When Yacouba Jacob Bogre first came to Vermont 2003 from Burkina Faso to join his wife who already had settled in Winooski, he found a welcoming home at St. Francis Xavier Parish where he was assisted with transportation, access to services and job opportunities.

“People always care for each other,” he said, noting that once when he missed Mass at the church because he was traveling, a man noticed he had been absent and the next week inquired if he was all right. “That means a lot,” Bogre said.

He is one of many refugees/immigrants/asylum seekers that parishioners have helped in numerous ways over the years — with housing, food, clothing and education.

Parishioner Diane Potvin has been involved in this assistance for about 25 years and continues to ensure that people have what they need.

“It makes me feel like I am in my home country where I have connections to people,”
Bogre said, adding that it is important for him to raise his three sons in an environment that encourages them to do good for their community and in which faith plays an important role.

Jeremiah Niyongabo, 12, a sixth grader at St. Francis Xavier School who is the son of refugees, is grateful for the Catholic education the parish has made available to him. Parishioners, he said, “are listening to Jesus the Christ” in doing good for others, and that makes him want to do the same.

Angel Niyibigira, 13, a seventh grader at the school is also the child of refugees, and she has learned that “it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you look like, everybody is equal.”

Some of the New Americans St. Francis Xavier Parish has helped are now adults, carrying on the work of helping others. Among them is parishioner Claudine Nkurunziza who came from Berundi in 2004 and whose family received assistance from the parish with schooling, finances, food and sacramental preparation. She often helps others, especially with translating.

The example of parishioners — and her mother — helping others engrained in her a desire to offer help “when someone knocks at your door.”

Her mother, parishioner Merida Ntirampeba, said parishioners do “a lot of wonderful things for me,” and she feels blessed.

Working with the New Americans makes Potvin “feel really good we are able to provide them with opportunities to become the wonderful people they are now.”

—Originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.