Work camp in Ybapobó
Puerto Ybapobó, a small village 500 miles north of the Paraguayan capital, was the site of a work camp organized by Ribera Cultural Center in Asunción, from July 13 to 18.
Thirty-seven boys from several high schools traveled by boat up the Paraguay River to the site. Their work included repairs, painting and electrical installations in two schools, the local chapel, and a health facility.
Free medical treatment was offered, with medicines donated by various laboratories in Asunción. The work camp’s chaplain also offered priestly attention to families in the area.
Students dedicating a Saturday to painting, or spending hours in an improvised consulting office to which hundreds of people come after waiting patiently in line, are some of the activities sponsored by the Office of University Solidarity, a social action program at La Sabana University.
One of the current projects is “Mission Sabana,” which provides assistance to low income districts lacking in basic facilities. This semester, students worked in the village of San Miguel, in Zipaquira, a district not far from the university with many families who have fled from the violence reigning in parts of Colombia.
More than 600 people have benefited from the free legal advice, dental care and health services. Workshops are also offered on family education and micro-businesses.
In the six years since the program began, more than 270 student volunteers have worked in 35 communities and collected donations for 42 social assistance programs in the towns around Bogota and in other regions and countries.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
First Conference of Home Entrepreneurs
Young professional women interested in becoming better wives and mothers gathered on September 20 for the First Conference of Home Entrepreneurs in the auditorium of the Southern Center for Advanced Studies in Buenos Aires. The conference, centered on the social and family teachings of John Paul II and of Blessed Josemaria Escriva, considered, among other topics, questions on housekeeping, nutrition and children’s learning problems.
The participation of Lita Palermo de Lazzari, International President of the Association of Homemakers, and the director of a national television program, ensured that the conference received wide TV coverage.
Work camp in Gujarat
A group of eleven university students from New Delhi worked as volunteers from May 20 to June 1 in Gujarat, the area most severely affected by the January 2001 earthquake.
The expedition, organized by Kamet Student Center, was sponsored by local businesses and citizens. Considerable help for the project also came from other countries. The earthquake, which destroyed entire villages in the Kutch region, caused more than 30,000 deaths and left a million families homeless.
The students helped out in the work of rehabilitation being carried out by various national and oversees institutions in the affected area. They also distributed economic help collected for rebuilding homes, so badly needed at present.
The young volunteers worked in three villages, where they inspected homes that had been damaged and helped clear rubble where reconstruction work had already begun.
The average temperature during these days was around 110 degrees, and those left homeless were suffering great hardships from their poor living conditions. The students had an opportunity to spend many hours with families, who were very grateful for the interest taken in their problems.
The Catholic population in this part of India is quite small. Nevertheless, the Church’s presence can be seen in educational and social development institutions working in the area.
Those involved in the work camp took part in Christian doctrine classes in addition to their work. They also tried to intensify their life of piety through daily Mass, the rosary and other devotions.
Upon returning to New Delhi, the students shared their experiences in various forums. All of them said that, despite all the hardships, their best memories were those of the families they visited and the tokens of appreciation from so many people who, far from complaining about their situation, were now preparing to confront the future with new hope.
Social Help Days
In the village of La Tirana, 1200 miles north of Santiago, over a hundred people received medical assistance from the students of medicine and nursing who took part in the Social Help Days organized by a number of women’s cultural centers-Aconcagua in Santiago, Maitenes in Concepción, and Altamar Residence in Viña del Mar.
The students spent four days working intensively at the local health center, which rarely sees a doctor or nurse. Along with providing medical treatment, they saw to it that anyone who requested it also received spiritual attention. “One elderly man,” one of the women said, “asked for the Anointing of the Sick and was assisted by a priest. To our joy, he seems to be coming along well.”
At the same time, some students of Art and Architecture dedicated themselves to repairing and painting the health facility building.
A team of university women gave talks to teenagers in the area on the prevention of alcoholism and drug addiction, while others gave catechism classes and supplementary tutoring in various subjects to grade school children.
First Communion for Down’s Syndrome girls
On November 24, a group of 15 young girls suffering from Down’s Syndrome received their first Holy Communion and the sacrament of Confirmation after two years of preparation by university women who take part in activities at Ausangate Cultural Center in Lima.
The method used in the classes was based on story-telling, pictures, videos and group dynamics in which the girls related their own experiences. The teaching took place in small groups divided by age, explained Rocio Sanchez, the woman coordinating the project.
The teachers held several preparatory sessions on Saturdays from 10 to 12, where they received the training needed for the special students they would be teaching.
The students came from several universities in Lima.
Bicentennial of Cardinal Newman at the University of Montevideo
The bicentennial of the birth of Cardinal John Henry Newman (February 21, 1801 - August 11, 1890) was commemorated by the University of Montevideo’s Humanities School. Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Fides et Ratio, names the great English cardinal as one of the philosophers and theologians who best harmonizes the demands of faith and reason in the search for truth.
After an introductory address in which Father Jaime Fuentes, professor of theology at the University of Montevideo, gave a brief biography of Newman, Professor Nestor Martinez Valls, from the Uruguayan Theology School, described the intellectual path traveled by Newman that led to the forming of the Oxford Movement and eventually his entrance into the Catholic Church.
“Newman’s vision for the university” was the topic developed by Professor Jesús Caño-Guiral, professor of the history of philosophy at the University of Montevideo. The closing address was by Father Fernando Cavaller, rector of the Argentinian Seminary de La Plata, and the founder and publisher of the magazine “Newmaniana.” He spoke about “Newman’s understanding of faith.”
Work camp in Moscow
For the past few years, Moncloa Student Residence in Madrid has been organizing work camps to provide health services, academic assistance and catechism classes in disadvantaged areas. This year the program took place in Moscow.
At the beginning of July, a group of students spent two weeks a few miles outside the Russian capital, working at an orphan asylum with more than thirty abandoned children. Besides focussing on the human and Christian formation of the children, the students carried out a number of material improvements in the old orphanage.
Upon their return, the young men expressed their joy and gratitude for the opportunity to help the people in Russia and their desire to continue doing so in the future.
An historic project
Forty university women from Kenya, Great Britain and Italy took part in a rural development program in Kenya in August. The program was entitled “an historic project.” Fanusi Study Centre in Nairobi, Ashwell House in London and Coniston Hall in Manchester combined forces in organizing the social assistance project, which has become a yearly event. They were joined this year by Italian students from the Viscontea residence in Milan.
The students divided up into three teams. The London group worked at Riara Primary School in Kiambu, while the teams from Manchester and Milan concentrated their efforts at the Ng’ong Township Primary School. The Kenyans helped out at both sites.
In Kenya many rural schools have just a few teachers and a rudimentary supply of books. Thus only a few boys, and even fewer girls, are able to attend high school on a regular basis.
The project’s aim was to give classes and personalized attention to girls in two of these schools. The women taught English, mathematics and sciences. They also painted and decorated the two schools. On the last day of the project the best pupils received prizes and the school was given sports supplies and books donated by the English students and the Kenya National Library Services.
The students also did some repairs at Kimlea Technical Training Centre. Kimlea is an initiative of Kianda Foundation that teaches young women basic skills to help them begin small businesses.
The program also included visits to a home for the elderly, where the students provided company and assistance and helped clean some of the installations. In the nearby villages they gave instruction on hygiene to women with children and helped build a simple house for an elderly woman. They also visited their pupils’ homes and encouraged the parents to send their children to high school.
Cultural activities filled part of the weekends, among them a visit to a museum and an excursion to a nature reserve. One group made a side trip to Mombasa, where there are plans to carry out a similar project in the future.
The English women had prepared for this project through a series of seminars in Ashwell House on rural development. They also participated in conferences organized by the Department for International Development in England, and, in Kenya, in some conferences organized by the United Nations. Those taking part in the program had a opportunity to attend talks on Christian doctrine at Fanusi Study Centre.
New Delhi, India
Study and work as service
Vatsalya Study Centre, in New Delhi, held a series of seminars for university women on “Study and work as service.” The series included preparatory meetings and a full-day seminar on November 4.
The preliminary sessions stressed the need to take study and work seriously, in order to acquire the skills needed to contribute to the improvement of society. A key idea insisted on was that work had to be seen as service to others. The work of mothers of families was held up as a model of this vision of work.
Polish student volunteers in Pamplona
From September 6 to 18, a group of medical and nursing students from Krakow and Warsaw carried out volunteer work in the Valle del Roncal Center, a facility for the care of persons with severe mental retardation. The group of young women visited the Hospital of the University of Navarre to observe the care provided there for the sick and their families. They also visited the administrative areas of the hospital, including the facilities for preparing meals, laundry and cleaning.
One of the chaplains at the hospital spoke to them about helping the sick to suffer with dignity and to sanctify themselves in their situation. The young women also had an opportunity to reflect on themes related to bioethics in light of “The Letter to Health Workers” of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Work with Health Workers, and both the apostolic letter Salvifici Dolores and the encyclical Evangelium Vitae of Pope John Paul II.
Eleven years working with a smile
Students for Social Assistance devotes its attention to the sick, the handicapped, the elderly, and their families. At the start of the new academic year, it carried out a recruiting campaign, with many new people signing up.
The result of the concern of several students at the University of Navarre, Students for Social Assistance began its work in 1990 by providing company for lonely and disabled persons and distributing food to needy families and the unemployed.
As the number of volunteers increased, new programs were started. These include: the program for the sick, which provides company and entertainment for convalescent children and care for their families; the program for the aged, which provides activities and entertainment for the aged and those confined to home; and the program for the handicapped, which helps take care of the physically and mentally handicapped of all ages.
Teresa Martín Aguado, general coordinator, insists that no specific qualifications are required to work in the program. “All that’s required is concern for others and a real commitment. And you need a smile on your face,” she says. The normal time commitment is two hours a week, although the work varies according to the availability of each volunteer.
Volunteers and philosophy
Girls aged 16-17 took part this summer in a program for volunteers interested in helping elderly people who are hospitalized. It was organized by Trimar Cultural Center in Quebec.
Medical personnel gave classes on the special physical and mental health problems that often affect these sick people. The program also included tutorials and visits to a hospital.
The program was inspired by the message about the human person contained in the Holy Father’s book Love and Responsibility and in his apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris, and the teachings of Blessed Josemaria Escriva.
The students were also invited to participate in “a philosophical get-together” outside the program of regular meetings. The discussion, run by a woman philosophy professor, focussed on the meaning of the human person in light of Christian anthropology and elicited a lot of interest from those taking part.
Trimar has organized this program for the last 15 years in cooperation with a university hospital in Quebec.
Santiago and Navan (Chile and Ireland)
A culture of peace through service
On October 27, 2001, almost a hundred people took part in the Roman Encounter 2002, organized by the Fontanar Center for Technical Formation, an educational center in Santiago, Chile that offers advanced career training in the service fields.
The conference centered on ways people can contribute, through their daily work, to world peace. Its title was “A culture of peace through service.” The dozen presentations stressed how a well-trained service professional can contribute to the good of society. Among the topics dealt with were: “Food and family life,” “Creative service,” “Volunteering: giving one’s time,” and “Friendliness: an effective communicator.” Frequent reference was made to the importance of Blessed Josemaria’s message on the sanctification of professional work in today’s world.
The conference was inaugurated by Enrique Mendoza, an expert in the employment of human resources; and it was concluded by Gabiela Cuevas, a doctor in Domestic Sciences and professor at the Service Enterprises Management School of the University of the Andes.
A similar activity took place in Ireland, also in October. Organized by the Lismullin Institute and the Lismullin Hospitality Services Centre, the seminar on hospitality was given the name “Fios Fáilte,” an expression in Gaelic which means “the science of welcoming.”
The topic of this first seminar was “Teamwork.” Phil Hanlon, assistant director of the Graduate Business School at the Dublin Institute of Technology gave a number of sessions on the qualities required of a good team leader and the human virtues needed in the working world. He also related his experiences in Vietnam in starting a school for hotel workers.
São José dos Campos, Brazil
Vila Santa Cruz Social Project
In an attempt to help solve the problem of juvenile delinquency, a number of students from the Aeronautical Technical Institute have organized a program of individual tutoring for boys in Vila Santa Cruz, one of the poorest districts in São José dos Campos. The activity was started by students from the Esplanada Cultural Center, whose spiritual direction is entrusted to the Prelature of Opus Dei. At present, some fifteen tutors direct groups of boys between the ages of five and nine.
The program takes place on weekends in nearby classrooms provided by Vale do Paraiba University. The volunteers try to earn the friendship and trust of the boys one by one. Through their example and affection, they try to transmit Christian truths and virtues to them. Special stress is placed on urging the boys to study and on helping them in their school tasks. There is also time for catechism classes and for sports. In addition, visits are made to the families in the area to seek the collaboration of parents.
The laity, the Church and the world
At Kenthurst Study Centre a seminar was held on November 4 on the role of the ordinary Christian in today’s world. Professionals from various fields such as medicine, law, teaching, etc. gave their practical experiences on the social doctrine of the Church, the responsibilities that family life brings with it and the role of the lay person in the Church. A video on the Prelature of Opus Dei and its activities was also shown.
The activity elicited considerable interest. The numbers attending made it necessary to divide the seminar into two groups, with the conferences being given twice to accommodate everyone.
Raise Your Child Right
On June 23 and 24, in the Orchid Country Club in Singapore, the second “Raise Your Child Right” conference was held, organized by the Family Enrichment Society (FES). This non-profit parents organization (which includes members of the Opus Dei Prelature), aims to develop programs to benefit families. After several years of activity, FES has received the direct support of the Singapore Ministry of Social Affairs, which has given it the designation “Ambassador of Family Life.”
The principal message of the conference was that “faith and family, moral values and personality, health and integrity are the keys to raising children in a way that will help them to become successful adults.”
Some 800 people took part, not only from Singapore, but also from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines. In addition to fathers and mothers, many teachers and social workers interested in today’s challenges to the education of young children took part in the conference.
Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Parliamentary Secretary of the Singapore Ministry of Social Affairs, inaugurated the conference with a brief address. The Parliamentary Secretary stressed that the best legacy parents can leave to their children is not a great family business or a healthy bank account, but the investment of their own lives in their future.
The principal speaker at the conference, James B. Stenson, a well-known American consultant on educational topics and author of several books on raising children, spoke about discipline, the formation of a child’s personality and communication within the family.
Patrick and Theresa Fagan, also from the U.S., spoke about guiding children’s decision-making and the special problems of adolescents.
Spanish-Estonian social project
University women from Spain and Estonia provided assistance to more than 150 people in a summer project organized by the Rävala Cultural Center in the Estonian capital of Tallinn.
Those organizing the program had previously contacted the Department of Social Work at the Tallinn Teachers College, where Professor Tiia Tamm, in charge of volunteer work in Estonia, took up the idea with great interest. She provided the women with information regarding the areas in greatest need of assistance and even got her own students involved in the project.
The volunteers provided assistance at the Hollduste Haigla home in Tallinn and the Diakoonia Hospital in the Nõmme district. The two institutions provide shelter for more than 100 aged people. The students took the patients out for walks in their wheel chairs and assisted the hospital personnel in hygiene services.
The women also went to one of the city orphanages, the Tallinna Imikute ja Puuetega Lastekeskus, which provides care for children under the age of seven, in many cases disabled or suffering from cerebral palsy. The volunteers organized activities and games for them. Finally, they provided assistance to the sick in a cancer hospital in the city.
The Estonians had an opportunity to meet young Catholics and to see the naturalness with which the women lived their faith. The Spaniards, for their part, saw clearly the need for mutual collaboration and the desire to get to know the Catholic faith on the part of many Estonians.
As an aftermath to this project, the Rävala Cultural Center has organized a permanent program of weekly volunteer work to assist aged people in one of these hospitals.
Youth Congress “Towards the Centennial of the Birth of Blessed Josemaria”
The Cebil University Center sponsored a youth congress from September 20 to 23 under the title “Towards the Centennial of the Birth of Blessed Josemaria.” Over 80 students took part. The goal of the congress was to make the message of Blessed Josemaria better known among young people and give impetus to the Holy Father’s call for a new apostolic sowing in Novo Millennio Ineunte.
Central themes from the life and writings of the founder of Opus Dei were discussed by the students in small group sessions: the sanctification of work, forming young people, unity of life and apostolic responsibility in today’s world.
A panel discussion was held with Dr. Roberto Dotta and Father Eduardo Volpacchio, who spoke about the life of Blessed Josemaria, especially his wholehearted response to God’s will. A well-known local sports figure and a high school student also shared their personal experiences regarding the influence of Blessed Josemaria’s teachings in their lives.
In an informal get-together, Father Jose Maria Fontan related some anecdotes about the founder of Opus Dei and described personal meetings with him in Rome. Participants were thus given a taste of the family atmosphere found in Opus Dei.
Fourth Liturgical Conference
On November 9, about a hundred priests and theology professors took part in the Fourth Liturgical Conference at Tordesillas in Valladolid, organized by the Esgueva Center for Priests. The topic of the conference was the role of the liturgy in the life of Blessed Josemaria Escriva.
Father Manuel Garrido Bonaño, a Benedictine expert on liturgy and consultor to the Congregation for Divine Worship, said in his talk that “Blessed Josemaria was one of the great apostles of the liturgy. He recommended that Mass be said not in a hurried way but with care for the small details, reciting the prayers with piety. What love he put into the Holy Mass! It was a reality that filled his whole day.”
The founder of Opus Dei, continued Father Garrido, “not only preached by his word but also by his example. And why were his words so attractive? Because they flowed from his life. He was a precursor and a pioneer, as much for his way of preaching as for his obedience to the liturgical norms. By bringing the liturgy close to the people, he has done a great good for the Church.”
Valladolid’s Archbishop Jose Delicado emphasized the importance Blessed Josemaria gave to the participation of the faithful in the Eucharist. At the same time he encouraged priests to “turn the Mass into a font of salvation.” Bishop Antonio Vilaplana of Leon spoke along similar lines.
Romana, No. 33, July-December 2001, p. 212-222.