Archive for April, 2012

Jesuit Uses Technology to Offer Hope to Camden, N.J.’s Youth

Camden, N.J., is just the width of a river away from Philadelphia, but the distance between its poverty and its neighbor’s corporate headquarters and comfortable suburbs is enormous. Growing up in Camden can mean sudden violence, inadequate schools, lack of opportunity and little hope for a better future. According to the 2007 U.S. Census data, more than 35 percent of Camden’s population lives in poverty and the school dropout rate is consistently one of the highest in the country.

Jesuit Father Jeff Putthoff has picked this unlikely place to try a bold initiative that uses digital technology and entrepreneurial business practices to help Camden’s youth find their way forward. Burnt-out homes and empty lots surround the three-story row house headquarters of Hopeworks ‘N Camden, a technology training center where as many as 250 Camden youth can learn technical skills in Web design, programming languages and information systems. They range in age from 14 to 23 and might begin with just a seventh-grade reading level. They leave with technological training, greatly enhanced self-confidence and job experience in the bigger world.

Fr. Putthoff created Hopeworks as a service for commercial and non-profit clients that pay for work by young Hopeworks trainees. Initially, Web design was the main product, but Hopeworks is moving beyond that into other areas and applications such as social media and Geographic Information Systems.

“We are not a business that has internships; we are a youth development program that has a business, and that business is part of our strategy for engaging our youth,” Fr. Putthoff said.

Hopeworks requires no entrance exam and charges no tuition. Most other job development programs for college-age students demand some prerequisite skills just to get in the door, a requirement that would keep out most of the Camden youth. The young people who want to come to Hopeworks are not illiterate, just poorly trained; but they learn quickly, Putthoff said.

“There is nothing the matter with the youth except that they have not been given what they need,” he said.

Young men and women come in with few skills and lots of damage from their environment. They cannot imagine themselves belonging in a corporate setting in what seems a world apart in Philadelphia. Hopeworks challenges them to think about themselves and their futures in new ways. They start to reimagine their lives with a different trajectory.

The data show that this innovative approach works. Nearly 100 alumni have progressed to junior college and around 300 jobs have been created. Read the rest of this entry »

Jesuit Provincial of Eastern Africa Discusses the Situation in Uganda Today in This Month’s NJN Podcast

Last month, a video detailing atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which he heads, caused an Internet sensation. The video, which has been viewed by some 100 million people, made Joseph Kony a household name.

The warlord and his ruthless guerrilla group are responsible for a 26-year campaign of terror in Uganda that has been marked by child abductions and widespread killings. Last year, President Obama dispatched 100 U.S. troops — mostly Army Special Forces — to Central Africa to advise regional forces in their hunt for Kony.

The group running the Kony 2012 campaign is holding a nationwide event today – Friday, April 20 —  titled “Cover the Night,” where supporters are encouraged to spread the word of Kony 2012 around their local communities.

The Society of Jesus, the largest religious order of Roman Catholic priests and brothers in the world, has worked in Uganda for more than 40 years.  The Society’s Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has conducted peace-building workshops, run schools and economic development projects and ministered to refugees in Uganda. In 2005, the Jesuits of the Eastern Africa Province began planning for a secondary school in northern Uganda, the Ocer Campion Jesuit College in Gulu. The co-educational high school admitted its first students in early 2010 and is already having a tremendously positive impact in a region devastated by over 20 years of civil war. The school will grow to a capacity of 1,200 students and includes agricultural and vocational training as well as rigorous academic formation in the Jesuit tradition, religious formation and peace education.

In this podcast, Jesuit Father Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, the Jesuit provincial of Eastern Africa, speaks with National Jesuit News about the Jesuit’s work in Uganda, the progress that’s been made, the work that still needs to be done and how young people can get involved.

Four New Orleans Jesuits Offer Full Reflections Leading Up to Ordination Day

James Hooks, SJ

Born: May 2, 1978
From: Born in DC and grew up in Tampa, Florida
Entered the Jesuits: August 14, 2001

As the date of my ordination grows closer, more and more people say something like, “The day is finally here!” It is true that priestly formation in the Jesuits does not happen overnight. Still, I do not see my ordination as a goal as much as a turn in the road, a turn that brings me closer to Jesus and a new way of serving the Church and the world. I am immensely grateful to God and to my fellow travelers on this road who, in ways large and small, have brought me to this point in my journey. I also look forward to seeing where this road leads us.

In a particular way, I am grateful to have had so many inspiring models of Jesuit life and priesthood in my brothers in the Society. These men have taught me what it means to be a priest according to the pattern that Jesus left us. They have shown me how to carry our responsibility and authority quietly, humbly and in a way that leads people away from us and into a deeper relationship with God. Their lives have demonstrated that our privilege essentially lies in being stewards of an immense gift among and for all of God’s people. I hope that in my priestly life, I will be able to reflect some measure of the humility and generosity that my brothers have modeled for me, for I know that this is how Jesus himself worked – and still works – in the world.

 

Bao Nguyen, SJ

Born: November 29, 1971
From: Saigon, Vietnam
Entered the Jesuits: August 14, 2001

Today, we experience brokenness, sinfulness, and chaos in society. Many people feel lonely, desperate, and alien within themselves and the Church. As a priest, I have a desire to console people who have struggled to find God in their lives. I wish that I could be an instrument to assist people to feel relief and to restore their good human nature as children of God. The image of a bridge to connect over gaps among rich, poor, ideologies, faith, religions, cultures, nationalities and many more has inspired and motivated me continually to work for the universal Church as a vineyard of God.

Being a priest does not mean that I am perfectly worthy of this wonderful sacrament, but I feel Christ has invited me to this special vocation and gives me the grace to live it. I acknowledge my religious life and priesthood as a heartfelt and sacrifice response to Jesus who gives himself for me and others, and becomes absolutely generous to the world. Everything on earth including myself contains God’s love. I cannot hesitate to express my gratitude to the Lord by generously jumping into the water with Jesus like St. Peter did (Mt 14:22-33), to take a perilous adventure with Him, and to let Him lead me to magnificent events of priestly ministries.

 

Brian Reedy, SJ

Born: September 6, 1973
From: Born in Troy, Ohio; grew up in Anaheim, California and Texas
Entered the Jesuits: August 14, 2001

This past Easter I was very blessed to be able to sing the Easter Exsultet Proclamation at the vigil Mass during which my parents received their first Holy Communion. One of the lines of the Proclamation says, “dazzling is this night for me, and full of gladness.” As I looked out at my parent’s faces, lit only by candlelight, it was truly a dazzling night full of deep gladness. I realized that this is a constitutive dynamic of my priesthood. I have the honor of proclaiming God’s love to the same people that have nourished and established me in my faith and vocation. My priesthood flows out of the loving relationships that have given me the freedom and courage to say “yes” to the Lord’s call. At the same time, I am now able to feed and nourish those same people with Christ from the tables of the Word and the Eucharist.

 

Daniel Tesvich, SJ

Born: October 5, 1976
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Entered the Jesuits: August 14, 2000

I did something wild and unexpected during my first year in college at LSU that marked the rest of my life. I allowed myself to fall deeply in love with Christ and the many gifts that He pours out on His Church. It was especially in the Divine Liturgy, where we are given access to the grace wrought on Calvary and have communion with the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, that I experienced myself as a loved and healed sinner called to a new life in Christ. It was during this time of deepening my faith and accepting Christ into my heart that He first began calling me to serve His people by becoming a priest. At first I resisted this calling since I had other plans for my life and because I knew myself as a sinner and late-bloomer in the faith. Certainly there were better men to be called!

As I have grown during my priestly formation, especially during the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, I have experienced the great truth that the main issue is not the virtue and wisdom of the minister. Instead the issue is being called to share Christ’s love for humanity with others. Of all the many joys in my life so far, the best joy has been precisely that: sharing with others the healing love that Christ has given to me. I have great hope that since Christ has called me to this life of priestly service, He will give me the grace necessary to carry out His will. I ask for your prayers that I may always be open to the grace to be the priest Christ wants me to be.


Four New Orleans Jesuits Offer Reflections Leading Up to Ordination Day

“Go forth and set the world on fire.”

Spoken centuries ago by St. Ignatius Loyola to his brother Jesuits, these words – part mission statement, part marching orders – are deeply emblematic of the Society of Jesus and never more so than during the sacrament of Ordination.

On June 9, 2012, four men from the New Orleans Province –  James Hooks, S.J., Bao Nguyen, S.J., Brian Reedy, S.J. and Daniel Tesvich, S.J. —  will be ordained at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala.

A diverse group, the Ordinandi hail from New Orleans, Florida, Texas and Vietnam.  Before entering the Society of Jesus, they worked in academics and accounting and earned a number of advanced degrees.

Their call to priestly ministry is as varied as their hometowns and former occupations, but they have one thing in common:  a desire to dedicate themselves to the Jesuit mission of serving the Roman Catholic Church wherever the need may be greatest.

Following are reflections written by each of the four New Orleans Province Jesuits awaiting Ordination.  For nearly a dozen years, these men have been preparing for this moment, and their thoughts about the journey and the challenges and blessings ahead make for a thought-provoking read.

James Hooks, SJ As the date of my ordination grows closer, more and more people say something like, “The day is finally here!” It is true that priestly formation in the Jesuits does not happen overnight. Still, I do not see my ordination as a goal as much as a turn in the road, a turn that brings me closer to Jesus and a new way of serving the Church and the world. I am immensely grateful to God and to my fellow travelers on this road who, in ways large and small, have brought me to this point in my journey. I also look forward to seeing where this road leads us.
More >>
Bao Nguyen, SJ Today, we experience brokenness, sinfulness, and chaos in society. Many people feel lonely, desperate, and alien within themselves and the Church. As a priest, I have a desire to console people who have struggled to find God in their lives. I wish that I could be an instrument to assist people to feel relief and to restore their good human nature as children of God. The image of a bridge to connect over gaps among rich, poor, ideologies, faith, religions, cultures, nationalities and many more has inspired and motivated me continually to work for the universal Church as a vineyard of God.
More >>
Brian Reedy, SJ This past Easter I was very blessed to be able to sing the Easter Exsultet Proclamation at the vigil Mass during which my parents received their first Holy Communion. One of the lines of the Proclamation says, “dazzling is this night for me, and full of gladness.” As I looked out at my parent’s faces, lit only by candlelight, it was truly a dazzling night full of deep gladness. I realized that this is a constitutive dynamic of my priesthood.
More >>
Daniel Tesvich, SJ As I have grown during my priestly formation, especially during the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, I have experienced the great truth that the main issue is not the virtue and wisdom of the minister. Instead the issue is being called to share Christ’s love for humanity with others. Of all the many joys in my life so far, the best joy has been precisely that: sharing with others the healing love that Christ has given to me.
More >>

Letters from Shanghai: Keeping the Flame of Faith and Joy Alive

A little more than half a century ago, Jesuit Father Charles J. McCarthy sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge on his return to San Francisco as one of the last two Jesuits released from prison in Communist China, a confinement he endured for four years following an earlier house arrest by the Japanese during WWII.

Waiting for him were his brothers, Walter, Alex, Robert and their families, including Walter’s 10-year-old daughter, Mary Jo, who would later chronicle the dramatic story that linked her father and uncle, a story documented in hundreds of letters written by the two men over more than 50 years.

The letters illustrate the history of China, from the Japanese occupation in World War II to the Communist takeover; they also reveal the devotion of brothers, a connection that endured despite distance and deprivation.

Aug. 2, 1952 – From Charles to Walter: Today is my 23rd anniversary as a Jesuit. It doesn’t seem that long since the family was all together. We certainly had some good times and lots of fun around the table. Dad was especially encouraging when I raised the vocation question with him, and he talked Mom out of the idea I was too young. The trip to Los Gatos was a step light-hearted enough for me, but I’m sure Mom and Dad felt deeply the first splintering of the family. Fortunately, though, there’s never been any real separation of our hearts.

In 1941, Charles sailed for Peking, where he studied Chinese for two years before the Japanese placed him and 29 colleagues under house arrest in Shanghai until the end of World War II. “He was able to send me letters via the Red Cross,” said Walter.

Upon his release, Charles taught theology in Shanghai until July 1946, when he returned to the U.S. to study journalism at Marquette University. He moved back to Shanghai in 1949, where he was appointed the superior of the Jesuit School of Theology in Shanghai, making him the highest-ranking American Jesuit in the Shanghai Jesuit Mission. He worked with Jesuit scholastics until his arrest by the Communists in 1953, when he was led away from his room at gunpoint, accused of “ideological sabotage” for giving harmful guidance to his students.

Read the rest of this entry »