At 15, Sister Cecilia Pham boarded a crowded boat in her beloved homeland of Vietnam and set out with a few family members on a difficult journey to the United States. They were fleeing an oppressive Communist regime that among other atrocities had taken possession of their family business. It was their third attempt to escape. The family left relatives, friends and everything they owned.
Even now, Sister Cecilia’s voice catches and faint tears come to her eyes when she recalls leaving, and how different her birthplace looks now on her rare visits. Many inequalities still exist there today that make opportunities difficult and life unsafe for poor residents.
But Sister Cecilia has found hope, community and purpose in St. Louis, serving God and her fellow country people through her work at the Vietnamese Health Clinic at St. Francis Community Service’s Southside Center.
“We are all together like a family here,” said Sister Cecilia. "As a refugee, I went through the same things they went through. I see my own parents in the people I serve. I do whatever I can to help.”
The clinic serves more than 150 people annually, providing primary care, referrals, medication management assistance, translation, transportation, benefits guidance and more.
“Our patients often have trouble accessing U.S. medical systems because of barriers,” said Sister Cecilia. “We help them navigate these systems and our onsite clinic gives them continuous care from a doctor, plus many supportive services.”
“Life can be hard for those we serve. They didn’t start with a strong foundation here and many didn’t receive much education in Vietnam,” added Sister Cecilia. “Because they must work so hard to provide for their families, they sometimes neglect their health needs. For some of them, by the time they came to our clinic, unfortunately, it was too late!!!”
St. Francis Community Services (SFCS) is just one of eight agencies that comprise the Catholic Charities of St. Louis Federation. SFCS serves individuals and families in need through community-based, culturally sensitive programs, helping them recognize their strengths, overcome obstacles and achieve a better tomorrow.
Together, with the help of organizations like the St. Francis Community Services and Catholic Charities, we can help others like those served by Southside Center overcome barriers and change their story. Everything that the Appeal supports has the same goal, bringing Christ to others, building the Church, and helping people get to heaven.
Together, we can help tell this incredible story. Please consider making a gift to the ACA at your parish. You can also give online at archstl.org/aca. Thank you in advance for your prayers and for your generous response to the 2018 Annual Catholic Appeal.
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