Ministry Story – By: Sr. Joann Fleischaker OP

It is hard to believe, but it has been one year since I returned to live in Chicago after forty years in Detroit, California, and Oklahoma. It has been a very interesting experience to get used to the traffic, people, streets, directions, applying for things, etc. The last 21 years have been in a town of 600!

However, it was a gradual change over the last five years, since I changed Chapters from the Dominican West to the Dominican Midwest. At Chapter and Mission Group meetings I heard of the chapter initiative regarding immigrants and immigration and all of the other ministries of our Sisters. I decided early that I really wanted to be involved. Sister Donna Kustusch and I were in the same Rio Grande Mission Group until she moved to Chicago and I knew of her passion for the people caught in the immigration difficulties.

Since October of 2015, after the excellent training given to all volunteers at our Aquinas Literacy Center, I have been working with a delightful young man from Mexico. He came to the United States in September and has a degree in engineering from Mexico. Guess what he is doing 40-plus hours here in the states? He is washing and parking cars at a restaurant in Little Italy! He is very motivated to improve his English. He knows the grammar and can read the language, but speaking is quite a challenge. He is improving every day, though, and has even learned about things in the U.S. such as the Statue of Liberty, Hollywood, cowboys, blue jeans, Henry Ford, Mother’s and Father’s Day, April Fools Day, etc. He also shares this information with his father and brother at home. I know that we need more volunteer tutors since there is a waiting list of students. The next training is set for Friday, August 26th, 2016 from 6:00 PM until 9:00 PM, as well as Saturday, August 27th from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

I have also been introduced to several other sectors of the immigration ministry. I met with Sr. Mary Ann Penner at the Marie Joseph Hospitality House at the Chicago Theological Union (CTU) in Hyde Park and I am volunteering when needed on weekends, when staff is not present. Each time is an adventure because sometimes the children are active and folks are cooking, eating, doing laundry, cleaning, and at other times things are very quiet and one is able to read, email, write, mend, or knit!

I have joined Dot Dempsey, Anne Guinan, Noreen George, and Jean Kelly for the rosary for those being deported in Broadview on Friday mornings – an event that was begun ten years ago by some Mercy Sisters, Brothers, lawyers, and other immigrant activists. It is interfaith and on one Friday a month the prayer includes reflections by other Christian groups, Muslims, and those of the Jewish faith. All in all, it is a wonderful experience – very sad – but always hopeful for compassionate, just immigration reform. Afterwards, we Adrians always go to Dunkin Donuts for some fellowship and reflection!

One other thing that I am trying to do regarding immigration is to attend the monthly meetings of the Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants. I must admit that at the first meeting all I could offer to the group was a thought: “This is a very high-powered group!” But I am learning much about Chicago and the immigration issues here on a local and state level.

I did search for the Indians in Chicago and I finally found the Kateri Center, which is housed at the Convent in St. Benedict Parish on Irving Park on Chicago’s north side. They have a Sunday Mass there on the second and fourth Sunday of each month at 11:00 AM and they welcome anyone to these celebrations with a potluck following Mass.

Thank you to all for your gracious welcome to me – to Chicago, my hometown!

Sr. Joann Fleischaker OP


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