Joanne and Bill Baird

You know the old saying – “You shouldn’t talk about religion or politics.”

Why is that? Yes, those conversations can cause conflict; but they don’t have to. In fact, because those topics are so important, shouldn’t we lovingly and with respect talk about these issues?

At Mercy Ridge Retirement Community, residents did exactly that on Tuesday, August 14, when Catholic Charities hosted a discussion on recent immigration policy called, Hope Amidst Heartache. Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Baltimore Bill McCarthy and Val Twanmoh, Esq., Director of Esperanza Center, a Catholic Charities program that has served immigrants since 1963, led the discussion.

Just last year, the Esperanza Center served 11,510 clients with a range of services from English lessons and citizenship classes to health care, immigration legal aid and assistance to enroll in school, job trainings or counseling.

The discussion also addressed Esperanza’s Reunification Services. In Maryland, Esperanza helps to reunite recently arrived unaccompanied youth with their family and sponsors – generally a relative. Services include: fingerprinting and assistance with the family reunification packet; home studies; post-release services to ensure the well-being of minors, and assistance with the challenges related to reunification after separation. In partnership with and funding from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), Esperanza not only reunites children with their family member/sponsors but also provides access to immigration legal services, health care, mental health services, school registration, and language classes. Since 2013, when the Family Reunification Program at Esperanza began its work, the Esperanza Center has helped to reunite more than 2,700 unaccompanied children with a sponsor.

“Children traumatized by conditions at home, the journey, separation, detention or other parts of this process will be impacted for years. We need humane and compassionate laws and policies that realize American values of hope and refuge for those in need,” according to Twanmoh.

On August 22, McCarthy and Twanmoh will visit the Charlestown Retirement Community to present their Hope Amidst Heartache and on October 1st they’ll visit Oak Crest Retirement Community.

Val Twanmoh, Program Director of the Esperanza Center greets Justin Vitrano and Linda Bloomfield

Bill McCarthy greets Fr. Paul Cook and Fr. Mike Kelly

Grade school friends – Jeanne Jones and Rosewin Sweeney

Rosewin Sweeney (l), Joan Carlson, daughter of Jim Gentry (r)