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Providence Family Services brightens lives with help from Brach Foundation grant

Providence Family Services (PFS) has helped 39-year-old Beatriz Diaz of Chicago to be able to feel again.

Since February Diaz has been receiving counseling at Providence Family Services with Counselor and Director Sister Patty Fillenwarth. Diaz is learning to cope with the effects of domestic abuse in her life.

“I’m dealing with issues I haven’t dealt with in years. It’s like for years there’s been this high brick fence around me. Now I can actually feel. Because before I didn’t allow myself to feel. It was like that was a weakness. But now I see that what I thought were my weaknesses are actually strengths,” Diaz said.

Sister Patty Fillenwarth ministers as a counselor at Providence Family Services (PFS) in Chicago.
Sister Patty Fillenwarth ministers as a counselor at Providence Family Services (PFS) in Chicago.

Living with the effects of abuse “you kind of feel trapped, like there’s no way out,” Diaz said.

But the past several months of therapy have made a very real positive impact on her life.

“Life has become life again. Before it was hopeless dark, dark, dark. I’ve been in darkness for 26 years, and just now I’m starting to see the light,” Diaz said.

The Helen V. Brach Foundation of Chicago, funded by the late heiress to the candy company, recently offered support to Diaz and other PFS clients like her by awarding Providence Family Services a grant for $5000.

Providence Family Services, at 1540 North Monticello Avenue in Chicago, is a ministry of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., and a program of Guerin Outreach Ministries. It was founded in 1994 by Sister Patty, who had previously ministered as principal of the nearby Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in the same West Humboldt Park neighborhood. Sister Patty noticed a need among the struggling population for affordable, bi-lingual counseling services, and so, already bi-lingual, she returned to school at age 52 to get a second master’s degree in counseling and so began PFS.

Since then PFS has expanded to further serve the needs of the community by also offering English as a second language classes, computer classes, citizenship classes and afterschool homework assistance for children.

Sister Patty has seen the demand for counseling help increase over the years. Between economic rough times and with it increasing joblessness and gang violence in the neighborhood and budget cuts in the city that have decreased other services available, the need for counseling in the area is great.

When Diaz first sought out help, she was bounced from organization to organization unwilling or unable to help. Finally she landed upon Providence Family Services.

“I’ve tried to do this without therapy, and I’ve learned you just can’t,” Diaz said.

But the problem is, therapy is often only available if you have the money to pay $150 an hour, she said.

Diaz, a single mother to a now-20-year-old-son, is thankful that PFS operates on a sliding-scale basis. She moved to the U.S. from Chile when she was six years old, but she had her residency card revoked late in 2012 due to a 2007 conviction. Without legal residency she is not able to work and thus not able to pay for counseling.

PFS never turns away clients for inability to pay, and all services are offered at nominal charge. That is why the not-for-profit center is dependent upon and ever grateful for contributions such as that of the Brach foundation, Sister Patty said.

“We always need the money. We are always happy to receive help. The support we receive confirms others think that what we do is great, and we appreciate that because we think that what we do is great, also,” Sister Patty said.

Diaz is grateful for support that allows her access to the help she needs to heal.

“When you are helping Providence Family Services, you are helping a whole community. You are making a difference in the lives of real people. It’s families – it’s people like you and me. Everybody knows somebody who has been through something. You help one person and you find yourself helping a whole community, because each person passes it on to the people around them. And that is how to build a better society,” Diaz said.

And for Diaz, in her journey from darkness to light, she now welcomes a hopeful future.

“Life is better now, even though I’m not working and I’m facing deportation. Before I always hoped that I would die before the age of 50. Now if God wills it, I could see myself living to be 100. I know that my journey has just started. I see some happiness in my future,” she said.

About the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.

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Amy Miranda

Amy Miranda is a Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence and a staff member in their Advancement Services office. Amy is a 1998 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She currently manages the SP publication HOPE and works on marketing support for Providence Associates, new membership and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

Media contact

For inquiries or information, contact Jason Moon at jmoon@spsmw.org or 812-535-2810.

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