AUBURN — When the plea for assistance came in, Deacon Denis Mailhot — parish social ministry and outreach coordinator at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Auburn — knew exactly where to turn.

“The parish staff alerted me of a Congolese family of five that was arriving in Maine and needed warm winter clothing and boots as well as other household goods,” Denis said in a news release from Dave Guthro, communications director of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. “I immediately reached out to Bill Wood at Catholic Charities Maine.”

Catholic Charities Maine’s Refugee and Immigration Services is committed to helping those seeking a new life in America feel welcome and become self-reliant members in the community.

“The program welcomes refugees upon their arrival; meets basic needs like housing, food, and clothing; arranges for language lessons; offers community, cultural, and employment orientation; assists with employment development and placement; helps with family reunification; and offers medical and mental health referrals,” said Wood, an outreach worker at Catholic Charities Maine, according to the release. “In the last decade, RIS has resettled thousands of refugees in Maine.”

The staff at RIS understands the plight of those they serve, since many of the staff members at RIS are refugees and immigrants themselves.

In a matter of days — thanks to that commitment — clothes, boots, and other winter wear, as well as household appliances, were quickly assembled for the Congolese family that arrived in Maine last week. Fr. Paul Dumais and the St. Rose Thrift Store in Jay assisted in the project with additional donations.

As a result, these parents and children wore warm clothes, and smiles, as they took their first steps into America.

“It’s such a blessing to welcome and help families arriving in Maine,” said Denis. “An opportunity to put into action a deacon’s charism of service and charity, and for all of God’s children to answer their call to serve our brothers and sisters.”

For more information about Refugee and Immigration Services, including other ways to help, visit

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