PORTLAND, Maine — For the past two decades, Sister Patricia Pora has been helping Latino and Hispanic communities in Portland, Maine.
"A Sister of Mercy is one who takes a vow of most religious poverty, chastity and obedience," Sister Pora said. "But we also take one for the care of the poor, the sick and the uneducated."
Sister Pora has been serving the Lord and the less fortunate for half a century. Two decades ago, she followed a calling to help the Hispanic and Latino communities in her predominantly white city.
"I went to the Bishop and he said, 'There are no Hispanics here,'" Sister Pora said. "And I had it all done. I said, 'Yeah, there are. There's 20,000.' So he said, 'Oh, I guess we do need to, you know, attend to them.'"
Sister Pora looked up the U.S. Census data. The latest shows 2.7% of the population in Portland, Maine is Hispanic or Latino, compared to 81.8% of people who identify as white. It's been her mission to help minority communities to feel supported. Ezequiel Rubio immigrated to Portland in the early 2000s.
"She has a special, very special sentiment towards the suffering of Latino," Rubio said.
He says he was eager to integrate into American culture and Sister Pora helped him do that.
"When I started with the school adult education for English language, she provided to me some of the book and some of the economic support to pay over there part of the course," Rubio said.
Even though she's technically retired, Sister Pora still offers legal assistance, translation services, and transportation to appointments.
"She's the bridge between all these offices," Rubio said. "Immigration, health, hospital, lawyer, nurse. She is the connection."
Sister Pora says she hopes others will treat Hispanic and Latino communities with love and respect.
"The Latinos, I think as far as the immigrant population, are kind of at the bottom because of the status that so many of them have," Sister Pora said. "You know, there's a lot of them that are undocumented, and it's not because they want to be. They certainly tried. Some have paid for lawyers to try to become documented. They pay their taxes, but they don't get social security, they don't get benefits from it."
Sister Pora says the immigration situation in the United States is very complicated, and there are some issues that need to be addressed. However, she's doing her part by sharing God's love and grace with people like Rubio.
"She feels like my second mom," Rubio said.