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Counseling brings Providence Family Services client from darkness to light

photo by Martin Fisch

photo by Martin Fisch

Providence Family Services (PFS) in Chicago has helped 39-year-old Beatriz Diaz 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.

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.

Providence Family Services, at 1540 North Monticello Avenue in Chicago, is a ministry of the Sisters of Providence 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.

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.

Learn more about Providence Family Services and the Guerin Outreach Ministries at www.GuerinOutreachMinistries.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.

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