Kindness and caring come in many languages. Liliana Carbone speaks at least two of them quite well.
The native of Argentina divides her week in three ways.
“Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I work at DHS as a child welfare aide,” said Carbone, who also is the coordinator of religious education at St. Joseph Catholic Church. “The rest of the days I work here in the church office. On Tuesday mornings, I work in Catholic Charities.”
Carbone, 52, came to the United States in 2001 from Rosario, a city of 2 million people in central Argentina.
“It’s in the middle of the country,” she said. “We don’t have the snow that you do in the winter. It’s hot and humid in the summer, but not as hot as it was here last year.
“The south of the country is like Alaska. It snows and you can see the aurora borealis. It’s the end of the world.”
The Catholic Church played an important part in the Carbone family.
“We lived in a neighborhood with three Catholic churches,” she said. “My grandpa, he was from Italy, and he took me to church every Sunday. He taught me how to pray in Latin when I was very little.”
She said her neighborhood was near a train station, and most of the families worked for the railroad in one way or another.
“Most families had three members from Italy and one from Spain,” she said. “My husband and I have the same roots.”
She said her Italian grandmother made ravioli every Sunday.
When the country’s economy suffered a downturn in 2001, Carbona and her husband left Argentina with their three children.
“My brother-in-law lived here and ran a jewelry store,” she said. “My husband was a carpenter, and all the companies were closing in Argentina.”
Carbone said leaving her homeland was “hard, very hard.”
“It was hardest on my daughter, she was 16 and she was mad with the entire world,” she said.
Meet Liliana Carbone
HOMETOWN: Rosario, Argentina.
CAREER: Religious education coordinator, St. Joseph Catholic Church.
EDUCATION: Instituto 4014 in Argentina.
FAMILY: Husband, Luis Carbone. Three children, Federico, Flavia and Sofia.
CHURCH: St. Joseph Catholic Church.
HOBBIES: “I like to be outside, walking with my dog. I like to cook and work in the yard with flowers.”
about their faith
As St. Joseph Catholic Church’s coordinator of religious education, Liliana Carbone may well have her busiest day of the week on Sunday.
“Sunday mornings I come in very early, like I come in around 7:30 a.m.,” she said. “There is one teacher who doesn’t have transportation, so I pick her up as well. I go to the classrooms to make sure everything is in place, then I receive the children. Sometimes the teachers need copies or assignment material for next week, see what everybody needs.”
She also works with families of children receiving their First Communion.
That is when Catholic children around age 8 take communion for the first time, she said.
“They have to prepare themselves,” she said. “They have to learn the prayers, learn to be kind with people, learn to share. First Communion is the first time they take the bread; that’s why it is a very important time for them.”
Carbone said the church has a retreat for First Communion children and their parents. She also works with the church to organize a retreat for seventh- and eighth-graders, introducing them to the youth program.
Carbone’s involvement in religious education began when she lived in Argentina.
“I started with my son. He went to Catholic school. The teacher asked if I could help with classes,” she said. “When I moved here in 2001, they didn’t have anyone who speaks Spanish to teach the First Communion. My daughter at the time was 8. She started classes with English-speaking children, and it was so hard.”
She said she taught the class for 10 years until a religious assistant position opened. She later became the religious education coordinator.
through the state
Carbone also finds a way to help others through her job at the Department of Human Services. As a child welfare aide, she takes children in foster care to appointments with doctors or DHS officials. She also helps supervise the children’s visits with their biological parents. She has even taken children to Oklahoma City for visits to the DHS headquarters.
“For workers, I think it is a huge help, because they are so busy,” she said. “For the children, I think I cannot do very much in my position other than treating them with respect and kindness.
“Sometimes, I sing to them or play games with them while I am driving. Sometimes, they have to wait for their parents; you have the opportunity to help them. Any time you have the opportunity to talk to them, laugh with them, comfort them when they cry, it’s like a little seed that you plant. You show that the world is not what they think sometimes, that you have another option.”
Carbone said she has been working with DHS for about two years. “I started one summer, helping with the LIHEAP program,” she said.
She was referring to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Carbone said she worked with DHS to help people pay electric bills during the summer.
“I had a friend who was working in Tahlequah as a social worker. She introduced me to the people,” Carbone said.
She said that after she worked with the LIHEAP program, she was asked to work in the child welfare department.
A heart for
Carbone also shows her kindness and compassion through her work at Catholic Charities. She said she’s been helping there since the start of the school year.
“Father told me that Ed Falleur needed help,” she said, referring to the director of Catholic Charities.
Carbone is among several St. Joseph parishioners who help in the program. Some volunteer, but she said she works as part of her job.
“I always try to help people; I really feel good when I help,” she said.
Carbone said she works from at Catholic Charities from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays.
“I do whatever they need,” she said. “I help unload the food. I help them work in the computer room. I help in receiving people. I open boxes. Put food in the shelves. I help with everything they need.”
She said she has seen how people in Muskogee need help.
“In the beginning of each month, we may have five or 10 families needing help. By the end of the month, there are far more,” she said at the end of April. “This past Tuesday, we helped 29 people — that’s 29 families!”
Carbone traces this caring to when she was growing up. She said her family and church helped an orphanage in their town.
“Each year we had people donate stuff,” she said. “We’d spend a day with the children.”
HOW DID YOU BECOME AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
“My brother-in-law was here.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
“People are very nice, very open, like I am somebody.”
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
“Something for teenagers. That is something I did not find when I came here. That was hard on my daughter when we came here, needing a place to get to go to and make friends. I like the water park, but if they had a swimming pool that’s bigger, for teens, that can be some place for them.”
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING IN MUSKOGEE?
Religious education coordinator at St. Joseph Catholic Church. Works with child welfare department at Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
“I go to see my daughter, walk with my dog, or cook. I spend time with my family, my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law.”
WHAT OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE?
“Father Mike Knipe is one of those. He is one of those persons who, if he sees something he thinks you can do, he gives you the opportunity to do it. He leaves you to create. He has a connection with the people. Another person can be Mary Upchurch, who works in the office. She also works for Good Shepherd Clinic. Another person is Carlene Falleur.”
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“I worked for eight years at Muskogee Head Start. When I interviewed, I did not speak much English. Leslie Porter did the interview with me with a translator. She gave me the opportunity and helped me to grow. That impressed me at the time.”
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“It’s a little town with lots of restaurants. The people are very nice and very kind.”