The story of my American citizenship process was somewhat complicated but also full of hope.
Becoming a U.S. citizen was not part of my dreams in my younger years. All I desired was to be a sister, so I could get closer to God and his people.
My parents are active members of the Catholic Church in my birthplace of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. Their prayer life influenced my growth as a Catholic. As a young adult, I realized that God was calling me to serve him and after my graduation from college, I focused on discerning my vocation in life.
I grew up in Denver Colorado in a pious Catholic family, the middle of three children. Both of my parents considered the possibility of entering religious life when they were young people, so the thought of a priestly or religious vocation for us children was always present alongside that of the married state. I attended the parish school, and then went on to an all-boys Catholic preparatory school run by the Jesuit Fathers. It was there that I first met religious order priests, and it was there in high school that I first seriously considered becoming a priest and a religious myself.
The reasons for which I became a Franciscan Minor Brother are rooted in my childhood.
In the 1960’s, when television entered our home for the first time, I was introduced to the outside world. Specifically, documentaries showed me images of children suffering from malnourishment. Being from a poor, Spanish farming family of 13 brothers and sisters, I immediately identified with the extreme poverty, suffering, and malnutrition of those children. I remember telling my mom: “mom, I want to do something for them.”
Rita Dhakal joined the Religious Immigration Section of CLINIC in June 2009. She currently works with Attorney Megan Turngren to help to provide legal services to RIS clients. In addition, Rita volunteers with Legal Services of Northern Virginia, where she interviews clients for case intake and placement for the Uncontested Divorce Clinic.
I am Sister Delia Obenza, O.P., a full member of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of the Philippines. I am currently assigned as the Director of Religious Education Program at Holy Angels Church in Colma, California. I am also the regional secretary of the Hawaii region.
As an immigration attorney at CLINIC, I represent hundreds of religious men and women (priests, brothers, sisters, and other religious workers) from all over the world. I feel privileged to be a part of a team assisting these modern day disciples called to ministry in the United States. The diversity and determination of these individuals amazes me; not only where they are from, but also the services they perform and how they were called to religious life.
“Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”
This December 2, CLINIC invites you to experience the joy that comes from working in communion with friends for an important cause.
I was born in Managua, Nicaragua, the second of 5 children. I was about 15 months old when I had my first contact with the United States of America. This happened through my father returning home after spending a year at the University of Florida, Gainsville in a graduate course of Sanitary Engineering.
I believe that dreams come true and that a good dream becomes true life. Without dreams, all we have is reality. Sometimes on our most important dreams, all we can do is give them our best shot, hope for the highest good, and let go. Knowing I could use all the help available, I contacted CLINIC to fulfill my dream in becoming a Citizen of United States of America.
My immigration story started in 2002 when I decided to come to United States from Sri Lanka to do my higher studies. Even applying for a Student visa was not easy. There was much paperwork and proofs of financial support and so many other documents I had to present to the embassy to get my F1 visa. I remember sitting there in the waiting room very nervous for the first time for the visa interview. Out of the thirty or so people who showed up that morning for visa interviews, there were only three of us who got their visas.
It has been more than a year since the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc.’s (CLINIC) Religious Immigration Services (RIS) section began taking Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) cases. Back on June 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new process, granting relief to undocumented young people who came to the United States as children and do not have proper immigration documents. This new program allowed these young people to have work authorization and stay in the country without the threat of deportation.
Thanks to my Felician Congregation, and to CLINIC, who put tremendous work in my next applications, permissions, and visas, I can now serve my Lord, free of worries, in the place where He wants me to be.