From Dominican Republic to dream job — How faith led me to help immigrants at Catholic Charities

Encounter at Catholic Charities


Ever dreamt of visiting the Gateway to the West?

That was me, a young man from the Dominican Republic, raised next to the vibrant border with Haiti.

Growing up in a Catholic family, service to others was woven into the very fabric of our lives.

Little did I know, my own journey would lead me to serve new neighbors right here in Missouri, at Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri.

In 1999, with a heart full of hope and a suitcase full of dreams, I arrived in St. Louis to study Medical Laboratory Technology at Forest Park Community College.

Stepping off the plane, the world seemed to stretch out before me, vast and unfamiliar.

The language barrier loomed large, and during those first few months, I truly missed the comfort of Sunday Mass at the Nuestra Señora del Rosario.

Thankfully, fellow parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe  welcomed me with open arms, their kindness a balm to my homesickness.

 Sharing familiar traditions of our faith, they helped me navigate the challenges of a new culture.

There were moments of loneliness and culture shock.

The sights, sounds, and even the pace of life felt foreign.

But during these struggles, my faith remained a constant source of strength.

Praying the Rosary in the quiet of my dorm room brought comfort, and the teachings of Christ — to love thy neighbor — became a guiding light.

I found solace in volunteering at a local soup kitchen, surrounded by those less fortunate.

Witnessing their struggles mirrored the stories I heard from back home, and it ignited a passion within me to serve the most vulnerable.

After completing my studies, I returned to the Dominican Republic to serve my community.

Putting my skills to use in a small medical laboratory at my beloved Parish, Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) in Dajabon, felt like a homecoming.

But in 2003, love brought me back to Missouri.

This time to build a life with the woman who would become my wife.

We raised our beautiful family here, and I continued working in the medical field, feeling a deep sense of purpose in caring for others.

However, in October 2021, God had other plans.

A calling to serve the most vulnerable pulled me towards Catholic Charities’ mission.

Here, I found a way to combine my faith with my desire to help others, using the experiences of my own journey to guide those just starting theirs.

Today, as a DOJ Accredited Representative, it brings immense joy to see the hope rekindle in people’s eyes.

Many arrive at our office exhausted, overwhelmed, some even fleeing unimaginable hardship.

Just like me years ago, they yearn for a safe haven, a chance to build a better future for themselves and their families.

The stories they share are etched with resilience and a deep love for their families.

This month, we celebrate the rich contributions of immigrants.

At Catholic Charities, I see this spirit every day.

Many immigrants, just like me, come here seeking a better life for their families.

It’s a privilege to walk alongside them, offering guidance and hope on their journey.

We help them navigate the complex immigration system, but more importantly, we offer a listening ear and a sense of community.

The most difficult part of my job is witnessing the toll that displacement takes.

Some clients arrive after months of walking, with not enough food or money.

The despair in their eyes is a stark reminder of the blessings we often take for granted.

Yet, even amidst hardship, there’s a spark of determination, a flicker of hope that keeps them going.

These experiences resonate deeply with me.

Pope Francis, in a message from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, reminds us that “The Catholic Church can draw closer to Jesus by accompanying migrants in their pursuit of a better life.”

These words are a constant reminder of the importance of my work.

Just as St. Veronica offered a cloth to wipe Jesus’ face during his passion, we at Catholic Charities bring relief and hope on the “Way of the Cross” of migration.

Together, with faith as our guide, we can build a more welcoming and thriving community for all.

I believe, as many of you do, that immigrants are not a burden, but a blessing.

They bring their talents, hard work, and vibrant cultures, enriching the fabric of our state.

They are doctors, nurses, teachers, entrepreneurs, and artists, contributing to the betterment of Missouri in countless ways.

This Hispanic Heritage Month, I am reminded that the American Dream is alive and well.

It’s a dream woven from the threads of hard work, dedication, and a deep love for family.

It’s a dream I share with the many immigrants I serve, and a dream that Catholic Charities helps them achieve.

My story is a testament to the transformative power of faith and the importance of service.

But the journey doesn’t end here.

Immigrants continue to arrive in Missouri seeking a better life, and Catholic Charities needs your help to welcome them.