Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

Initiative Helps Keep School Open in El Salvador

The first thing one notices when entering Santa Luisa School is the massive, solid metal fencing and doors that shield it from one of the roughest neighborhoods of San Salvador, El Salvador. Once those doors close, the chatter of the marketplace and the blaring car horns and police sirens are replaced by the voices of children playing during gym class or shoes shuffling from class to class.

For the more than 500 boys and girls — mostly from poor or destitute families — who get a K-9 education at Santa Luisa, the school is an oasis from a city suffocating from drugs, gangs and violence. For many students, Santa Luisa represents their best chance to break out of the cycle of poverty that surrounds them daily.

Santa Luisa is beginning its 76th year and would not have reached its milestone 75th year without the aid of a group of alumni from the University of Scranton (Pa.). Led by Jesuit Father Brendan Lally, who now serves as a spiritual director at St. Joseph University in Philadelphia, the non-profit Salvadoran Children of the Poor Education Foundation (SCOPE) has helped Santa Luisa meet its annual budget and supply basic needs for the past decade.

SCOPE is the product of two immersion programs Fr. Lally steered over two decades at the University of Scranton. The first, International Service Program, began in 1987 and takes students and alumni to two homes for street children in Mexico City for six weeks of the summer. Its success spawned a second program, Bridges to El Salvador, formed after Fr. Lally’s heart was moved by the Catholic witness of the people there.

A visit to Santa Luisa School has always been part of the Bridges itinerary. Lally has taken groups of students, professors, university staff, fellow priests, seminarians and alumni through the streets of San Salvador, including to the martyrdom sites of Archbishop Oscar Romero (1980), the six Jesuits gunned down at the University of Central America (1989) and the three American nuns and church worker who were kidnapped, raped and shot in December 1980.

“I wanted (pilgrims) to meet the people and to discover the reality of their lives, to experience their faith, to listen to their stories and to let them know that their sisters and brothers in faith from the U.S. cared about them and were united with them,” he said. “We were also seeking our own conversion, so that we could discover the Gospel alive amid the materially poor — the gospel that Archbishop Romero died for, the gospel that could change our own lives and attitudes.”

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Syria Orders Italian Jesuit Peacemaker to Leave

Vatican Radio is reporting that Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio may be expelled from Syria. International news media has reported that the founder of the monastic community at Deir Mar Musa al-Habachi, near Nabak, has been notified by authorities to quit the nation he has called home for 30 years.

Fr. Dall’Oglio is a renowned promoter of dialogue between Christians and Muslims and has been engaged in efforts for internal reconciliation, particularly in the current crisis.

“I’ve been here 30 years, I have worked at the Christian-Muslim dialogue, I have worked to create a monastic community dedicated to the service of harmony between Islam and Christianity, which is a priority worldwide. There are about twenty people in all – brothers and sisters – from different countries: we all learn Arabic, all study Eastern Christianity and Islam. During the latest, painful crisis, we are committed to freedom of opinion, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and we are trying to work, to cooperate for a progressive access to a mature democracy, for the emergence of a civil society, a dialogue that ensures national unity, the protection of diversity and the enhancement of specificity, a democracy without a primacy of one group over others, rather we are trying to nurture the building of a national consensus. This requires tools. We believe, will believe until the end, in reconciliation, through dialogue, negotiations in order to avoid the suffering of the people and build a future other than that of hatred and revenge”.

Last week Syria condemned the vote by the Arab League to impose sanctions against Damascus as a betrayal of Arab solidarity.

By a vote of 19 to 3, the League’s foreign ministers decided to adopt sanctions to pressure Damascus to end its deadly suppression of an 8-month-old uprising against President Bashar Assad.

They include a flight ban on senior members of the Syrian regime, a halt to transactions with Syria’s central bank and a suspension of flights into the country.

[Radio Vaticana]

Jesuit Father Ted Arroyo Discusses Alabama’s Anti-Immigration Law in This Month’s NJN Podcast

In this month’s NJN podcast, we spoke to Jesuit Father Ted Arroyo from his office in Mobile about the immigration law recently put into place in Alabama that is considered one of the strictest in the U.S.

Fr. Arroyo currently serves as the Alabama Associate for the Jesuit Social Research Institute. Based out of New Orleans, the Jesuit Social Research Institute, JSRI, works throughout the Gulf South doing research, analysis, education, and advocacy on the issues of poverty, race, and migration.

You can listen to our podcast with Arroyo via the player below. You can also read his testimony in front of the Alabama’s state legislature by visiting the JSRI site here.

Relief Group Founded by Jesuit Granted Special Consultative Status to United Nations

Ann Arbor-based nonprofit International Samaritan (I.S.) was granted Special Consultative Status from the United Nations in September, recognized by the UN as an important voice in issues pertaining to poverty relief.

“We are privileged to join with the United Nations and other NGOs in the fight to help alleviate severe poverty in developing countries,” said I.S. Founder and President Jesuit Father Don Vettese, who grew up in Detroit and taught at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School for many years prior to starting I.S.

I.S. was awarded consultative status for its role in helping the UN work toward achieving its Millennium Goals, including eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and developing global partnerships for development.

The only nonprofit in the world whose work is focused on garbage dump communities, I.S. helps hundreds of thousands of people who live in garbage dump squalor across the globe. According the UN statistics, I.S. serves some of the most poverty stricken people on the earth. The nonprofit builds homes, schools, nurseries, medical facilities, community centers, adult training schools and funds microloan and food programs. They also organize service learning trips and medical brigades to garbage dump communities in seven countries. More than 95% of the donations I.S. receives go directly to its poverty relief programs.

“There are many people who have never heard about the garbage dump dwellers, the children forced to dig through trash for food, and entire families living in garbage dumps with rats, vultures, and pigs. These places do exist. We hope, in some small way, this status will give voice to those who have no voice,” said Vettese.

I.S. representatives will be granted passes to UN meetings, able to speak at designated UN sessions, and have certain documents circulated as official UN documents. They will also have the opportunity to be a part of a larger NGO community for the purposes of information sharing and partnering on poverty relief programs.

“There is so much good that can be accomplished if we open our minds and hearts to work with those in need who are fighting for a life with dignity and hope,” said Vettese. “We invite everyone to join us by volunteering on one of our service trips, donating to our poverty relief programs, and praying for us and those we serve.”

For more information about International Samaritan, please visit their website.

Jesuit Prison Chaplain Sees Jesus in Inmates

Jesuit Father George Williams

Lt. Sam Robinson/San Quentin State Prison

Jesuit Father George Williams recently became the new Catholic chaplain of San Quentin State Prison in California and said of his new job, “God jumps out at you when you least expect it.”

Fr. Williams, who served 15 years in prison ministries in Massachusetts before being appointed to his “dream job” at California’s oldest penitentiary, sees Christ in the Hell’s Angel shouting a greeting, “Hey, from one angel to another, how’s it going?”

He sees Christ in the lifers who are studying theology and said the inmates sometimes stump him with their insightful questions and surprise him with their knowledge of church teaching.

The facility houses nearly 6,000 prisoners, and about a quarter of them are Catholic.

Williams is in charge of a full sacramental calendar: baptisms at Easter; confirmations; confessions, which are significant for their healing and forgiving; the Eucharist; and anointing of the sick.

Although taken aback by San Quentin’s harsh conditions — he wears a bulletproof vest to work — he was pleasantly surprised by the plethora of programs, beautiful Catholic chapel and hordes of volunteers who bring “a humanness here I didn’t expect.”

“You see the Gospel in a totally different light in prison,” Williams said. “The early Christians were no strangers to prison and execution, including Jesus.”

As a Jesuit priest, his mission is to go where the need is greatest, Williams said.

“Nowhere is there a greater need than in the prison system that holds more than 2 million mostly poor and often disenfranchised people,” he said. “I feel a call to respond to that need.”

Read more about Williams at Catholic San Francisco.