Sister Kathy Crowley’s education as a clinical social worker is grounded in a commitment to social justice which began when she started working in the Archdiocesan Human Rights Office in St. Louis and Bread for the World in Washington, DC. This commitment deepened with her being missioned to Peru and serving there with our Peruvian sisters, then on to Los Angeles where she worked in a county hospital in the pediatric intensive care unit. Sister Kathy’s service continues now in St. Louis where she teaches English to the immigrant population and volunteers her services at MICA, an immigration law firm begun by one of our CSJ associates.
by Kathy Crowley, CSJ
I have had the extraordinary opportunity of teaching English to a 50+-year-old woman from Afghanistan named Sonia. Classes would take place in her home where she lived with her husband, two adult children and a son and daughter in their teenage years. It became very obvious to me that everyone in the family seemed to be progressing quite well in adjusting to their new home in St. Louis. All except for the mother. Though very intelligent, she never had had the opportunity to go to school, having spent her time mothering children (nine in total), taking care of the home and generally doing for others and not spending much time on herself.
Now, however, she has the opportunity to learn and has begun to spend time tackling a new language! And try she does! Through a tutoring program that provides the books and my training, this woman found herself beginning to speak in English, answering questions such as her name, her address and what country she is from. She began writing ever so slowly the alphabet, writing her name, her husband’s name and her nine children’s names. And doing so with great humility and humor!!
And how did Sonia change me? Similar to my experience when I lived in Perú, we receive so much more than we give. I learned not just about how an Afghani family lives, what foods they eat, how they arrange their furniture, why they leave their shoes outside on the porch and how marriages are performed, I also received a warm welcome from each family member when I entered the home. In short, I felt very comfortable being with an Afghani family of the Muslim faith.
I wish my short story could end right here, but, unfortunately, it does not. I mentioned in the beginning that Sonia has nine children, five of whom came with her and her husband five years ago. Four adult children are still in Afghanistan. Because her daughter was to give birth and family is so important to Afghani people, she returned during the summer of 2021 to visit and help her daughter as she gave birth. With the change of government, she is unable to return to the States. The future is unknown but she always musters up a cheerful, “Hello Teacher!” when she calls home to her family, and I happen to be there.
I remember Sonia each day and ask God to bless her and her family and keep them safe. I ask you to join me in this prayer.
In line with our commitment to defend the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, our new blog series “Our Border Brothers and Sisters,” we present the stories that our sisters and associates who have had border experiences would like to share. We are grateful to them for their generosity. It is our hope that these stories will open us to seeing and understanding our brothers and sisters in greater depth because, as Colum McCann once said: “You can’t hate someone when you know their story.”