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Catholic Charities - Diocese of Joliet

By Maggie Snow

Building a New Life in the U.S.

Maria, 40, lived in Mexico until last year. She came to the United States with her husband, teenage son, and five-year-old daughter.

This family had not planned to move to the U.S. In fact, they loved their life in Mexico. Maria had studied communications and had a flourishing career in radio and television. Several years ago, she also began participating in local politics and served in several different important roles in her community.

Her husband worked for a healthcare organization and they had a comfortable family income. The family owned their home, had a chauffeur, housekeeper, and a caretaker for the children. Life was peaceful and everyone was content. Maria could never have imagined how their lives would abruptly change.

The city that she and her family had always loved was becoming dangerous. One day, Maria’s son was the victim of an attempted kidnapping as he left school. This was the breaking point. She and her husband made the painful decision that they could no longer live there.

Fearing for their safety, they quickly fled, leaving all of their possessions behind, including their furniture and a brand-new car. Maria and her husband brought their family to the Chicago area with the intention of staying just a few months as they waited for their state in Mexico to become safer. However, they have made the decision to stay.

Maria’s family faced new challenges after arriving in Illinois. In order to make ends meet, they cleaned houses and worked in restaurants. Their struggles multiplied when the pandemic began shortly after they arrived. Jobs were scarce. Last spring, Maria’s elderly mother passed away, and the family felt a wave of grief on top of their many other struggles. Remembering that time, Maria says, “Life became a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross).”

It was nearly unbearable.     

As the family fell behind on their rent, Maria spoke of her troubles with her landlord and was given a list of community resources, which included Catholic Charities, Diocese of Joliet. She reached out and was connected with Catholic Charities’ Immigrant Support Program.

She said that her life changed when she met her case manager.

“For my family, she is someone who has rescued us in the middle of the storm,” said Maria, whose name has been changed to protect her anonymity. “She has always been kind and guided us to the help we needed. When I met her in person, I cried from the gratitude I felt, and I wanted to hug her, even though I couldn’t because of the pandemic.”

Catholic Charities was able to help Maria’s family with rental assistance for the months that they had fallen behind in rent. They also received food and gas cards, and Christmas gifts from the agency’s Holiday Outreach Program. Catholic Charities also provided referrals for legal assistance, immigration guidance, and anything else the family needed.

Once the family’s situation was stabilized, Maria was able to find the success she was seeking in the U.S. She described her intense job search, which resulted in her now working parttime for a radio station, using her voice to connect with the migrant community.

She spreads awareness about the assistance that is available that many are unaware of. It is Maria’s mission to help people overcome fear of applying for help due to immigration status. The job is a perfect fit.

“Working on this radio show has been a great blessing,” she said.

This strong woman has goals, which include expanding her broadcasting career in the U.S. by renting studio space and inviting community organizations to share their messages. She also wants to spread the word that Catholic Charities can help those who are in need.

“Catholic Charities is a representative of Christ on earth,” she said. “They are people who help those who need it, especially immigrants.”

Catholic Charities’ Immigrant Support Program provides advocacy, support, and community outreach for individuals who need emergency services and immigration-related support. This program is available throughout the Diocese of Joliet. For more information, please call (630) 519-6533.  

To learn more about the programs and services provided by Catholic Charities, Diocese of Joliet, visit catholiccharitiesjoliet.org.