Our genesis in ministry was the diocesan diaconate program project to sponsor refugee Vietnamese refugee families during the era when “boat people” were escaping from Vietnam. The program sponsored a family of 13 and, as fate would have it, a mix up in scheduling at the retreat center where they were staying, landed that family of 13 at our home for 4 weeks. That was it. We were hooked and never looked back. From the late 70’s through 1999, we sponsored people from Vietnam, Russia, Poland, and Kosovo. We helped other immigrants from Albania, Central American countries, Africa. We have indirectly helped well over 500 families and their relatives come to Worcester.
Because we had a relationship with these families we not only helped them resettle, but we became involved in all the problems families experience. We helped them get into schools, find doctors, find jobs, find lawyers when their children got in trouble with the law, appeared before probation hearings, baptized their babies, married them and buried them.
After about 5 years we started holding citizenship classes for those who wanted to become citizens. The current immigration services and citizenship program developed out of these early beginnings. We currently help approximately 100 newcomers per year navigate through the immigration system with such services as obtaining U.S. citizenship, assistance with forms, sponsoring their relatives to the U.S., dealing with problems, referrals to and help with legal assistance when indicated.
In 2006, the Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope entered into collaboration with Notre Dame Health Care’s Educational Bridge Center to provide immigration services to employees of 18 health care facilities in the Central MA coalition called Intercare Alliance. Together we have helped 30 immigrants obtain U.S. citizenship. We have been joined in this collaboration by the Marie Anne Center of Worcester which also serves low-income, immigrant families with multi-level English classes and program for school aged children. Together our three agencies support each other’s work and missions within the Church and provide significant resources for our area’s immigrant communities.