'They have been suffering so much.' Migrant families lean on faith in Catholic baptism ceremony

Lauren Costantino, Miami Herald on

Published in Religious News

MIAMI — It took months of trekking across Central America to escape economic hardship in Venezuela and get to Miami for Karen Ugas, her husband and her five kids.

They needed everything — food, clothes, a place to live and most of all, a plan to figure out their next step in a new country — and a lot of faith.

Ugas says she and her family now are slowly getting their lives on track and finding community thanks to a local organization, Hermanos de la Calle (Brothers of the Street). The group helps Miami’s unhoused population find places to live, including freshly-arrived migrants who may be seeking asylum.

And the group depends on the help of religious institutions like the Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood to tackle housing for homeless migrants.

On Sunday, Ugas’ children were baptized along with several other kids of migrant families at Corpus Christi. The ceremony reflects broader efforts by Miami’s faith-based communities that are often on the front lines of assisting the homeless.

Finding community in church has helped the migrants at the ceremony find hope and a sense of belonging in a foreign place, many said.


“Thank God, I have received a lot of support from the organization,” Ugas said after the baptism ceremony. “If it weren’t for them I don’t know what we’d be doing.”

Hermanos, a part of the Homeless Trust provider network, has been helping people experiencing homelessness find permanent housing, access to healthcare and employment opportunities since 2015.

“We serve the migrants that have nowhere to go,” said Hermanos executive director Malena Legarre. “We think what we did today is great because we combined two things: You become part of a community and you become part of a community of love that Christianity can give you.”

While there are hundreds of thousands of migrants and exiles arriving in Miami every year (a 400 percent increase since October 2022), Hermanos de la Calle says they try to assist people who are at the highest-risk: Those without a family or a support system here.


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