SCRANTON – During her more than 20 years ministering to people in churches and nursing homes across the country, Sister Jude Njeri, L.S.O.S.F., a native of Kenya, said the United States had started to feel like “another home.”

On Sept. 15, 2023, it officially became her home, as Sister Jude took the Oath of Citizenship at a naturalization ceremony inside the federal courthouse in Scranton.

Sister Jude Njeri, L.S.O.S.F., left, celebrates with Fikile Ryder, Director of Community for Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton, outside the federal courthouse in Scranton on Sept. 15, 2023. Just a short time earlier, Sister Jude participated in a Naturalization ceremony to officially become a United States citizen. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

“This is a land of opportunities,” Sister Jude said immediately after becoming an American citizen. “My heart is very light. It has given me strength, another push, to go on. I still have time in my life to give.”

As a member of the Little Sisters of Saint Francis, Sister Jude has spent time ministering to people in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New York, in addition to the greater Scranton area. As two decades began to pass, she started doing research on how to become a U.S. citizen.

“At first I thought it would be very expensive. People were telling me you need a lawyer and lawyers cost money,” she said.

One night, she woke up from a sound sleep, and thought that Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton might be able to assist her.

She was correct.

“I went to visit Fikile and she helped me,” Sister Jude explained. “Catholic Social Services is there to reach out to us who need it and I’m so grateful!”

Fikile Ryder, MSCJ, is Catholic Social Services’ Director of Community and is an accredited immigration counselor for the U.S. Department of Justice. She worked closely with Sister Jude to make sure the process went smoothly.

“With us (Catholic Social Services) being recognized, and myself being accredited with the Department of Justice, I am authorized to practice immigration law. With that, I’m able to file applications like citizenship and also represent them in front of the Department of Homeland Security,” Ryder said.

Ryder was one of many people who filled the courtroom in September to see Sister Jude – and roughly 30 other people – received their naturalization certificates.

“It’s an amazing feeling and congratulations to everybody who became United States citizens,” she added.

Ryder says citizenship is often the last step on many people’s immigration journey – but a very important step.

“When you become a U.S. citizen, you’re able to vote, you’re able to apply for federal jobs, you’re able to go in different countries without needing VISAs, just using your U.S. passport,” Ryder said.

As one of the newest U.S. citizens, Sister Jude returned to her home at the Mercy Center in Dallas following the ceremony, feeling both happy and proud.

“I feel like I could fly,” she said with a smile. “I’m just floating on the air!”