Justice & Advocacy
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Filing Returns and Hope Just in Time for Tax Day

Every year for nearly twenty-five years, Sister Joseph Marie Levesque has filed tax returns for the poor and elderly.

 office-620822_960_720If you’re fumbling to complete one tax return this week, take heart! One sister has already done forty-five of them this year. Every year for nearly twenty-five years, Sister Joseph Marie Levesque has filed tax returns for the poor and elderly.

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Sister Joseph Marie with her Tax-Aide shirt and her AARP badge, ready to go!

It all began when Dominican Sister of Hope Joseph Marie Levesque, OP saw that her mother was paying a tax preparer. She was shocked: Sister isn’t an accountant or a CPA, but she has a bachelor’s degree in math and an affinity for numbers. To her, the tax return didn’t seem terribly difficult.

Sister Joseph Marie started doing her mother’s tax returns over twenty-five years ago, and one thing led to another. In the early 1990s, Sister saw an ad in the paper from AARP requesting volunteers as tax counselors for the elderly, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use her skills to serve those in need. She responded to the ad and began volunteering with the program. Every year through a dual sponsorship, the AARP provides the training and the IRS provides software (TaxWise) for the volunteer preparers to complete taxes. And, every year, Sister participates in the training to earn an updated certification. Sister Joseph Marie Levesque then files tax returns for elderly and marginalized individuals with a household income of under $35,000.

In addition to doing people’s taxes at the senior center in Freetown, Massachusetts and at the public library in Somerset, Sister Joseph Marie also serves as a volunteer at Coastline Elderly Services in New Bedford. She’s a part of the Money Management Program, which helps elderly clients manage their finances. That’s in addition to assisting the treasurer of the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation in Dighton, Massachusetts with year-end tax reporting, as well as working as a payroll/accounts payable clerk at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption parish in Fall River.

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Sister Joseph Marie with her mom in 1993

According to Sister Joseph Marie, she’s happy to use her financial expertise to help those in need.

“For a lot of people who receive these services, their only income is social security,” Sister Joseph Marie says. “They have misconceptions; they think that they don’t have to pay taxes if they’re over seventy, or that, if their social security goes up a little bit, they’re going to have to pay tax. If I can get a refund for people who need it and don’t expect it, it’s a good feeling for them and for me.”

Because she’s a vowed religious, Sister Joseph Marie feels that people are more comfortable discussing personal matters with her, and that they know she’s not rushing to complete more returns more quickly. In the end, her money-related ministry is all about hope.

“I felt from day one that it was a ministry because I was helping people,” Sister Joseph Marie says. “If I can help people, that’s being hopeful. And I give them a little hope, too, that they can trust people, that there is goodness in the world.”

There’s nothing like a reminder of goodness, especially in time for tax day.

 

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Written by Gina Ciliberto

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