative, courageous and deeply compassionate Sisters. One of those Sisters is now in the process of becoming a Saint. Sister Blandina Segale left Cincinnati in 1872 to brave the Santa Fe Trail. As a young woman in her twenties, her experiences grew from teaching children in small adobe schoolhouses across Colorado and New Mexico, to caring for the sick and the dying that others had rejected, to defending the rights of the regions’ Native Americans and Mexicans. When Sister Blandina returned to Cincinnati, she and her sister Justina Segale, also a Sister of Charity, co-founded Santa Maria Institute in 1897 to care for the poor and needy Italian immigrants in the inner-city.
A Nation of Immigrants – Past and Present
Today, the work of Sister Blandina and Sister Justina continues through the assistance that Santa Maria Community Services provides to immigrant families in Cincinnati’s Price Hill neighborhoods. Many of our Sisters continue to devote their ministry to immigrant families, including Sister Margarita Brewer, who has assisted numerous immigrants and English language learners in Cincinnati and beyond. As a native of Panama, Sister Margarita personally understands the challenges of immigrant families. Through her work with the English Language Learning Foundation, more than $55,000 in scholarships have been awarded to ensure that students from immigrant families have opportunities to achieve their dreams through higher education. SC Ministry Foundation was pleased to be one of the sponsors of the 2016 event that recognized these deserving students.
These young adults will have the opportunity to contribute to our neighborhoods and our region much like the experience of our ancestors from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Africa, and many other areas around the world.
As young professionals, they will have the opportunity to become our future entrepreneurs and innovators, as well as community volunteers, parish members and welcoming neighbors.
However, more support is needed to ensure that immigrant families are welcomed into our communities, our places of work and our places of worship.
A Nation Strengthened by Diversity
Contrary to the “sound bites” that dominate mass media, immigrants have strengthened our economy and our communities. According to reports from The Partnership for a New American Economy:
- Immigrants have added approximately $3.7 trillion to housing wealth nationally. With the rising trend of baby boomers who are downsizing, immigration reform could alleviate the shortage of home buyers. [source: renewoureconomy.org]
- By the year 2050, the number of Americans over age 65 is projected to double the 43 million seniors in 2012. This fact, coupled with the increased educational attainment of young Americans and decreasing birth rates will leave a significant gap in the nation’s workforce. Immigration reform could bridge this gap since most immigrants are of prime working age. [source: renewoureconomy.org]
The report, “New Americans in Cincinnati,” produced by The Partnership for a New American Economy with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, provides local data:
- In 2012, immigrants in metro Cincinnati accounted for 3.5% of the population, yet held more than $1.5 billion in spending power;
- Tax contributions from immigrants in 2012 totaled over $189 million in state and local tax dollars;
- Immigrants represent 6.8% of the high-tech workforce, and 11.3% of all information technology workers.
Immigrants are also devoted to faith, family and community. In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, a growing number of Latino students are contributing to classrooms, with a 68% increase in Latino enrollment across 91 Catholic schools since 2011.
Sisters of Charity – Faithful Advocates for Justice
As a congregation, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati strongly advocate for change in our nation’s unjust immigration policies, as stated in their Public Statement on Immigration, which supports the 2003 Pastoral Letter Concerning Migration from the Catholic Bishops of Mexico and the United States. Thirteen years have passed since the Bishops’ call for reform, and yet the message remains critical:
“Migrants and immigrants are in our parishes and in our communities. In both our countries, we see much injustice and violence against them and much suffering and despair among them because civil and church structures are still inadequate to accommodate their basic needs.
We judge ourselves as a community of faith by the way we treat the most vulnerable among us. The treatment of migrants challenges the consciences of elected officials, policymakers, enforcement officers, residents of border communities, and providers of legal aid and social services, many of whom share our Catholic faith.”
– Excerpt from Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of Mexico and the U.S.
Sisters stand in solidarity with immigrants, and are committed to ensuring their God-given dignity. They strive to fulfill the words of Christ, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:40).
Sisters advocate and pray for the women, men and children who seek asylum in our nation – a nation which was founded on the concept that all are created equal, with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
SC Ministry Foundation recognizes the contributions of all of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Catholic Sisters with other congregations, and the faithful lay people who partner with them to support the vulnerable immigrant population.
We challenge our grantees and partners across the nation to join us in daring to risk a caring response, and in advocating for our immigrant sisters and brothers in Christ.