A Short History of Caroline House

Filling Needs for Education, Friendship, and Inspiration

By Sister Peg Regan, SSND

Three decades ago, members of the Wilton Province Assembly pondered the “unmet needs” in our area. We focused on women who were poor, especially immigrant women in different geographic areas. As we researched, a two-family house built in 1902 in Bridgeport was given to the Sisters, and was named Caroline House in honor of Mother Caroline, who played a major role in the growth of our American mission in the nineteenth century.   

After scraping, painting and cleaning by many volunteer Sisters, friends, and family members, the House was opened in 1995 with 13 women who needed to learn English. Over the years the enrollment grew to 120, and included childcare, pre-school, after-school tutoring, and a summer enrichment program for their children.

Aside from learning to speak, read and write English, these immigrant women formed friendships and provided encouragement and community for one another as they learned life skills in a new culture. Workshops include health, financial literacy, budgeting, immigration updates, current events, community resources, parenting, domestic violence, citizenship preparation, computer literacy, knitting, art, crafts and Zumba.

More than 2,000 women have learned to communicate with their children’s teachers, doctors, and in the social milieu. More than 1,000 children have been tutored in reading and math. Hundreds of preschoolers have been accepted into English-only Kindergarten or First Grade classes.

This work has been done by a few dozen SSNDs, Associates, lay staff, with help from hundreds of adult and teenage volunteers. Those volunteers come from the community, local universities and high schools, and an incredibly dedicated Board of Directors. The current Executive Director has a Masters in non-profit administration and is a mother who immigrated from Guatemala!

Some of the women continued their education with GED and college classes. Recently, one woman finished her studies and is now working as a dental hygienist. One of the kids from the afterschool tutoring program just finished his Ph.D. in psychology from Yale, and his little brother will soon be starting Law School. He plans to study immigration law. Their Mom is grateful and proud!

Caroline House has not only made a difference in the lives of many immigrant women and their children, but they have made a difference to those of us who have served Caroline House as well. They have inspired us and brought us inestimable joy. We are grateful for each other.

Photo Captions

Photo 1: Level 3 students with S. Eileen Denny and S. Carolyn Stoe.
Photo 2: Level 4 students with Sister Betty King, CND
Photo 3: All sorts of learning happening here
Photo 4: We see future engineers, firefightes, fire chiefs!
Photo 5: Flash cards are helpful, especially after Covid
Photo 6: Learning is more fun with a friendly tutor

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