This I Believe

Andy - Charlotte, North Carolina
Entered on November 27, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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My name is Michael Lynch.

I am Catholic.

My family moved to America to avoid the famine in Ireland.

We were hard working, skilled laborers. We came to America, having heard that the streets were paved with gold. We got here to find that the streets weren’t even paved, and we were the ones for the job. We paved streets. We laid brick and block and welded towering steel buildings. We were fire fighters and bus drivers. We worked hard, yet after we built a building in the city, the new occupants would put up a sign, “Help Wanted – No Irish Need Apply.” The “nativist” even burned one of our convents. Their hatred was strong, but we endured.

Yet we endured with hard work. We took comfort in our faith and in the knowledge that our children would not starve in the famine.

We are Catholic.

My name is Anthony Cipponella.

I am Catholic.

My father brought us to America before the first World War. Things were bad in Italy at the time. He came to work in the coal mines, getting paid by the ton. Our trip over was made easier by the fact that the major coal operators had told the powers that be in Congress that they needed more labor, men not afraid to crawl into the bowels of the earth and pull out the coal with their hands and a pick axe.

My father was one such man.

But even thought we were hard working, decent, decent people, life was not kind. The people who lived here, the Scot-Irish and the English, wouldn’t let the Italians, the ‘Wops’ as they called us, live in their communities. So we formed our own communities, father away from the mines, in the flood planes, often little more than tent cities. But at least there; there a person could hear friendly voices, in Italian, and forget about the harshness of the job.

Even in our own towns we weren’t safe from the bigotry. One time, when I was very small, I remember the Klu Klux Klan marching in our little town, letting us ‘papist’ know that we were not welcome. I still remember being afraid.

My father endured all of this. He fought for our new country the Great War, and I fought in the second.

He did so with pride and dignity. He did so with the knowledge that someday his children, and grandchildren would escape poverty and have a better life.

We are Catholic.

My name is Alberto Manuel.

I am Catholic.

I came here from Guatemala with my brother. I came because I could not make enough money in my home to buy medicine for my daughter. I came because my heart would break every night that the children didn’t have enough food.

I come here to work hard. I am willing to do any kind of work. I can work on roofs, or wash dishes. Most of the time, I keep two jobs so that I stay busy. I am afraid to go anywhere but to work.

Even thought many people want to hire me, others demand that I go home, demand that I am arrested like a criminal. I did break an immigration law. I wanted to do things the legal way but it is very complicated and I don’t have a lawyer. I just want to work, and there are people who want to hire me. I will work hard and live a simple life so I can send money back to my wife.

Today, my family has food on the table, and my children are well. I may even save enough to send them to school. This makes the risk I take; the hatred I endure; the fear I live with; it makes them all bearable. I do it for my family.

We are Catholic.

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me”

Matthew 25:35