"For I was hungry, you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me..."
A group of eight seminarians from Mundelein Seminary, two priests from the east coast, Fr. Joe and Fr. Manny, and myself journeyed to Ethiopia last month to witness the Gospel in action, C.R.S. style, in Ethiopia. This "mission trip" is part of the seminary pre-theology field education program, the focus of which is service of the poor. Our mission was simple: to witness by means of our presence to the care of the Church for the poor while witnessing the work of C.R.S. and their partners in Ethiopia.
After some pre-trip reading and discussion here at the seminary, focusing mainly on the Church’s social teaching, we spent a couple of days in Baltimore (C.R.S headquarters) to prepare with the help of various presenters for our experience.
We eventually arrived in Ethiopia, an ancient and proud country – the cradle of civilization - which faces many challenges: Life expectancy of 52 years; 35.9% Adult Literacy; 22% have no regular access to potable water; 23% live on a dollar a day.
The scarcity of water is particularly troubling in a country that depends so heavily on agriculture. Rains have become less dependable, droughts longer and deeper in the past few decades in Ethiopia. I had read somewhere that the average Ethiopian daily uses the amount of water that we in the U.S. use to brush our teeth each day. When we saw the vast stretches of dry land, all of us began to re-think how we would use the precious gift of water when we returned home. We had the opportunity to visit a number of the impressive water management projects which have transformed some of this parched land into brilliant green terrain. Catholic Relief Services is providing funds and technical assistance for these projects. It was a delight to hear the beneficiaries speak of how their lives had changed and to see the crops that are growing in areas that had been desolate not long ago.
This is the second such mission trip that I have taken with C.R.S. (last year it was to Ghana and Burkina Faso), and I have an even deeper respect for the agency’s work to provide food water and promoting development and peace in Ethiopia and in over 100 countries throughout the world. C.R.S supports the work of the Missionaries of Charity with funds and food as that impressive group serves the poorest of the poor in Ethiopia. All of us who participated in the mission trip came home changed by the experience; we will live with a greater sense of responsibility and connection to the world’s poor. Join us in supporting the work of Catholic Relief Services.