You are here

The Joy of serving the Hispanic community through social services in Alabama

Author: 
Gabriela Ramirez, MGSpS

I am originally from Mexico.   I chose religious life as my vocation when I joined the Missionaries Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit in 1988.  I have worked in different ministries throughout the United States but my biggest challenge has been working in Social Services here in Alabama where Hispanics and Catholics are minorities. 

I started ministering here for the first time in Social Services in August 2010 and I cannot count the blessings that I have received serving in this community.  At the beginning I was not sure what kind of job I was supposed to do.  When I interviewed for this position, my boss asked me a wise question, “Do you love the poorest ones?”  My answer of course was, “Yes, I do.”  Then, he hired me.

“Yes, I do” is still my answer.  Each day when I go to work I make mental plans for the day.  However, as the needs of the poorest ones present themselves, myplans go to the side and my priority changes from my plans to the needs presented.  I have learned to take away the preconceived structures and methods my other positions demanded because  everyday is different at La Casita.  It is an adventure, full of surprises.  I am still learning to be flexible and to allow God to do His job because definitively He is in charge. 

I am very grateful to God for the opportunity that He has given me to serve Him while assisting the most vulnerable people here in Alabama.  People come to La Casita asking us for financial aid to cover basic needs , but overall they come hoping for someone to listen to them with compassion and kindness because they have experienced a lot of discrimination.  The lack of language, proper documents and knowledge of the US system puts local immigrants in a very difficult position when trying to find a job.

Through their suffering they develop resilience that helps them to survive in this country.  I admire them because in the midst of their struggles they have not lost their hope and faith.  They have become my teacher, causing me to see their reality with new eyes.   Now we both know that things are going to get better.

Sometimes I search for God in church, in my personal prayer life, in the Bible, in nature but He has been showing me that He is present in the poor and humble people that greet me everyday.  He is giving me the gift to have an encounter with Him with each person that comes to ask for help.  Sadly, sometimes I am too busy to realize it.

From experience I have learned that it is not enough to give someone a fish, but we need to teach them how to fish.  To improve their dignity ad quality of life, we opened an Immigration Program and an Adult Education Program working with the Mexican Consulate.  These programs provide an opportunity for the immigrant to finish the education that could not be completed in their country of origin because they came to the United States seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families.  These educational opportunities have met some of the needs that we encounter.  Along with faith in God, education is an additional answer to improve their lives. 

A learning experience for me has been working with a team of other denominations and various social agencies to fight for human rights, especially after the HB56 Anti-immigration Law.  Together we can be more visible and have a stronger voice supporting and defending the dignity of each person.

I have been very happy serving in La Casita.  God has been so good to me and to the people that we serve.  We are not alone.  We have a lot of volunteers and friends who donate their time to help us make the Kingdom of God a reality through our services to this community.