When her cell phone summons, she goes
Sr. Guadalupe Muņoz ministers to Hispanic community in area
Fifth in a series on the annual Bishop's Appeal
By Joanne Flemming
What: Bishop's Appeal, the Green Bay Diocese's annual fund-raiser
to support diocesan programs and services offered to parishes and
Where: All parishes in the diocese.
When: Right now.
How: Making a cash, check or pledge donation. Materials have been
sent to homes and also are available through parishes.
Theme: Summoned to Serve.
Target: $4.1 million.
Sr. Guadalupe Muñoz's cell phone is as necessary to her outreach
work for the Green Bay Diocese's Catholic Social Services as
Since early last year, she has been an outreach worker for Brown
County's Hispanic community. She estimates that her phone rings
18 to 20 times a day.
"If phone calls come with people needing translation at clinics,
or hospitals, or the police station, or court, I go," she said.
If the phone rings while she is driving to work and the call is
an emergency, she turns around and goes where she is needed.
"I'm always coming and going and not knowing where I will be
next," she said.
Still, she does have a schedule she tries to follow. Weekday
mornings she is at Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College in
Green Bay taking classes in administration. Monday and Tuesday
afternoons she is in her office at Catholic Social Services in
Green Bay. Wednesday afternoons she is at the NEW Community
Clinic. Thursdays she is at St. Philip Parish for El Primer Paso,
a pre-school program for Hispanic five and six year-olds. On
Saturdays and Sundays she is at St. Willebrord Parish, working
with youth groups and singing with the choir. Friday is her day
Brown County has at least 10,000 Hispanic residents - 90-95% of
whom are from Mexico, Sr. Munoz said. The remainder are from
Central and South America, with a few from Spain.
Some have work permits, but most are "not here legally," she
said. They came for jobs in meat packing plants, paper mills and
"If they had documents, they wouldn't be working at the meat
packing plants," Sr. Muñoz continued. "It's hard work." The meat
cutters have shown her how their hands and wrists are red and
Because they have no papers, they are afraid to ask for the
services they need.
Their problems arise from adjusting to a new language, a new
culture and a new environment. The greatest need is for
translators, which she is trying to recruit, in addition to
convincing clinics and other agencies to hire staff who speak
both English and Spanish. She said the NEW Clinic has added at
least two bilingual workers.
That is where she, Sr. Maria Drzewiecki - her coworker at St.
Philip - and her student intern from St. Norbert College in De
Pere interpret on Wednesdays.
The Hispanic community has the right to "decent services in their
own language," she said, because they work and pay taxes.
Sr. Muñoz keeps a list of bilingual members of the Hispanic
community, who she calls to translate when there's a need. She
also has names of people who can help her clients find other
One major adjustment Hispanic families have a hard time making in
American culture is that both husband and wife must work to pay
bills, Sr. Muñoz said. In Mexico, the husband worked, and the
wife stayed home to look after the children.
Here "there is tension because there is no wife and mother at
home," she said. "Both (spouses) have to learn to share
responsibilities. The kids also get less attention."
Married couples come to her for counseling, especially on
weekends at St. Willebrord, she said, pointing to a need in the
Hispanic community for a therapist or marriage counselor.
Sr. Muñoz works with youth groups at St. Willebrord. One is for
the teenage girls who have celebrated their quinceaneras or
"coming out" on their 15th birthdays. They meet to discuss
concerns they face as teenagers.
Some people she helps have no immediate family in Brown County.
One is a Mexican man in his mid-40s who has lived in a nursing
home since he was paralyzed in a car accident.
When she met him, he was depressed, so she visited him
frequently, asked other people to visit him, arranged
transportation so he can go to English classes and got him a
Now when she visits, he "sits up and talks about his life."
Sr. Muñoz said her days begin about 5:30 or 6 a.m. and end about
11 p.m. While she tries to do as much "as I can" during her
waking hours, she says God is the first one she turns to for
"When I don't know what to do, he'd better," she said. "I call on
him, then I call other people."