Franklin County welcomes newest U.S. citizens in naturalization ceremony Friday

John Irwin
Waynesboro Record Herald

Friday marked the beginning of a new chapter as 25 people took the Oath of Allegiance at the Franklin County Courthouse to become United States citizens.

Danilo Mendoza Maniquiz, who is originally from the Philippines and is now living in Chambersburg, was among those who received their U.S. citizenship on Friday. 

“I’m very happy, it's good to be an American citizen, Maniquiz said. "’I'm going to get my passport and I'm excited to travel.”

Maniquiz, who is 71, is a testament that “it’s never too late.” He now joins his wife, Mercy Maniquiz, who received her U.S. citizenship last year.

Danilo Mendoza Maniquiz, center, stands with his wife Mercy Maniquiz and daughter Maricel Tiger after receiving his naturalization certificate. Also pictured are Franklin County judges Jeremiah Zook, left, Shawn Meyers and Todd Sponseller.

Rebecca Myers, chairperson of the Americanism Committee, Franklin County Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, said the group was excited to witness the ceremony.

"It's very uplifting to see this take place," she said. "I don't think people know how much work it is to become a naturalized citizen."

The 2 p.m. ceremony, under the direction of Franklin County president Judge Shawn D. Meyers, was brought back to Franklin County in 2019 after an absence of close to 20 years.

Myers said bringing the ceremony back to Franklin County was meant to help those seeking citizenship in this part of Pennsylvania.

"I was interested in getting in reinstated, it can be a hardship for some families traveling to Philadelphia for the ceremony. I brought it up and the judge then, Carol Van Horn, she was very instrumental in getting it back. That year we had 27 candidates."

What does it take to become a naturalized citizen?

Assisting in Friday's ceremony was Michael Catalano, section chief for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office, based in Philadelphia. Catalano has made the trip to Chambersburg annually to assist with the ceremony. 

"This naturalization ceremony marks the very end of their journey. They have all demonstrated their eligibility and their cases have been approved," Catalano said. "All of the candidates had to be a permeant resident for a certain amount of time, establish good moral character, pass a reading, writing and history test and swear their loyalty to the United States.

"It's a very serious event," he said, "they are becoming citizens." 

Franklin County President Judge Shawn Meyers, center, administers the Oath of Allegiance during Friday's naturalization ceremony in Chambersburg.

On Friday, the 25 individuals received their naturalization certificate, a process which can take months or years to complete. With the certificate, they can apply for a passport and have all the rights of U.S. citizens, Catalano said. 

The new citizens came from across the globe, including Bhutan, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Sudan, Syria and Vietnam.

Breaking in Franklin County's new courthouse

Friday's ceremony was the first time the new courthouse in downtown Chambersburg has hosted such an event. 

"This is the first opportunity for use to conduct this ceremony post COVID in our new facility," Judge Meyers said. "This is a great day to be an American, I can truly not think of a time I am more proud to be an American than when I am administering the Oath of Allegiance to our new citizens." 

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Meyers told the new citizens, "For each one of you, I realize this journey has taken a lot of effort and various different processes to get to this point. I want to give a warm welcome to each and everyone one of you to this great nation."

Franklin County Sheriff Dane Anthony was among local officials in attendance Friday.

“It’s a very exciting day here in Franklin County," Anthony said. "The naturalization ceremony was very nice and I congratulate all these people. They were all patient and it took some time to complete, but we welcome them with open arms.”

Throughout the year, the Daughters of the American Revolution collect donations to purchased full size American flags to gift to each new citizen after they take the Oath of Allegiance, as well as a few civic-minded items and reading material, plus a reception for friends and family. 

Scouts from Troop 95 retire the colors after the naturalization ceremony is completed Friday at the Franklin County Courthouse in Chambersburg.

Scout Troop 95, under the direction of Scout Master Gary Hazard, presented the colors followed by the national anthem sung by soloist Don Dickinson. 

Interested in the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution?

The NSDAR is dedicated to preserving history, educating children and honoring and supporting those who serve our nation. Membership is open to any woman 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution.

The Franklin County Chapter was chartered in 1919 and offers scholarships to high school students living in Franklin County. The chapter also maintains the historic Rocky Spring Church in Letterkenny Township.

For more information about the Franklin County Chapter, visit http://franklincopadar.wixsite.com/padar or email franklincopadar@gmail.com.