January 24, 2024

In recent years, the Spanish-speaking population of Albany, NY, has been swelling, along with needs that Sister Grace R. Diaz is uniquely prepared to meet. Through her ministry as pastoral assistant at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of the Americas, Sister Grace worked with Mary Giordano and Father Frank O’Connor, the founding members of Family Promise of the Capital Region, to help immigrant families in need of affordable and safe housing.

As the daughter of immigrants from Mexico and Costa Rica who met in the U.S., Sister Grace’s first language was Spanish. Her family owned and lived in a Mexican restaurant in a then-rural area of Maryland during the ‘40s and ‘50s. That experience gave her an understanding of similarities and differences among people from different Latin American cultures, as well as the fairly typical American life of her neighbors and schoolmates.

Family Promise of the Capital Region is a community response to family homelessness that got started in 2015 with the help of faith communities, foundations, businesses and individuals. Financial support from the SNJM Ministry Grant fund has been an essential resource. Mary Giordano is now the organization’s executive director and Father O’Connor serves on the board. Sister Grace continues as an active volunteer.

Sister Grace Diaz

Sister Grace Diaz (center) spends time with community members of Family Promise.

Because she is a Sister, traumatized families quickly develop a deep level of trust that opens them to Sister Grace’s guidance. A typical situation occurred when Sister Grace and Mary Giordano orchestrated legal assistance and translation services for a single-parent homeless family from El Salvador struggling to get through the asylum application process. At the same time, the supportive housing provided by Family Promise made it possible for the family’s daughter to earn her high school diploma in 2021, a year complicated by Covid.

Sister Grace sees her ministry with immigrants in the Albany area as continuing the SNJM tradition of responding to today’s needs and meeting them as they arise. She is grateful to her family in the U.S. and Latin America and to her SNJM community who make possible the use of her homegrown and experiential gifts to welcome and reach out to “the stranger” in her community.