It is our social justice summer! Those who are on their social justice summer, namely those who have just completed their first years of studies, are generally sent to places around the world to encounter the poorest of the poor. Some are located in the Caribbean region while others are in Africa. Each of the brothers will have a profoundly different experience of culture, but each will have the opportunity to gaze at the face of Christ in the poor. I was in one of the programs in Africa with several other brothers: Lorenzo Laorden, Don Goergen, and Leo Almazan. Our program began in Tanzania accompanying Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and then moved to Nairobi, Kenya. Leo and Don only accompanied us on the CRS trip in Tanzania, but they were still very crucial members to our experience.
The trip began on June 15th to the CRS headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. I say the trip begins here for good reason. In Baltimore, we learned about CRS and all the work they currently do around the globe. Glancing at the name Catholic Relief Services, you might think that CRS is known for their relief work in times of emergency (war, natural disasters). You would be right. In fact CRS began as War Relief Services to provide assistance to war-torn Europe during the Second World War. Here is a link of their history: http://crs.org/about/history/. Still this is only a part of what CRS does. CRS serves in 93 countries around the world providing services anywhere from micro-financing projects, to health projects, to education initiatives, to food initiatives, and to agriculture support. Wherever their is a need, CRS is there working to provide a solution. The unique thing though is that CRS is not the direct implementer of the projects. CRS instead works within the local diocese and the local diocesan charity, generally CARITAS. CRS instead aims to empower the people of the country using the country's own available resources. In Baltimore we not only learned all of what CRS does, but what we can do as Catholics to support the efforts of CRS. Effort number one is pray! It is simple enough, right? We need to pray for CRS and even Catholic Charities and to pray to be in solidarity with the poor!