Share the Journey – A change of heart

Alisa Pifine

Working for Catholic Charities of Louisville has changed my heart.

Before working here, I had no idea what it meant to be a refugee. I don’t come from a family with any money, but I’ve never wanted for anything, so I couldn’t really relate to those living in poverty.

I felt like homelessness might be the result of a weak person unwilling to work hard. Have you ever seen people who talk LOUDER to someone who doesn’t speak English — as if being louder would help them understand? Ironically, I was probably one of those people.

I say ironically because now I’m the director for Language Services, the outreach at Catholic Charities that gives people across the Archdiocese of Louisville access to interpreters and translation in 32 languages.

When we provide language support, we help businesses, healthcare providers and schools meet their federally mandated obligation for language access. And we give individuals the opportunity to more fully integrate into community. We help them consult with physicians, interview with employers, confer with teachers and find winter coats in Walmart.

Many of the interpreters who work with us come to our attention when they partner with our refugee resettlement outreach to get established here. Those who arrive with good skills in English complete a stringent training program to become interpreters capable of assisting with medical appointments, one of the most demanding categories, as well as other professional assignments.

This is not only good for us, but it is wonderful for them. They quickly have meaningful work as independent contractors with good pay and flexible hours.

It is this work, and the broader work of Catholic Charities, that means so much to me. You see, when it comes to being a practicing Catholic, I was going through all the motions. My family and I attended Mass every Sunday, and our children attended the parish school.

My husband and I volunteered for committees at church and at school. We worked more than our share of picnics and we never missed a trivia night or fish fry. I was a good Catholic – but something was missing. I wasn’t able to connect my faith to more meaningful action.

I’ve been with the agency now since 2017, and I can finally make the connection I was missing.  Our daily work is guided and driven by the teachings of Jesus. For me, attending Mass was only part of living my Catholic faith. My heart has opened and allowed me to become more capable of loving and accepting others as our Lord taught us.

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