Presentation Lantern Center Receives the Matthew 25 Award

Pictured above:Presentation Lantern Center founder Sister Corine Murray; Fr. Tom Ascheman, SVD; Lantern Center executive director Megan Ruiz; and Sister Carmen Hernandez celebrate the Lantern Center’s Matthew 25 award from Divine Word College.

Adapted from an article by Emily Shedek, Divine Word College

On November 30, Divine Word College (DWC) in Epworth, Iowa, presented the Presentation Lantern Center in Dubuque with the 2023 Matthew 25 Award to recognize the organization’s work improving the lives of immigrants in the greater Dubuque area.

The award was established at DWC in 2001 to honor those in or connected to the area who minister in the spirit of the Bible passage Matthew 25:35-36: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”

Sister Hilda of Divine Word plays Candyland with the child of a Lantern Center student.

The Lantern Center offers hospitality, educational opportunities and advocacy to adult immigrants at no cost. Students can work one-on-one with tutors to improve their English skills, prepare for the citizenship exam, learn practical life skills and meet people from a variety of cultural backgrounds. In 2002, the center was opened by the Dubuque Sisters of the Presentation after research showed a great need for these types of services in the area. Since then, the Lantern Center has served more than 1,700 adult immigrants.

“I feel like we’re able to meet the needs of our community because of the generosity of our volunteers,” said Megan Ruiz, executive director of the Lantern Center. Each year, volunteers give between 3,000 and 4,300 hours of their time at the center.

Among those volunteers are a handful of Divine Word College students who spend a few hours each week working directly with immigrants. More than 90 percent of the students at Divine Word College are international students. Many of them know what it’s like to move to the United States and not speak English, so they bring a unique perspective to the immigrants whom they tutor.

Much like the spirit of the passage from Matthew 25, the staff at the Lantern Center have never turned away an immigrant seeking the organization’s services. “Nothing compares to how rewarding this position is,” Megan said. “The adults who study here, we befriend them and welcome them to the community, and they’re just grateful beyond words.”