Most thoughtful Americans are conscious of the difficult lives that are lived by migrant farm workers. Their jobs in any given area last only a short period of time and the workers move on with the changing harvest schedules. This has disastrous affects on the education of children and although many of them heroically manage to get into and finish high school, it is only after extreme difficulties are overcome. And then college. Migrant families have a difficult time putting enough food on the table. They are in no position to pay the extraordinarily high cost of today’s college expenses.
Forty years ago, Brother Stephen Walsh, President of St. Edward’s University, saw a need, had a vision and chose to do something about it. St. Edward’s established the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and happily, other colleges, especially in the South and Southwest, have developed comparable programs, but St. Edward’s CAMP is the original and, in my opinion, the most successful.
CAMP is not simply a first rate academic support program, as important as that is. It also creates a family like support system for students coming in from rural areas frequently with very limited academic credentials. CAMP students soon bond together as a family. They help each other, encourage each other, and are thrilled to see those ahead moving on to graduation and success beyond college.
Since 1972, two thousand, seven hundred migrant students have graduated from this program and are scattered across the country in business and professional roles.
St. Edward’s has a lot to be proud of. Those who know the university know that we can be thankful for the vision of its leadership.
Let’s hear it for CAMP!
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I have been a Catholic priest since 1956. Therefore, it goes without saying that literally thousands and thousands of times I have had the opportunity and the responsibility to stand up and preach to men and women as to how life ought to be lived. There is plenty about which to speak. Sin and virtue abound on all sides, but the preacher must be very careful and real courage is involved.
When you are speaking to 500 people in a church or synagogue, you can be sure that the vast majority of the people know that you are just like they are, a frail and limited human being. It is very important that the speaker always identify himself with the group to which he is speaking. It should never be you – you – you but we – we – we.
While the majority of my public speaking has been in the area of preaching, I have also had the opportunity to do a considerable amount of teaching in various areas such as history, pressing social issues, personal development and other subjects. Regardless of the subject, I think it is extremely important to keep three aspects of your presentation front and center. First of all, a speaker must know his subject well. Secondly, he or she must feel strongly about it. Finally, you must condition your remarks in the context of where your audience is. The factors involved are the information or values to be transferred, the attitude and personality of the speaker and, most especially, how that information relates to or could be of value to the listeners. If any one of those factors is missing, the speaker will bomb out. Regretfully, most of us have experienced a number of such failures.
On the other hand, when a speaker (especially a preacher) pulls all these things together- we can be extraordinarily touched and affected.
Onward through the fog.
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The other day I talked about solving a problem that many of us have about what Christmas gift to buy for whom, and how easily we could all eliminate that minor problem from our lives by simply giving either a financial gift or giving some of our time for a special type of program or ministry that helps people in need. God knows that there are enough needs and thankfully, we do have many wonderful ministries that are trying to lessen the pain that we see all around us.
My favorite is St. Louise House, an extraordinary program put together by a handful of volunteers from St. Austin’s Parish, doing social action work in the parish, especially on the street. These people became consioucs of the presence in our midst of a sizable number of homeless women who are caring fro their own children. HOMELESS WOMEN WITH CHILDREN! These courageous people decided to do something about ten years ago, and today they operate two 24-unit apartment houses, providing apartments for women that they find on the street in desperate straits.
The St. Louise House volunteers do not simply provide a roof. They endeavor to sensititze the mother to the possibilities that are ahead in her own life and what had to be done to improve their children’s chances of success. Upon entering the apartment, these challenged mothers find everything that they need inside of it- from pictures on the wall, to dishes and bed linens. When they eventually are ready to move out, they are able to take all of these belongings with them for their next home.
This magnificent work is an example of what people can acocomplish when they put together vision, generosity and hard work. May God bless all of them!
The director of St. Louise House is Sharon Bieser, and the address and telephone number are:
2026 Guadalupe Street, Austin, TX 78705. (512)302-0027
Can you help her with this extraordinary work?
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Both of my parents were Irish Catholics from the North and my mother grew up in Manhattan. She often told me that she did not know there was anybody out there who wasn’t either Irish or Jewish. However, when she came to Texas she found out differently. In the period of time in the early ‘20’s, and that was the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan, my parents lived in Waco and my mother described it as a terrible experience in terms of anti-Catholicism and bigotry in general.
The situation in Waco continued and would be unchanged until a young priest from Ireland came to that city in 1953. He encountered the same resistance and hostility that my parents did but he tackled it head on. I am talking about Monsignor Mark Deering, the retired pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church, who last month celebrated his 90th birthday. Monsignor Deering made breaking through that prejudice and hostility the goal of his life and he succeeded extraordinarily well.
“He is, in my memory, one of the shining stars of the religious community of Waco. Just outstanding!” said Rabbi Mordecai Podet, who himself is approaching his 90th birthday having retired from Temple Rodef Sholom. Those two men worked together for many years to change the mentality and have done us a great favor. Waco is a better city because of them.
Happy birthday to both of them.
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A few weeks back, San Juan Diego Catholic High School graduated its largest class of 42 “Saints.” This remarkable school marks yet another success story. The valedictorian is off to Cornell University while the salutatorian will begin classes at Bernard College in New York City in the fall. They are followed by 40 other graduates who have been offered $1.3 million in college scholarships. Virtually all of these young students have been raised in limited financial circumstances but by attending San Juan Diego, the School that Works, they certainly had a leg up in striving for college scholarships. When these young people graduate from the school they not only have four years of first-rate high school education under their belts, but they also have four years of meaningful work in various offices, businesses, banks, etc.
When Juan Diego started about ten years ago, it was part of the national effort by the Society of Jesus to bring first-rate education and potential scholarships into poorer areas of our cities. I don’t know how many schools there are but I think there are at least 15 or 20, and they are all doing what Juan Diego has accomplished. For reasons I do not understand, Juan Diego dropped out of the Jesuit network. I am proud of the fact that they continue to do so well but I do wish they would come back in and be part of the national program.
Juan Diego has very excellent teachers and a number of them are Holy Cross Brothers. What I like about the program is that not only do they get excellent academic formation in their regular classrooms, but they are given the opportunity to polish up their social skills as well – how to do interviews for jobs, which fork to use at a formal dinner and the importance of excellent English. Certainly those qualities make for better job opportunities and also helps to enhance their zest for living.
May God bless all those who work hard to make San Juan Diego a success. We can really be proud of their work.
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I have known about Sacred Heart Parish in El Paso for more than 30 years and have gotten to know several of its pastors very well. This parish is an extraordinary challenge and the Jesuits of the Southern Province have done an excellent job of always keeping one of their outstanding parochial leaders and their most effective priests in this assignment.
The City of Juarez is one of the most dangerous places on the planet! That is where the drug cartels fight it out on the street with 10 to 15 violent deaths each day. Sacred Heart Church is located three blocks from the Rio Grande. The vast majority of its parishioners are low-income Hispanics meaning that the parish itself has limited income and resources. However, look what they do!
I don’t have room in this space to tell you the extraordinary accomplishments of this inner-city parish. The pastoral center is staffed by five people who respond to the constant requests for help with utilities, rent and food. It also provides a job program for helping people either find a job or be better prepared to find one. It has an adult education program, which helps 300 adult students each semester with classes and ESL and GED on the primary and secondary level. Throw in citizenship classes in both English and Spanish and computer literacy and you will see extraordinary and effective direct aid in the lives of people who are truly vulnerable. Sacred Heart even operates a restaurant on the weekends both to help provide jobs but also to make good food available at reasonable prices. Villa Maria, a residence for homeless women, is located two blocks from the church and it provides a roof for over 22 women who need shelter for a short period of time. There is much more and the great work of Sacred Heart just goes on and on. God bless the Jesuits.
I am very proud of the fact that American Catholic parishes have surged forward in expanding social services and social ministry. In terms of the needs, we are just getting started. Is your parish doing more today than it was five years ago? Ask the Parish Council to do a survey and then your parishioners can judge for themselves whether or not the work of Jesus is really being done as effectively as possible.
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Whenever retail businessmen get together you will almost always hear an expression about the three principles of successful business: location, location, location.
Education is key to a successful democracy and economy. Education is extraordinarily important to the United States of America.
That having been said, why is there so much concern about so many different aspects of our educational system? There are tremendous inequalities between wealthy school districts and low-income school districts. There are many arguments about what is the best way to educate our students at any particular level. We find that in older school districts parents whose children are long gone from the nest are not wildly enthusiastic about voting for the necessary taxes for the schools. The problems go on and on. Given these realities, one needs to look for sources of encouragement and confidence. When one looks, they are to be found!
I am impressed with a new charter school in Harlem. I saw a report on it on national TV and did not get the name, but they are taking the poorest kids in the neighborhood and motivating them to a first-rate high school education and almost 100% of their students are going to college. This is a tremendous breakthrough.
On the Roman Catholic side, I am thrilled by the recent development over the last ten years of a little network called the Cristo Rey schools, sponsored by the Society of Jesus. They are doing the same thing – taking students from the very poorest neighborhoods, giving them a tremendous education and sending them on into college with the tools to succeed wonderfully. There are now 25 schools around the country. Let’s hope that there will soon be hundreds.
We can bemoan our problems but we also have to be thankful that new models are coming along that are showing us the way out of the darkness.
God bless the Jesuits.
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