Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

Jesuit and His Gang Ministry Star in Documentary

G-DOG movie poster with Jesuit Father Greg Boyle and a homie“This is the story of a remarkable odd couple.” That’s the description of the new film “G-DOG” about Jesuit Father Greg Boyle and the former gang members, or homies, he’s served and befriended since 1992, when he founded Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles.

Homeboy Industries helps former gang members learn skills to better their lives and provides jobs in its bakery, café and t-shirt store.

“G-DOG” was directed by Academy Award-winning documentarian Freida Mock and had its U.S. debut this past June at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Mock says she was inspired to make the film after seeing Fr. Boyle’s book “Tattoos on the Heart.” She remembers thinking, “A priest, kids, gangs and love? What’s this all about?”

The film, which is slated for theatrical release next year, introduces audiences to Fr. Boyle and the homies he helps. It also depicts a tough year for Homeboy Industries, with the possibility that the businesses will have to close because of challenging economic times.

Variety’s review said, “In an era with a paucity of real heroes, a genuine one emerges in “G-Dog”: the inexhaustible Jesuit priest Greg Boyle, whose Homeboy Industries has saved countless lives in Los Angeles’ gang-plagued neighborhoods.”

For more, visit the film’s website, www.gdogthemovie.com, where you can meet the cast and view clips.

Kino Border Initiative Receives Binational Collaboration Award

 Fr. JBoy Gonzales, SJ, a Philippine Jesuit working at KBI

Jesuit Father Jboy Gonzales (right) passes a plate at KBI's Aid Center for Deported Migrants.

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI), a Jesuit, binational ministry in Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, was recently honored for its work with migrants. “There’s a lot of negative press about the U.S.-Mexico border, and I think these awards draw attention to positive programs and efforts that are happening on the border and to the people who live and work there,” says Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of KBI. “It’s a real affirmation of our staff and the work we’re doing.”

The KBI was one of four organizations to receive an award for binational cooperation and innovation along the U.S.-Mexico border from the Border Research Partnership, comprised of Arizona State University’s North American Center for Transborder Studies, the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center and Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana.

From left to right are Sean Carroll, S.J., Alma Delia Isais, M.E., Rosalba Avalos, M.E., Marla Conrad, Luis Parra and Pete Neeley, S.J. All are KBI staff members, except for Luis Parra, who is Chair of the KBI Board of Directors.

At the awards ceremony: from left to right are Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, Alma Delia Isais, M.E., Rosalba Avalos, M.E., Marla Conrad, Luis Parra and Jesuit Father Pete Neeley. All are KBI staff members, except for Parra, who is chair of the KBI Board of Directors.

The awards program honors “success stories” in local and state collaboration between the United States and Mexico. KBI, the only religious work among those honored, was founded in 2009 by six organizations: the California Province of the Society of Jesus, the Mexican Province of the Society of Jesus, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist, the Diocese of Tucson and the Archdiocese of Hermosillo.

Currently, there are four Jesuits working at KBI — two from the California Province and two from the Mexican Province. Jesuits are involved in other ways as well. For instance, this summer, a group of seven Jesuits spent five weeks traveling along the Migration Corridor in Central America to experience the route typically traveled by migrants seeking a better life in the United States. KBI was the last stop on their journey. Fr. Carroll says visiting KBI and meeting the migrants can be the most effective type of education.

“We can show photos, we can talk about it, we engage people on the issues — all that’s very helpful. At the same time, when a person or a group is able to dialogue with a group of migrants, that has the biggest impact,” says Fr. Carroll. “The group no longer has just a theoretical idea of the issue, but they think about it in terms of this person or this group of people that has been so affected by the current immigration policy, and I think it has a very significant impact.”

 A meal at KBI's Aid Center for Deported Migrants.

A meal at KBI's Aid Center for Deported Migrants.

In addition to education and advocacy, KBI also focuses on humanitarian assistance. Since its founding the group has provided thousands of migrants food, shelter, first aid and pastoral support. From the beginning of the year to the end of July, KBI served nearly 36,000 meals to migrants. Last year KBI provided over 450 women and children temporary shelter, and KBI’s clinic treats about 12 to 15 people a day.

“It’s a great blessing for us to offer those services,” Fr. Carroll says. “Our work is very transformative for us individually and as an organization because we serve them and we hear their stories and accompany them at a very difficult time.”

Visit the Kino Border Initiative website, where you can learn more about volunteer and educational opportunities. For more from Fr. Carroll, watch this Ignatian News Network video.

Jesuits Experience Journey of Migrant Workers

Jesuits on migration journeyThis summer, seven Jesuits took part in a five-week excursion through the Migration Corridor, the Central American route typically traveled by those fleeing poverty and seeking opportunity in the United States.

“La Jornada,” or the Journey, began in Honduras and ended in Nogales, Ariz. Along the way, participants learned about the realities of the lives of migrant workers.

Matthew Kunkel, a Jesuit scholastic said, “When people make this journey, they’re desperate. They’re not doing it because they want to break the law. They’re doing it because they’re trying to survive.”

The group traveled by bus and stayed in shelters, visiting human rights organizations and parishes that assist migrants along the way.

“If the experience was extremely demanding for us, I can only imagine what it would be for the migrants themselves,” said Jesuit Father J. Alejandro Olayo-Méndez.

Learn more about their journey in the Ignatian News Network video below and visit their blog: http://themigrantjourney.wordpress.com.

Jesuit Remembered for His Commitment to the Poor

Jesuit Father James WebbJesuit Father James Webb, former Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in English Canada, died on August 9 at age 68 in Ontario, Canada. Throughout his nearly 50 years as a Jesuit, Fr. Webb was a champion of the poor and disadvantaged, and he worked for social justice, specifically in the fields of social action, education and agricultural development.

Following his ordination in 1973, Fr. Webb served in Toronto, where he took on a number of social justice projects, including leading an advocacy effort against the system of apartheid then existing in South Africa and helping found a Catholic newspaper, a health center, the Taskforce on Churches and Corporate Responsibility and the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice.

In 1986 Fr. Webb moved to Jamaica, where he served for over twenty years. There he spent most of his time working with the poor, as a pastor in Kingston, chair of the St. Mary’s Rural Development Project and founding director of Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections.

Fr. Webb returned to Canada in 2008 to become Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in English Canada. In this role, he chose to live in an apartment in one of the poorest parts of Toronto, rather than the six-bedroom home in a Toronto neighborhood that had once served as home base for the Jesuit leadership team.

Jesuit Father James Webb with friends

“If you say that material things are not important but then there’s no sign of it, it lacks credibility,” Fr. Webb told Canada’s Catholic Register in 2009. “Our commitment to social justice and solidarity with the poor is very strong. In terms of vocations, I think that is one of the things that is attracting younger people to the Jesuits.”

Fr. Webb always believed there was more that could be done, however difficult it might seem, said Jesuit Father Philip Shano.

“Where others saw missions impossible, Jim was eternally optimistic about how things could work out,” Fr. Shano said. [Jesuits in English Canada, The Catholic Register]

Jesuit Novice Experienced Homelessness through Pilgrimage

Jesuit Jeff DorrThe Jesuit Constitutions instruct all Jesuit novices to do a month-long pilgrimage “without money… begging from door to door… to grow accustomed to discomfort in food and lodging.”

This tradition is how Wisconsin Province Jesuit Jeff Dorr, a scholastic in First Studies, found himself with $35, a one-way bus ticket and an order to be home for dinner at 4:00 p.m., exactly 30 days later.

Dorr took the bus from Detroit to Atlanta. From there he planned to walk 20 miles to a Trappist monastery to spend his pilgrimage in prayerful solitude.

But within minutes, his plan changed. The first person he stopped to ask for directions had just gotten out of prison. They talked for a few minutes, and Dorr was so moved that he gave the man $10 for train fare. Next, he met a homeless man, and Dorr gave him the remainder of his money so he could eat.

“I realized that I felt drawn to a new focus,” Dorr said. “I knew what homeless people looked like and sounded like, but I never knew experientially what it meant to be homeless. I thought maybe that’s where this should go. Something of that experience of being on the street and being without was what I was meant to be doing.”

Dorr spent 18 nights at a homeless shelter, where he met dozens of people who shared their stories with him.

“One thing I gained from the shelter was a whole new appreciation for who ends up there,” said Dorr. He found that while many shelter residents have addiction or mental health issues, others are people who had houses and jobs and then something went wrong, like a divorce.

“The point of the pilgrimage is to spend the month letting go of our typical securities of home, money, community, and in doing that, come to trust more fully in God,” he said. “I realized how blessed I am, and that no matter what I do, I can’t experience life on the streets the way these guys do. It changed the outlook I had of what I was striving for and what God was calling me to. His message to me was to be with them, but you can’t be them.”

Read more of Dorr’s pilgrimage experience at Xavier Magazine.