Home » Blog » A life of joy serving on the streets

A life of joy serving on the streets

Jan. 23 is a special day for many Sisters of Providence. It was the date many of us received our “habits,” our veil and convent dress. Jan. 23 was also the date many of us took and renewed our vows.

Sister Betty Smigla puts her feet to the street helping a client at Taller de Jose in Chicago.

What about in the current day? Where will you find Sister Betty Smigla on Jan. 23, 2017?

I will be taking Mr. Jose to immigration. There he will take an oath to the United States to be a good citizen. Yes, he passed the immigration test, had all the necessary papers needed and was approved for this important day in his life. I was his interpreter in taking his Constitution test. I usually study and review the 100 possible Constitution questions in Spanish before serving as an interpreter for a test. This helps me to be calm and able to assure the client that all is well. Mr. Jose told me he didn’t sleep all night prior to the test, he was so very anxious.

Serving as an interpreter and being able to reassure another is only one of the privileges of my ministry serving as an Advocate at Taller de Jose in the Spanish area of Little Village in Chicago. I love my work. I would not, however, have imagined myself doing this when I was young.

God’s humor

At age 13 I remember saying, “Dad I’m changing my mind about the high school I will attend. I want to go to St. Columbkille, a business orientated school, so I do not have to study a foreign language.” Of course my dad’s response was, “What did your mother say??” That decision, made to avoid learning another language, led me to a Sister of Providence school and ultimately to the Sisters of Providence.

Fast forward a few years. There I was, a young sister. I was given the mission to serve in Peru, South America. And so I went to study a foreign language after all! Learning Spanish also allowed me to live out my teen-age desire to help orphans. After a summer at Covenant House in New York working with runaway youth, they sponsored me to go to their mission in Guatemala — to work with orphans. This left me with a happy and fulfilled heart.

Now at 39+ (really 76) I serve as an advocate for people who have difficulty speaking and doing paperwork in English. I help them find their way around the Chicago court system, hospitals, jobs. I help with rent issues, counseling and more. We are able to connect our clients with many agencies to find help. I sometimes accompany people to these appointments as they are oftentimes anxious.

I love being on the street with the people. I am not afraid of any situation I’m faced with out on the street — teaching 8th grade and being principal for so many years trained me well!

Most people we serve want to give the agency some money, but they have little themselves and are sometimes homeless. I just tell them when they win the lottery to come back and buy 100 bus tickets — and I’ll know when they win as I’ll see them on the news! So many times that is how we end our sessions — “I won’t forget the lottery” and my response, “And I won’t forget you!!”

What blessings to celebrate in my work every day. To think, what began at age 13 with not wanting to study a language has brought me here, listening and speaking in the Spanish language most of my day.

Really, doesn’t God have a sense of HUMOR? Doesn’t God work through us in mysterious ways???

Share this:

Sister Betty Smigla

Sister Betty Smigla (formerly Sister Ann Martin) will celebrate 60 years as a Sister of Providence in 2017. In her ministries she has served as a missionary teacher in the village of Juliaca, Peru; she’s worked with street kids in New York, orphans in Guatemala and as a teacher and principal in Chicago. Today she serves as an advocate for Spanish-speaking residents of Little Village in Chicago who are in need of social services.

Subscribe to the blog

Sign up to receive notifications in your inbox when new content is posted on the Sisters of Providence blog. Emails will only be sent when there is new content.

Need some HOPE?

Read how together we break boundaries and create HOPE. Keep up with the sisters and how you are helping others with us. Read HOPE magazine online or subscribe here.

Learn more

Live sustainably

White Violet Center for Eco-Justice focuses on teaching, caring and inspiring for all creation. You can be a part of it!

Learn more

7 Comments

  1. Tracey Horan on January 23, 2017 at 7:04 am

    Betty, your ministry is a beautiful testament to the way Providence works in our lives!! It was such a joy to accompany you my postulant year and get a real feel for what it means to accompany those marginalized by our systems. Gracias por su fidelidad! Adelante, Hermana!!!

  2. Donna Butler on January 23, 2017 at 7:53 am

    Betty,
    Thank you for your wonderful dedication and being Providence to so many on the margins.
    and yes, God does have a great sense of humor!!

  3. Marsha speth on January 23, 2017 at 8:45 am

    And you are a great mirror of the God you speak of, Betty.
    Thank you!

  4. Rita Clare Gerardot, SP on January 23, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Betty, yes God does have a sense of humor and so do you! I’m sure this gets you through many a tough and disheartening day for surely you do have some of those with all the many people you are helping.
    God’s Providence shines through you!
    Rita Clare Gerardot, SP

  5. Lorraine Witkows Romanow on January 25, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    Betty,

    Congratulations on 60 years a siste of Providence.

    Idont know if you remember me. I also went to St. Columbkille, and lived on Wood street.

    havent seen you in many years. I Always look for news about you in the provdence magazines.
    keep p he good work, we are all very proud of you

  6. Susan Paweski, SP on January 27, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Yea, Betty! Always love hearing your stories and adventures. Congratulations on your 60th year! Onward and upward!

  7. Peggy Kanavy on June 22, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Betty, then Sister Ann Martin was my first grade teacher at St Clements in Maryland. Her kindness as my teacher helped me get through the rest of my schooling in Pennsylvania. The other sisters that taught me were mostly a cruel lot. I never forgot her kindness and upbeat attitude. I truly believe I am a better person as a result of her example. I am sixty now and have thought of her often over these many years. Thank you and God bless you.

Leave a Comment





This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses cookies

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website and to ensure that we are providing relevant content for our audiences. If you continue, we'll assume that you are happy to receive these cookies. You can also choose to opt out.