Read the first reflection in this series: St. Mary’s Industrial Home | Grateful Look at the Past
Saint Mary’s Industrial Home for Boys, Working Boys’ Home, Don Bosco Home and many of the other child care ministries are memories. They no longer exist. How then can we talk about living the present with passion? It is with a certain sadness that we acknowledge this reality. But It is also with deep joy that we claim the legacy that the Brothers who served in those homes have left us. The spirit of those Brothers is evident in the works being done today largely by laypersons. We know in our hearts that God always calls us to those with the greatest need. Looking to those Brothers who preceded us, we also know that ministering to the least in the Kingdom brings us in touch with what our Founder and the pioneer Brothers experienced. The Joy of the Gospel.
Upon reading Peter Corbett’s remembrances of the Working Boys’ Home in Newton Highlands, MA, it became clear to me that the same Spirit that shaped the Xaverian Brothers who worked in our immigrant schools and homes, is with us today. Peter recalls, “…I consider those four years the best time of my life, where my life had started…It was a place where I was safe and cared for, where I was clothed fed, and had a loving roof over my head…” How is what Peter saying true for us today? Let me share a couple of stories.
A couple of years ago, I was on a student retreat where I met a young man I knew for four years for the first time. Let’s call him Bob. Bob has a brilliant mind and was known to torment his teachers with knowledge he had that they didn’t have. During the retreat I listened to his story. The father he idolized and shared his passion for baseball dropped dead one spring afternoon while they were throwing a baseball in their yard. The mother had a breakdown and started physically abusing her son blaming him for her father’s death. Relatives had to go to court to get the young man removed from the home. He spent his high school years living with poor relatives who worked hard to pay his tuition. The young man is grateful for the Brothers and lay teachers who reached out to him. Today he is a lawyer and social worker committed to the poor of Eastern Kentucky. He serves the poor with the same passion that the Brothers and teacher once helped him.
We would be amazed at the number of young people for whom the school community is the safe place in their lives. A place where they are cared for. Recently a teacher shared with me her dilemma. She knows a youngster who comes from a poor family who often does not have money for lunch. Embarrassed to ask her friends to lend her money, she often goes to the library during lunch. The teacher wanted to help but also wanted to spare the girl’s feelings. We talked awhile and arrived at the solution of giving the money to the girl’s mother who would then give it to her daughter.
In his reminiscing , Peter Corbett states, ” The Xaverian Brothers gave their time educating us, giving us direction and above all, giving us their love and care.” I call his the core of the Xaverian charism. No matter which of the thirteen schools you would visit, your will see teachers and counselors working with young people before and after school. Our teachers are to be applauded for providing a full day of excellence in education and then relating with the individual student with such with such passion to help young people to realize they are loved, cared for and capable. For me it is an inspiration to watch our Brothers and lay teachers carrying out the legacy we have received.
Our Brothers working in Bolivia, Kenya and Congo are still engaged in child care ministries. They are passionate about helping street children who are literally abandoned to the streets largely due to the poverty of their families. I have witnessed the patience and care that our Brothers give these students in all three countries. It is a difficult ministry that must be done with great passion for the wellbeing of the young people. And it is.
- What examples of living the legacy of child care ministries with passion can you share?