From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Diocese’s Detention Ministry Director now a U.S. citizen

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the Sept. 12, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

Providence Sister Myrta Iturriaga, director of the diocese’s Detention Ministry, became a U.S. citizen Aug. 20 during a ceremony presided over by Judge Cynthia Imbrogno in U.S. District Court. (IR photo)

On Aug. 20, a group of people became citizens of the United States.

Not such an extraordinary event, all told. Except that this time, among the new citizens was Sister Myrta Iturriaga, a member of the Sisters of Providence and a former citizen of Chile.

Sister Myrta became a U.S. citizen in U.S. District Court, in a ceremony presided over by Judge Cynthia Imbrogno.

Sister Myrta has been working in the United States in several capacities since August of 1988.

Prior to coming to the United States she had been a teacher in Chile, mostly teaching elementary school math.

She also has studied religion and moral ethics, education administration, and completed English as a Second Language courses at Gonzaga University and multicultural training at the pastoral center in San Antonio, Texas.

After first coming to this country she ministered in St. Vincent Parish in Connell, mostly with the Hispanic community there, but also beginning to work in detention ministry.

She now directs detention ministry for the Spokane Diocese.

She began working in the Catholic Pastoral Center in 1991, brought on board to help facilitate the Spanish language elements of the RENEW program, which was beginning to organize that year.

That work has expanded over the years. She teaches Hispanic catechetics and catechist formation; retreats for couples and families; is a spiritual guide for the Cursillo movement; serves on the diocese’s multi-cultural committee; and is on the Board for the Native American community in Spokane.

Her translation skills are used extensively throughout the diocese: by Sacred Heart Medical Center and other health care institutions in the city, translating for the bishop (including his column for each issue of the Inland Register) and for the Development Office.

She was surprised, she said, at how quickly the process was completed, once she began the wheels turning to become a citizen.

But after 14 years, why now?

“My main motivation was so that I could work for change,” she said. As a citizen, she can participate more fully in legal processes, to be a more effective advocate - for prisoners, for the Hispanic community, for the Latino-American community.

In the past, she was sometimes frustrated by the kinds of barriers she would encounter as an alien working in this country. As a citizen, she said, her voice can be “heard more fully,” speaking as “an insider, not an outsider.”

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