Living Hope Newsletter – June 2009

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Claretian Volunteers

The hope that the Claretians foster in all of their ministries thrives among the young people serving as Claretian Volunteers. Most volunteers are typically just out of college and looking for an opportunity to serve and grow in faith.

"We have geared this program toward young adults in transition, young people who perhaps are not sure what they would like to do with their lives and just need a little direction," says Claretian Volunteer Coordinator Deana Brewer. "Hopefully at the end of a year or two they discover a deeper sense of purpose and will go out into the world to become productive citizens and even better people."

After graduating from college last spring, Claretian Volunteer Sarah Sharp was unsure of what the next step in her life would be. "I wanted to give back to the community that has helped me get here, so I decided to become a Claretian Volunteer," explains Sharp, who works as an Editorial Assistant at Claretian Publications.

Claretian Father Ron Stua, C.M.F. supervised the volunteers and knows firsthand of the dedication of each member of the program. Father Stua presides over mass on Sunday's at Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood where the Claretian Volunteers reside and sees them each Sunday. "The Claretian Volunteers are really good people," says Father Stua. "They are dedicated and the Claretians are happy to have them serve in our ministries."

Each volunteer is provided the basics - room and board, health insurance, transportation, and a monthly stipend.

Retreat 2009

"We currently have four volunteers in Chicago," says Brewer. "They give a full year of service with an option for a second year if they choose."

"The most rewarding thing for me is when I reflect and realize that as a team we are doing something good to make this world a better place," explains Claretian Volunteer Andres Garcia D'Alta, a native of Venezuela. "Maybe it's not much, but you are doing something for the community, and it really feels good."

Claretian Volunteers are encouraged to live the values of the Gospel, emphasizing service and ministry, Christian community, spiritual growth, and simple living. This is especially true for the volunteers working with the poor and people on the margins of society.

"Every single day you hear other peoples' problems with drugs and gangs, and you learn a lot from them," says D'Alta, who is enrolled in his second year as a Claretian Volunteer and works for an organization heavily involved in immigration policies. “It's amazing being with the people and offering that helping hand."

As summer approaches, Claretian Volunteers are nearing the end of their service experience. Most volunteers are now faced with the task of seeking full-time employment in their career fields of choice, but will always value their time with the Claretians.

"My year here has been a wonderful experience," says Sharp. "When I came to this program I expected to put in my year and go back to grad school. But I kind of fell in love with the city and am looking for jobs here. I also fell in love with the Claretians and would like to keep the Claretians as part of my life because they are such wonderful people.

D'Alta views his time with the Claretians as an integral aspect of his formation. "When I first came into the program I wasn't expecting to be planning the rest of my life here," he explains. "The Claretian Volunteer program changed my expectations. I definitely want to finish school here and be part of the Claretians, if God gives me the grace, for the rest of my life because they are really good people who do great things."

The 11 young seminarians now studying English at the Claretian Intermediate Seminary in western Sri Lanka. These seminarians study english for a year or two at this facility before heading on to do their coursework at the National Seminary in the city of Kandy.

Claretian Missionaries in Sri Lanka

For many, our image of Sri Lanka is associated with the devastating Tsunami of 2004. The island country in South Asia off the coast of India has a population of nearly 20 million, and though Buddhism remains the dominant religion, Sri Lanka is a pluralistic country including Hindus, Christians and Muslims.

In 1951, two German Claretians, Fr. Peter Schweiger and Fr. Franz Xavier Dirnberger, had a dream to plant the seeds of a Claretian missionary presence in India. In 1979, almost 30 years later, Claretian recruitment of vocations in Sri Lanka began.

Since 1983, civil war has ravaged the country, claiming more than 60,000 lives and becoming a way of life in Sri Lanka. The Claretian congregation sees its contribution to peace-building as a vital part of its mission, and is engaged in several efforts including a peace education program.

Despite limited personnel, the mission is engaged in diverse activities. It is part of six of the eleven dioceses of Sri Lanka: Colombo, Kandy, Jaffna, Badulla, Kurunegala and Ratnapura, with two parishes in the dioceses of Badulla and Colombo under the care of the Claretians.

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The Claretian parishes in Sri Lanka include supplementary education programs, bus service for rural school children and computer, language, and sewing classes.

The Claretian communities show their solidarity with the victims of war and natural disaster whenever the need arises. The Tsunami wrought havoc in Sri Lanka, taking 45,000 lives within minutes and leaving thousands more homeless.

The Claretians were among the very first to be involved in providing drinking water, food, and shelter. The Claretian seminary in Kattuwa provided shelter to some 300 people in the Tsunami's aftermath. Even after five years, survivors of the Tsunami continue to languish in welfare shelters while others live in new settlements lacking basic facilities.

The Claretians oversee numerous projects on various parts of the island, though some have been halted due to the country's unresolved civil conflict.

Though it has been a very long and arduous journey for 30 years, the Sri Lankan mission continues to receive support and assistance from all corners of the Claretian congregation, with much support still needed and work to be done.