Catholic Free Press

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  • Apr
  • 26

Catholic Charites to add more citizenship classes

Posted By April 26, 2012 | 1:03 pm | Lead Story #3
By William T. Clew LEOMINSTER - Catholic Charities, which offers classes for those who want to become United States citizens, wants to expand its citizenship programs in the Worcester Diocese. A Citizenship Information Day will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 3, at the Leominster Public Library, 30 West St., to discuss free classes, how citizenship works and to make available free naturalization information and citizenship test study materials. The event is sponsored by Catholic Charities and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to Madelyn Hennessy, administrator of adult education programs for Catholic Charities. It is open to anyone interested, but especially to those legal permanent United States residents, i.e. holders of Green Cards. U.S. Rep. James McGovern is scheduled to take part.

CNS FILE PHOTO

By William T. Clew

LEOMINSTER – Catholic Charities, which offers classes for those who want to become United States citizens, wants to expand its citizenship programs in the Worcester Diocese.
A Citizenship Information Day will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 3, at the Leominster Public Library, 30 West St., to discuss free classes, how citizenship works and to make available free naturalization information and citizenship test study materials.
The event is sponsored by Catholic Charities and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to Madelyn Hennessy, administrator of adult education programs for Catholic Charities. It is open to anyone interested, but especially to those legal permanent United States residents, i.e. holders of Green Cards. U.S. Rep. James McGovern is scheduled to take part.
Catholic Charities has been awarded a federal grant from Homeland Securities Office of Citizenship to work with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. to provide technical assistance to increase the long-term capacity of Catholic Charities  to provide citizenship instruction and naturalization-application services in Central Massachusetts.
The Worcester organization is one of four in the United States to receive the grant. The others are Catholic Charities organizations in Los Angeles, Syracuse and Cleveland.
Citizenship classes are held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Catholic Charities offices at 196 Mechanics St. In Worcester, classes are held at 10 Hammond St. from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 9 a.m. Fridays. Also, classes for the elderly and handicapped are held at 3 p.m. Thursdays at 425 Pleasant St, Worcester. Ms. Hennessy said Catholic Charities  also will offer classes in Milford and Southbridge if there is a demand for them.
The classes cover U.S. history, citizenship and government functions, according to Robert Cronin, coordinator of citizenship activities. Those who take them must be able to read, write and speak basic English. The classes are a natural followup to immigration and refugee programs with which Catholic Charities has been involved for two generations, he said.
A magazine published by USCIS and titled “Learn About the United States” with 100 questions and answers about the United States and short paragraphs explaining each question and answer. From those 100 questions, 10 are selected to be asked of the applicant when he or she takes the citizenship test, which is given in  Lawrence. The applicant must answer six correctly.
Mr. Cronin said that the classes are free, but the federal  government charges applicants $680 for the citizenship process, to be filed with the application for citizenship. The government will waive the cost if the applicant can show he or she cannot afford the fee.
By the time they go to Lawrence to be tested, the applicants probably have been in 10 classes, Mr. Cronin.
And there is no question of failing the test, he said. They are tested in the classes, take part in several mock interviews, advised to begin conversations when they get to Lawrence and told to maintain a positive  attitude.
“We don’t even talk about failing” Mr. Cronin said.
There have been many years when 100 percent of the applicants from the Worcester classes have passed the federal tests, Ms. Hennessy said. But  they have to study. Any failures have been people who signed up for the program but didn’t attend classes, she said.
She said she admires those who take the classes, They all have jobs, some of them have children and they take the time to attend classes at night. When they are done, many of them know more about U.S. history and government than lots of Americans, Mr. Cronin said.
Ms. Hennessy said Catholic Charities usually serves 200 to 300 people each year in various programs, including G.E.D. classes, computer training, English classes as well as the citizenship programs. About 60 or 70 are in the citizenship programs each year, though this year that number already has been  surpassed, Mr. Cronin said.

– More information is available from Madelyn Hennessy at 508-860-2261 or mhennessy@ccworc.org.