Immigration - Advocacy
School Sisters of Notre Dame minister in a variety of ways with immigrants and migrants, including in the area of advocacy. On this page, we share the stories and work of Sisters Sue Menshek, Josephe Marie Flynn, Jan Gregorcich, Paulissa Jirik and Rosemary Howarth and student Alma Ramirez.
An accredited representative of the U.S. Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals, Sister Sue Menshek, SSND, works closely with the director of the Bernardo Kohler Center, which provides legal services to Texas immigrants, and two local lawyers who do pro bono immigration work in Austin, Texas.
Much of Sister Sue’s work is with Violence Against Women Act cases, as well as U Visas, which give victims of certain crimes temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States, and T Visas, which allow certain victims of human trafficking and immediate family members to remain and work temporarily in the United States.
“In my current position, I am doing more with unaccompanied minors,” Sister Sue said. “The children we serve are usually from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico and a few from other countries of Central and South America.”
She has worked with migrants since 1966, in Minnesota and Texas. Her first experience was with pastoral/social work in a parish in central Minnesota and various diocesan positions, including one in the border town of Brownsville, Texas, on the Rio Grande.
“During these years I also worked with committees to bring about changes in institutional injustice in housing, health care and social services and education,” Sister Sue said.
In 2006, Sister Josephe Marie Flynn, SSND, co-founded the Justice for Immigrants Campaign and is now the leader of the campaign and an Archdiocese of Milwaukee Speaker on immigration reform. “As author of Rescuing Regina: The Battle to Save a Friend from Deportation and Death, I do presentations nationwide,” said Sister Josephe Marie.
Sister Jan Gregorcich, SSND, works with the Franciscans of Perpetual Adoration for their Global Awareness through Experience (GATE), spirituality of solidarity programs in Guatemala and El Salvador.
“After people from the states have an awareness of the reality of living conditions in another country they are so much more understanding and accepting of the immigrants in their own country," Sister Jan said. "I’m also on our SSND Shalom, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation committee and work with Marquette and Mount Mary students in their service/community learning along with parishes who have a Faith and Friendship relationship.
“My ministry is important to me because Love Cannot Wait. One of the best ways to experience and learn from a reality other than one's own is to be there - the gift of presence is Eucharist, is solidarity, is hope.”
Sister Paulissa Jirik, SSND, shows support for the immigration issue by faithfully calling or emailing senators, representatives and others whenever there is an alert for Taking Action.
Sister Rosemary Howarth, SSND, works on staff at the Jesuit Refugee Service - UK in London with destitute asylum seekers as the coordinator of the Companion Programme. She compassionately listens and empowers the asylum seekers to grow in self-confidence at a chaotic time in their lives.
Alma Ramirez is a Caroline Scholar at SSND-sponsored Mount Mary University in Milwaukee. She shares the SSND commitment to immigration reform and is working to educate her university community.
“After learning of the struggles that undocumented young immigrants face, I decided to research the recent executive order by President Obama, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA," Alma said. "I quickly learned that DACA was at risk of being repealed if candidate Mitt Romney took seat in the white house, so I made a presentation on DACA and the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM Act) to educate the Mount Mary community. Now, I am interning at a local law firm to then attend law school and become an immigration lawyer."