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Actions Speak Loudest in Service
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Juan de LegarretaCatholic Studies major Juan de Legarreta found an internship over the summer that personally spoke to him as a U.S. citizen who emigrated from Mexico City and had to adjust to life in a foreign country.

de Legarreta interned at The International Institute of St. Louis, also where he resides, which helps more than 7,000 adult immigrants and refugees from 75 countries. He specifically worked in the education department, where classes offer varying levels of English and citizenship courses, ranging from illiterate, to barely literate, to intermediate, to advanced. These courses prepare immigrants and refugees for the citizenship nationalization test.

Juan assisted the teachers for these courses as a teacher's aide. He made sure everyone was writing correctly, their questions were answered, and the teacher was achieving good interaction with the students. "Kind of like being a teacher without running the class," de Legarreta said.

Volunteer work has always been a big part of de Legarreta's life. Among his volunteer experiences, he went on a week-long service retreat in high school, three years in a row, that his parish youth group hosted. One year, he helped renovate a motor home for an elderly, disabled couple who could not maintain their home. Another year, he worked with a hoarder.

As an immigrant himself, de Legarreta said: "It just is really meaningful that there are people that specifically look to volunteer to help other people assimilate and be a part of the country."

de Legarreta emigrated here from Mexico in 1996 and stayed until 1999, when he went back to his homeland, and then returned to the States in 2001. He considers himself "sheltered" compared to the immigrants he taught, many of whom are political asylum refugees from places like Somalia and Ethiopia.

"I really admire these people for the strength they possess. They have been through a lot and carry the scars with them. I have been quite fortunate to be able to immigrate twice here, and also to be raised in a country without political changes and economic uncertainties," de Legarreta said. He also said being able to speak English, Spanish, Russian and a little bit of Arabic, he thought, would be catering to a lot of their needs, but now is realizing he still has a long way to go, since most of the people he taught, combined, easily speak 16 languages.

Among his love of language, learning, travel and culture, de Legarreta also is very passionate about his faith, Catholicism. He believes that the Catholic Church is the most vital contributor to charitable service worldwide.

"It (Catholicism) has united my family in a necessary way, kept them together and strong, so since it has been such a central thing for me, the service has flowed out naturally," de Legarreta said. "Many people think evangelization means knocking on doors, but actions speak loudest in service because it's giving freely. I'm not looking for anything in return. So in understanding Catholic studies, that service component is not only valuable, but very important."

Dr. Ines Angeli Murzaku, chair of the Department of Catholic Studies and professor of religion, said: "I am so incredibly proud of Juan. He is our best representative and he is what the Department of Catholic Studies is all about: a focus on God and his most beautiful creation, the human being. All Catholics are called to do good, through whatever means they have at their disposal and Juan has many gifts and talents he can share. Homo hominis in servitor perficitur: 'The man only becomes a man when he provides service to the neighbor.'"

For more information please contact:
Ines Murzaku
(973) 275-5845


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