Some 20 area families recently learned how to prepare for home ownership, thanks to a free workshop sponsored by the Archdiocese, a Bensalem parish and a local bank.
Part of an ongoing series, last month’s session – entitled “Bank on Your Success: Becoming a Homeowner” – took place Feb. 8 at the Fatima Catholic Outreach Center in Bensalem, one of five archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS) sites that provides an array of family supports.
Specialists from BB&T (now Truist Financial) led the seminar, which surveyed the importance of income, credit scores and budgeting in purchasing a home.
Presenter Jamelfrey Pacheco, a branch leader for BB&T, reviewed key financial concepts and terms in participants’ primary language of Spanish – a vitally needed approach, according to Father Philip Forlano, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bensalem.
“Financial literacy is important for immigrants or those coming from a different culture,” said Father Forlano, who promoted the event to his parishioners. “It is not so much about economic theory, but learning the basics of practical money management and how to navigate a system that may be very different than what one was used to in one’s native country.”
Along with learning English, such education helps newcomers “integrate successfully into a new culture,” he added.
Pacheco and fellow branch leader Gavin Riley said the workshops address a real information gap they’ve seen in the local community.
“There’s a huge disconnect in terms of what our clients know and understand about banking and managing their finances, and what we think they understand,” said Pacheco. “A lot of times, people just don’t know what to ask.”
Riley noted that BB&T developed the initiative to ensure community members were “confident, informed and engaged” regarding their financial decision-making.
“We approach this as a way of giving back, not trying to sign up customers,” he said.
Both Riley and Pacheco said that partnering with CSS and St. Charles Borromeo Parish made for a more effective means of promoting financial literacy.
The familiar environment of the Fatima center encouraged participants “to open up and ask questions that they wouldn’t otherwise ask in a branch,” said Pacheco.
“They’re able to bring their children in here and not have to worry about saying, ‘Sit down, I’m talking to the banker,’” she said.
That relaxed atmosphere prompted Alfonso Villanueva to come out in order to “learn a little bit more” about money management.
Villanueva, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, said he had also attended a previous session as part of his plans to eventually buy a home.
For him, it was only natural that the church would offer a financial workshop, since “faith plays a part in everything.”
Father Forlano agreed, noting that “Jesus actually speaks a lot about the proper use of money.”
Preparing the faithful for the responsibilities of daily (as well as eternal) life is central to the church’s mission, he observed.
“Any good marriage preparation program has a component on finances because money can be a big stressor in navigating the new territory of married life,” said Father Forlano. “Why wouldn’t we provide a similar formation for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are starting a new life with their families in our community?”
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