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No. 36 • January - June 2003 • Page 0
 •  Initiatives

In brief

Sixth Conference on bioethics at Bonaigua Student Residence

Scientific advances in experiments with adult stem cells and the need to promote legal regulations that respect human life in this area were the principal topics dealt with in the Sixth Conference on Bioethics organized at the end of March by the Pineda Foundation, held at the Bonaigua University Residence, a corporate work of Opus Dei.

The opening address, entitled “Ethics, law and science: responsibility towards the future,” was given by Professor Natalia Lopez Moratalla, professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Navarre. The author of over a hundred publications in her specialty, she spoke about her experience in regard to advances in cellular therapy, thanks to the utilization of adult stem cells.

“Today we know,” she says, “that the stem cells of an adult, used with proper methods, can facilitate the cellular regeneration of tissues. Some successes are already obvious. The reality is that the stem cells of adults are far more advantageous and do not have the risks of rejection and production of tumors that occur when embryonic stem cells are transplanted.”

Professor Lopez Moratalla referred to experimentation with frozen embryos and noted that “it is not good medicine to destroy incipient life and then to try to control all the potential that its cells contain. The fact that these human beings with a few days development are ‘surplus’ is already an injustice, which does not justify a further injustice.”

The Dean of the School of Health sciences at the International University of Catalonia, Dr. Miquel Àngel Serra, spoke in similar terms. Dr. Angel Serra took part in a round tale moderated by the journalist Pilar Cambra, editor in chief of the periodical Expansion. Other participants were the gynecologist Josep Ramon Méndez, the philosopher Santiago Fernández Burillo and Assumpció Esteve, professor of Law at the University of Barcelona.

Dr. José Miguel Serrano, professor of the Philosophy of Law at the Complutense University in Madrid, referred to the existence of a bioethics of consensus, which is compatible with party interests, and which substitutes arguments of research efficacy for medical logic. He appealed to the responsibility of those in government to set legal limits to experimentation and to defend the right of the embryo not to be used as mere biological material.

Bella Vista (Argentina)
Professional Workshop at ICES

From January 1 to 5 a workshop for young women was held at ICES (Instituto de Capacitación para Empresas de Servicio: “Institute for Training in the Service Industries”). The students were introduced to the work carried out in each of the Institute’s main specialties: laundry, cooking, housekeeping and restaurant operation. This intensive workshop helped young women from different walks of life to appreciate the work carried out in the service sector and its positive repercussions on family and social life.

The ICES, a private institution under the general supervision of the education department of the Province of Buenos Aires, offers specialized courses in the hospitality sector, principally in the areas of food preparation and housekeeping. It was started in the seventies through the encouragement of the founder of Opus Dei.

St. Josemaría Escrivá visited the ICES during his stay in 1974. The present Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría, also visited it, in 1997. Referring to the activities carried out in the center, he emphasized “the importance of women in the life of society and in the life of the Church,” and encouraged them to consider the dignity involved in “the marvelous task of taking care of a home, which is what the Blessed Virgin Mary, our mother, did.”

Cañete (Peru)
Rural development in Cañete

Over fifty university women from Lima and other Peruvian cities took part in a rural development project in the valley of Cañete. The activity was organized by the Condoray Professional Training Center for Women, which has been working to improve the living standards of women in this province since 1963.

The women carried out a census of 400 families in the area that served as a basis for a socio-economic study aimed at understanding the needs of each village and formulating development projects. The program included the cleaning and repair of local community facilities, classes in human formation for women and classes in hygiene for the children. A team of young women also carried out a catechism program for the smaller children.

The participants were enriched by the experience, which led them to discover the need to have greater solidarity with those who suffer spiritual and material needs and to commit themselves to the building of a more human world.

Since 1987, more than 550 Peruvian university women have taken part in the rural development programs of Condoray, which have benefited more than 4,000 children and 2,800 rural women.

Glasgow, Scotland
Return to "Humanae vitae"

On Saturday, March 10, a seminar was held on the encyclical Humanæ Vitæ in Dunreath, a center of Opus Dei on the south side of Glasgow. The seminar studied Humanæ Vitæ in light of Pope John Paul II’s teachings of on the “theology of the body” and other Church documents. In their presentations the speakers emphasized the positive contribution Catholics could make to society today by striving to better understand the Pope’s teachings.

The chaplain of Dunreath, Fr. Stefan Hnylycia, presented an overview of the encyclical and the Church’s teachings on the transmission of life. Fr. Hnylycia pointed out that some Catholics have a very limited knowledge of the human person, and explained the reasons that led people with scant Christian formation to use anti-conceptive methods. He presented a summary of the key arguments the Church presents to men and women today on this crucial topic.

John Deighan, representative of the Bishops’ Conference in the Scottish parliament, spoke about the various currents of thought influencing today’s culture in Scotland, especially as affecting matters related to the family. Deighan spoke of the pressures young people and married people are exposed to and presented suggestions on how to create a environment more favorable to Christian values.

The third speaker was Dermot Grenham, director of Dunreath and actuary for the Prudential Assurance Company in Stirling, not far from Glasgow. He gave a broad picture of present day demographic trends in Scotland, characterized by low birthrates and an aging population. He stressed the negative consequences that this would have for the country’s future welfare. A mentality more open to life, he said, is greatly needed also from the economic point of view.

Hamilton (New Zealand)
A multicultural vacation program

Rimbrook Study Centre, in Hamilton, offered a program for fifteen university and high school women who worked as volunteers with grade school children in a disadvantaged area in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. A group of Wellington parents had obtained the use of a building and taken over the task of publicizing the program.

The children represented a wide variety of ethnic groups: native New Zealand Maoris, children from Tonga, Samoa, India, the Philippines, and descendants of Europeans. The volunteers also represented diverse cultural backgrounds, including three students from the People’s Republic of China. The young volunteers also took advantage of their stay in Wellington to visit a nursing home and provide company for some of the patients.

Lisbon (Portugal)
On the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of John Paul II

The Oratory of St. Josemaría, in Lisbon, organized a series of conferences on the life and message of the Roman Pontiff in honor of the 25th anniversary of his pontificate.

The monthly sessions were scheduled from January to October 2003. The opening remarks by Auxiliary Bishop Manual Clemente of Lisbon were entitled “The Pope Who Came from Afar.” This was followed by a series of lectures under the title “What the Pope thinks about…,” summarizing the content of the encyclicals Centesimus Annus, Veritatis Splendor, Laborem Exercens, Fides et Ratio, Evangelium Vitæ and the apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem.

The Boavista Student Residence, a corporate work of apostolate of the Prelature in Oporto, organized a similar series of lectures on the Pope in connection with the 25th anniversary of his pontificate.

Lismullin (Ireland)
History and evangelization

County Meath in the eastern part of Ireland boasts of a rich history. For more than two thousand years, the region has played an important part in the country’s development.

Lismullin Conference Centre, located in County Meath, sponsored the Heritage Series, a series of five weekly conferences on aspects of the history of Meath, including those related to its Christian heritage. Speakers included historians and archaeologists specializing in Meath. One of the talks dealt with was the tie between St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, and the hill of Tara, ancient seat of the kings of Ireland, which is nearby Lismullin. The speaker was Edel Bhreathnach, a medieval specialist who has spent several years studying the history of Tara.

Some two hundred people attended the sessions.eritage Series

Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Health and community

In the second half of 2002, some medical students taking part in activities at Laranjeiras Cultural Center began planning a volunteer activity for public school students and their families. During the first months of this year, the students drew up a series of talks on ways to avoid some frequent illnesses, and on habits that are dangerous to one’s health. Provision was also made for a walk-in health facility for the students and their families looked after by medical specialists.

After getting the approval of the principal of the José de Alencar municipal school, whose students come from low income families, the project was aired among colleagues at the medical school of the University of Rio de Janeiro. Many staff members joined the project to show their solidarity with a part of the city’s population that could not easily obtain medical assistance given the serious problems confronting the public hospitals that provide services free of charge.

The activities of Health and Community take place every two weeks. From the experience of these first months, it is easy to see that the project will grow and expand, and already studies are being made to see how it might incorporate new areas such as legal assistance, through the collaboration of law students from the various law schools in Rio de Janeiro.

San José (Costa Rica)
Program for professional development

During the first half of 2003, the Miravalles University center, in conjunction with the Technological Institute of Costa Rica, organized a Professional Development Program that seeks to encourage university students to assume a direct role in improving the country’s institutions by providing a leadership based on value-formation.

The group was made up of twenty-seven university students close to graduation in ten different fields. They had an opportunity to share impressions with such speakers as Roger Ruiz, administrator of the School of Agriculture, who directed the sessions on team-work and good use of time. Rodolfo Arguedas, the president of the “United Supermarkets Corporation,” gave a talk on his experiences as a business executive.

Dr. Miguel Cantillo, formerly of the universities of Stanford and Berkeley in California, presented a talk on “Ethics and Privileged Information in Business.” Another speaker was German Cespedes, a graduate of the IPADE’s MBA program, who spoke on the building of character and ethics in business. Jorge Silva, a specialist in leadership programs, directed sessions on setting priorities in life.

The objectives of the Professional Development Program were focused on three areas: ethics and values, life goals, and business and social management. The program, whose sessions were carried out at the Technological Institute facilities, seeks to provide university students with the tools needed to lead a morally coherent professional life.

Santo Tomé (Argentina)
From Arenales and Montes Grandes

From January 21 to 31 a social project was carried out by university and high school girls at Santo Tomé. The planning organization for the volunteers was carried out at the Arenales Cultural Center and the Montes Grandes Club.

This was not the first time that the people in the villages of Santo Tomé saw dozens of student volunteers working to help them. “The Santo Tomé work camps began in 1987. They arose out of the need to help those living in this impoverished area,” explained Cecilia Coimbra, who was chosen as one of the “women of the year” in 1998 in Argentina for her work in getting this project under way.

The purpose of the project is to provide training in the health field and to develop rural micro-businesses to provide income for the people living there. Over the past years close to a thousand volunteers, mostly students but also young professionals, have given of their time and talent to carry out various programs of assistance in the area. Projects have included vaccination campaigns, programs of literacy and nutrition, development of family gardens, courses in child care, school tutoring in various areas, pediatric medical assistance, and first aid.

For families that wish it, catechism classes are offered based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to prepare those taking part to receive the sacraments. Devotion to St. Josemaría, whose teachings have inspired this projects since its beginning, has taken great hold among the families and acquaintances of those helped.

São Paulo (Brazil)
Mídia e Cia: apostolate of public opinion

With the goal of spurring young people to assume a positive role in this field, the Itaim Cultural Center, whose spiritual direction is entrusted to the Prelature of Opus Dei, has organized the Mídia e Cia program. Its goal is to put high school students in contact with university students of journalism and press professionals, who teach them to critically analyze the news published in newspapers and magazines, and to reflect upon the underlying ideological biases of the various organs of information. They are also helped to compose their own stories and letters which are then sent to the principal newspapers.

Coordinated by Professor Antonio Jorge Pereira Jr. and journalist Fernando Ignacio Vieira, the participants in Mídia e Cia had the opportunity to visit press and communications facilities, attend projections of movies related to ethical problems in the press, debate the role of the mass media, and create a newspaper library and informative organ for their group.

The high school students come from various schools in São Paulo. A good number of them hope to study journalism in the university.

São Paulo (Brazil)
An award for “volunteer of the year”

In the second half of 2002, the Jacamar University Study Center organized a “Training Program for Volunteers,” in which over one hundred university students took part. One of the persons involved in coordinating the program received a “Volunteer of the Year” award presented by a national organization.

The program involved classes and practical activities such as visits to nursing homes and hospitals. The students also carried out a social project during their school vocation in a poor neighborhood of a city in the interior of the state of São Paul.

To deepen their ethical reflection on the meaning of volunteer work, participants studied points in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that refer to this matter and to the dignity of the human person, the moral law, freedom and participation in social life.

Suva (Fiji Islands)
In the middle of the Pacific

A grade school teacher from the Fiji Islands had suggested carrying out some construction and renovation projects in a small village thirty miles south of Suva, the country’s capital. After many hours of preparation, a group of 17 Australians and 4 New Zealanders gathered in the capital of Fiji, after flying from Sydney and Auckland, to undertake an adventure in the tropical jungle.

The village, situated on the estuary of the Rewa River, has only 200 inhabitants, whose living conditions are very precarious. They lack financial resources and are totally isolated from the urban world. The only way to reach the village is by traveling down the river in small boats, since there is no road to the village, only footpaths.

The work included renovation of a community center and the installation of a cistern to collect rain water to provide a source of safe drinking water. Students also helped in the construction of a road and repaired the doors of the church in a nearby village. The inhabitants were particularly grateful for the renovation work done on the chapel, which included the installation of windows. The Church’s universality was vividly felt when attending Mass with faithful from such diverse cultures.

Vienna (Austria)
The mother’s role in society

Hohewand Conference Center offered a family seminar from February 28 to March 2 entitled “Mut zur Familie” (Daring to be a Family).

The purpose of the seminar was to give a positive focus to the task of today’s mothers. The speakers, almost all married women with children, highlighted the woman’s role in the family and in society.

Marina Gudenus, mother of six, stressed that “today there is more talk of the values that are transmitted to children. People speak naturally about the problems that could arise.” Alexandra Schwarz, also the mother of six children, directed a lively work session on the advantages and disadvantages of combining attention to one’s family with a profession outside the house.

Ehrentraud Sailer entitled her address “The family and the means of com­munication.” Mrs. Sailer was the originator of an opinion group that has been working for several years with considerable success in the area of the mass media.

The seminar also included a presentation by Professor Cris Graas, who explained the term “domestic church” used in Gaudium et Spes, and spoke about marriage as a Christian vocation.

The final talk was by Assunta Mensdorff, an expert in questions of family ethics and the mother of five children, who spoke about communicating better in one’s marriage and keeping one’s love youthful. The enthusiasm of the participants was reflected by their prolonged applause when the seminar concluded.

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