Q&A with Labouré ESOL student and Published Author, Namik Selmani
Namik Selmani, an ESOL student at Catholic Charities Labouré Center, recently published “When the Word Blesses the Word”, a book of poems and short stories about sources of inspiration he has encountered throughout his life, including the support system he has found at the Labouré Center. The 72-year-old author shared more about the process of writing the book and his experiences with Catholic Charities below.
What led you to the Labouré Center?
I came to the United States for the first time in 2010 to visit my daughter Laura, who lives in Massachusetts. In 2016, my wife and I moved to the U.S. from Albania at the request of my daughter so our family could be reunified.
I attended the Notre Dame English school in South Boston until it closed, which is when I discovered that the Labouré Center was starting a new ESOL program. By beautiful coincidence, my birthday––November 19, 2019––was when I became one of the first adult immigrant students at Labouré. I became a U.S. citizen in September 2022.
What was your experience taking English classes at the Labouré Center like?
The experience was useful, inspiring, and exciting for me. Along with learning English, I got to learn about the work that Catholic Charities does in Boston and beyond. Learning English has made me confident enough to communicate, meet new friends, and explore new cultures.
What inspired you to write about the Labouré Center?
The book is a tribute to America as a land of freedom and prosperity. It took two years to write and is broken into poems and short stories about different events or people that have inspired me during my life in the United States. It includes poems about Brooklyn, NY; remembering September 11, and life in Boston.
In the short stories, I share my experiences with different traditions such as Thanksgiving. The story about Labouré is an expression of gratitude for the teacher and students, especially Program Director Veronica Robson who helped me through my education. My four years at Labouré has been a beautiful time learning English and about other cultures. Veronica played a special role in helping me study for the American citizen test last year.
What are your hopes and goals for the future?
I have been a very active member of the Association of Albanian-American Writers for five years, and I would really like to be able to publish my books in English.
One of my main goals is to publish a book in English about the Laboure Center. During these past four years, I have become familiar with the 100-year history of Catholic Charities. I want to tell people about this center that helped many communities in need. I would like to make this book also as an example for the country I come from in Albania. It would be a tribute to the city of Boston itself, which many countries call the “World Capital of Culture”.
“When the Word Blesses the Word” is published in America and Albania and copies may be purchased at the Labouré Center for $10 with plans to have the book translated to English and sell it through Amazon at a later date. A promotion of the book will take place on March 15, 2023 at the Church of St. George in Broadway.