The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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March 2, 2001 Issue
Local News

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
Compass Correspondent

Bishop's Appeal

What: Bishop's Appeal, the Green Bay Diocese's annual fund-raiser to support diocesan programs and services offered to parishes and individuals.

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 prayer is.

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 off.

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 construction.

"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 swollen.

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 services.

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 computer.

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 help.

"When I don't know what to do, he'd better," she said. "I call on him, then I call other people."

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