Catholic Charity

Letter From Baltimore

I heard the latest twist in the story at the end of our two hours of teaching English at the Catholic mission.  We volunteers taught the Latin American students—six simultaneous classes at different levels—in one big, noisy room.  The noise of our lessons subsided when Sister clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention then started making announcements in English for the volunteers.  She wanted us to know that the little mission sold books at cost: picture dictionaries in English and Spanish, grammar texts.  We shouldn’t think that none of our students could afford them because many of them had jobs.

One of the volunteers, a woman of 65, sauntered over.  “They’re staying,” she muttered, glancing surreptitiously at the beautiful Colombian woman of 35 who stood ten feet behind me.

On the other side of the room, another staff member, a woman from Guatemala, took over the announcements, this time in Spanish for the students.  Johns Hopkins, she said, had a gynecology clinic with Spanish-speaking staff and a sliding scale.  Many of the recent immigrants weren’t used to having regular gynecological exams, but they were a good idea.

“Do they have permanent visas yet?” I whispered.  The last I’d heard, the Colombian woman’s husband had been in the hands of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Miami. ...

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