A year ago, I began a journey from activist to advocate. I overcame health issues, loss of employment, and loss of internet connectivity to reach my destination. Concern and passion became effective compassion, and the move was led by faith.

On May 6, I celebrated my graduation from the Villanova University College of Professional Studies program in immigration advocacy. The year-long program prepares students to accompany, assist and advocate for immigrants and refugees.

Our primary instructor was Michele Pistone, director of the Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services, passionately sharing her 30 years of immigration law knowledge and experience. She is an advisor to the Holy See Mission to the United Nations on migration, an associate editor of the Journal on Migration and Human Security, a pioneer in online legal education and co-author of “Stepping Out of the Brain Drain: Applying Catholic Social Teaching in a New Era of Migration.” She taught us a five-stage advocacy process of researching the law, gathering the facts, analyzing the case, writing support, and speaking advocacy.

Professor Pistone was not alone in this endeavor. Retired Judge Paul Schmidt, former chairperson of the Board of Immigration Appeals, shared insights of being prepared, knowing your case’s theory, and respect-ing the professionalism of those involved.

Ayodele Gansallo, adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, provided a basis for researching and understanding the application of immigration law and regulations through her textbook “Understanding Immigration Law.”

Ruth Anne Robbins, professor at Rutgers Law School, and J.C. Lore, professor at Rutgers Law and the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, presented tools for developing persuasive written and oral advocacy.

Along with learning the law, we gained insights into the trauma immigrants and refugees may face leaving their homes, being in transition, arriving in the United States and the adjustment afterward.

I now have the skills and knowledge to accompany refugees and immigrants with compassion. I can apply to be a partially or fully accredited representative through the U.S. Department of Justice. To achieve either of those statuses, I need to be a volunteer or employee of a recognized organization. They are generally non-governmental agencies providing free or low-cost legal services to immigrants. Examples are Catholic Charities, Lutheran Community Services, CAUSA and Ecumenical Ministries’ SOAR.

As a partially accredited representative, I will be able to represent clients seeking citizenship or legal permanent residency or visa benefits before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and Cus-toms and Border Patrol. As a fully accredited representative, I will be authorized to appear before the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals for clients applying for asylum or contesting deportation.

Faith has a voice through effective compassion serving immigrants and refugees. As a graduate of the Villanova program, I will apply my knowledge and skills ensuring justice at the table. “What does the Lord re-quire of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8.

I am ready to serve.

Kingery is a member of St. Juan Diego Parish in Northwest Portland.