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Sr. Theresa Gleeson, BVM

Chicago, IL

Taller de José is a community resource center located in the Mexican-American community of Little Village on the southwest side of Chicago. At Taller de José, we connect individuals to resources and we accompany them as they navigate complex social, legal, and health systems. This can mean providing referrals, making phone calls, translating letters, or even going off-site to literally walk with people as they visit the courthouses, hospitals, or social service agencies in the Chicagoland area.

Taller de José was founded in 2008 by the Congregation of St. Joseph because community members from the Little Village neighborhood expressed the need for accompaniment. Community members knew that there were resources to help them meet their needs, but sometimes they didn’t know how or where to access them or they were afraid to access them because of language barriers or discrimination. The ministry of accompaniment at Taller de José was formed as the response to this need.

I have walked with clients through some of their most difficult challenges as well as some of their happiest moments. Sometimes I was there to teach them the public transportation, other times to help them overcome a language barrier, or other times just to be present with them when they didn’t have anyone else. We welcome individuals with any sort of question or problem, but some of the most common needs we see are related to legal questions, domestic violence, financial assistance, immigration, health, or counseling.

Though I, like many of our staff members, am of a different ethnic and cultural background than the individuals we serve, we seek to bridge the divides of language, culture, and immigration status to become one with our clients as we accompany them. One recent story that stands out to me is the story of Silvia. Silvia is a victim of domestic violence who came to Taller de José feeling alone, afraid, and overwhelmed. She had recently left her abuser, but didn’t know what sort of legal options she had to ensure the safety of her and her children. As an immigrant, she spoke limited English and feared interacting with law enforcement and the legal system. Over the course of several months, I was able to accompany Silvia as she made police reports, obtained an order of protection, and filed for custody of her two young children. I am grateful that Taller de José has given me the opportunity to serve as a bridge and companion for Silvia as she journeyed from a place of violence and fear to one of safety and hope.