Archive for January, 2012

South Dakota Native Ministries Featured on EWTN Live Tonight!

Jesuit Father John Hatcher and Jesuit Tom Olson will be the featured guests tonight on fellow Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa’s EWTN Live, scheduled to broadcast at 8pm EST. They will be interviewed about their ongoing work on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Olson, who is in his final year of regency at St. Francis Mission on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, serves as the Executive Assistant to the President for Advancement and Fr. Hatcher, is the current Superior and President of St. Francis Mission.

St. Francis Mission operates according to a new model of doing mission and ministry among Native Americans. Recovery, spiritual formation, and education are each of essential importance to this new model, which is truly holistic and seeks to address the cross-generational social, economic, and spiritual struggles that are suffered by Native Americans. In its application of this solution, the Mission operates 2 drug and alcohol recovery centers, 6 parishes, a dental clinic, 3 religious education centers, a museum, and a radio station. In addition, the Mission has plans to open a nativity-styled school next year.

These programs provide practical, short and long-term solutions to the myriad social, economic, and spiritual problems that Lakota people face. Perhaps most importantly, these programs give Lakota Catholics a real opportunity to become leaders in establishing a Church on the Rosebud Reservation that is unabashedly Catholic and vibrantly Lakota.

Please tune in to EWTN tonight at 8pm EST to learn about this growing and important ministry! When the video becomes available, we’ll be sure to post it on National Jesuit News.

The Holy Spirit Drives Jesuit to Serve Garbage Dump Communities

Fr. Don Vettese, SJ, with Calendar, a leader of the garbage dwellers in Panamá.

It is often said that the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways which we are unable to predict or sometimes to even understand. For Jesuit Father Don Vettese what should have been an impediment, a traffic accident, instead opened up the possibility of an even greater calling — to serve the poorest of the poor.

It was 1994 and Fr. Vettese was then president of St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo, Ohio.  One day, after his talk with the school’s senior class about the Christian calling to have a preferential option for service to the poor, the students approached Vettese with an idea.

“A few of the students came to my office to explain the difficulty of feeling compassion for the poor without experience,” says Vettese, “and they challenged me to help them educate their hearts.”

It was from that conversation Vettese planned a student service trip to an orphanage he’d founded a few years earlier in Guatemala City.

What Vettese did not know was that this trip would turn into something much greater. One morning, as Vettese and the students  were driving to the orphanage to work , there was a traffic jam resulting from a car accident. When their van was diverted from the main road  they suddenly found themselves in the Guatemala City garbage dump. Here they witnessed a sight that was almost unreal to them: a community of people living, quite literally, in garbage.

“The scene,” Vettese recalls, “was hell. There were acres of mounded garbage burning. There were hundreds of people milling around, looking for food and recyclables, while animals fed on the garbage. Vultures with eight-foot wing spans were swooping down for food and at the recyclers. We saw infants being stuffed into the trash and covered with cardboard to prevent the vultures from hurting them, and later discovered that their mothers felt the dangers from the vulture attacks were more serious than the rat bites that would occur from stuffing them into the garbage.”

Vettese’s talk about Christian leadership came back to the group full-force; that evening, he and the students reflected on the experience of the day, and the students wanted to know what could be done about the plight of the families they’d seen living in the dump. It was that fundamental question which led to the formation of International Samaritan.

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Jesuit Speaks on Poverty and Compassion to Notre Dame Students

The first step to aiding the poor is to stand with them, Jesuit Father Fred Kammer said in a lecture to Urban Plunge participants at the University of Notre Dame.

The Urban Plunge is a credit course offered to any student at Notre Dame by the Social Concerns Department. Its purpose is to demonstrate the problems of homelessness and poverty in the inner city. The core of the program is a 48 hour “urban plunge” during the Christmas vacation at a city near the student’s home. This plunge is preceded by several class periods and readings, and followed by another class period and a final paper.

Fr. Kammer’s lecture to the students, titled “Building Justice in the Cities,” addressed breaking the cycle of urban poverty. Kammer is currently is the executive director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute and has worked as the president of Catholic Charities USA.

“Making the invisible visible is the first step to compassion,” Kammer said. “Standing with the poor is a touchstone that gives us a wisdom that comes from the poor themselves and leads us to make judgments in favor of the poor.”

Kammer said taking a stand with the poor challenges our society’s dominant views.

“Standing with those who are poor introduces us to a new way of seeing the world around us,” he said. “This insistence on personal contact runs against our culture’s proclivity to see the poor as invisible or faceless.”

Kammer said once people make an initial commitment to stand with the poor, they might change the way they live their own lives.

“One of the first reactions that people have is to adopt a simpler lifestyle,” he said. “This choice is a stance appropriate to students.  Individuals who stand with the poor also stand with them in their career choices whether by choosing to teach in inner-city schools instead of the suburbs or doing social work in place of commercial law.

You can read more about Kammer’s lecture and the Urban Plunge program via this article in the university’s Observer newspaper. Kammer’s lecture can be found on video at Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concern’s website here.


Connecting Past to Present: Teaching History through the Jesuit Lens

Walk into the Jesuit Residence during lunchtime and it’s likely you’ll see the Jesuits hootin’ and hollerin’ with each other. Jesuit Father John Donnelly is no exception. He comes through the door that separates the Jesuits’ dining area from the lobby with a glass of beer in his hand.

“I left some of my remaining pizza back there in order for us to chat,” Donnelly says jokingly. “Now let’s talk.”

Donnelly sits in a reclining chair and begins to share the reasons why he became a Jesuit.

“In 1952 I graduated from Campion Jesuit High School and that summer I was doing a lot of reflecting on the fact that my friends were going into the seminary and then I thought, ‘Hey! That’s a really good idea,’” Donnelly said.

After traveling for educational purposes before his ordination in 1965, Donnelly found his way to Marquette University in 1971. He served as a full-time professor of history until retiring last year. Before Marquette, Donnelly served as a TA while working on his Ph.D. at UW-Madison. He described his time there as “rambunctious” due to the heated political times of the Vietnam War. Donnelly recalled a memorable Saturday morning while in the campus Jesuit house.

“I remember waking up and seeing the police with tear gas and their body protection on,” Donnelly said. “Each threw four (tear gas cans) in different directions to make sure no riots occurred that day.”

Donnelly said the history department at Marquette is refreshing in comparison to his few years at Madison. He prided the department on its respect and harmony.

“I am very happy to be a part of this history department,” Donnelly said. ”We are really blessed with mutual respect and honesty. It is one of my biggest joys here at Marquette.”

Donnelly said he’s taught five courses throughout his tenure here at Marquette: History of the Renaissance, World War II, History of the Reformation Period and the two introductory History of Western Civilizations classes.

Molly Edwards, a sophomore in the College of Communication, had Donnelly in Western Civilization. She said Donnelly’s class was dense in subject manner but brought to life by his relating material to present-day issues.

“The topic was 1700 to present day history and was really dry,” Edwards said. “But he knows an infinite amount of knowledge about it that astounds you.”

Edwards said Donnelly encouraged his students to take a passion about the history and use the ties to modern day history as a tool to create a more tangible connection. She was specifically a fan of a paper where she had to research a historical person. She chose Charles Darwin.

“It was 10 pages long,” Edwards said. “But I am glad I did it because it provided you with a bigger understanding on how people have an impact on society, and he related it back to the Jesuit ideal.”

[Marquette Tribune]

Jesuit Refugee Service Water Project Highlights Recovery Efforts in Haiti

Two years after an earthquake struck Haiti the community of Los Cacaos has demonstrated what happens when neighbors work together to solve a problem. Fresh, clean water is now available to 700 families thanks to the community’s commitment to build a positive foundation for long-term improvements.

Catholic nuns based across the Artibonite river in San Francisco of Banica Parish in the Dominican Republic organized the project in consultation with community leaders. Jesuit Refugee Service/USA provided $113,000 to fund the project, and members of the community supplied the labor to build roads, construct cisterns and lay miles of plastic pipe and tubing.

“We had 11 brigades of 25 to 32 people each working on the project. They carried sand and cement to places where trucks could not reach. They carried these things over the hills to the source of the water,” said Wilens Thomas, of Los Cacaos.

Water project highlights recovery in Haiti from Jesuit Refugee Service | USA on Vimeo.

Previously, obtaining clean water meant a hike of several miles — one way — over rugged hills and through valleys to collect the water in buckets and jerrycans. The arduous trip took four hours or more, and often had to be done twice a day.

“Before the project I would send the kids to get water, it would sometimes take them half a day or more. Sometimes the water would spill on the return trip and they’d have to go back,” said community resident Olise, a father of five. Olise’s comment highlighted an additional benefit of the cisterns: children who were before engaged in trekking for hours to water sources now can concentrate on attending school within the safety of their communities.

“This project proclaims a bright future because all different age groups are involved. And I don’t want to leave out the work the women have done, they have done a great deal of work for this project,” said Sr. Refugio Chavez.

This community-based participative model for humanitarian aid delivery and development has had the dual role of providing necessary resources for the health of the community while strengthening the role of women in the decision-making processes and empowering them to take an active role in the development projects. In light of the prevalence of gender-based violence in Haiti, the full integration of local women in the planning and implementation of this life-saving water and reforestation project will have an enduring effect on the status of women in the region.

To read the full article and learn more about this ongoing project, please visit Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.