Sister Marikay Duffy receives recognition for helping others in need
Sister Marikay Duffy said years ago that she saw a need to “assist people by providing/offering educational opportunities and to assist in their understanding the immigration processes.”
And because of her ministry efforts, which have spanned 40 years in the Archdiocese, she was recently honored along with two priests, Fathers Kenneth Taylor and Michael O’Mara, at the first Intercultural Awards Dinner in mid-November. The dinner was sponsored by the Indianapolis Archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry.
“The award was given in recognition by the church community for my years of service with them,” Sister Marikay said. “Many others have given years of service and should, and will, be recognized. I was honored to be one of the first year’s recipients.”
In 1964, Sister Marikay began a ministry as a missionary in Peru, South America. She was there for 10 years before returning to Indianapolis. Upon her return in 1975, she was hired at St. Mary Parish and along with the clergy already there, she helped to organize and formalize the Hispanic Apostolate for the Archdiocese.
“My first task was to find the Hispanic residents, doing a city-wide search and by reference to visit homes,” Sister Marikay said. “Back then, many had never heard of Vatican II Council, the changes in the church and that there was now a weekly Mass in Spanish at St. Mary’s.
“Our second task was to try to begin a more direct involvement of the people in the life of the church of post-Vatican II practice and chances,” Sister Marikay continued. “For that reason, we organized religious education classes for children and with the adults, began to form Basic Christian Community groups that met in the homes. The smaller groups’ participants formed around a group’s native country. These groups served as base communities to help people move from their pre-Vatican experience and understanding of the church. As in other church cultures, not all found the transitions to be easy.
“As the years went on, personnel changed, the apostolate evolved and the community grew beyond anyone’s expectations.”
In 1987, Sister Marikay helped found the Hispanic Education Center. She said the center provided many educational services, including afterschool programs, art and music courses, extended summer school programs, teenage academic formation guidance and early childhood education. English as a second language and computer programs, sewing classes and parenting skills classes were added for the adults.
Bilingual Citizenship preparation classes were provided to teach the United States history and civil government structures, which are requirements to pass the Citizenship test. From these classes, it became clear that the immigrants were having great difficulty in reading and understanding the procedures for other immigration processes.
“I was accompanying people to the immigration office to ask questions, locate their documents and check on their case status,” Sister Marikay said. “Now, so much of this can be done online. But I served as their interpreter in numerous interviews and a huge part of my work was to translate their personal vital documents into English, to present as required.
“While my skill was limited to Spanish speaking people, people of other native languages came and brought someone who spoke some English for me to explain to them the process and requirements.”
In April 2014, Sister Marikay closed the office she was using at St. Mary Church.
“Illness was preventing me from serving people in a timely manner,” she said. “But since September 2014, I have been doing similar services on a volunteer basis at the Office of Refugee and Immigration services for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese.
“As long as I have the stamina and mental capacity to assist in the immigration work, I will. It looks as if the community got a huge Christmas gift with the recent Executive Order on Immigration. I can hardly wait to help a whole new group of people, who have waited many years for a comprehensive reform of our laws, but this is a start and I will be there!”
Thank you for your extraordinary dedication and accomplishments on behalf of persons who are immigrants. This ministry has been and continues to be such a critical need of our time.
Our immigrant St.Mother Theodore is smiling with joy on you, her “daughter of the Forest” carrying on her legacy.
This is wonderful, Marikay! You are so utterly deserving of this recognition. You have been tireless in your work for Hispanic people here and abroad. And as you say, in the coming drive for legalization,you’ll be there!