October 3, 2014

Hispanic Connection of Southern Indiana moves to new home

The staff at the Hispanic Connection in Jeffersonville pose in their new office on Sept. 4. Pictured are Hilda Tiller, left, a paralegal student at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany and client advocate; Olga Oliva, receptionist; Lillian Rose, director; and Juan Chavez, office manager. (Photo by Leslie Lynch)

The staff at the Hispanic Connection in Jeffersonville pose in their new office on Sept. 4. Pictured are Hilda Tiller, left, a paralegal student at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany and client advocate; Olga Oliva, receptionist; Lillian Rose, director; and Juan Chavez, office manager. (Photo by Leslie Lynch)

By Leslie Lynch (Special to The Criterion)

JEFFERSONVILLE—On Sept. 4, the Hispanic Connection of Southern Indiana started a new chapter of its mission in Jeffersonville with the blessing of its new facility.

The organization began its first day at its new home with a blessing of the premises and staff by Franciscan Father Thomas Merrill, pastor of St. Mary Parish in New Albany.

Hispanic Connection—a non-profit organization designed to help integrate Spanish-speaking immigrants into the local community through workshops, classes and personal assistance—moved from their longtime office at St. Mary Parish for several reasons.

Hispanic Connection was originally housed in the same St. Mary’s building as the New Albany Deanery’s Hispanic Ministry due to the interconnected social and pastoral needs of the Hispanic community.

But time has led to a natural progression toward the divergence of pastoral services overseen by the Hispanic Ministry and the social services provided by the Hispanic Connection.

Additionally, the St. Mary’s building is in need of renovation, and the ability to pay the salaries of the Hispanic Connection’s employees was beyond the financial limits of the parish.

Hispanic Connection has roots that stretch back to 1999, when Hispanic ministry first developed in New Albany.

Father Thomas is the first priest assigned to shepherd both the English and Spanish-speaking congregations who worship at St. Mary.

The Hispanic population is now served by three parishes—St. Mary in New Albany, St. Michael in Charlestown and through a bilingual Mass at St. Joseph in Corydon.

The Hispanic community at St. Mary Parish has grown to more than 100 families with roots throughout Central and South America.

The faithful support a thriving faith formation program serving children through adults. Sacramental preparation is led by members of the community. The Hispanic choir, complete with bass and acoustic guitars, drums and a cadre of dedicated singers are in demand for area weddings, Spanish-speaking retreats and other liturgical celebrations.

Parishioner Martin Ignacio has entered the diaconate formation through the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

The Hispanic Connection was formed as a separate lay entity in 2003 when businesses and local hospitals desired a way to enhance their interactions with the Hispanic community. In addition to advocacy and bridging the language barrier, its primary function at that time was referrals.

Under director Lillian Rose’s guidance, the Hispanic Connection has evolved to serve three primary needs.

Family literacy remains a top priority. The ability to read and write English is critical for success. Officials from the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County agreed, and provided grant monies in support of the Hispanic Connection’s unique literacy program. It prepares students, primarily in their 20s and 30s, to enter the state’s GED program, and partners with Indiana’s WorkOne program with the goal of eventual employment.

The other target population is addressed by the Moms and Toddlers program. Its focus is to prepare children for Head Start and teach the mothers enough English to communicate with teachers. The program is currently suspended, though hopes are high that it will resume soon.

Immigration is a second focus of Hispanic Connection. Rose pats the file cabinets filled with immigration documentation, and says, “This isn’t paper. It’s peoples’ lives.”

Charles Nett, former director of Catholic Charities Immigration Department in Louisville, Ky., serves as the required supervising attorney. In a world of communication barriers and rapidly changing laws, the aid the Hispanic Connection is able to provide is life-changing for its clients.

The final area of focus is preventive health. The Hispanic Connection has partnered with the Kidney Foundation and obtained a grant to conduct a health fair in October. Free screenings for kidney health, diabetes, dental health, and obesity will be available. Rose plans to hire a trainer to establish an ongoing group regimen to improve fitness in the Hispanic population. She also hopes to partner with Purdue University to provide nutrition classes.

When asked what the Hispanic Connection needs, Rose replies, “Money. We have stuff. We need [monetary]donations.”

Clients are charged for immigration services, but at a low rate, as Rose recognizes the sacrifices of those people who send money to their family in other countries. All other services are covered by grants. Rose looks for creative ways to both save and make the money necessary for the organization to survive as the Hispanic Connection takes steps toward gaining non-profit status.

Years after its humble beginnings, the Hispanic Connection continues its important work.
 

(Leslie Lynch is a member of St. Mary Parish in Lanesville. For more information about the Hispanic Connection of Southern Indiana, call 812-720-3465, e-mail hcsiimmigration@yahoo.com, or log on to their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/hispanicconnectionofsouthernindiana. Their mailing address is 1410 Charlestown-New Albany Road, Suite 101, Jeffersonville, IN, 47130.)

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