Archive for the ‘Global Poverty’ Category

Jesuit Encounters “Warm Heart of Africa” Through New Educational Efforts in Malawi

Fifth grade students from Our St. Joseph Jesuit Parish Primary School in Kasungu, Malawi visit the site of the future Loyola Jesuit Secondary School with their headmaster (back left), Fr. Peter Henriot, SJ, development director of Loyola Jesuit Secondary School (back center) and Fr. Alojz Podgrajsek, SJ, project director of Loyola Jesuit Secondary School (back right).

Serving in Zambia on sabbatical in 1989 had a life-changing affect on Jesuit Father Peter Henriot. “Working in a village development project with local people and doing simple tasks did almost more for my education than all the other learning I gathered while studying and working in the United States. And at the end of that year, the people there gave me the best gift – the desire to stay.”

And for the next 21 years that’s exactly what Fr. Henriot was able to do, having joined the Zambia-Malawi Province (transferring from the Oregon Province) while working with the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Zambia after having spent the previous 16 years with Center of Concern in Washington, D.C.  And, then in 2010, he was assigned to another purpose – to help establish Loyola Jesuit Secondary School (LJSS) in Malawi.

Although it is a country rich in natural resources, Malawi, whose nickname is “The Warm Heart of Africa,” continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world in terms of human development. It ranks a somber 153 out of 169 on the United Nations Human Development Index, which is largely caused by lack of educational opportunities for its youth.

“There simply is no future for Malawi without better education for the young people,” Henriot states.

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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.

African Jesuits Gathering in Baltimore Explores Future Opportunities to Partner with American Jesuits

In May, the Jesuit Conference of the United States sponsored a gathering at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore of African Jesuits currently studying in the U.S. and Canada. The gathering was a means of solidarity, support and collaboration with the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JESAM) with its president, Jesuit Father Michael Lewis also present at the meeting.

During the meeting, the members of the U.S. Assistancy and JESAM in attendance considered strategies for the various ways the U.S. and the African provinces might have opportunities to work more closely together, such as in the arenas of potential exchange programs between the U.S. and Africa’s apostolic works, in creating partnerships between apostolates, and by identifying tertianship experiences in Africa for U.S. Jesuits.

The African Jesuits also shared with their U.S. brothers the challenges the Society of Jesus faces in Africa around educational opportunities; with ethnic and political tensions; in health care, especially for HIV/AIDs and malaria treatments; and also the environmental and ecological concerns facing the continent.

“It bodes well for the future of the Society of Jesus that there will be well trained men in various disciplines to continue and develop the work of the Jesuits in Africa and Madagascar. It goes without saying that the Jesuits of North America have been extremely generous to us in providing the wherewithal for African and Malagasy Jesuits to specialize in these many and varied subjects. The Church and the Society are very grateful for this often unsung and open-handed support for the apostolates of the Society in our continent,” said Jesuit Father Michael Lewis, president of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar. “There are men studying everything from engineering, informatics, administration, to pedagogy and the like which will help the Church and the Jesuits of the future to continue offering the work we do for the people of Africa and Madagascar.”

Thirty-seven African Jesuits participated in the gathering (there are approximately 60 African Jesuits currently in the U.S. and Canada), representing seven African provinces and regions, and 16 different countries. The participants came from various places throughout the U.S. and Canada where they are studying, ministering or on sabbatical.

In addition, five people from the U.S. Assistancy participated: three from the Jesuit Conference, including Jesuit Father Tom Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States; a provincial assistant from the New York province; and a provincial assistant from the Wisconsin province.

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Through Dance, Jesuit Connects with the Poor of India

Across the globe, over 20,000 Jesuits are engaged in a diverse variety of ministries. While known for their work in education, Jesuits not only work in classrooms – many are doctors, engineers, economists as well as theologians, spiritual directors and parish priests. Sometimes it seems that there are as many Jesuit-run apostolates as there are Jesuits themselves. As the men of Society of Jesus strive to be on the frontiers, Jesuit Father Prashant Olalekar encapsulates that missionary spirit through his work with Interplay in Mumbai, India.

Fr. Olalekar oversee the Banda Retreat House in Mumbai where he helps conduct retreats and programs for those seeking spiritual solitude and a deeper connection with God through the practice of Ignatian Spirituality. And, recently, during a visit to the United States, Olalekar discovered an Eastern-based practice during his time in the West – a “movement meditation” called Interplay. Today, he conducts class with Interplay India and brings movement and dance to those seeking spiritual guidance and connections.

Olalekar takes his Interplay technique across Mumbai to those living in the poorest of conditions, in the slums and in the streets. Through his teachings, he strives to show a mind/body connection and has even taken his practice to those who have been cut off from any sort of movement whatsoever – paraplegics and people bedridden from the effects of paralysis. Olalekar hopes to show that everyone can be blessed with movement and filled with dance.

Below, he discusses his practice and what Interplay India brings to the people of Mumbai:

Jesuit Discusses the Intertwined Relationship of Social Justice and Environmentalism

Within the Society of Jesus’ governmental structure, five areas of apostolic importance have been identified and given special attention. One of these apostolic sectors is Social Justice & Ecology, which is headed up by Jesuit Father Patxi Álvarez de los Mozos. Recently appointed to his role this year, Fr. Álvarez de los Mozos explains the intertwined nature of working for social justice with a connection to ecological issues during this video interview he recently conducted with National Jesuit News during his visit from his headquarters in Rome to the United States.

On this Earth Day, Álvarez de los Mozos encourages Jesuits and their partners to work toward justice, peace and environmental care.