Magis Americas Staff connect with supporters in California

Over the past several years, California has become a more and more prominent destination on my travel bucket list. Although I was born in Washington State, and have made a few treks to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve never had the opportunity to stand in awe of the redwoods, experience the pulse of Los Angeles, pray at the Spanish mission churches, or marvel at Yosemite. That finally changed last month when our Executive Director, Nate Radomski, and I were able to travel to the Bay Area in California. During our trip we were able to meet with some of our generous donors, share a memorable dinner with a member of our board of directors, and, of course, spend time with the remarkable Fr. Pete Henriot, S.J.

A real highlight of this trip was the opportunity to meet with several passionate and generous donors.  These men and women are truly dedicated to making a positive difference in the world and they believe in the mission of our organization. Their commitment to the work of our partners, especially Fe y Alegría and Centro Ignacio Ellacuría (CIE), was communicated most poignantly through their continued connections to the people at the heart of the work. Many conversations centered around the communities of Fe y Alegría and CIE and the impact these people had on the lives of our donors. These conversations reminded me to keep the faces and hearts of our partners in my mind during my work day.

One of the most memorable evenings of my trip was spent in the company of a remarkable member of our board of directors, Pam Hennard. As we gathered around a table, Pam, Nate, and I took time to share what has brought each of us to Magis Americas and the reasons that we are passionate about the causes we support. One theme that stood out to me was the influence of our parents in bringing us to this work.  While we are all successful adults now, their encouragement, support, and examples continue to motivate each of us. 

Finally, the pinnacle of my trip was undoubtedly the opportunity to meet Fr. Pete Henriot, S.J., a legendary figure in the Society of Jesus and a true “man for others.” Originally from Tacoma, Washington, Fr. Pete is an internationally respected Jesuit researcher, speaker, and writer on social justice, globalization, and Africa. Most recently, Fr. Pete has served as Development Director for Loyola Jesuit Secondary School (LJSS) in Malawi.  His work for the school and in other similar roles he has had as a Jesuit is about much more than simply raising funds;Fr. Pete is committed to creating sustainable change, empowering communities, and fostering a sense of hope and faith.

As I returned home from my trip, I carried with me the lessons learned from these incredible individuals. Their examples of compassion, leadership, and commitment continue to inspire me daily in my role here at Magis Americas. California will always hold a special place in my heart as the backdrop to this transformative journey, where I witnessed the power of generosity and the incredible impact it can have on the lives of those in need.


Living in Solidarity When Distances are Far

Among the blessings in my life as a Jesuit are the many relationships I’ve developed around the world. Solidarity is a central aspect of our Catholic faith, especially solidarity with those on the margins. Relationships with Jesuits and Jesuit ministries in the United States and abroad have helped me to make that solidarity concrete. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Jesuit ministries doing incredibly inspiring work, often in very difficult contexts. These connections serve as a consoling reminder of our shared mission, regardless of whatever borders may lie between us.

For several years, for example, the Nicaraguan government has been repressing peaceful demonstrations, incarcerating political prisoners, and even “disappearing” opposition figures. Students and faculty members of the Jesuit Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in Managua have been targeted—on multiple occasions forces allied with the government have violently opposed peaceful protesters at the university campus. The university has also suffered serious financial and administrative repercussions from the government. The UCA president, Fr. Chepe Idiaquez, SJ, has been subject to death threats. While this is not a risk we Jesuits typically face in North America, it is an honor to support the vital work of Fr. Chepe and others like him standing up to repressive governments in Central America.

In Venezuela as well, it is remarkable to witness the persistent efforts of Jesuit ministries amidst years of turmoil and societal collapse. The number that brought home to me the severity of the situation there was “20” – it was reported in 2018 that in a single year the average Venezuelan had lost 20 pounds in body weight due to food shortages and the economic crisis. Yet Jesuits’ vital work continues, including the independent social analysis of Centro Gumilla and education of those living at the margins by the 176 Fe y Alegria schools across the country.

The Fe y Alegria model that was developed in Venezuela has taken root across Latin America and the Caribbean. Fe y Alegría, or “Foi et Joie”, is also present in Haiti, another country that has suffered greatly. These schools offer education and vocational training opportunities to children and adults. At the St. Ignace de Loyola School, for example, students learn about ecology, agriculture, and business through a beekeeping initiative, which they can then practice with their parents at their own homes. By integrating education, ecology, and economy, this project aims to improve the quality of life of their students, their families, and the surrounding community. The children gain important and practical knowledge and experience along with the chance to earn some additional income for their family.

The COVID pandemic has both exposed and exacerbated many existing injustices within the United States and around the world. Watching news reports can make these challenges feel simultaneously very close and very distant. The stories, photos, and videos may be compelling, but the people and situations depicted are also foreign. How to live out the solidarity our Catholic faith calls us to when the distances are so great, the differences so stark? Jesuit networks help us to bridge that divide. Most Americans have never visited Nicaragua, but if you’ve attended a Jesuit parish, school, or university, then you have a connection with Fr. Chepe and the struggles of UCA Managua, just as you do to Jesuit ministries in Venezuela, Haiti, and all around the world. We may be working within different social realities, but we all share one mission of reconciliation and justice, grounded in, and united by, our faith in Christ.

The work that the wider international Jesuit network does, connects us. Maintaining our focus on a greater common mission leads us in solidarity with each other even when we are far apart. Organizations such as Magis Americas serve to bridge this distance, as they collaborate with other Jesuit institutions like UCA Managua and Fe y Alegría, creating a connection not only in faith but in how we carry out our faith and commitment to caring for our fellow brothers and sisters.