Archive for the ‘Global Poverty’ Category

Jesuit Reflects on Working with Refugees in Africa

Jesuit Father Gary Smith

The Rev. Gary Smith worked with several young students at Kakuma Refugee camp, including Luul, a Muslim from Somalia. Photo courtesy Jesuit Refugee Service.

Jesuit Father Gary Smith has dedicated more than 50 years of his life to serving the poor, including the last dozen in African refugee camps in Uganda, South Africa and Kenya. He says that working with the poor in U.S. cities, such as Portland, Tacoma and Oakland, prepared him for his work with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Africa.

“It gave me a viewpoint of how the church had moved toward the poor. All the personalities you find on the streets prepare you for all the personalities you find in the camps. Human beings are human beings,” Fr. Smith says.

Now back in the states, Fr. Smith recently spoke with The Oregonian about why he’s drawn to Africa: “There are the poor and there are the poor. My experience in the refugee camp is that people there have no address, no money, no documents. The degree of poverty is very different.”

Fr. Smith also discussed working with refugees from other faiths.  He said working with Muslims was not difficult. “They believe in the absolute, the creator. They want help discerning how God is moving in their lives,” he says. “They saw me as a father, someone who wanted to listen to them very attentively. These students knew the Quran, and they rejected extremists out of hand.”

Fr. Smith also spent time helping refugee students work on an online diploma program through Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins, which is run by Jesuit universities and JRS.  “When you work with really bright refugees who want nothing more than to be a man and a woman for others, there is a great sense of accomplishment in that,” Fr. Smith says.

To read the complete interview with Fr. Smith, visit The Oregonian website.

Jesuit Reflects on his Time Spent in Micronesia for Long Experiment

During the twelve years that Jesuits are in formation, they participate in a series of what are called “experiments.” These experiences were designed by the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola, to test if these men who are in formation, also known as “novices,” can do what Jesuits do and live as Jesuits live. One of these experiences is called the “long experiment,” and is a time when each Jesuit novice does five months of full-time apostolic work while living in a Jesuit community.

For his long experiment, Jesuit novice Tim Casey taught at Yap Catholic High School in Micronesia. In this shortened piece below, you can read about Casey’s experience. The full piece can be found on this page of the New York,  New England and Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus’ vocations website.

Before I entered the Jesuits, I had been a high school teacher. I worked in two affluent school districts in the metro-Boston area and I felt confident that I had become a good teacher. I knew that there were better teachers than I, but I was confident that I was good. And so when the novice director asked what I wanted to do for long experiment, teaching was not at the top of my list. In the novitiate, I had enjoyed branching out into other ministries. I had worked in the jails and prisons of New York State, I had helped administer an annotated version of the Spiritual Exercises and I had worked as a hospital orderly in the Bronx. I remember feeling lukewarm about returning to my former profession, and made my preferences known to the novice director about what would be best for long experiment.

The Jesuits have an old Latin expression, agere contra, which roughly translated means to go against the grain. By this, St. Ignatius of Loyola meant that if you feel a certain resistance to something in your life, then it might be beneficial for you to engage those feelings, trying to see what you are resisting and why you are resisting it. And so when my novice director asked me to teach during my long experiment, I said that I would be willing, but I was not particularly excited about the prospect. However, I did make one request of him: Could this teaching position be in some way unconventional and different from my former career? He honored my request. I was sent to a remote island in the North Western Pacific Ocean to teach in a newly established high school in Yap, Micronesia.

Yap is part of the Federated States of Micronesia, a place that has been called “The edge of the world,” by a Jesuit who spent most of his life here. It is one of four states that make up the FSM. I didn’t know much about Micronesia, except that the Jesuits ran a prestigious school on the island of Chuuk called Xavier High School. But that was not where I was headed. Where was this place?

The local church on Yap had been trying for a number of years to open a Catholic high school. In the summer of 2011, two New York Province Jesuits were sent to Yap to make good on the promise of Catholic education and opened Yap Catholic High School in August of that year. They had four teachers (including themselves), two borrowed classrooms, and 34 students. I would become the fifth teacher, teaching Science, Social Studies, moderating the robotics club, acting as an assistant basketball coach, and doing a variety of other odds and ends to aid them in getting this school off the ground and running.

It is an intriguing place, a place that seems to be unencumbered by the events that have transpired in the other parts of the globe. The expression, “An island onto itself” seems to be fitting in more ways than one.

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Jesuits on the Frontiers: Ministry to the People of Peru

Since arriving to Peru in the 16th century, the Jesuits have established a remarkable array of ministries in the South American country including 10 parishes, distribution centers for food and clothing and 72 Fe y Alegria (Faith and Joy) schools, which provide a free education to more than 86,000 Peruvian children.

Since 1968, the Jesuits of the Chicago – Detroit Province have had commitment of service with Peru that continues to evolve and flourish today. These relationships between Jesuit provinces, called “twinning,” promote reciprocal sharing between the two and help strengthen and grow the Church’s presence and reach.

The first destinados, Jesuit Fathers Robert Beckman and Benjamin Morin, were missioned to Peru and arrived in Lima on October 28, 1960. Since then, more than 50 Jesuits have been sent out across the county, not only to serve the poor, but also fully embrace the culture and live among the Peruvian people in their communities.

Find out more about the work of the Chicago – Detroit Province Jesuits in Peru by visiting their website, which includes more information, photos, a podcast and a video with the Jesuits who are serving God’s people in Peru.

From English Classes to Prisons: Jesuit Honored for Life’s Work in Belize

Jesuit Father Jack Stochl found his heart’s home when he first went as a Jesuit scholastic in 1948 to Belize, where he remains today at age 87.

The government of that Central American nation recently recognized his commitment when it presented him last fall with the Meritorious Service Award for his 64 years of helping the people of Belize by teaching English and, more recently, caring for prisoners.

This disciplined man followed the same daily routine for years, rising at 4 a.m. to exercise, pray and teach English each morning at St. John’s College in Belize City. He ran the Extension School in the late afternoon and evening, returning home in time for bed at 9:30 p.m.

Fr. Stochl founded the Extension School in 1957 in the heart of Belize City. The school’s academic offerings were limited but effective, and were aimed at helping students earn a grade school diploma or “leaving permit” that would qualify them for a government job. He had great organizational skills and was ready to take charge of things.

Jesuit Father Jim Short, who now lives at Bellarmine House in St. Louis, worked with Fr. Stochl for years, including time together at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Belize City. “Jack had a good touch with people and chose good teachers,” he said. “He had goals and knew what he wanted to achieve.”

That keen sense of focus was evident in his various roles over many years in the Jesuits’ mission in Belize. He was first and foremost a dedicated and demanding teacher of the English language, constantly pushing his students to master English.

He served as headmaster of the secondary education division of St. John’s College from 1965 to 1969 and from 1987 to 1992; he was the mission superior from 1977 to 1983.

The Meritorious Service Award noted his radio work as well, saying that “his voice may be familiar to some early risers because for the past 34 years, going back to the days of Radio Belize, he has delivered a brief Morning Devotion talk each week.”

He took up residence at St. Martin’s parish in 1987 and served as its pastor from 1995 until 2004.

“He turned out to be an excellent pastor,” Short said, someone who continued the good relationships with people in the parish that his predecessors had begun.

In 2005, when he turned 80, Fr. Stochl became pastoral minister to inmates of the Belize prison. At the urging or a parishioner, he reluctantly visited prisoners who were reading the Bible. Fr. Stochl said he was not sure at first whether they were sincere or just faking, but “we got along comfortably and I continued to visit them each week. So when I retired from the parish and looked for something to do, the prison was the obvious choice”

Fr. Stochl’s work has grown. He goes to the prison at least five days a week and offers Mass on Saturdays for around 100 inmates with no guard present. He also runs three weekly counseling groups and visits men in the Maximum Security and punishment sections.

“Being present to them and interested means a lot,” he said. He is secretary of the Belize branch of Prison Fellowship International, and is involved in two rehabilitation programs.  “The work grows on you, and so do the inmates once you get to know them as persons.”

The thread that connects these different areas of Fr. Stochl’s ministry is his sense of identifying with the Belizean people.

He became a Belizean citizen in 1974, not as a political statement but as a sign that he would remain with the people. Early on he developed a great affection for the Garifuna, Afro-Caribbean people who live along Belize’s southern coast and other parts of Central America. As a scholastic, Fr. Stochl worked with a number of Garifuna students to create a way of writing their language. He continued this project during summer vacations in theology with the help of now retired Bishop Martin. The result was a dictionary and a small prayer book,

In Belize City, he always took time to chat with ordinary people. Now, he talks with prisoners, teaching a religious sensibility that will help them.

“He is where he should be,” Fr. Short said. “His heart is in the right place.”

This article, by Jesuit Father Tom Rochford, originally appeared in the Jesuits of the Missouri Province’s magazine Jesuit Bulletin. To download the full magazine, please click here.

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.