(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Friday morning, 18 September 2015)
PETE: Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of a loving God.
MATT: In June of this past Summer, twelve of us students under the brave leadership of Ms. Naughton and Mr. Daly were fortunate enough to travel to Rutledge, Tennessee and experience firsthand the poverty of immigrants in our home country. At points, it was difficult to picture that we were still in the United States. The culture and landscape of rural Rutledge is drastically different from the scenes familiar to us. The eastern Tennessee lifestyle was something that none of us had experienced before.
DYLAN: Simplicity, hospitality, and love were common traits possessed by almost everyone we encountered. Besides helping out with construction projects, our priority for the week was to mentor the young children of migrant farmers who spent all day picking tomatoes. The families had come from Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador, and were mostly undocumented. The camp that we were in charge of was centered in the community trailer park that many families of the migrant workers called home.
MADDIE: The living conditions for these families and children were eye-opening; with trash scattering the premises and animal feces everywhere, it was just not an area where children should be raised. These kids were growing up in some of the most difficult and painful situations we had ever seen. Their families could barely afford food: one little girl asked us if she could bring home her lunch that we provided her for her mother who, she said, normally goes without eating just so her children can. The government-provided lunch consisted of expired or nearly expired pieces of bread with a slab of turkey.
ALIY: But these children never complained; in fact, they did quite the opposite. Every single day, when we showed up to camp, we were met with numerous kids running from all different directions, greeting us with some of the most affectionate smiles we had ever witnessed. Waking up in an empty trailer, with little to no food for breakfast or parents around to help them make it, the children of Rutledge could still find a million things to grin about.
TOM: Our first day on the mountain, we were warned about a rebellious camper that we would have to mentor, named Arturo. When we got to camp the following morning, we could immediately pick Arturo out of the crowd. He is a beast of a child, easily double the size of any other camper in our midst. He struggled with family complications, education, and support throughout his entire childhood.
EVAN: And though Donna, our selfless and fearless camp director, was right to caution us about Arturo’s temperament, we were also able to witness another side of Arturo. At the young ages of five, six, and seven, the majority of the kids had not grown up enough to face the realities of their situation. For these kids, life was all about kicking a soccer ball around in the heat of the Tennessee sun. Arturo and some of the middle school girls loved all of this too, but they also bore a great responsibility of parenting their siblings with minimal resources. Arturo found it difficult to concentrate on an arithmetic workbook when, to him, there were a lot of things more important than arithmetic.
BECCA: Lorena’s attention span for schoolwork was short when she had to rock her baby brother on her lap. We are so blessed to have met these amazing people at various ages and with their own story to tell. Each of them has the potential to accomplish their dreams and the dreams of their parents, and we all said our tearful goodbyes praying that they will have the opportunity to do so.
Let us pray.
Dear God, We ask forgiveness for the widening gulf between rich and poor,
For the use of money as a measure of all things,
For the culture of self-gratification,
For the continuing disparities between those that have so much and those who have so little.
And for the suffering of those people who are excluded from the table of abundance.
WILL: Saint John Baptist de La Salle–Pray for us.
Blessed Brother James Miller, Servant of God–Pray for us.
STEF: Live Jesus in our hearts—forever.
Students from the Tennessee Service Trip (See the blog of their Service Trip)