Catholic CHarities Hosts Successful ESL Program

Photo: Volunteer Carl Piehl, student Gerardo Rico and Catholic Charities of North Louisiana employee Guiel Hausen.

It’s Thursday, October 2 and it’s the heaviest rain of the year, water pouring down in torrents. Yet in the midst of the downpour they file into the classroom, drenched but determined to learn English. The ESL classes (English as a Second Language) are sponsored by Catholic Charities of North Louisiana and are held twice weekly at Christ the King Parish in Bossier City. Three levels of classes, basic, intermediate and advanced, are taught by dedicated volunteers to approximately 50 Hispanic immigrants.

Who are these people braving the storm to come and attend the evening classes? They are your cleaning lady, your painter, your landscaper, your roofer, your waitress. They are your neighbors! They are valiant people who have endured unimaginable hardships to come here. Their stories will break your heart and need to be told. Why? Because they are our neighbors and fellow worshipers. Their children are the classmates of our children and since all of us are children of God, they are our brothers and sisters. They bring with them a rich cultural heritage, strong family and spiritual values and an unsurpassed work ethic. They add enormously to that diverse amalgam that is the strength of American society.

Our mission at Catholic Charities is to share Christ’s love with the poor and vulnerable and to offer quality social services without discrimination and in accordance with Catholic social teachings. Our credo comes from Matthew 25 which instructs us to welcome the stranger. In this case “the stranger” is the immigrant who has risked so much and in many cases suffered hardship, deprivation and indignity. The legal services our immigration program provides coupled with teaching English are two of the best ways for us to serve the immigrant community and to ensure their success.

In addition to offering ESL and legal services, Catholic Charities also offers a Citizenship Preparation Course for those who have the opportunity to become American citizens. We have had eight graduates of this course who have passed their Citizenship Exams and an additional four who are working towards citizenship.  One client, Gerardo Rico, has worked diligently to accomplish his goal of becoming a citizen. When he arrived in the U.S. he was working 80 hours a week just to take care of his wife and two sons. He purchased self-study programs and taught himself as much as he could. Finally he was able to take the time to attend classes and slowly but surely his English improved.  Earlier this year he started studying for the Citizenship Test with the help of the Citizenship Preparation Course at Catholic Charities. He passed with flying colors!

by Carl Piehl

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