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THEME: Go Forth with Courage
In this issue students will UNDERSTAND how courage is lived out, particularly in times of crisis.
EXAMINE scripture and teachings of the church to learn how the Holy Spirit empowers us to be people of courage.
DISCUSS how courage can help them be the person they wish to be.
CREATE social media posts to inspire others.
ENGAGE their families in a discussion about the meaning of courage and how to live it out.
PRAY the following prayer as a group or an individual. If in a group, consider dividing into two sections and taking turns.
Be not afraid, if you are weak and fragile, or if you fall, know God holds out his hand to you and says: Courage! I am with you always just call out to me and I will answer.
When I am weak and in need of courage.
Come Holy Spirit Come.
When I need strength to face my fears.
Come Holy Spirit Come.
When life is hard and I am losing hope.
Come Holy Spirit Come.
When I need to step out of my comfort zone to serve others. Come Holy Spirit Come.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid: for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
God I know that you are with me. Send your Holy Spirit upon me so that I may live courageously. AMEN
DISCUSS OR JOURNAL THE FOLLOWING: Br. John and Chris have both found ways to go forth with courage during times of crisis. They have experienced love, support, and acceptance to help them move forward.
- What challenges or difficulties did Br. John and Chrison experience because of the courageous decisions they made in the story? How did they grow because of their choices?
2.Who are the people that supported Br. John and Chrison?
3.What difficult/courageous decisions have you or someone you know had to make over the past year? What happened as a result of those decisions?
4.What did you learn about courage from these stories?
BEIRUT AND MYANMAR
In Beirut, Lebanon in the 1980’s there was a dividing line that separated the Christian and Muslim parts of the city. To cross it meant risking your life. However, Maryknoll Brother John Beeching decided that he still needed to cross it. He had come to the Middle East to work with boys detained in Yemen’s prisons. Before he could go to Yemen he needed to learn Arabic which is why he found himself in Beirut. The city had two colleges he could attend for language studies. He started at the Jesuit College on the Christian side, but his education suffered from the trauma he experienced every day at school. On two occasions a car bomb had exploded so close to the school that it knocked him to the ground. Daily, the students dodged a sniper who shot at them as they left their classrooms. So Br. John decided that he would risk crossing the line to attend Beirut College. At least while he was in class, it was more peaceful. He was at school on the Muslim side when full war broke out. Together with a family from his school he made his way back to the Christian side. When they crossed the line they wrapped the children in mattresses and ran as fast as they could. He was trapped in the city for the next few days with war wagging around him. Mortar shells had come through the ceiling of his house and there were tanks in the front yard. He managed to escape the city but he could not escape the trauma inflicted by war.
This experience of suffering and war has helped Br. John accompany the people he encounters in his current mission. In 1990 he went to Thailand where he found himself working with refugees who had escaped the violence of Myanmar. He said, “Nothing happens by accident, everything is a graced moment in life. It had not been my intention to work with the refugees; it happened by accident.” He was teaching English when a Monk asked him to help the Monks who were arriving from Myanmar. He found that when new monks and refugees arrived, he could tell from eye contact with them, who had been deeply traumatized, as he had been in Beirut. He noted that these people seek him out to talk. Perhaps they too see the trauma he had experienced in his eyes. He spends his days helping with medical needs and teaching English to the Monks and refugees and he listens. He listens to the brutal stories of war the refugees share with him while recalling his own pain and his own healing. Bro. John believes that through his experiences in Beirut God was preparing him for his current ministry He says, “I was healed by my trauma in Beirut through the love and support of my Maryknoll community.” Now it is Br. John who offers acceptance, support, and love to the refugees as they began to heal from the trauma they endured in Myanmar.
Amid the pandemic Catholics in Jamaica are summoning the courage to open a school for boys and teens. They know there is a crisis in the educational system for males and they believe there is no time to waste because lives depend on it. Fr. Colin King, OFM, is a missionary with the Franciscan Friars from Ohio and the Vicar of Education for the Diocese of Montego Bay. He explained, “There are an infinite number of reasons not to open a school while facing a pandemic. But the reason to do it is to help these young men. To stare down fear and the uncertainty of a pandemic and go forward with eyes wide open not seeing anything but trusting that God will lead us.”
Monsignor Gladstone Wilson College opened in October 2020 in a simple building transformed from a parish hall. The school is located in the Diocese of Montego Bay which has had a strong relationship with Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers for many years. Fr. Leo Shea, M.M. spent many years in mission there. The diocese now hosts immersions for the Maryknoll Mission Education Department. Deacon Baldwin Powell is a deacon at the Cathedral and part of the Maryknoll Deacon Partner Program. As our immersion groups have learned from our Jamaican hosts, the economy in Montego Bay, once supported by agriculture with sugar cane as its main crop, has shifted, leaving many behind. The school is surrounded by depressed neighborhoods full of people struggling to get by.
The downturn of the economy has forced many boys and young men to leave school to find work to help their families. Many of the children grow up in one parent families with a mother or grandmother being the sole parent. Confronted with poverty and few opportunities for work without an education, the young men are often recruited into gangs and into illegal scamming. Seeing the impact of this crisis affecting their young men the community organized to build without delay. Deacon Baldwin said, “We are building hope. Our goal is to try and establish a school to try and reduce the risk of these vulnerable boys so they can be prepared to live lives of service, be committed in relationships, and to be good citizens. We want to put a lifeboat out there for those who are struggling and drowning. We want them to know that even though they may come from broken homes with no father figure it does not mean that will determine their future.”
One of the students who is courageously navigating his first year at the school is Chrison. The pandemic has forced him to learn remotely. With no internet or computer at home he attends his classes on a cell phone. Fr. Colin has helped him buy more data for his phone so he can attend classes. Two other young men that Fr. Colin has helped with education are Gifford and Andre. Gifford is studying to be an architect and aspires to build community centers to provide a safe place for the children in his community. Andre is working to become a teacher. All three of these bright, talented, young men are examples of what an investment in quality education can do to open doors not only for them but for the lives they will touch in the future. Fr. Colin said, “They would not have been able to finish high school without help because their families did not have the money. They are all grateful for the opportunity to pursue their education.”
Although, only a tiny fraction of the population, the Catholic Church in Montego Bay continues its long history of healing the sick, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, and educating the young. Faced with all the challenges of the pandemic and a struggling economy they courageously took a leap of faith trusting that God will open doors. Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers looks forward to the day when the pandemic is over, and we can take immersion trips again to be with our friends in Jamaica. We look forward to visiting the school and witnessing how hope even in the most difficult of times can transform lives.
READ ONE OF THE FOLLOWING AND WHAT THE CHURCH SAYS:
Old Testament: Isaiah 11: 1-9
Life of Jesus: John 14:15-27
Christian Living: Philippians 4:4-13
1.What are the gifts of the Spirit according to the reading from Isaiah? Which one appeals to you the most? How come?
2.What do the passages from the Gospel of John and Philippians tell us about how the Holy Spirit helps us in difficult times?
3.Where in your life do you need the strength and courage of the Holy Spirit to move forward?
“If we have the Holy Spirit within us, we will have the courage to strive forward, not through our own strength but through the Holy Spirit who is with us.” – Pope Francis
Here, then, is the lesson for every believer: “the path of Christian courage is a grace given by the Holy Spirit”. There are indeed “so many paths we could take, which even give us a certain courage”, for which one could say: “Look what a brave decision they made!”. All of this, however, “is an instrument of something greater: the Spirit”. And “if the Spirit isn’t there, we can do many things, a great deal of work, but it is pointless. (Pope Francis, The Courage to be Bold)
WATCH Best Advice for Students, How to Succeed in Life by Michelle Obama. ANSWER the following questions by JOURNALING or DISCUSSING in small groups.
- Who do you want to be when difficult moments in life knock you down?
- What qualities do you have that will help you when you face setbacks?
- Did you encounter a difficulty in the last year when a weakness became a strength?
- Who do you know that is courageous? What do you think helps him or her be that way?
CHOOSE words or images that come to mind when you think of courage.
USE some of these words/images to DEVELOP social media posts or videos for use in a campaign to inspire others to serve those who are suffering from injustice or poverty. Focus on a particular injustice that you see in your community or the world. See RAISE YOUR VOICE section for next steps.