Honduran immigrant Blanca Guerrero couldn’t read, write or speak English beyond saying “Good morning,” when she arrived at the Maura Clarke-Ita Ford (MCIF) Center in 1994.
Today, she is a fourth-grade teacher in the N.Y.C. public school system and holds two master’s degrees in education.
Founded by Sister Mary Burns, S.C., in 1993, the Bushwick-based MCIF Center provides educational opportunities, including English as a Second Language, job training, computer and financial literacy and citizenship classes for immigrant families.
“Sister Mary (Burns) told me, ‘You can do it,’ and I did,” said Guerrero. “They taught me everything. Thanks to MCIF, I am what I am.”
Guerrero and center representatives joined Sister Mary and other Sisters of Charity, Halifax, as they marked the 90th anniversary of the congregation’s presence in New York at the Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston, Oct. 25.
In honor of this anniversary, the Halifax Sisters are donating $10,000 to each of three ministries in which Sisters presently serve, namely the MCIF Center; St. John’s Bread and Life, a soup kitchen in Bedford-Stuyvesant; and Queens-based LifeWay Network, which addresses human trafficking.
Sister Mary, who now serves on MCIF’s board of directors, said this donation will make a huge impact on the services the center is able to provide.
“The support we’re getting for the Sisters of Charity is meaningful to me,” said Sister Mary, “and it means the education is going to continue. The tradition is going to continue.”
Next summer, the MCIF Center is slated to merge with Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, which was founded by Mercy Sister Mary Franciscus in 1983 with a similar mission of educating immigrants in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn-based St. John’s Bread and Life began with a sit-down soup kitchen and has expanded in recent years to include a mobile soup kitchen, online food pantry system and nutrition counseling as well as medical, legal and human services.
Anthony Butler, executive director, said the $10,000 grant is “simply amazing.”
“It’ll go toward feeding the 800,000 folks we’ll feed this year,” said Butler.
He’s grateful not just for the monetary donation but the ongoing efforts of 12 Halifax Sisters who volunteer part-time with the program.
“It’s inspirational to have the Sisters remind us why we’re doing what we do,” he said.
The third grant recipient, LifeWay Network, under Sister Joan Dawber, S.C., executive director, provides safe housing for individuals, largely women, who have been trafficked and offers education about trafficking to the general public. Information sessions have been offered in diocesan parishes and schools so spread awareness.
In distributing the grants, Sister Roberta Kerins, S.C., of the congregation’s leadership team, explained that the Sisters are aware of the needs in today’s world and want to support the ministries through which the Sisters aid God’s people.
“It’s all about us being in this together,” she said.