As we look forward to the unfolding of 2012, and as we sing “Let there be peace on earth” let’s take a moment to reflect on a message of Pope John Paul II, “Our world,” he wrote, “shows increasing evidence of another grave threat to peace: many individuals and indeed whole peoples are living today in conditions of extreme poverty.”
The UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon declared one year ago, the launch of the Every Woman, Every Child effort out of the conviction that in our time it is wrong to allow women and children to die when we have the tools to save them. On that day, he said the United Nations would carry out commitments to improve women's and children's health. He closed his address by declaring, “When we deliver better care for every woman and every child, I am sure that we will advance a better life for all the people around the world.”
If We Want Peace,
We must Work to End Poverty
“Let there be peace on earth,” is only the first part of the hymn line and certainly the easiest part with which to agree. Peace is something we desire passionately. But we can’t ignore the next part of that hymn line, “and let it begin with me.” This is what you, in partnership with the Medical Missionaries of Mary, have taken to heart and put into practice. Just look at the above UN General-Secretary’s statement. In our work, you and MMM have been and are continuing to address the Every Woman, Every Child effort.
Normally I “hear” our stories via e-mails or phone calls from the sisters scattered throughout the world, but this time I was able to experience first hand what our sisters are accomplishing in Brazil. In my early days as a missionary, we were just starting to work in Brazil and I was drawn by the stories that the sisters were sharing with us. I volunteered to go there. However, it was not to be and I went to Nigeria, where I spent many happy years. Still, it stayed with me that one day I would like to go to Brazil where our sisters are working and meet the people about whom I had heard so much. Last September, that dream came true and for a few short weeks I entered into the life and mission of our Sisters in Brazil.
Salvador was the first of my stops and there is much to see in this beautiful city. One of the most sobering sights however was the memorial to those people who were brought to Brazil from Nigeria as slaves. I asked myself, “What do I or can I do against the modern day slavery of trafficking of persons?”
It was in Salvador that I was also able to visit Project Consolation. You may remember the article in our last newsletter. Here peacemaking is about providing a safe space where mothers can come together in shared grief caused by the loss of a child through violence.
Hopping on a bus with Sister Pauline, we made the five-hour trip to Capim Grosso. This trip was one of contrasts: the lush tropical palm trees and vegetation of the coast giving way to the dry semi-arid land of Capim Grosso. Visiting the health center, water project, mission, some of our MMM Associates and friends was indeed memorable.
In this letter, you will hear from two of our sisters working in Brazil. In Sao Paulo with a population of over 20 million people, Sister Phyllis is helping mothers who have children with handicaps. In Capim Grosso Sister Pauline is helping mothers learn marketable skills so that they can better the lives of their families.
If we want peace, we must work to end poverty. Thank you for being peacemakers with us. May 2012 be a year filled with many blessings for you and your families.
Sister Mary Ann MacRae, MMM
Our Nest of Hope
by Sister Phyllis Heaney, MMM
Our mission in Sao Paulo, Brazil is with the poorest of the poor. Not only are they economically poor but some have children who are physically and/or mentally disadvantaged. To address this need we founded “Nest of Hope”, a home based on the vision of Jean Vanier who started L’Arche. These are places whereby persons with disabilities and others live together and make a home. L’Arche is now a world wide organization.
In our “Nest of Hope” these precious ones have a place and a space to be and develop their gifts. We have them four days a week, two days for the older ones and two days for the younger ones. Our criterion for receiving them into our ‘nest’ is based on our option for the economically poorest and most vulnerable family situations and there are many in our area! Those whom we can’t take in the ‘nest’, we reach through visits and the monthly gathering of our “Faith and Light” group, another Jean Vanier concept. We also provide help for the mothers through the services of a psychologist.
Here, Fr Eddie McGettrick, SPS, pastor of the local parish that works with Sister Phyllis, takes a moment with one of the children.
During this past year many parents have come to us seeking a place for their autistic children. There is Karol, blind, deaf, and autistic, and Nicolas, Cleber, Lucas and many others. Because they each need an individual to be with them all the time, we, in the ‘nest’, had to say, an extremely painful, “no”.
However, we took the cry of the mothers of autistic children to the Forun da Inclusai (To Include the Excluded) and in this way, we have begun to make their cry heard.
Sister Phyllis Heaney, MMM from Navan Ireland with one of the little ones.
One day, one of our Pastoral Health workers said she wanted me to meet Dona Cleide and her daughter, Flavia, a special needs/mentally handicapped 28 year old woman. What a heart rending scene! In comes Dona Cleide, looking 70+ although 58, absolutely exhausted, poor, carrying three plastic bags (one for diapers, one for cookies, one for documents and medicines), all for Flavia who is severely autistic. All during our visit she kept banging her head with her hand.
Dona Cleide is the sole caregiver for Flavia. She shared her life, her concerns, and her fears with me. Now she feels she has the support of someone else – someone who knows and cares about her and the difficulties she is experiencing. As she left, Dona Cleide looked relieved that there was somewhere and someone she could count on to journey with her and Flavia.
In our Forum evaluation/planning meeting, we decided to work with a group of interested/competent psychologists. Our aim is to form a support group for parents of autistic children like Dona Cleide. So our next step is to gather our caregivers with others and discuss where we go from here. Pray for us as we try to be Jesus’ compassionate Presence in Jardim Angela, Brazil
A Little Goes A Long Way
By Sister Pauline Connolly, MMM
Have you ever wondered, “How do my gifts bring about life-changing experiences?” For many families in and around Capim Grosso, Brazil, daily living is a challenge. Here, Bella relates her story, but it is a similar scene for so many more around us. It truly highlights how a little help can mean a lot.
First, a little history, many come to this growing town, because of drought which has caused a poor harvest or none at all in this semi arid part of Northern Brazil. They decide to leave the homestead to the aging parents or simply sellout and hope to get a job in the town. Arriving here, they find out that jobs are not plentiful especially without some skill or education. Any little money they have soon disappears as they try to keep themselves and their families off the street.
Women's Development Group pictured here
with the fruits of their work.
Bella says “It’s (Women’s Development Program) a wonderful help for us women and our families. Now we are learning marketable skills and how to manage our homes better. With the little money we earn from our handwork, we can buy some of the things we need. This is how I bought our own refrigerator. With what my husband earned, we just managed to feed and cloth our family. Then with the little I was able to earn from the items I made and sold, I managed to save and in time I was able to buy on installments, a small refrigerator. Having one in this heat and with my young children means so much, it’s a great help.”
“When I first started in the Women’s Development Program, I learned how to sew and make clothes and toys. Then I got a second hand sewing machine cheaply and that helped. I loved coming to the class one evening a week because it was nice to share with the other women and we enjoyed the creativity. We learned a lot, together.”
“Now I am taking a class in flower arranging, choosing the colors and then assembling the blooms, buds and leaves. These flower arrangements are very popular because everyone loves to have them in their homes or to give them as gifts for birthdays and Christmas or for other occasions.”
Sister Pauline Connolly from Ireland and Itoro Etokakpan from Nigeria part of the MMM Capim Grosso Community
Yes, Bella is one of many women who come together to avail themselves of the Women’s Development Program. Here they learn how to better manage their homes, taking classes in homemaking, childrearing and some simple health treatments for minor problems.
They also learn to create beautiful items, which they then learn to market thus turning that creativity into a sustainable income. Through interaction with others, they grow in self-esteem and pride in their new skills. Earning their own money, opens up new horizons.
The program also provides a safe place where the children can play while the mothers are in class. The older children keep an eye on them while they play.
Our Program is a stepping stone; some are quick to learn and progress, while for others it’s a longer process. Some are now learning the art of reading and writing. Other home improvements they talk of are: painting the inside walls for the first time, buying kitchen utensils, such as a pressure cooker or bed linens, cushions, chairs, and maybe even a refrigerator.
All of this growth and development is made available through your generous and continuous donations. You are spoken of and the women are reminded that it is out of your thoughtfulness and earnings that this program is possible for them. The program buys the material for the classes only and pays the teacher. The women pay a minimum entrance fee so they feel they contribute to the continuity of the program and allow other women to enroll. What they make is theirs. They do express their gratefulness and show it in how they develop in self-confidence and improve their situations.
So, to answer the initial question: every gift you send starts this journey. This is how your gift brings about life-changing experiences in Capim Grosso, Brazil. Thank you kindly.
Let There Be Peace on Earth - by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth,
The peace that was meant to be.
With God our Creator
Family all are we,
Let us walk with each other
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me,
Let this be the moment now;
With every step I take,
Let this be my solemn vow:
To take each moment and live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.