500 immigrant women to be honored by Archdiocese

May 10, 2016

HOUSTON — For the past three years, more than 1,000 low-income immigrant women have been learning to become self-sufficient and develop skills that will improve their lives and the lives of their families. These women are participants in a three-year program called the Association for Comprehensive Enhancement of the Family (AMSIF). 

On May 13, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo and Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz will honor more than 500 AMSIF participants. The celebration begins with Mass, followed by an awards ceremony where 25 of the participants will be recognized for completing all three years of the program. The Mass and ceremony will take place at the Catholic Charismatic Center, 1949 Cullen Blvd. in Houston at 10 a.m. 

AMSIF was founded in Mexico more than 40 years ago, and came to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston three years ago. This year’s celebration is significant – it will be the first time participants will ‘graduate’ from the program having completed all three years.

The program was introduced in order to help immigrant women achieve freedom and hope in both their spiritual and daily lives. Every week, the volunteers meet with participants and provide training in areas including spiritual development and applying the Gospel in everyday life, improving family communication, self-esteem and self-knowledge development, time management, cooking and nutrition, personal and family health, arts and crafts, English and basic computer skills. 

“AMSIF fully transforms women by helping them in every area of their lives: spiritually, socially, physically, mentally and economically,” said Marisol Domínguez, AMSIF’s Houston coordinator. “The transformation that the women experience permeates into their families and therefore, the community.” 

“Our mission is to strengthen the family and community though the comprehensive formation of women. We do that through a liberating education which is based on Gospel values,” explained AMSIF volunteer Elena Agostini. “The impact of this program is amazing because it helps the women become closer to God and enables them to be more understanding and caring towards their families.” 

“AMSIF has helped me to exploit my gifts. It has made me have better self-esteem, because now I can do things I thought I as was not capable of doing, for example; now I know how to use a computer and speak English,” said Claudia Santiago, a parishioner at St. Charles where the program was initially tested. Santiago said the program helped her to step out of her comfort zone, something she avoided doing before joining AMSIF. 

Conchita Perez said the program completely transformed how she saw herself, both physically and spiritually. “Before AMSIF, I didn’t like how I looked in pictures.” But “now I have no complex about my height or my weight.” Perez finds these changes in the lives of her family, society and in God and said “I have more faith and great confidence in myself.”

For Rosa Marrujo, the class helped her to improve so much that her husband asked her to continue participating. “I love the family class because we talk about our kids, about our husbands, etc. Even my husband asks me to keep participating because I have changed a lot,” she said.

AMSIF helped Maria Jaramillo to understand why being a role model is crucial to family life. The program “opened my eyes about the importance of being an example, especially as parents,” Jaramillo said. “This program has helped me to consolidate and solidify my family in Christ.”

Sergio Castillo, the Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese, said AMSIF truly embodies the Gospel. “I’m very proud of all of the participants, but especially those finishing their third year. There has been an evident change in their lives, and I have witnessed it very closely. Now, they have a responsibility to share what they have received, and give back to their communities. This is part of the beauty of AMSIF. The gift of faith and of a new life is not to be kept hidden, but to be shared with the world and have it bear abundant fruit. AMSIF has great potential to change society for the better through their programs for women.”

AMSIF, founded by a group of Catholic laywomen in Mexico more than 40 years ago, was introduced to the Houston-Galveston area three years ago by the Archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry. Locally, the program, run entirely by a network of 200 volunteers, is administered through fourteen parish-based “Advancement Family Centers.” 

In addition to the women who will be recognized for completion of their first year of the AMSIF Houston program, another 110 women will be completing their second year.