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June 21, 2009

Improving how we serve immigrants

By Joyce Duriga


Catholic immigrants are helping other Catholic immigrants through the new St. Toribio Romo Center housed at Assumption Parish, 2434 S. California Ave., in the city’s Little Village neighborhood.

The center is one of two planned immigrant centers to improve the way the Catholic community serves those immigrating here from foreign lands. Parish and archdiocesan officials saw a need to focus and streamline the various services being offered by parishes in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods and developed the center model.

“The Catholic Church wants to improve how to serve immigrants,” said director Marco Lopez during a blessing ceremony for the center on May 20. The ceremony coincided with the anniversary of Romo’s canonization in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. Romo is a patron of immigrants (see sidebar).

Lopez, who was previously director of catechesis at Holy Family Parish in Inverness, will start work in July.

The goal of the office is to improve collaboration in the Catholic community in Pilsen and Little Village. The area includes 12 archdiocesan parishes and many new immigrants.

Lopez said he will spend the first few months connecting with people in the parishes and the community who work with immigrants. In the fall months he expects to start some programs.

The purpose is simple. It’s “helping immigrants and their families integrate into parish life, community and society,” Lopez said, adding that evangelization is also a priority.

For new immigrants, one of the first places they trust is the church. “They trust the priest, the parish and the men and women who work there,” said Lopez. So parishes are a likely spot to offer resources such as language classes.

Elena Segura from the archdiocesan Office for Peace and Justice said the idea for the immigrant center came from the U.S. bishops Justice for Immigrants Campaign. The campaign (see has three main goals: to educate Catholics on the benefits of immigrants to the local community; to advocate for immigration law reform; and to provide services to immigrants when needed.

It’s taken more than two years to get the center up and running and another is planned for Polish immigrants.

She called the centers ministries of accompaniment. They are spaces for collaboration, unity and “to see our communities as one,” Segura said.