November 7, 2014

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

‘People are so giving here’

David SilerAndrei was just 12 when the Soviet Union fell and his beloved country of Moldova gained independence and a fresh start.

In the midst of the initial excitement, Moldovans experienced the collective confusion of how to rebuild and start anew. Many regained possession of family-owned land that had been taken by the Soviets, only to find acre upon acre overgrown and weed-infested, with no resources to make it usable or profitable. With a lack of infrastructure, jobs were scarce and available jobs paid such low wages that most families lived below the poverty line. Andrei recalls how he watched many adults, devoid of purpose, literally drink their lives away.

Surrounded by this depression, Andrei found himself vulnerable to this same pattern as he grew into adulthood. He regrets that he fell victim to this lifestyle for a period of time, but his life changed when he had a spiritual experience that redirected the course of his life.

As a result of this experience, he found new purpose in Church involvement and actively caring for the disadvantaged around him. He found that some were receptive to these acts of care, while others were quite hostile. Andrei was not a member of the Orthodox Church, and was therefore considered a heretic by many who adhered to national traditions. He calmly relates that he was even beaten and stoned for his beliefs—a horror that he later found was to positively change the fate of his entire family.

Andrei, his wife and his three children lived their lives as best they could in this environment. However, Andrei’s heart was breaking as he envisioned his children’s future.

In particular, he was concerned for his firstborn son, who was mentally challenged and epileptic. In Moldova, such children were denied education and often abandoned by parents who could neither tolerate nor afford them. He heard that there were special programs available for such children in the United States, and dreamed that one day he might be able to provide special care for his son. As fate would have it, he found that his entire family was approved to resettle in the United States due to the targeted oppression Andrei had suffered.

Andrei’s case was processed with the help of Catholic Charities in Indianapolis. His sister, who had married a man from the U.S. and moved to Indianapolis, filed a family petition with the assistance of resettlement staff. When Andrei and his family arrived in Indianapolis, they brought with them only a few suitcases and the hope for a new life.

Services provided by Catholic Charities’ resettlement staff began by greeting them at the airport upon arrival and taking them to their new apartment. Over the next few months, Andrei and his family were connected to all necessary resources to start their lives again, including assistance with food, financial support, medical appointments, welfare, English classes, disability resources, employment training and even finding jobs. Additionally, all of Andrei’s children were enrolled in school, including his son who had previously been unable to attend. Andrei became teary-eyed while recounting it all. He said, “People are so giving here.”

Andrei is currently working as an administrative specialist for a local company, and is delighted to provide for his family. He expressed his deep gratitude for the services provided by Catholic Charities, and when asked how he feels about his new life here, he paused for a moment, smiled, and simply offered, “It’s great.”

(David Siler is the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at

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