A Helping Hand for Immigrants: Long Island Nun Honored for Her Legal Assistance Work

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Family, Immigration, Inspiration, Long Island, Media, Queens, NY, Sisters of St. Joseph

by Katie Vasquez

Most people spend their retirement kicking up their feet and reading a book. Not Sister Eileen McCann.

“Why sleep in a chair if you have something left to give?” Sister Eileen says.

The 85-year-old nun volunteers at the Long Island Immigration Clinic four days a week, fighting for those who are just trying to make a new life in a new country. Each argument she makes helps the migrants she calls friends.

“You want to make it as strong as you possibly can so that the friend has a fighting chance to gain some kind of protection in this country,” Sister Eileen said.

It’s that work that was recently recognized by the group, Support Our Aging Religious, or SOAR. Sister Eileen received the Father Victor Yanitelli award which honors a recipient’s length of service in religious life.

Sister Eileen wasn’t always an immigration expert. She was once a teacher, working in Williamsburg, Crown Heights and even in Puerto Rico.

“I was a late bloomer. I was in my 50s when I studied law,” Sister Eileen said.

Despite the late start, she spent the last 20 years helping the country’s newest arrivals. She says it’s some of the most fulfilling work she’s ever done. “It’s so moving. It really is,” Sister Eileen said. 

The Long Island nun has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

“Certainly if there comes a time when I’m not able to, if I’m in such a way that I’m not really able to contribute what I should be, then I’ll put up my feet [and] read some good books,” Sister Eileen said.