Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category

Jesuits Follow in the Footsteps of Migrants

For many of us, summer is a time to journey.  A time to travel, hit the road and explore. Whatever the locale, these summer excursions often have one common denominator:  a restful, relaxing, restorative destination.

Sometimes, the journey is anything but. On June 14, 2012, a group of Jesuits began a five-week journey along the “migration corridor” from Central America to the United States. Along the way, they have been visiting shelters, human rights organizations and parishes that assist migrants as they move through the migration corridor.

On a blog site they’ve established to chronicle their journey, http://themigrantjourney.wordpress.com/, the Jesuits say they hope to attain “a better understanding of the reality of migration and the difficulties encountered by migrants on their journey to the U.S.”  The blog, called Journey Moments: The Migrant Corridor, includes photos and a map of the journey and is presented in English and Spanish.

In Honduras, the Jesuits met up with a group of deportees recently returned to their country.

“With little governmental support, the human mobility ministry of the Catholic Church, along with other initiatives, has established an attention center to receive these migrants. Here, the migrants are given some food, medical attention (if needed), and a personal care kit. As we ourselves saw, this return contrasted wildly with the festive ambiance of more familiar airport reunions. Thursday, in the back of San Pedro Sula´s airport, there were no hugs, no smiles, no balloons, no joy. Instead, the travel-weary migrants exuded only sadness, disappointment, and apprehension.”

Several days later in Honduras, the group visited a community in the countryside, about 30 minutes outside of El Progreso, where they spent time visiting with families whose lives have been tragically affected by migration.

“Victoria told us her story through grief and tears. Her husband is counted among the ‘desaparecidos’, those migrants who are never heard from again after beginning the long, dangerous journey to the States. Victoria recounted how her husband left their home in order to provide a better life for their daughters. She has not heard from him in eight years and clings desperately to the hope that she will find out what happened to him.”

At another stop in Honduras, the Jesuits visited those who have suffered devastating injuries attempting to migrate to the United States.

“Many hoping to migrate to the United States ride on top of cargo trains.  The train reaches high speeds, with occasional sudden stops, easily causing people to fall. Sometimes, these falls are fatal. Other times, they injure people so badly that it takes years to recover. Meanwhile, their dreams of providing a better life for their families disappear. This is the case of Jose Luis Hernandez.  On the train up North, he suffered a terrible accident, losing one leg, one arm, and four of the fingers from his remaining arm. It has taken him years to recover, not only from the physical wounds, but also from the emotional wounds: the stigma of now being disabled, the shame of returning home with nothing, the sense of being a burden for his family.”

We invite and encourage you to follow this blog during the coming weeks as the Jesuits travel through El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico before entering the United States and stopping in El Paso, Texas and Nogales, Ariz.

In addition, thanks to the magic of Skype, internet cafes and file-sharing, The Jesuit Post, www.thejesuitpost.org  will also be following the journey.   Founded in February of this year, The Jesuit Post was launched by a group of young Jesuits who hope to draw the connection between contemporary culture and spirituality using a language and tone to which young adults can relate.

What would Los Angeles look like without Jesuit-Founded Homeboys Industries?

In a recent Op-ed piece in the LA Times, columnist Jim Newton reflected on what the city might look like if Homeboy Industries, the Jesuit-founded ministry that provides on-the-job training and counseling to former gang members, was no longer a fixture in the urban area.

“Life without Homeboy would be bleaker, meaner and more expensive in a society already too bleak, too mean and strapped for cash,” says Newton in his column.

Founded at the height of the gang violence that was ripping the city apart in 1992, Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, himself now an icon in the city, started Homeboy Industries  to help gang members leave their lives formed on the streets and in prisons and instead learn skills to improve their lives. Offering tattoo removal, counseling former “homies” in drug rehabilitation and mental health, and even providing jobs in its bakery, café and t-shirt store, Homeboy Industries is a haven for former gang members looking to turn their lives around. The ministry helps approximately 12,000 individuals each year learn life skills to lead them away from the streets.

With the economic downturn pulling back donations a few years ago, the concept of a Los Angeles without Homeboy Industries almost became a reality and Fr. Boyle had to canvas all of his contacts and benefactors to help stave off insolvency. Jobs for the homeboys and homegirls are still scare but the program does help keep these former gang members off the streets. “You want people to make the connection between public safety…and giving these people a chance,” Boyle says.

Read more about Homeboy Industries and what it and Fr. Boyle provide to Los Angeles in this column from the LA Times.

The Jesuits of Nepal Celebrate 60 Years of Service

President Ram Baran Yadav of Nepal, left, attends the 60th anniversary celebration of the Jesuits' service in the country / Photo Credit: UCAnews.com

The Society of Jesus in Nepal recently celebrated a milestone in its service when the Republic of Nepal’s first president Ram Baran Yadav graced the Jesuits’ 60th anniversary function on the St Xavier’s School grounds in Jawalakhel, Kathmandu.

Sixty years after Jesuit Fathers Marshall D. Moran, Francis Murphy and Ed Saxton first arrived in Kathmandu and set up the St. Xavier’s School with 65 students in Godavari, north of Kathmandu, there has been no looking back for the Nepal Jesuit Society (NJS).

Owing to the steady growth in the number of students, the primary section of the Godavari school was shifted to Jawalakhel in 1954.

“The NJS sapling planted by the three Fathers in 1951 has today grown into a beautiful tree with branches spread all over Nepal,” said  Jesuit Father Amrit Rai, the principal of St. Xavier’s School.

In an address during the celebration, President Yadav lauded the work of the Jesuits and said the NJS brought about a revolution in the education system of the country.

“Nepal has always been a land of tolerance and religious harmony … with people allowed to practice the faith of their choice without fear,” he said.

The Maoists in Nepal waged a 10-year-long insurgency that ended with the government and the former rebels signing a peace accord in 2006. Subsequently, a freshly elected assembly in 2008 abolished the 239-year-old monarchy in Nepal and declared the then Hindu kingdom a republic.

Apart from the two schools in Godavari and Jawalakhel and two more in Jhapa district in Eastern Nepal, the Jesuits run a social service center, a drug rehabilitation center, a center for the sick and elderly and the Human Resource Development Center in Kathmandu.

They also run a child care center in Pokhara in western Nepal, while around 3,500 students pursue higher education at the St. Xavier’s College in Kathmandu.

[UCAnews]

Jesuit Honored with Social Justice Award from Ignatian Solidarity Network

In 1995, Jesuit Father Don MacMillan, a newly minted campus minister at Boston College (B.C.), was approached by a student interested in honoring the memory of the six Jesuits and two lay partners who had been massacred in 1989 in El Salvador.  That chance encounter led Fr. MacMillan on the path to a long and fulfilling new role as a social justice activist, a commitment that will be honored tonight as the Ignatian Solidarity Network presents its “Robert M. Holstein: Faith that Does Justice Award” to Fr. MacMillan.

The Holstein award honors one individual annually who has demonstrated a significant commitment to leadership for social justice grounded in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. The award’s namesake, the late Robert (Bob) M. Holstein, was a former California Province Jesuit, labor lawyer, fierce advocate for social justice and one of the founders of the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) – the precursor to the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

The first memorial service commemorating the El Salvadoran victims was organized by Fr. MacMillan and the Boston College students on the B.C. campus, but by the next year, the group had taken their commemoration to Fort Benning, Ga.  Here, they held a prayer vigil at the gate of the U.S. Army School of the Americas in order to call attention to the school that, according to a U.S. Congressional Task Force, had trained those responsible for the executions in El Salvador.

Over the years, thousands of students have been empowered by Fr. MacMillan’s teaching and ministry. At Boston College, Fr. MacMillan coordinates the Urban Immersion Program, a weeklong experience of prayer and service for undergraduates to learn about the lives of those in Boston suffering from poverty and homelessness. He also organizes an annual trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico, where B.C. students have direct experience with Latin American refugees and the poor of Mexico.

Fr. MacMillan earned two Boston College degrees: a bachelor’s degree in 1966 and a master of divinity degree in 1972. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1960 and was ordained in 1972.  He previously served as both a teacher and administrator at Boston College High School and Bishop Connolly High School.

The Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) promotes leadership and advocacy among students, alumni, and other emerging leaders from Jesuit schools, parishes and ministries by educating its members on social justice issues; by mobilizing a national network to address those issues; and by encouraging a life-long commitment to social justice grounded in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Since the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s inception in 2004, Fr. MacMillan has been an integral part of ISN’s effort to mobilize a national network of leaders committed to justice grounded in Gospel teachings.

The previous “Robert M. Holstein: Faith that Does Justice Award” honorees include Jesuit Father Charlie Currie, former president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges & Universities; and Jesuit Father Steven Privett, president of the University of San Francisco.

Learn more about the “Robert M. Holstein: Faith that Does Justice Award” at: www.ignatiansolidarity.net/holstein.

Jesuit Uses Technology to Offer Hope to Camden, N.J.’s Youth

Camden, N.J., is just the width of a river away from Philadelphia, but the distance between its poverty and its neighbor’s corporate headquarters and comfortable suburbs is enormous. Growing up in Camden can mean sudden violence, inadequate schools, lack of opportunity and little hope for a better future. According to the 2007 U.S. Census data, more than 35 percent of Camden’s population lives in poverty and the school dropout rate is consistently one of the highest in the country.

Jesuit Father Jeff Putthoff has picked this unlikely place to try a bold initiative that uses digital technology and entrepreneurial business practices to help Camden’s youth find their way forward. Burnt-out homes and empty lots surround the three-story row house headquarters of Hopeworks ‘N Camden, a technology training center where as many as 250 Camden youth can learn technical skills in Web design, programming languages and information systems. They range in age from 14 to 23 and might begin with just a seventh-grade reading level. They leave with technological training, greatly enhanced self-confidence and job experience in the bigger world.

Fr. Putthoff created Hopeworks as a service for commercial and non-profit clients that pay for work by young Hopeworks trainees. Initially, Web design was the main product, but Hopeworks is moving beyond that into other areas and applications such as social media and Geographic Information Systems.

“We are not a business that has internships; we are a youth development program that has a business, and that business is part of our strategy for engaging our youth,” Fr. Putthoff said.

Hopeworks requires no entrance exam and charges no tuition. Most other job development programs for college-age students demand some prerequisite skills just to get in the door, a requirement that would keep out most of the Camden youth. The young people who want to come to Hopeworks are not illiterate, just poorly trained; but they learn quickly, Putthoff said.

“There is nothing the matter with the youth except that they have not been given what they need,” he said.

Young men and women come in with few skills and lots of damage from their environment. They cannot imagine themselves belonging in a corporate setting in what seems a world apart in Philadelphia. Hopeworks challenges them to think about themselves and their futures in new ways. They start to reimagine their lives with a different trajectory.

The data show that this innovative approach works. Nearly 100 alumni have progressed to junior college and around 300 jobs have been created. Read the rest of this entry »