July 1, 2005

Nigerian sister who helps refugees adjust
to life in United States becomes citizen

By Sean Gallagher

As one of our country’s newest citizens, Sister Loretto Emenogu, a member of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Mercy, will celebrate Independence Day with special enthusiasm.

Sister Loretto, who ministers through the archdiocese’s Catholic Social Services to foreign refugees resettled in Indianapolis, arrived in the United States in 1992 from her home in Nigeria.

Her religious community, based in her home country, sent her here to study health care administration and non-profit management.

Sister Loretto was granted permanent resident status in 1998. On June 23 in Indianapolis, she was sworn in as a U.S. citizen.

Sister Loretto continues to hold citizenship in Nigeria as well.

She praised the country that she now calls home.

“America is very, very generous,” she said. “America is such a godly country. America has a large open door for people to come in and have life and have it in abundance.”

Sister Loretto has generously served others wherever she has gone in the United States. While a student at the Jesuit-run Regis University in Denver, she counseled freshmen students and ministered to women just released from jail who suffered from substance abuse and AIDS. Later, in Miami, she worked with the international aid agency Food for the Poor.

And now in Indianapolis she is
helping people resettled in America from war-torn countries. In particular, Sister Loretto helps them adjust to American culture and laws.

The friends she made in the United States over the years encouraged her to remain here and become a citizen.

Sister Loretto described how Jesuit Father Michael Sharan, the president of Regis University when she was a student there, referred to a blue habit she sometimes wears and said to her “ ‘Blue nun, you’re not going back. We need you here in America.’ ”

She also recalled how the Denver-based federal judge who approved her permanent residence status told her,
“ ‘Sister, we need you here in the [United] States. You don’t need to go back. I will be here to swear you in in Denver as a citizen.’ ”

While her citizenship swearing in ceremony happened in Indianapolis and not in Denver, Sister Loretto was happy to become an American citizen and hopes to live out in the United States the ideals of the founder of her order to “radiate the presence of God” and to “empty [myself] out for the people.”

This spiritual mission of her life in America led Sister Loretto to turn her thoughts to a higher citizenship when she was at the federal courthouse on June 23 in Indianapolis.

“There were more spiritual thoughts inside of me than just the physical,” she said. “If I die today, will I be a real citizen of heaven?”

Sister Loretto came to the conclusion that her life and ministry in her new home in America will help her to ultimately be welcomed as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. †


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