Reflections at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Center

This year, Catholic Social Services’ (CSS) had the opportunity to host an intern at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Center in West Columbus. We had the privilege of working with Jacob Fries, a rising sophomore who is studying Environmental Sciences and Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He helped with a number of the Center’s programs, including the food pantry, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, case management, and referral services. “A unique thing about my time at the Center is that this service site is new [for my internship program] this year—meaning I had no precedent or other students I could turn to as to what I should expect…The opportunity to connect with and serve the Latino community has been invaluable,” said Jacob.

Jacob approached this new role head-on. He spent most of his summer working in the food pantry, where he assisted our clients as a personal shopper.

Jacob reflected on the way people who need food assistance are often stigmatized. He said he believes that, in order to overcome these harmful stigmas, we need to change our view and recognize that, “The fact that they need to reach out to us for help does not define them as people; rather, we are a resource for them as they seek to better themselves and reach independence. A traditional tenet of Catholic social teaching is that, by being made in the image of God, all people have the same innate dignity. Whether our clients are experiencing poverty, or are still struggling to learn English, their innate dignity must remain intact. I never knew who was a recent immigrant or a legal resident, who knew English or who didn’t, and that didn’t change how we treated our clients.”

Jacob also helped administer placement tests during our ESL courses. These tests help determine each person’s level of knowledge so we can develop individualized plans of action for their education. He believes our ESL classes and case management services are critical to our clients’ success because they avoid creating cycles of dependence.

“With our social worker, [clients] can develop explicit steps to make progress towards economic stability. By learning English, employment opportunities can open up for them.” Jacob said that, instead of merely providing temporary solutions, the Center strives to “seek the root of the issue and solve the most basic problems that will create a new means for independence.”

Through his internship at the Guadalupe Center, Jacob was able to see the dignity in all people. “As a Catholic, I recognize the ways we are supposed to respond to the plight of immigrants… with a desire to provide services and resources that enable them to successfully integrate into American society. My hope is that future [interns] will be able to gain that perspective as well and maybe gain a deeper appreciation of the Latino culture that I have grown to love.”

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