Archive for the ‘Domestic Poverty’ Category

Jesuit Novice Serves D.C.’s Poor during Long Experiment

Jesuit Vincent Marchionni

Jesuit Vincent Marchionni assists a client at the McKenna Center in Washington, D.C.

Jesuit Vincent Marchionni spent five months working at the Father McKenna Center in Washington, D.C., for his Long Experiment, during which a Jesuit novice engages in full-time apostolic work while living in a Jesuit community.

The center, named after Jesuit Father Horace McKenna, serves the poor, providing meals for homeless men, groceries for local residents and assistance for those facing eviction and utility cutoff.

Marchionni said that the Long Experiment taught him that simple acts of compassion and generosity profoundly and positively affect people’s lives, making God’s presence real and tangible.

“The men show tremendous gratitude for their meals, and it is God’s way of showing me that such grunt work truly does manifest His presence to those in dire circumstances,” he said.

Marchionni also led 12-Step meetings that focused on drugs and alcohol. The group used the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola to supplement 12-Step spirituality.

Marchionni said that through his experience of serving D.C.’s poorest he realized, “Jesus Christ is always laboring, always desiring to bring his brothers and sisters closer to him. He does hear the cry of the poor, and he answers them with gifts of hope and gratitude.”

Read more about Marchionni’s long experiment in Jesuits magazine.

Jesuits Join With Other Religious Leaders to Protect Programs for Poor During the Debt Crisis Debate

Late last night, President Obama and the leaders of Congress hammered out a down-to-the-wire deal to raise the federal debt limit, finally breaking a partisan impasse that had driven the nation to the brink of a government default.The deal could clear Congress as soon as tonight — only 24 hours before Treasury officials said they would begin running short of cash to pay the nation’s bills.

Jesuit Father Thomas Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States, recently added his signature to an ecumenical and interfaith “Circle of Protection” Statement urging the Federal Government to protect programs for the poor. The statement was signed by more than 50 leaders of Christian denominations, organizations and religious orders across the country and marked the strongest and most unified Christian voice in the budget debate. In it, these leaders asked Congress and President Obama to remember that the most vulnerable who are served by government programs should not bear the brunt of the budget-cutting burden.

The Jesuits continue to urge people to reach out to their elected officials today to reiterate that Congress should give moral priority to programs that protect the life and dignity of poor and vulnerable people in these difficult economic times.


A Jesuit in Little Italy: A Look Back at a Priest Working Among the Poorest in New York City

CathPT_NicholasRusso_1At the start of the 20th century, Italian immigrants were arriving at Ellis Island at the rate of 100,000 a year. Many stayed in New York City, settling in an area that came to be known as “Little Italy.” Life was rough: large families were crowded into tenement apartments, men eked out a living on subsistence wages and they faced prejudice from their neighbors. There were few places they could look for help.

One of them was the Catholic Church. Michael A. Corrigan, the Archbishop of New York, made outreach a priority of his administration, founding Italian parishes throughout the metropolitan area for their benefit. He also assigned some of the best priests in the archdiocese to this work. After asking the New York Jesuits to start a new parish on the Lower East Side, Jesuit Father Nicholas Russo (1845-1902) was picked to head it.

Born in Italy, Russo joined the Jesuits at 17 and studied in France and the United States. After his ordination, he was sent to Boston College as a philosophy professor. Over the next eleven years, he wrote two textbooks and served as acting president of the college. Between 1888 and 1890, he taught in New York and Washington before returning to a Manhattan parish, where he doubled as a speechwriter for Archbishop Corrigan.

Flexibility is a cornerstone of Jesuit life, the readiness to go anywhere and assume any task for what founder St. Ignatius Loyola called “God’s greater glory.” A respected professor and college president, Russo gave up a successful academic career to serve in the tenements. A biographer writes, “It must have been, humanly speaking, no small sacrifice . . . for he had held high positions in Boston and New York and his work had lain almost entirely among the better instructed and wealthy.”

To read more about Fr. Russo and his work with the Italian immigrants of New York City, go to the website.

Jesuit Ministers to Troubled Youth on South Dakota Reservation

Jesuit Brother Pat Douglas

Jesuit Brother Pat Douglas (far left) with co-workers at the Lakota Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.

Jesuit Brother Pat Douglas, of the Wisconsin Province, is a youth counselor at the St. Francis Mission in South Dakota, and he works with young men at the juvenile detention center on the Lakota Rosebud Reservation. He sees his ministry as a way of making an impact on young people in trouble.

Spirituality is very strong here, Br. Douglas says. The Lakota people see no separation between counseling and spirituality.

Douglas has developed a mentoring program for young men, “many [who are] active in gangs and from families plagued by alcoholism and abuse.

“I’m all for consequences,” Douglas says, “but if we do not address the hurts these young men have had since they were children, they will keep hurting others. To be empathetic to a perpetrator does not mean you condone what they do.”

Douglas sees Jesuit spirituality coming alive through his work.

“I pray before and after I meet with the guys,” he says. “I also know the limitations of my skills, and have many times asked questions or offered advice that I know is beyond me. I consistently feel the Holy Spirit working with me and these young men.”

For more on Jesuits engaged in prison ministry, visit the Wisconsin Province website.

Jesuit Father Greg Boyle Receives University of Scranton’s Pedro Arrupe Award

Jesuit Father Greg BoyleThe University of Scranton presented its annual Pedro Arrupe, SJ, Award for Distinguished Contributions to Ignatian Mission and Ministries to Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, founder and chief executive officer of Homeboy Industries, on April 7.

“Fr. Boyle has compiled an admirable record of community service through his innovative work with gang-involved youth in Los Angeles. His work is a living example and inspiration of the Ignatian ideal of service,” said Jesuit Father Scott R. Pilarz, president of the University of Scranton.

In 1988, Boyle created Jobs For a Future (JFF) in an effort to address the escalating problems and unmet needs of gang-involved youth. Four years later, he launched Homeboy Bakery, which provided training, work experience and, above all, the opportunity for rival gang members to work side-by-side. The success of the bakery led him to establish additional businesses, and JFF became Homeboy Industries, an independent nonprofit organization, in 2001.

The Arrupe Award is named in honor of the late Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, the superior general of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983. The University of Scranton instituted the award in 1995 to further its namesake’s vision by recognizing men and women for outstanding contributions in a wide variety of Ignatian-inspired ministries. For more information, visit the University of Scranton’s website.