Supporting refugees and bringing about a more humane and just immigration system in the United States.

The Sisters of St. Francis, in a desire to welcome refugee families, offer the use of Welcome House by a newcomer family for a period of up to one year and will provide information and support services to other newcomers and their sponsors.  The arrangement will be one of mutual exchange where we learn from one another.  Our desire is to encourage, as a friend would, not provide oversight.  The Congregation may assist with food, transportation, furnishings, and health/emotional/educational support, but it will not be the sole provider of these services.  We will work as a bridge to local resources to fulfill our ultimate goal of ensuring the refugees achieve independence through jobs and their own residence.

Summer Update on our Ukrainian Families

The summer has been a busy time for the children in our two Ukrainian families.  Both the Siredzhuk and Novak family have a daughter who went to Irvine, California at the end of June to play in a national volleyball tournament.  Along with another Ukrainian girl from the area, they represented Ukraine as they joined a team that won a silver medal in the 12-year-old division.  Each girl was accompanied by her mother.  They enjoyed a trip to the beach and a visit to Disneyland while there and came back with lots of pictures and good memories.

The Siredzhuk family has twin daughters who are ten.  Along with the ten-year-old son of the Novak family, the three children are enjoying Cub Scout Day Camp this week at Camp Miakonda.  The camp provides not only many fun activities for the children, but also gives them an opportunity to practice speaking and understanding English.

With all four parents working now, the Refugee Action Committee and some dedicated volunteers are providing other activities that will keep all six of the children’s bodies and minds active this summer.  There are trips that include Imagination Station, the Toledo Museum of Art, a horse farm, and a swimming pool.  It has been five months now that the families are here with us.  Fortunately, after all the children experienced in Ukraine, they appear to be happy and adjusting well to all the changes in their lives.  English is still a challenge, but their young minds are learning even more quickly than their parents.

Welcome House

Once the Sisters decided that a house they no longer needed as a residence for themselves should be used for refugees, they sprang into action. During 2022, the SOSF Refugee Action Committee hosted a family from Afghanistan who were evacuated from Kabul during the American withdrawal.

By the end of the year, they began planning for a new family in 2023. “We were prepared to host one family, but after the co-founder of Toledo Helps Ukraine made an impassioned plea for us to consider two families, we prayed over her request and decided hosting another family was important,” explained Sister Nancy Surma, Refugee Action Committee Chair.

The first family of six arrived in early February 2023 and is residing at Welcome House, the home formerly occupied by Sylvania Franciscans. The second family of four arrived a week later. “It is quite difficult for people to get started in the U.S. when they have no rental or credit history, and haven’t found a job yet,” says Sister Nancy. Fortunately, another long-time Toledoan was willing to take a chance on the second family and rented them a duplex.

Water for Ishmael, a local organization which offers English classes to new community members from foreign lands, has been very supportive as the Sisters work to give family members the foundational skills that can change their lives. Members from the Bavarian Sports Club of Toledo have also been very helpful in the preparation and welcoming efforts.

A great volunteer circle of people has lent a hand thus far, donating furniture and household objects and offering rides to the store, church, and to English classes. The goal of the Sisters is to ease the families’ adjustments to the United Sates, supporting them when everything is so new, and setting them on the road to independence. All refugees are so grateful for shelter and kindness outside of a war zone.

Anyone interested in financially supporting the Sisters in this Outreach Ministry are invited to contact Eileen Kerner, Director of Congregational Advancement, or 419-824-3625.

Donate online here.

Previous stands: 

Immigration Stand 10.29.18

Refugee Statement 2017

Sylvania Franciscans work for Refugees, Migrants and Immigration Reform by:

  • Writing to Congress
  • Supporting local boycotts
  • Standing up for the migrants in our area
  • Hosting refugee families
  • Praying for our government leaders that they make wise decisions regarding the immigrant population to preserve the rights of immigrant workers and to ensure family unity

Sisters' Stories

Sr Joan Jurski

Sister Joan Jurski

To be a woman of peace and seeker of justice has been part of my life as a Franciscan. It is the Gospel call that is lived through the spirit of St. Francis. This has directed my life throughout my years of ministry, especially most actively as a diocesan Director of Peace and Justice. Perhaps the most challenging times to act on these values has been in educating people to the Church’s Social Teaching regarding immigration. For many people, Catholics as well, the idea of migrants and immigration raised fears and a variety of arguments to keep them out of this country. Creating parish social ministry committees helped in the dialog and education about our basic social teaching to revere and respect all persons. It was not enough to collect clothes or food for Migrants, social action for change was needed. In collaboration with other ecumenical bodies we continued to work for immigration reform which respects the dignity of all people. And the work goes on.
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Mission And Values

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