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Jan 19, 2016 | Bob Kinney

Casa Marianella in Austin Mirrors the Epiphany

Forty persons from across the world filled a room in one of the Casa Marianella houses in East Austin to celebrate an Epiphany service and the 30th anniversary of Casa on January 6.


This was the third year that Austin’s St. George’s Episcopal Church held an Epiphany mass at Casa Marianella – a non-profit organization that currently houses 43 refugees from throughout the world. Casa helps the refugees learn English, become a US citizen and find work in the Austin area.


Jennifer Long, who has been Casa director for the past 17 years, is a parishioner at St. George’s. The Rev. Kevin Schubert, St. George’s rector, and Long came up with the idea of celebrating Epiphany at Casa.


“I believe this year it is very fitting for us to have the service at Casa again, especially as concern for refugees is in the national and international news,” said Rev. Schubert.


“It is also very fitting for our church to celebrate Epiphany at a facility such as Casa that advocates for refugees. Not only were the wise men foreigners traveling to find Jesus, but shortly after they came to see Jesus, Joseph picked his family up and headed for Egypt as refugees to escape the wrath of Herod,” he said.


Two-thirds of those taking part in the 50-minute service were St. George’s parishioners and members of other Austin area churches.


At Long’s suggestion near the end of the service each person told where she or he was born. Countries included West Africa, Peru, Cameroon, Israel, Bolivia, Mexico and many states throughout the United States.


The Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Austin helped to grow Casa in the late 1980s and most of the Nineties. Elzy Cogswell, retired seminary librarian, brought the Interfaith Task Force for Central America and the seminary together back in those days, said Long.


The late Rev. Dr. Will Spong, who taught pastoral theology at the Seminary of the Southwest for 30 years, brought his seminarians to Casa one evening in 1987 to prepare, serve and share a dinner meal with the refugees.


When Casa first began it drew refugees mostly from Mexico and Central America. In recent years more refugees began coming from South America, many countries in Africa, and some from Asia and Europe.


Casa’s Emergency Shelter provides housing and food, English classes and Case Management to help residents assess their problems, access services (medical, legal etc.) and achieve their goals.


Casa also offers its Posada Esperanza Transitional Shelter for women and children escaping violence. The shelter can house 11 families (a single mom and her children) while offering education for the mothers, a Youth Education program (daily homework tutoring for children, assisting mother’s as they enroll their children in school and get involved with their children’s education through parent-teacher conferences and understanding their children’s progress reports).


With a staff of only ten, Casa relies on about 1,000 volunteers to accomplish its goals.


Find out more about Casa Marianella on its website – www.casamarianella org.


Bob Kinney has been the publicist and board member of the 76-year-old Episcopal Peace Fellowship for the past 5 years. He was communications director at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest from 1986 to 2009.