2022 CIII Student Reflection: Fatima Jimenez Gonzalez
September 28, 2022
Student Reflection: Fatima Jimenez Gonzalez
College of Education-Middle/Secondary Education, Marquette University, Class of 2024
Catholic Immigrant Integration Initiative (CIII) Conference: Marquette University
September 13, 2022
Thank you for being here, whether that is physically in person or those of you listening virtually. It means so much to me to see all of you gathered here today to discuss and enhance your knowledge on a topic that directly affects my everyday life and the life of thousands of others across the country.
Like Father McNulty mentioned, my name is Fatima Jimenez Gonzalez and I am a first-generation college student here at Marquette University, pursuing a teaching degree. I am one of eight children in my family, five of which are immigrants. I am here today to share a bit of my story and shine light on the reality of life for us immigrants living in the United States.
My family and I immigrated from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, in 2003 when I was just under the age of two. Like many others, we were seeking a better life, more access to a well-rounded education, better job opportunities, physical safety, financial stability, and a chance at creating our own vision for the future.
I was too young to truly remember anything from my motherland or hold much of an emotional attachment, but from the various stories I have heard from my parents and siblings, I know moving here was far from easy. My parents left their home country with empty hands but hearts full of hope, prepared to do anything for their children. The one thing they did take with them, the most important thing I would say, was their faith. Both of my parents grew up Catholic, their families were remarkably devoted members of the church, and my parents held on to that religion as an essential component of their lives and factor in their marriage, eventually bestowing it upon their children. They especially carried their faith with them through that exceedingly painful and devastating journey, which eventually lead us to Milwaukee. Here, we were able to find a community that took us in, offered us resources and sanctuary, and cared for us. The Catholic church and its community, for us that being Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Patrick’s Congregation in the Southside of the city, became our first home away from home.
Which brings me to the main question I am here to answer…How have Catholic organizations helped me in my journey as an immigrant living in the US?
The simple answer is, how have they not? The church quite literally became our home. A wonderful and caring priest was able to grant us a place to live when my family was struggling and at a breaking point during the 2008 recession, after countless years of trying to build a stable life for ourselves. It was because of the generosity of this priest that we were able to thrive. This same congregation gave my parents job opportunities that helped them support their children. It provided me with meaningful activities such as church choir, where I was able to discover my love for music and form life-long friendships, and summer camp, where I eventually had opportunities to explore my abilities as a teacher and leader.
Other organizations like Catholic Charities in Milwaukee helped me and my siblings receive legal advice and guidance in order to submit our DACA paperwork at low costs, which we otherwise would not have been able to afford. Casa Romero Renewal Center has also been an important part of my life. First, by providing me with heartfelt retreats in middle school where I was able to learn more about myself emotionally and spiritually. Later, by allowing me to develop my leadership skills as one of their members facilitating those same retreats. Additionally, it fostered my first work and volunteer experiences that later opened doors I never thought could be opened for me as an undocumented immigrant. Most importantly, it was the place where I discovered my passion for working with the youth of Milwaukee.
My siblings and I have had the privilege of attending different Catholic institutions in the area, from Notre Dame Middle School and Nativity Jesuit Academy, to Marquette University High School, Divine Savior Holy Angels, and St. Thomas More High School. We were granted an education that helped us in reaching our goal of attending college. While we were able to open doors for ourselves because of what we learned at these schools, our legal status shut many of them quickly. Fortunately, Catholic and Jesuit institutions like Marquette University and Cardinal Stritch University took us in and offered us the financial support we needed to fulfill our dreams, despite being undocumented immigrants.
My point in saying all of this is to demonstrate the importance of all of these Catholic organizations in the city of Milwaukee for people like me and my family, and for our immigrant communities. We need more programs and organizations like this who will advocate for us, who can offer us resources and aid, who will guide us towards the right path, and who despite our immigration status, can lend a helping hand and understand that for many of us, this is the only home we have ever known.
I want to extend a huge thanks to all of you for the work you do. Thank you for accepting us when, despite feeling at home, we are constantly rejected and reminded that people do not want us here. If it were not for these organizations and communities, I do not think that I would be able to stand here today in front of all of you with the confidence of knowing that I will persevere and succeed at anything I set my mind to, in spite of the challenges and hardship I have and will face in my journey.
September 13, 2022