Monday, August 28, 2006


A meditation pond on the grounds of the Medical Mission Sisters in Fox Chase, Philadelphia, PA.

A Prayer to conclude our reading of John 6

This prayer reflects on the questions that Jesus and Peter exchange in the wake of the failure of the sermon about “eat my flesh and drink my blood.”

“Jesus then said to them, ‘Do you also want to leave?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go?’”

Truly, Lord, to whom shall we go? Help us to be clearer about Peter’s answer, about our answer; help us to understand the true quality, the true makeup of your failure to win over the crowds. There is no one else but you who wants so fully to suffer all of our joys and sorrows. There is no one else who leads us in extending compassion to the world. There is no one else who will return and take us and our brothers and sisters into glory. Help us to experience you in your resurrection as Peter did in the end of John’s gospel so that we can say with him: “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.”

Thursday, August 24, 2006


The view from the new roof writing room. The view of the school playground, the Gesu Church and the Philadelphia skyline will inspire Gesu's young writers to reach new horizons.
Posted by Picasa GESU SCHOOL IN PHILADELPHIA The new 4th floor gym after the roof is raised.
President Chris Beck and 8th grader Angel observe the laying of the new floor.
Posted by Picasa GESU SCHOOL IN PHILADELPHIA The lighter red wall coloring represents the newly built extension of useful space for Gesu School in Philadelphia. A dream come true for the trustees, faculty, staff, parents and children.

The extension includes an elevator. The rooftop includes new science, music, writing, resource and after school rooms. Also a junior-high-size gym.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Posted by Picasa FROM THE ARCHIVES


This photo is a kind of cheerful Pieta, an Indian sister caring for a child too deformed from birth to sit up.

The picture reminded me of the much starker image taken in the early seventies by famous photographer William Eugene Smith in Minamata, Japan; that photo of a mother bathing a child deformed from birth by industrial mercury poisoning. With his photos Smith drew the attention of the world to the dangers of mercury poisoning.

Posted by Picasa FROM THE ARCHIVES


On a sunny day in the mountain town of Tiraque, a two-hour mountain-road climb from Cochabamba, Bolivia, I asked thirteen-year-old Sergio Vargas to pose with my Phillies cap. He gladly did. After the photo, he took the cap off, carefully adjusted the velcro to fit his head and then put it back on. I didn't have the heart to ask for it back despite the brightness of the tropical sun on this early winter day. So we have a new Phillies fan in Bolivia.

I was part of a delegation of nine faculty and staff from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia visiting Bolivia and its Fe y Alegria programs for elementary, high school and adult students, a system of 200 centers of Popular Education. We were spending ten days visiting such sites in this poor Latin American country little regarded by the powers of this world.

In the long drive that morning up the nearly deserted highway from Cochabamba, we left the city behind, gradually rising along muddy stream beds, narrow in the dry season, until the waters flowed clear and brilliant coming fresh from the mountains themselves. Our road climbed up and up the sides of mountains. The small farm plots passing below us in the valleys appeared greener and the livestock more content as the air became more rarified.An old Spanish church dedicated to the Virgen de Las Angustias, (The Virgin of the Agonies), a deeply traditional Spanish dedication, dominates the town square in Tiraque. A Jesuit priest celebrates Mass every weekend but the three sisters, two from Spain, Missionaries of Jesus Christ, do all the pastoral work in an the extensive and mountainous area, Father being otherwise engaged 2 hours away in Cochabamba during the week.

As an area center, Tiraque is an ideal site for a Fe y Alegria program. There are classroom activities for all ages, greenhouses and residential dormitories constructed with mostly local materials by local workers, many of whom volunteer their services in this communal effort. Of the several hundred students, sixty are residential boys and girls from 12 to 17 years of age.

These sixty students, as in all the Fe y Alegria residential centers, share the household chores required by their living together in dormitory style. Students participate in student government committees that supervise such things as recreation and health, cleanliness and maintenance.
Sergio attends as a resident all week while he studies language arts, math and the methods of raising vegetables and farm animals. He walks weekends to his family farm about 15 miles away. When in high school he will continue learning Spanish while also studying his native tongue (Quechuan), and learn some English, some science and some computer skills. According to the local directors of Fe y Alegria students like Sergio are unlikely to go to college or to move to the city but will be leaders in their high mountain farming communities. Their families have been farming for centuries. They are self-sufficient and never face starvation. Even in the worst of times the great variety of potatoes, conditioned to any weather and any blight, has sustained them.

A small and instructive archaeological and cultural museum right at the site of the school informs students like Sergio of the rich heritage of his people. For three millennia his ancestors have been living off the land, hunters and gatherers first, then farmers and settled people. When Europeans came to Bolivia, many of the indigenous people maintained their own traditions in the remote valleys and mountain sides. At their museum the children of Tiraque learn about their own history apart from the European and North American cultures that have now penetrated into the countryside. They learn with the help of the Fe y Alegria model to preserve the best of their own traditions and ways of life.Sergio and his 60 residential school mates shared with us a lunch of peanut/potato soup, hard boiled eggs and boiled potatoes. The students were seated and waiting patiently for grace before meals, some for many minutes, while we guests joined them in the dining hall. In their grace they prayed that they could share what they had with anyone in need.

Peacefulness rested on these mountain children far from the demonstrations by workers and indigenous peoples endemic to the capital, La Paz, and the frequent blockades by protesters that close the country’s roads. They have the best of two worlds: the advantage of a good education and some access to health care without the pollution that sometimes veils Cochabamba, and without the stresses of joblessness. They need not be numbered among the children that sleep fitfully by night in Bolivia’s urban parks. They need not be numbered among the young who find their only work in the coca fields feeding the cravings of the first world. May they be spared the worst that political and economic unrest brings to countries like Bolivia.

And, of course, we have another reason to cheer on our Phillies. I don’t want a boy who has so much going for him in life to wear a hat that might bring him sorrow.

August 20, 2006 Twentieth Sunday of the Year John 6: 51-58
“He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

Medical Mission Sisters, Fox Chase PA

This gospel from the sixth chapter of John presents a great challenge for the preacher. The words we read are a part of a long homily that Jesus himself is preaching, five times longer than what we read today. Jesus bases his homily on a text of the Old Testament…. The text is this: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat….”

In the final words of his homily Jesus develops the theme of eating even further and talks of eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood. Eating the manna does not give life but eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man does give life. Jesus’ reference to flesh and blood is a reference to the bloody way in which he is to die. And he invites us moreover, to take part in his life and death in this very intimate way; invites us to actually chew (the word for eat clearly includes this notion of chewing) on his body and drink his blood…..

Ray Brown calls this language “evocative of the Eucharist.” And adds: “the words, ‘the bread that I will give is my own flesh for the life of the world’ may well be the Johannine Eucharistic formula comparable to ‘This is my body which is given for you’ in Luke[’s gospel.]”….

Our challenge is placing the power of the Eucharist into the real world in which we live…..

We struggle to live in a world known for its moral and physical danger; we are sometimes so much more conscious of the violence of human life than we are of the generous spirit of love that fills most human relationships. In this context each of us has his or her own conversation with the Lord who shares himself so completely in the intimacy of our prayer. Sometimes as individuals we do not know what to say; in this case we should imitate what the saints said. Sometimes as a gathering of believers we do not know what to say; in this case we go to our ritual books or to our hymns or to our statements of common mission. Sometimes the events of the day or time simply overwhelm us, render us wordless and we need a Jesus who will respect our silence and restore our speech.

And this is a suitable place for us to be quiet in His presence.

“He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

Sunday, August 13, 2006

For years I have wanted to hike the Kitchen Creek Trail at Rickett's Glen State Park. Recently on a trip from Philadelphia to Syracuse, the extra time became available and I took the liberty of the detour.

Above some hikers brave the slippery rocks. And below the flash added some balance.

What is left to see? Rickett's Glen and Florence all in one summer.