Arequipa, Buenos Aires and Dublin
A letter to be meditated and shared
The publication of the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte by John Paul II has been a good occasion to awaken people to the concerns the Holy Father has in his heart. To that end various initiatives have taken place in different countries. The aim has been to study the Letter and exchange ideas on how to help make a reality of the universal call to holiness.
In the Peruvian city of Arequipa, Wayrana Cultural Center organized a four-part series aimed at housewives and businesswomen. In her conferences Dr Rocío Chirinos Montalbetti covered these topics: “Contemplating Jesus Christ,” “Holiness, a Program for Christian Living,” “Duc in altum: Contemporary Challenges to being Christian in the World,” and “The Christian Family: Called to Give Convincing Example According to God’s Design.”
Two centers in Buenos Aires organized a weekend of reflection on both Pope John Paul’s Letter and Blessed Josemaria Escriva’s life and works in preparation for the centennial of his birth next January 9. These workshops for older high school students and university students were organized by Arenales Cultural Center and the university residence La Ciudadela.
In Ireland, students from several universities in Dublin and Galway met at Dublin’s Carraigburn University Center on a weekend in February to study and reflect on the content of Novo Millennio Ineunte. The sessions, which alternated between seminars and round-table discussions, dealt with such themes as personal holiness, spreading the Church’s teachings, excellence in studies and the Pope’s person and message.
Hong Kong, China
It’s Sunday, just before ten in the morning. In a classroom at Tak Sun, Emmanuel, Charles and Louis are preparing the catechism classes they will soon give. The three are regulars at the activities of Hong Kong’s Granite Study Center, sponsored by Opus Dei faithful and aimed at college students and young professionals. One of these activities consists in their collaboration in catechism classes organized in Tak Sun primary school.
Each year Tak Sun’s 1200 students are offered the chance to attend these catechism classes on Sunday mornings in a program called “Little Sprouts.” Most of those signing up are Catholics, but a good number are not, who attend these classes with their parents’ permission. Of Hong Kong’s six million citizens only a bit more than four percent are Catholics.
Hong Kong parents place great importance on their children’s education, and religious formation is no exception. Not a few parents take a direct interest in what their children are learning in these catechism sessions and have even been known to accompany them on Sunday mornings. Now a few catechism classes have been organized for them at the school while their children are studying nearby. Some parents of the students have recently converted. At the Easter Vigil last year, for instance, a mother and her son were baptized at the same ceremony.
This year those taking part in “Little Sprouts” number 120, between Catholics and non-Catholics. Received into the Catholic Church at Easter this year were Ho Chun, 8, and Chan Lok, 11, along with a boy from a neighboring school who attended catechism at Tak Sun.
Not all of the catechists were born Catholics either. In fact the three mentioned above converted to Catholicism while studying at the university. Emmanuel studied environmental science in Hong Kong; Charles graduated from an Australian college; and Louis is a mechanical engineer from London University.
By 11 in the morning the classes are over. Then the catechists join their students at Mass in the Holy Family chapel or in the school’s vestibule. An hour later, around noon, the catechists have a chance to speak to the parents. Before leaving, they also meet briefly to go over the topics to be covered next Sunday.
Over Easter break Helmbridge Study Centre organized a math camp for boys in its Junior and Senior Club. Also taking part in the camp, held in Whitesands School, were members of the new Southcreek Club, recently started in Lagos. It was a learning experience also for the tutors who spent a whole week getting to know their charges better. The “senior” boys also got involved passing on their math skills to the “juniors,” thus stimulating the formers’ sense of generosity and responsibility.
The boys were divided into groups according to grades, and took part in intensive small-group sessions. There was also time for sports, math games, catechism and character-building classes. The club’s chaplain showed up daily to celebrate Mass, and emphasized the privilege of making frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Some of the parents, especially of the younger boys, were invited to visit, coming away with a pleasant impression of true fellowship. It was also a chance for them to get acquainted with Whitesands School, launched by the prelature’s faithful the previous October.
In all 45 boys took part in the camp, assisted by 8 tutors.
Mobilizing Christians for the new Millennium
In preparation for the 100th anniversary of Blessed Josemaria Escriva’s birth, priests and their bishops have been attending a series of seminars at Iroto Conference Center, on the outskirts of Ijebu-Ode. The center, an apostolic undertaking of Opus Dei, organized the sessions under the name of “Sanctifying the World from Within.” Speakers included Abuja’s Archbishop John Onaiyenkan, Bishop Anthony O. Gbuji, and Bishop Alfred Martins.
In the May 7th seminar, Bishop Gbuji said he had come to see how marvelous was the spirit that God had inspired in Blessed Josemaria with the founding of Opus Dei. We can all learn from this spirit, he stressed, especially the importance of helping the faithful to be “actively and fruitfully apostolic, capable of leading society toward Christ.”
Bishop Gbuji explained that Vatican Council II represented a new theological exploration of the Church’s mystery, with a “greater flexibility in Church structures, in order to better grasp the variety and complexity of modern life and to preach the Gospel in a more organic and effective way.” He commented that Opus Dei forms part of the Church’s mystery, and that the “canonical structure of personal prelatures as hierarchical structures has fully clarified Opus Dei’s position in the Church.”
Paraphrasing Blessed Josemaria, Bishop Gbuji stressed that “apostolate is the fruit of interior life.” He expressed the desire that “many people in Nigeria and all over the world will seriously undertake the path of holiness in daily work and in fulfilling a Christian’s ordinary duties,” evoking words from the devotional prayer card of Blessed Josemaria.
London, United Kingdom
Conference: grounding development in personal dignity
Nearly 400 women from more than 25 universities in the United Kingdom gathered in London on March 10 th for the first University Congress on Development. The conference was jointly sponsored by the London School of Economics and People First, a university group promoted by Ashwell Cultural Association. Sessions were held in Ashwell House, a hall of residence for university students, directed by faithful of Opus Dei.
Entitled “Development in the Third Millennium: Focusing on People,” the conference’s aim was to energize participants to seek and promote better solutions to today’s social problems, based on the dignity of the human person. Prior to the conference itself, the young women taking part had written essays and entered them in the first Contest for Development Proposals in the Third World. The winning essays were presented with awards.
Among the speakers were Bill Jackson, consultant to the United Nations, John Clark from the World Bank, Professor Robert Chambers from the University of Sussex and Cuca Canel, director of the Kianda Foundation in Kenya.
Prof. Chambers opening address centered on what “development” means, as well as the differences between poverty and well-being. He challenged the audience to think of well-being in social, family and moral terms, not merely material dimensions. Mr. Jackson underlined the role of volunteers in all authentic development. After a lively question-and-answer session, Prof. Chambers, in response to the interest expressed, continued the discussion with a number of the students.
In turn, Mr. Clark spoke of the reciprocal relationship between international bodies and non-governmental organizations. Miss Cuca Canel described various projects of the Kianda Foundation as examples of undertakings that address the population’s material needs, but always keeping uppermost a well-rounded concept of personal dignity. The Foundation arose in answer to Kenya’s educational needs, promoted by faithful of the Prelature.
Some 20 volunteer organizations were on hand to acquaint participants first-hand with their respective activities.
With Macao’s Handicapped
When school vacations come around, the opportunity also presents itself to lend a hand to the less privileged. That’s why Wahn Study Center organized two service projects at a center in Macao for handicapped children. Wahn was soon able to count on a good number of volunteers, young women still at the university or in the world of work.
Before Christmas they organized a raffle to obtain money for food purchases for the children. Many people also donated clothing and toys.
When the Chinese New Year vacation began, both students and young professional women gave up the three last days of January to work with the handicapped. Mornings were spent putting the children through their physical therapy and overseeing their lunch. Afternoons were spent in simple games and competitions where all could participate, most of them from their wheel chairs. The prizes handed out to the winners were well received.
The following month project supporters organized a mini-walkathon to raise funds to buy equipment the children need for their exercises and special chairs, including two new wheel chairs.
Faith seeking understanding
Throughout the academic year, Riverview Study Center in Montreal organized a series of conferences under the title of “faith seeking understanding” for university students at McGill and Concordia Universities. Contemporary questions were examined in the light of the Catholic faith.
A gamut of speakers from both the academic and professional worlds drew crowds of eager students. In the first trimester sessions were held on the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s declaration Dominus Iesus, and on questions of Christian anthropology. Animated discussions arose on both moral relativism and workplace apostolate. In the winter term, topics dealt with included genetic engineering, euthanasia and human sexuality, all examined from a Christian perspective.
The last two sessions considered the Christian virtue of tolerance and C. S. Lewis’ apologetical approach. The students left with deeper insights into the Christians’ mission in society and a greater eagerness to bring the truth to others.
São Paulo, Brazil
In one of the worst slums of Sao Paulo, a new technical school has become so popular that there are ten applications for every opening. Known as Pedreira, the center offers free training to its students, thanks to support from members and cooperators of the Opus Dei prelature.
Some young men from the nearby Interlagos center offer a remedial academic course in both math and Portuguese to help boys finishing primary education in public schools to ready themselves for the classes at Pedreira. This supplementary education takes place at Pedreira on Sunday mornings. Some 80 boys take part in this program, all from the immediate neighborhood.
All the volunteer teachers themselves graduated from Pedreira. This is their first teaching experience, and each of them draws up class outlines and prints them up. Monthly tests are given to measure the boys’ achievements. After each Sunday session the volunteers sit down with one of Pedreira’s senior teachers to share experiences and come up with improvements.
The Sunday sessions end with a brief talk aimed at fostering human virtues and citizenship.
The parents take an active part in the program. They are invited to get acquainted with Pedreira and to encourage their sons to study and do their homework.
New facilities, more opportunities
New facilities are helping Kenvale College, which prepares young women for careers in hospitality and tourism, to meet growing demand in Sydney and throughout Australia. The inauguration of a new building on March 23 attracted more than 500 people, among them church and civic authorities, hotel managers, along with students and their families.
Labor Minister Tony Abbot declared the new facility officially open. In his remarks he praised the school’s educational style. “Kendale’s success,” he said, “stems from helping its students not only to be competent in their work, but also to cultivate values that foster a positive attitude to life.” He also stressed that quality training is vital to the hotel sector, which over the next four years is expected to create 30,000 new jobs.
Edward Cardinal Clancy was on hand to bless the new building. He was welcomed by teachers, students and their parents, each of whom in turn he greeted personally. He inquired into the background of the students, encouraging them to imitate the example of Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served, and to draw strength from Gospel principles when difficulties arise. Some of the young women spoke of their experience as volunteers in various social welfare projects as well as their participation in the World Youth Day in Rome during the Jubilee.
Recently Kenvale has joined forces with other national and international bodies committed to helping East Timor get back on its feet. The College has started a pilot program whereby it offers scholarships to four young Timorese women, training them in hotel administration.
“Minimaster” in communications
Turin has long been active in the film and communications worlds. Therefore Ripara Cultural Center has decided to offer a “minimaster” program in communications and analysis of the media. 40 young women, between the ages of 15 and 19, have signed up. The course, which includes both classes and practical lab sessions, is centered on the special contribution women can make to the fields of journalism, public relations and press offices.
From February 19 to March 28, participants met weekly with various professionals. Giorgio Simonelli, who teaches communications theory at the Catholic University of Milan, helped the young women to analyze TV news programs. Journalist Silvia Secinaro, whose by-line appears in the daily Il Sole 24 Ore, had the students write articles and edit them under her guidance. Lucia Bettetini, who heads up the European Institute of Design in Turin, helped participants to improve their oral presentation when speaking in public.
The program is aimed at helping the students to be good constructive critics of the media. Such topics as the TV news, the internet, newspapers and billboards stimulated lively discussions among the students.
From February to May a popular series of monthly seminars was held in Valencia under the title “Theological Dialogues,” organized by the Almudí Priests’ Library. Nearly two hundred people, largely priests, took part. Topics discussed included priestly spirituality, fundamentals of morality and ecumenical dialogue.
The first session explored the grounds of morality; expositors were Rev. José Noriega, professor of ethics at the Madrid University of St. Damasus, and Rev. Aurelio Fernandez, emeritus professor of moral theology. In another session Monsignor Gil Hellin, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, spoke of a number moral questions related to marriage. Two other professors offered their analyses regarding human cloning: Prof. Bellver, who teaches at the University of Valencia, and Prof. Perez Soba, a theology professor at St. Damasus.
The March session featured Seville’s Archbishop Carlos Amigo, who spoke about priestly spirituality. Also on the same program appeared Rev. Francisco Lucas Mateo Seco, a theology professor from the University of Navarre, who addressed various topics dealing with the theology of the priesthood.
Discussions on ecumenical dialogue were led by theology professor José Morales from the University of Navarre, and Rev. Sánchez Nogales, professor from Granada’s theology faculty, joined by Professor Francisco Conesa, from the diocese of Orihueloa-Alicante. The focus of the seminar was the pontifical declaration Dominus Iesus.
The final session took place on April 30. The subject of priestly holiness was addressed by Rev. Saturnino Gamarra, president of the faculty of theology for northern Spain. He was joined by Monsignor Juan Esquerda Bifet, professor at Rome’s Urbanianum University, who spoke of priestly associations.
Valencia Work Camp
A group of 31 student volunteers from the Philippine archipelago recently returned from a two-week work camp in the area of Valencia, on Negros Island. From the north a dozen students from the Universities of St. Thomas and Asia & Pacific took part; the rest came from the main campus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Bacolod.
During the two weeks, the volunteers painted the roof of the primary school in Liptong and an adjoining building, and built a cistern for the school. They also taught math, English and catechism to 40 children in grades five and six. Guidelines were provided by the supplementary educational Program Asal-Aral, often used in these kind of work camps throughout the islands.
The participants in the work camp are all university students who frequent various centers of the Opus Dei Prelature in the Philippines. They also conducted a practical seminar in leadership for promising students in Dumaguete and Valencia.
School for Families
A group of professional women and mothers who take part in the means of formation offered by the Opus Dei prelature have organized a series of conferences aimed at young married women. The purpose of the conferences is to strengthen homes, so that peace, affection and understanding may reign there.
Now in its second year, the program takes place in provincial government quarters in Warsaw and is subsidized by the Family Department of the Ministry of National Education.
Conference themes include understanding and communication between the spouses, the psychological profile of femininity and masculinity, housework and its consequences in educating young children, school and kindergarten, educating one’s children, the art of making the most of free time and family relaxation. After the presentation, the floor is opened to questions. In some of the sessions, a case study method is used.
of Miraflores University Residence
On March 24 Miraflores Residence celebrated its 50 th anniversary. Hundreds of persons, including current and past residents, collaborators and friends, took part. Blessed Josemaria Escriva’s role in its founding was highlighted.
Saragossa’s Archbishop Elias Yanes presided over the Eucharistic concelebration. In his homily he stressed the efforts by the residence to give young men a well-rounded education, including a solid spiritual formation.
Also attending the Mass were various academic and civil officials. Afterwards residents went to the cathedral to present our Lady of the Pillar with a commemorative mantle featuring Miraflores’ coat of arms.
An academic ceremony was held in the auditorium of the University of Saragossa recalling events in Miraflores’ first fifty years. Since opening its doors in 1950, close to 20,000 young men have benefited from the cultural, human and spiritual formation offered by the residence.
Romana, n. 32, January-June 2001, p. 87-95.