fostering hope and unity
we aim to build bridges between the communities we serve, and never have we been so united in prayer as we face similar challenges throughout the world.
"No one is saved alone..." - Pope Francis, Patris Corde
Please read on for an end of year update on how the Community of Saint Paul has been striving to foster hope and unity in a time of despair and distancing during the pandemic. We focus on the different areas where the Community of Saint Paul is serving missions in Latin America, the hardest-hit region of the world, both in disease and its economic fallout.
The Community of Saint Paul (CSP) is based out of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and members work at various parishes throughout the city. Our roots are in Spain, where we have a presence with local non-profits to support our work. In Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Colombia we serve parishes and communities in low income areas who have been facing an exceptional challenge in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of the families we work with have it especially difficult during the pandemic as they live off of low paying day labor and the service industry. Many have been out of work for several months. We serve those in urban and rural areas, each with their different challenges.
We have a unique opportunity in the efforts to alleviate the growing needs in these regions, and we count on your prayers and financial support to be able to do so; providing hope through unity and solidarity.
areas of interest
The educators in Centro San José gave activities to parents to do with their children while at home in quarantine, to help them develop motor skills. Enjoy this brief video of the children learning, growing and playing while at home with their families:
Casa San José
Casa San José is an institution that welcomes boys between 5 and 14 years of age who live on the streets of Cochabamba and who have cut off ties with their families. As a result, the CSP cares for their basic needs. The Casa is supervised by Montserrat of the CSP. It spent several months on complete lock down, with educators taking turns in lock down with the boys who are regularly checked for health issues. This was an extra strain, especially on the staff, but thankfully they kept their spirits high for the boys.
In the city of Cochabamba, the neediest families of boys who were reintegrated from Casa San José back into their families in 2018 and 2019 received a holiday basket with food and supplies to help them make it through these challenging times. These were 26 families, namely of widowed mothers with limited economic resources who work informal jobs, such as selling soft drinks and fruit.
Vacas and Independencia
Montse, Gemma and Aniceto of the CSP also run programs in rural communities near Cochabamba, Vacas and Independencia. At the beginning of the pandemic, these agrarian communities were able to support themselves with recent crops, but were bracing themselves to run out of food supplies in early June. The CSP helped them to prepare for and prevent this, especially by helping 193 families to establish small farms (or large gardens) and providing them with seeds.
The population in these areas has actually grown, as many young families with children have moved out of the city; both to protect themselves from infection, and due to the lack of work (informal and day labor). Here they could at least have some land to cultivate. There are many elderly persons that are living alone in the area, as well as some handicapped who are no longer receiving the economic support they used to from family members living in the cities. The CSP has been helping 112 such persons with food every month in Independencia and 23 in Vacas.
Specifically in Vacas, the CSP has helped set up a bartering system to diversify their diets, such as exchanging potatoes for sheep's meat, corn for jerky, etc.
In late November 2020, Bloomberg News studies reported the 53 largest economies to consider the best and worst regarding response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This took in mind the implementation of prevention efforts, health systems' capacity to respond, how the economy will be affected, as well as its ability to recover. Mexico is 53rd out of 53 on this list.
On December 19, Mexico City and the State of Mexico reached (for a second time) "red light" status, resulting in the Church cancelling public masses through mid-January.
Fr. Pablo is the pastor of a parish that covers five neighborhoods totaling 22,000 people; one of the poorest areas even before the crisis. It is an overpopulated area where most inhabitants live in precarious conditions with limited access to basic resources, including healthcare.
For months, people have been going to the parish regularly looking for food. At the beginning of the pandemic, Fr. Pablo, who is a physician, prepared the rectory as a first-instance clinic. By providing aid for people who don't have signs of COVID-19, this alleviates some of the strain on the health system and also reduces the risk of exposure for those with other health concerns. This has proved essential as hospitals quickly became, and have remained, overwhelmed.
Centro San José
Centro San José is the CSP´s center for children and families in the outskirts of the city in Jardines de San Juan, Tlalpan. These are the working poor, who cannot go to work in the city. This group ran out of supplies quickly, so early in the pandemic Sarah and Ángeles opened the center to hand out food and supplies to help sustain the families. Educators began to send homework to the families for parents to do with their children, continuing their education during quarantine.
Following the protocols of the public education system (maintaining social distancing, etc.), the Centro opened for classes on August 31 and ran through December 17. This was important for parents, as well as the children. The opening of the Centro in January will depend on the status of the pandemic; which, as mentioned above, is currently at dangerous levels.
La Resurrección Parish in Southern Bogotá
Fr. Martí Colom is the pastor of La Resurrección parish, located in the south of Bogotá (Colombia’s capital), one of the poorest area. The parish, which is made up of three working-class neighborhoods, has 15,000 people.
Since the beginning of the crisis, Fr. Martí and the other members of the CSP who are with him in Colombia have been able to secure donations of food . After almost two months unable to get out to work, the situation is getting quite desperate for a good number of La Resurrección parishioners, who were already living day to day. A popular initiative in Colombia has been that people who are running out of basic supplies at home due to the crisis hang a red piece of cloth on their windows. The CSP has been attending to them regularly.
A group of women from the sewing center run by the CSP in Bogotá have been making face masks to distribute to those who do not have them.
Fr. Martí has been live streaming masses and offering a daily biblical message to his community in the parish’s facebook page.
La Sagrada Familia Parish
Every two weeks, food kits are prepared and delivered to 110 elderly in Sabana Yegua, coordinated by Maya. Indhira coordinates the food kits provided to the 160 families in the three children's center. Dolores has worked with local health officials regarding keeping the parish's pharmacy open while taking extra precautions, as well as the doctor's office and lab services. Some government aid has been provided, along with additional food to aid distant communities. Hygiene materials and food have been provided for the local jail, coordinated by Perla. We are also trying to help the Haitian immigrant community, most of which doesn't qualify for aid from the government due to their legal status.
In addition, Fr. Michael Wolfe offers masses and reflections via Facebook and YouTube, as well as some reflections broadcast on local radio.