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  • Writer's pictureCatholic Ministries Appeal


Dembe was keeping a very dangerous secret. For months she had been visiting a Catholic shrine near her home in Uganda. Pregnant, she nurtured her new-found faith there and decided she would have her baby baptized.

But Dembe came from a devout Muslim family and she knew her change of religion could be disastrous. She eventually told her husband who supported her decision.

However, it wasn't long before their families found out and tempers flared. Hers immediately cut all ties while his family quickly turned everyone in their small community against them.

Soon they were not only ostracized but regularly victimized. Neighbors would curse and throw stones as they walked in the street. Once, while she was home alone, a group of men threw her into a pile of animal dung and mud.

"They told me they'd kill us if I baptized my baby. I was frightened. I knew I had to do something." So Dembe sought religious asylum in the United States.

When she arrived without her husband, she was still eight months pregnant and the only shelter she could find was in a friend's unfinished basement. A hospital social worker heard her plight and called Catholic Charities' Regina Residence, our home for pregnant women in crisis. There, Dembe was welcomed with open arms and found unconditional love for her and her newborn baby, Maria.

Today, Dembe and her baby are healthy, happy, and enjoying the religious freedom and tolerance of the United States. But she recalls, "At that shrine, they told me that God would find a way to wrap His arms around us. It was true. His arms are the embrace of Catholic Charities."

Story reprinted from Catholic Charities' March Newsletter - The Mission.

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