Speed Dating Comes to WBC
Robin Phillips and Colleen Caragher, both WBC long term volunteers, got creative in their tenth grade girls classroom, using visiting volunteers from Bellarmine Prep to get the ladies to practice their English. It was a smashing success! In their own words...
We were mildly afraid of the tenth grade girls at the beginning of the year. Granted, we were scared of most things when we first got here, but we received many a warning about their sass and attitude. Since then, we've come a long way as a tenth grade English class community; we have convinced them to dance in front of each other to songs such as "Friday," "Spice Up Your Life," "Falling For You," and "Just the Way You Are;" we have had them screaming sentence translations to gain points for their team; and most recently, we had them speaking IN ENGLISH to high school boys from Bellarmine College Prep in California.
We didn't give the girls too much warning about the impending speed dating situation, but they handled it rather gracefully and with much enthusiasm. The desks were arranged in two sets of two rows so that our guests could rotate from one stellar English speaker to the next. At the start, Veronica spent several moments "searching" for a pen in her pencil case instead of making eye contact with the friendly gentleman across from her. However, by the second or third rotation, our ladies really hit their stride.
To hear them speaking in English with perfect strangers, was nothing short of incredible for us. So often, they are repeating things, writing scripts, and other simulated activities, but to actually use their skills and discover how much they could communicate was extraordinary. The gentlemen were just that, and sat patiently as Jenny stumbled through a question, and spelled out words over and over again for Nancy, and expressed genuine interest in the life of every single girl.
Despite language barriers, awkward ages, and not very subtle attempts at flirting, both groups were able to forge real human connection. It doesn't seem likely that either group will forget the experience, including ourselves, especially since one Bellarmine boy told us it was "the highlight of his trip," and the girls the next day could not stop telling us how "bonita" the class was. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to see our sassy, ridiculous, intelligent, incredible students shine in a way we had never seen before. Gracias to all members of the Bellarmine group for your patience and eagerness and most importantly, for your sweet dance moves.
Love, Señoritas Robin y Colleen
WBC Celebrates Its 48th Anniversary
As our Family of Families gathered together to celebrate its 48th anniversary, Madre took time to reflect on this year's festivities:
Every year, when the Center celebrates its birthday, I am thankful to God for what it has become and what it means in the lives of those who are members of this great "Family". From our humble beginnings in the attic behind the jesuit school, San Gabriel, in downtown Quito with 250 boys in 1964, all the way to 2012, when the membership is around 400 families, moms, dads and kids, is a long history.
But God has been with the Center from its earliest days until now, and we have become one big family celebrating life and good times together.
The day begins early with a team of volunteers, teachers, technicians, and members, preparing breakfast for the family of almost 2000. This one is special. There are pancakes, scrambled eggs, fruit salad, and a warm drink for each and all. Of course, the kids can hardly wait for the breakfast to end so the games will begin.
The entire morning is a "carnival" of games with tickets for the winners that entitle them to prizes that range from donated bottles of hotel shampoo to brand new shoes and soccer balls. No one wants the games to end, but, finally, they must, when it is time for the special Mass that padre will offer with the "family" to thank God for all we have been given. The Mass is prepared and participated in by the members themselves.
After a nourishing and special noontime meal, the dishes get cleaned up and the whole family heads downtown to the other Center for the afternoon and evening activities. For the little ones there is always a movie, for the teens and parents a dance and for anyone who wants to play - BINGO! And how could we live without another meal before it is all over.
At 7:00p.m. the big birthday cake is cut by the directors and some original members, and all are served their portion. The cake is prepared by the adults in the baking course to show how much they have learned. (Their teacher is a Center graduate). The high point of the cake event is the little ones waiting to see if any cake is left over and they can have a second piece. Lucky the one who gets a rose made of frosting!
Promptly at 8:00 p.m. the DJ operators put away their equipment, disconnect their speakers and give one last Hurrah for the city of Quito and the Working Boys' Center - A Family of Families.
And we, who have been celebrating this day for 48 years say: Long live the God who has given us the Working Boys' Center - A Family of Families, truly a life-changing blessing.
A Plaque Displayed and A Life Saved
On Thursday, October 18, 2012, local Ecuadorian leaders and fellow Jesuits gathered along with Madre, Padre, Madre Cindy, and many original shoeshine boys to place a plaque in the courtyard of La Compañía, the Jesuit church whose attic was the birthplace of The Working Boys' Center – A Family of Families back in 1964. Way back then, Padre Juan was a one-man show assisting poor shoeshine boys on the streets of Quito. By 1967, he pleaded to his superiors and was granted his request by the BVM order for a woman religious to join his cause. That woman, of course, was Madre Miguel. The rest is history, as they say.
The group gathered reminisced about the early days in the attic and shared stories of their struggles to move from poverty to prosperity. However, one of the most touching parts of the evening was the testimony of Humberto Nolivos (pictured above on the left standing with Carlos Gomez, one of the original shoeshine boys and current WBC Director) whose childhood survival was literally in the hands of Madre and Padre long ago. Madre recounted the story that Humberto told to the crowd gathered the other night like this:
"His mother was in the hospital dying of cancer. She had two children, 10-year-old Humberto and a sister. The mother lined up relatives to take the daughter but no one would take Humberto."
God's hand intervened at this point…
"It happened that the nurse, who was also a nun, who was caring for the dying mother was a good friend of the WBC. She called Padre and asked if we would take him in, since we had a dormitory and other boys who could be "family" for him. Of course, we agreed and he became our charge. We didn't know at the time that he was deaf. Neither did he. We discovered it accidentally when he failed to respond to directions given in normal tones. Fortunately, there was a local specialist (the only one in the country at the time), who thought he could restore Humberto's hearing. We had him operated on and, by the grace of God, his hearing was recovered."
At the gathering, "he told the audience that were it not for the WBC he doesn't know what would have happened to him. In the WBC family Humberto found not just a place to be - but people who loved him as their own and brought him "up right". He now lives in Guayaquil and owns and operates a successful furniture production business."
Humberto ended his testimony "as he turned around and looked at Padre and me and said, "Thank you, Father. Thank you, Mother."
Check out these fabulous photos from the evening gathering. Be sure to scroll through all of them:
| www.flickr.com |
University Professor Performs Research on WBC Success
Written by Dr. Jeff Hoyer
Dr. Jeff Hoyer and seven other professors from The University of Tennessee at Martin recently spent 17 days on a research travel study throughout Ecuador. The group spent time in various locations across the country. Each researcher identified a project or projects within his or her area of expertise.
Dr. Hoyer focused primarily on a case study involving the Working Boys' Center – A Family of Families. He conducted an 8-hour interview with Padre Juan. He also visited two WBC locations to view the operations and interview staff members Dr. Hoyer is writing a case study on the group with hopes that a published case study may help other organizations attempting grass roots start ups to become aware of problems in development and to also learn creative ways this group has approached their difficulties and emerged to be highly successful and emulated.
"I was able to quickly see by interviewing the founder and staff members that the group has been very successful in achieving its goals and integrating their successes into further outreach. Many of the current staff members are active members who benefitted from the program and came up through the ranks starting as shoeshine boys on the streets themselves. However, the success is not only measured in the impact on the boys, but also their families. They truly are an example of their motto, "a family of families." I hope the case study I write and the work they have done will provide other organizations a template to follow in achieving success."
Former WBC Volunteer and Husband Return to Quito
A lasting impression was left on Maggie Lockner when she volunteered at the WBC from 2002 to 2003. After volunteering at WBC, Maggie returned to Minnesota to begin law school at University of Minnesota and met Matt Franke during her first year of law school. Matt and Maggie were friends throughout law school and, after law school, Maggie pursued a law career in Minneapolis while Matt joined the foreign services and moved to Washington DC and then on to posts in the Middle East. While Matt was home for Christmas in 2008, Maggie and Matt began to date long-distance between Syria and Minneapolis...now that is really long distance! Their love knew no limits and they eventually married in August 2010.
Shortly after they married, Matt and Maggie learned that their first post together would be a two-year assignment at the US Embassy in Quito, Ecuador beginning this summer 2012. It was an unexpected posting, but one that has already brought many blessings.
For instance, this past May, before leaving for Ecuador, Matt and Maggie attended the party in Milwaukee for Madre Miguel to celebrate her honorary doctorate conferred by Marquette University. Not only was it a joy to see Madre Miguel and Padre Juan, but Maggie and Matt were able to reconnect with and meet, for the first time, many people connected to the WBC. It was energizing to be close to so many others who share their passion for the people and the work being done at the WBC. In addition, it reminded Maggie that, even though she would be moving far away from her family, she was moving to a place where there was already a wonderful Family of Families that they would be a part of.
Now that it has been almost two months since Maggie and Matt arrived in Quito, they are about to settle into their home and look forward to getting more involved with the Center once school resumes this September. Maggie plans to help out wherever the Center needs it and introduce other Embassy families to the tremendously important work of the Center. But, in the meantime, Maggie and Matt have been able to see Padre and Madre every week at the Gringo mass and, when possible, visit the Center for noonday mass during the week. One of Maggie's favorite memories while being a volunteer is attending noonday masses with the children and it has been fun to return to those masses (and still remember all those songs!).
The biggest blessing of all has been that Maggie and Matt learned that they will be expecting their first child at the beginning of February. The new parents-to-be could not be more thrilled that their first child will be born in Ecuador and be a part of the WBC's families of families. We hope that the next generation of WBC volunteers can count on baby Franke to sign on!
Farewell to Former Development Director with Many WBC Ties
Way back in 1998, Jane was a hard working, devoted young woman who decided to volunteer at the WBC. From 1998-2000, Jane worked in the WBC businesses, taught sales and marketing and even helped open the WBC restaurant during her second year.
Zach came to the WBC from a long line of family members committed to missionary service. Zach's parents, Ron and Ronni Pruhs, and his five brothers served in Uganda, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Brazil. His older brothers, David and John, both served at the WBC as year long volunteers. David also met his future wife, Janelle Keenan Pruhs, at the WBC. The family tradition continues as their oldest daughter, Madeline, participated in a volunteer experience this summer at the WBC through her Milwaukee high school, Divine Savior Holy Angels (DSHA.)
So, it was no surprise to Zach's parents when he joined the WBC volunteer staff from 1999-2000, taking a year off from his studies at Marquette University. While at the WBC, Zach worked in the girls' program, special education and adult education programs.
Although they were volunteers together, their relationship remained one of friendship with a special bond formed by their volunteer experience. Upon returning to the States, Zach finished up his studies at Marquette and began medical school at UW-Madison.
On one fateful fall day, Jane, a graduate of UW-Madison, while attending a Badger football game, ran into Zach. She encouraged him to come to New York City the following weekend for a party that one of their WBC volunteer friends was throwing. To Jane's great surprise, Zach attended the party and it was the beginning of their long distance relationship between Madison and Milwaukee. Jane was working in Milwaukee at Messmer Catholic Schools as their Advancement Director while completing her MBA at Marquette University.
They were married in 2007 and began their lives together in Worcester, MA where Zach completed his residency and Jane continued her career in fundraising. In 2009, along with their one-year old son, Pierce, they spent a year working in rural Honduras at an orphanage serving over 500 children. Zach served as the external clinic physician and Jane worked in the sponsorship office.
Upon return in 2010, Jane began working as the first stateside WBC Development Director. They lived in Omaha, NE where Zach worked on his fellowship in rheumatology.
After two fruitful years with the WBC, Jane has decided to commit herself full time to the most rewarding job there is – motherhood. With their son and one-year old daughter, Evelyn, Zach and Jane are now relocating to Madison, WI where Zach has a job. We are extremely grateful to Jane for her WBC work and will miss her tremendously. Many thanks and blessings to Jane and her young family!
Lights! Camera! Action!
This past April, a production crew from the San Damiano Foundation spent a week filming and interviewing Working Boys' Center staff, members and graduates for a series of short films on the WBC ministry.
Over five days of intense filming, the crew, including Steve McIntire, Marcus Johnson and Chris McIntire, captured dozens of hours of footage which will be edited into films to promote the WBC mission.
The goal of the San Damiano Foundation's work is twofold: to raise funds for Christian charities aiding the world's poor and to awaken the hearts and minds to the plight of the poor. They also hope to inspire viewers to serve those in need through acts of compassion and mercy.
San Damiano Foundation Executive Director and former ABC News producer Steve McIntire was impressed by the all-inclusive nature of the WBC ministry and how it touches every element of a family's life.
"The total ‘family makeover' and the graduate stories are compelling and made me really understand on a spiritual and emotional level what the Working Boys' Center is really about," said McIntire. "The Working Boys' Center should be a model for other ministries who are really serious about breaking the cycle of extreme poverty and changing it into a cycle of prosperity."
View a special report from the San Damiano Foundation while in Ecuador below and learn more about the San Damiano Foundation ministry.
The films will be available for distribution in the next few months. If you are interested in receiving a copy of the films to promote the WBC in your community, please send us an email requesting a film.
Madre Miguel to receive honorary doctorate from Marquette University
Marquette University will award Sister Mary Miguel Conway, BVM, with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at this year's Commencement ceremony. Sister Miguel is Co-Director of the Working Boys' Center in Quito, Ecuador. The Working Boys' Center serves over 400 families of working children annually at three locations in Quito. A graduate of Clarke College in Dubuque IA, Miguel spent 11 years teaching high school before being assigned to work at WBC in 1967. Madre Miguel, as she is called, is responsible for the creation of many family development activities at the WBC.
Marquette's 131st Commencement ceremony will be held at the Bradley Center Sunday, May 20, 2012. Baseball great Hank Aaron will be Marquette University's Commencement speaker at this year's spring ceremony. As part of the ceremony, Aaron will also receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
Join us to celebrate Madre Miguel's 45 years of service in Ecuador for an event on May 18, 2012. Learn more.
Even the youngest students can make a difference
During Advent, students from several schools in the Midwest raised valuable funds for the meal program at the Working Boys' Center.
It costs $17.50 to feed an entire WBC family for a week. Classrooms were challenged to see how many families they could provide with weekly meals.
Each school supported well over 35 families each with weekly meals. St. John Vianney's efforts were featured in Mission Connection.
If your school is interested in a service project for Lent, consider the Food for Families program sponsoring the Working Boys' Center. Learn more about the Food for Families program.
Dipolmas, jobs and a bright future
85 WBC members graduate with technical degrees
Working Boys' Center students graduated on Friday, December 2, 2011 after completing training and passing their final exams.
At a moving ceremony, graduates received their diplomas and began a new stage in their professional lives.
"Many times we see mothers and fathers graduating with their children," said Marco Polo, WBC Director for Technical Education. "I think that is something you'd rarely see outside of the Working Boys' Center program."
Craft technician graduates leave the WBC technical education program and 100% have jobs in auto mechanics, tool and die, metal mechanics, carpentry, toy making, industrial sewing, cosmetology, baking, plumbing, sales and marketing and licensed nurse's aide training.
The ceremony included Father Gilberto Freire, provincial leader for the Society of Jesus in Ecuador.
Each program awarded honors to its top students. This year, Jonathan Paul Chicaiza Tenorio received top honors with the highest grade point average in the technical school. Jonathan is a graduate of the baking school program.
Remembering Christmas Past
A reflection of Christmas festivities in the early years of the WBC
By Father John Halligan, SJ
Working Boys' Center's first home was in the attic all the way up the stairs to one floor below the Jesuit Church's bell tower. It was certainly poor enough to pass for the place where Jesus was born. But it was also big enough for Santa Claus, Christmas stockings, bundles of used clothing, Bingo, a stage for skits of every kind, an ecological tree, the Holy Family, all the other families of the working kids and memorable Christmas dinners. In the earliest years, celebrating Christmas in a big way was something very new for the kids. That was in the 1960's and 1970's when worldwide enlightenment was on a rampage: group dynamics, mutual confrontation, personal definition, children's rights, I'm OK - You're OK, and just be yourself. So the kids had their own ideas for celebrating Christmas in accordance with Eleanor Roosevelt's declaration of rights for all people. Although they didn't know who she was, they were sure that she meant that they had a right to do things their way.
The kids loved staged drama, the more bizarre the better. In one year's performance, eight year old Luis Oswaldo Bauz, otherwise famous as a holier-than-thou for ratting on the other guys, won renewed acceptance in the second grade gang with his Christmas play and performance. When Santa came ho-ho-hoing onto the stage, Bauz put a toy gun on him. His gang tied Santa in a chair. They told him they didn't need kisses and candy. They needed steady meals, education, and doctors and dentists for themselves and their families. They let him go to make the contacts for all that, convinced that their skit was the best of the too many we had already sat through.
Some of the Christmas gift-giving was serious happiness. Each working boy member had candy plus a couple of small surprise things in a red stocking identified with his name. These gifts were rewards for their help to their families by earning money. But the most popular gifts were the great big bundles of used clothing, one for each family. For purposes of prestige, the working boy had to receive it personally and give it over to mom or some other family member. But don't imagine that a shoeshine boy would put his precious shine box out of reach just to carry a clumsy gift bundle, no matter how valuable. The balancing acts were a tribute to their street survival expertise.
Our attic home was in a building that some people claimed was "cloistered" which meant no women allowed because of what Eve did in the Garden. The cloister claim wasn't solidly based on any Church records. So on special days like Christmas when other people weren't in the building on the lower floors, we invited all the mothers and sisters and brothers and fathers in for a party. Each year, the kids spent more than a month using whatever we had on hand to get things ready for Christmas in the Center with their families.
There was a box full of artificial Christmas tree branches but no tree trunk. One of the kids got a carpenter to drill holes in a long piece of two by four and put a point on it to hold the angel. We had to give it a strong ugly base to stand it up with all the branches stuck in it. The result was an attractive section of forest under an avalanche of tinsel. There was no room under it for Bethlehem. Better for us, because we needed a whole ping pong table space for that long winding street with poor families huddled in doorways. The one with the star above it was the holy family's doorway. The only animals the kids knew were cats and dogs and pigs and it would take years for us to acquire statues of them. We told the boys that each of their families could lend treasures from home that would stay in the Bethlehem scene or on the tree for the season and be returned to the families after Christmas. That was the beginning of a tradition that helps us know Jesus shares the way we live. The pre-Christmas season was packed with visits by parents and sisters and little brothers delivering decorations on loan and grabbing lunch.
Most of the preparation time was given to the piles of other donated stuff that was on hand. Folks had donated cast-off costume jewelry, assorted dishware, drinking glasses, framed paintings, you name it, and a huge variety of still packaged hardware store stuff and small articles donated by stores getting rid of no-sale stock. We invested in Christmas gift paper. The kids spent days wrapping each article with loving care. All of it was destined to be a traditional pile of surprise gifts for their Catholic families to celebrate Christmas with BINGO. The winners could pick any gift but couldn't know what it was until the treasure was unwrapped. Of course, Christmas Day was always heavenly, a loud liturgy, a meal eaten with total dedication, the hilarious BINGO teaching the letters and numbers somehow related to winning surprise gifts.
One famous Christmas a generous Ladies' Club insisted on not only donating the food but also cooking and serving Christmas dinner for our hungry folks who ate up and then slipped back in line time after time. The WBC authorities stepped in and stopped the crime before the ladies panicked at not having enough food on Christmas day for the poor little tykes and their families.
Each year Baby Jesus from His crib in the doorway with the star over it watched everything, including the seconds and thirds at table, the disgraceful treatment of Santa, the constant emphasis on making money for their own survival and putting their own families ahead of everybody else in importance. He knew He wasn't in Heaven. He was beginning to live our truths and our temptations. He was having a ball.
Adult Education Provides A Second Chance
Imagine going through life without being able to read the price tag at a store or sign your own name on a document.
For many new Working Boys' Center adult members, living life without basic literacy skills has been their reality until now.
Thanks to the Adult Education program, this fall over 80 adults are learning to read, write and do arithmetic for the first time in their lives.
The modular adult literacy program is run by BVM nuns Sister Miguel Conway and Sister Cindy Sullivan with year-long volunteers serving as the course instructors.
Because entering the classroom for the first time in decades can be a scary proposition, the first few weeks of classes engage students in social activities. Week one includes a social gathering and playing table games like Memory, Jenga, Connect 4 and Simon. The social interaction creates a bond between the teacher and students so that they can better support each other through the learning process.
The next module charges all the adult students with making a quilt-like banner featuring the 10 values of the Working Boys' Center: loyalty, personal formation, family, religion, health, education, economy, work, housing, and recreation. Each adult creates a patch for the banner. For many it was their first time using paints, scissors, markers and glue. The banners will be blessed during a Mass and hung for display at each center.
In week four, the adults designed a model house to be placed in the large Christmas crèches at each Center. The project helped the students learn to measure using rulers, cut using exacto knives and compile their vision using glue. The final products featured popsicle roofs, toothpick fences and even some tiny brick roads leading to their model homes.
In week five, the students learned about Ecuadorian history. Lessons were taught about the Legends of Quito and students shared oral history from their own villages. On a Saturday, students from both centers took a fieldtrip to historic downtown Quito to visit many of the famous plazas.
The adults loved being together and actually visiting the different plazas. They marveled at the rooster on top of the Cathedral, stared at the missing brick in the Plaza of San Francisco and listened attentively to the lady at the "Chapel of the Robbery" retell the legend that they had studied. They all returned to the downtown Center where they had lunch. They were excitedly sharing with each other what they had seen. It was a great way to finish up the Art and Culture module.
The next few modules will feature classes on music and religion before moving on to core curriculum classes for the remainder of the academic year.
2012 Spiritual Journey dates set
The 2012 Spiritual Journey trip is set for February 29 - March 6, 2012. Have the experience of a lifetime on a truly unforgettable trip to Quito. On this guided group trip you'll experience everything from the natural beauty of the Andes to the bustling capital city of Quito, in addition to visiting this well-established family mission. You'll see how the Working Boys' Center provides education, job training, healthcare, meals and life skills to help hundreds of families in need.
Former WBC Volunteer Enters Jesuits
Former WBC volunteer, Jeff Sullivan, began the process to become a Jesuit priest this August when he became a novice with the Wisconsin Province of the Jesuits. Jeff served as a two-year volunteer at the Working Boys' Center from 2006-2008.
The journey to become a Jesuit priest takes over 10 years and involves significant education, rigorous prayer and thousands of hours of service. Read more about Jeff's journey.
WBC libraries benefit from Projects for Peace grant
Sophie Dresser, a student at College of Idaho in Caldwell, Idaho was awarded a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant to benefit the Working Boys' Center libraries. As part of her grant, Sophie spent four weeks at the WBC purchasing, protecting, cataloging, and stocking the new library materials.
"It has been an amazing month of memories for me at the Working Boys' Center that I will never forget," said Dresser. Through the project grant, Dresser was able to purchase $10,000 worth of new books and materials for libraries at the centers located in La Marin, Cotocollao and La Gota de Leche.
"I believe these materials will have a lasting impact on the children here and I am very pleased with the final outcome," commented Dresser. "I couldn't have imagined a better organization to partner with on this project."
In its fifth year, Davis Projects for Peace funds university students to design grassroots projects that they will implement during the summer. The objective is to encourage and support today's motivated youth to create and tryout their own ideas for building peace.
Remembering Sister Katherine Ann Beckman, BVM
Long-time WBC teacher and BVM Sister Katherine Ann Beckman, BVM (Leonardette), 86, died April 13, 2011, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Wednesday, April 20, 2011, in Marian Hall chapel, followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery, Dubuque.
Sister Katherine Ann was an elementary school educator in Muscatine and Iowa City, Iowa; and Chicago, Cicero and Rock Island, Ill. She served on the staff at Clarke College in Dubuque and also worked in Quito, Ecuador, at the Working Boys' Center.
She was born Jan. 7, 1925, to Leonard and Mary Haugh Beckman. She entered the BVM congregation from St. Mary Parish, Dodgeville, Iowa, on Sept. 8, 1945. She professed first vows on March 19, 1948, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1953.
She was preceded in death by her parents; brothers: James and Charles; and sisters: Virginia, Phyllis and Mary. She is survived by a sister, Rosella Johnston; sister-in-law, Romona Beckman, Lebanon, Ohio; brothers-in-law: Hugh (Terry) Fleming, Littleton, Colo.; and Robert Harpen, Columbia, Mo.; and nieces and nephews.
WBC celebrates Flag Day
In all the grammar schools and high schools of Ecuador, in February of each year there are strenuous preparations for a solemn event of saluting Ecuador's flag on the anniversary of one of the heroic battles for independence. In whatever big or not so big school space available, martial music inspires miles of brisk marching around with flags on high preceding a very reverent ceremony of all senior students individually kissing the flag as a promise of patriotic loyalty unto death. A short speech is usually on the program along with the awarding of medals, certificates and special mentions of a few students the country can be proud of. In the Working Boys' Center, we prepare carefully, make and give invitations and always have a huge attendance for this Flag Day ceremony.
Wisconsin construction industry representatives raised money and helped build the roof structure for a deserving WBC family this past February. Seven men with careers as builders, insurance agents, real estate brokers, commerical cleaners, plumbers and architects joined in the project.
Former WBC volunteer Jim Parks, Jr. started the volunteer Minga Program five years ago. "Minga" is an indiginous word for community work party and volunteers immerse themselves in the local tradition while working side by side with Ecuadorians and other volunteers to transform the lives of a family by completing the roof structure for their home.
This year, the trip focused on the construction industry to give its U.S. members an experience of working in developing country construction. In less than a week. the group formed and poured the roof structure for a WBC family who live in northern Quito, about 20 minutes from the Center Number Two.
Volunteers reflect on Christmas at WBC
Christmas at the center was one of the most joy-filled, unique, and memorable experiences I have ever had. I enjoyed making "bultos" huge bags stuff to the rim of clothes, shoes, and other gifts for the families. Handing them out was a quite an experience. I remember watching faces light up and children burst with excitement, waiting to see what was inside. A few weeks before Christmas each night everyone gathered in the comedor to sing Christmas carols. I will never forget the huge nativity scene, blinking lights, having a child on my lap, and singing at the top of our lungs, this experience truly made me feel part of this family of families. On Christmas eve my two younger sisters and my parents arrived in Quito. We celebrated in 4 masses in two days. The most memorable was Christmas Eve service and Guangopolo, where Padre Juan began his mission. The entire town gathered, and each of them brought a spirit of joy that I had never experienced before, this was truly a celebration. Afterwards we had hot chocolate and cookies, people come up and started talking my family in their broken English, wishing them a Merry Christmas. As we began to leave, my dad commented that this was truly a life changing experience.
Christmas day was beautiful, we celebrated it with the families For the first time in my life, I didn't open one single present on Christmas. There were no stockings, no cookies for Santa, just time to be together, and to celebrate the birth of Christ. At the end of the day, my mom said, "this was the best Christmas we ever had!"
Christmas in the CMT was an experience I will never forget. The thing that stuck out the most was that Christmas had a different feeling. We had the opportunity to fill Christmas bags for the entire family. When I saw a family?s name that I recognized, I would throw in a couple extra socks or underwear. Then we got to hand out the bags to the family and they looked so happy to be receiving their family gift. It was cool the see the new families receive their gifts too, because it was their first time being a part of the experience. Even though I was 3388 miles away from home, being around the families here was a great comfort. You can also tell it is Jesus? birthday because everywhere you go there is a statue of baby Jesus.
Christmas season in the States begins the day after Thanksgiving, if not before, with the focus heavily on shopping for Christmas presents. In the Center, Christmas season begins in the beginning of December, with the focus heavily on community, among the volunteers, families, and staff. After having celebrated two Christmases here at the Working Boys Center, I am still struck by the beauty of the simplicity of focusing on the real meaning of Christmas. From filling the huge bags of clothing and toys together with the volunteers, to handing them out to the the families, to praying together every night with the families the 9 days leading up to Christmas, to the daycare Christmas skits, to the first graders giving their hearts to Jesus and the second graders receiving their First Communion, to Madre Miguel handing out hilarious gag gifts to all the volunteers and their guests gathered together Christmas Day, the focus is always on the true heart and
spirit of Christmas: being together and giving of one's self, just as Jesus Himself did.
One thing I will never forget was the shriek of joy from a four year old boy in the downtown Center after opening a Christmas present for the very first time. All of the daycare kids receive a brand new present wrapped in beautiful wrapping paper, and this little boy at first just stood there holding the present, thinking that the gift was the beautiful box. Padre Juan decided to help him out and told him to open up the box. Still, the boy just stood there, staring, so Padre Juan helped him tear off the wrapping paper, revealing a brand new truck. The gratitude and joy expressed in this little boy's face will be imprinted on my mind forever.
Father Halligan Named Co-Recipent of $1 million Opus Prize
Father John Halligan, Working Boys' Center co-founder, was named as a co-recipient of the million-dollar annual Opus Prize on Nov. 11 in a special ceremony at Fordham University.
WBC Co-founders Featured in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Father John Halligan, SJ and Sister Miguel Conway, BVM were featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for their missionary work at the Working Boys' Center and the impact that their volunteer program has had on Milwaukee youth. Father Halligan's 80th birthday was celebrated August 13-15, 2011 in Milwaukee, WI.