Join our Talent Network
Skip to main content
hero banner

Celebrating our Employees

Mariana Duenas, Caseworker with a Heart for Immigrants

They call her Mama.

In a conference room in midtown Manhattan, Mariana Duenas, a Catholic Charities caseworker, convenes a group of 13 Venezuelan migrants joined around a set of tables. They are mostly men, with a handful of women. None appears to be older than 30. They include two children, including one boy who sleeps through the entire proceedings.

Mariana wears a sash with the Venezuelan colors. She was once a migrant herself, and has been working out of Catholic Charities in Westchester County for 18 years.

“Where are you from?” She asks in Spanish, beginning a one-hour meeting.

The names of cities and villages, big and small, pour out. One mentions Caracas, and Mariana nods in recognition, as that is where she is from. There’s an aura of familiarity, a sense of home reawakened.

But there are reasons why this group has trudged more than 4,000 miles through jungles and mountains to get to this spot, after plane and bus rides from their entry points at the Texas border.

“Their journey is miraculous. Among them are my heroes,” says Mariana, who hears their stories and is overwhelmed with awe and admiration for the struggles they have endured.

She usually works in Westchester but is here in Manhattan as a result of the migrant crisis and Catholic Charities’ commitment to help. This is where she is needed. A 2007 article from the New York Times notes her reputation as a champion of immigrants. She speaks the language and knows the territory from where they have come.

employee spotlight mariana image
employee spotlight richard image

Richard Espinal, Housing Advocate

Richard Espinal, Director of Housing Support Services for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, is an expert on housing and other issues affecting Latinos in New York City. He knows it’s a long struggle, something he’s been involved with for decades.

At a 2023 conference at Fordham University, he described the obstacles faced by many Latinos.

“Far too many of our sisters and brothers are either homeless, on the brink of losing their housing or so burdened by their housing expenses that many must choose between paying for medicine, keeping the lights on, or even their families’ next meal,” he said.

More than half of Latino households in the city are paying more than 30 percent of their income for rent.

“The reality is that the American Dream that brought many of us or our parents or grandparents, to this country has not been handed to us on a silver platter. We have had to deal and continue to deal with systemic inequity, racism, and indifference,” he said.

Richard is working to right injustice through his work with Catholic Charities. He is involved in initiatives developing low-cost housing, as well as providing support and counseling for residents in public housing.

All, he said, is part of Catholic Charities’ “mission and vision to uphold the dignity of each human person” by seeking “to provide help and create hope by accompanying our neighbors, providing community engagement and social services with compassion.”