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Welcoming the Stranger visit helps Doylestown church promote peace, justice


This month, the Peace and Justice group at Doylestown’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church arranged an informational panel presented by nonprofit organization Welcoming the Stranger.

Last month, its focus was on homelessness and a presentation it offered in partnership with the Bucks County Housing Group.

The Peace and Justice ministry at the Doylestown Roman Catholic church provides parishioners with opportunities to deepen their faith by acting on the commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Operating for more than 30 years, the Peace and Justice ministry allows all members of the community — Catholic and non-Catholic alike — to participate. Its mission is to share Catholic social teaching and offer opportunities to then act on it. The group pays specific attention to groups that are marginalized by society — like those dealing with homelessness and addiction.

Through presentations and discussions, the Peace and Justice group works to raise awareness of these issues’ prevalence, even in Bucks County.

Welcoming the Stranger is a nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to teaching and guiding immigrants and refugees who are interested in gaining American citizenship.

The organization was formed on donations in 1999 by Rev. S. Sturgis Poorman Jr, a Presbyterian pastor at the time. Executive Director Patricia Lorenz came to the group first as student who didn’t speak any English.

“The teachers gave me the confidence,” she recalled.

In 2023 alone, Welcoming the Stranger registered 499 students in 155 online and in-person classes. More than just how to speak English, the classes teach their students how to be an American.

Teachers volunteer their time but there is a payoff. According to Lorenz, only two students during her time with the organization didn’t receive their citizenship. And those continued to work toward it.

Lessons cover reading and writing in English, plus the ins and outs of the American life —how to shop in a grocery store, how to make appointments on the phone, etc.

Students come from all over the world but share the same passion and interest in becoming an American citizen.

At the church’s April session, Welcoming the Stranger volunteer Mike Holland told of coming to America from the United Kingdom, hoping to start a business, and how that transition felt.

He said he first heard of Welcoming the Stranger in an edition of the Bucks County Herald newspaper.

Welcoming the Stranger creates a sense of community, Holland said. Every lesson starts with a conversation involving teachers and students that promotes English learning.

“We see in every class their confidence grows throughout the term,” said Holland.

One student, named Dennis, talked of struggling to communicate after arriving in the U.S. with his wife from Russia.

“Solution was Welcoming the Stranger,” said Dennis. “Class becomes something special. They teach us how to live in America.”

The group holds classes in Warminster, Doylestown, Morrisville, and Hatboro and has used more than 600 volunteers to teach more than 5,700 students from 112 countries.

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