Couples for Christ Conference Comes to Center
Written by Esther Marie Prexl, former Center volunteer, currently country coordinator for Couples For Christ in Ecuador
Hugs, tears, smiles, joyful singing, beaming faces—-that’s what our Quito, Ecuador, Couples For Christ missions were all about this March. What a blessing it was to be able to share the Good News with such humble, simple people who have vast, inspiring reservoirs of faith! The first weekend we were in Cotocollao, and the second weekend we were in the Marín, presenting our Christian Life Program, and then forming ongoing prayer groups with all the participants.
Couples For Christ (Parejas Para Cristo), a Catholic, lay missionary organization (recognized and authorized by the Vatican) was founded 34 years ago in the Philippines by 16 couples who were concerned about the deterioration of the family in today’s world…From those original 16 couples has sprung a global organization in 130 countries, over a million strong in members.
Couples For Christ’s goals and objectives dovetail beautifully with the philosophy of Fr. Halligan’s Working Boys’ Center to strengthen and reinforce Catholic families, developing and strengthening moral values by means of changes in attitudes and behavior, helped by programs of formation and social assistance. The important areas of life that the Center addresses (loyalty, personal formation, family, religion, education, economy, work, recreation, health and housing) bear a striking resemblance to the aims of Couples for Christ—–I believe it is NOT a coincidence at all, that the Holy Spirit brought me back to the Center after 15 years, yet in another volunteer capacity to share and involve our Center families with Couples For Christ.
Padre Juan and all his dedicated religious and lay staff invited us to share Couples For Christ with “the” family — although many spiritual retreats and conferences have been held at the Centers over the years, what most thrilled the Center administration was the reality that our CFC wasn’t a “one-shot-deal” —- that Couples for Christ is an ongoing movement involving follow up, pastoral visits, and the enrichment and continuation of our initial presentations and talks. This means that once we have presented the Christian Life Program (a series of 12 talks on basic Catholic beliefs and how we can live them in our daily lives) then prayer groups are formed (couples, single men, single women, etc.) which then meet weekly for study, scriptural readings, prayer, and fellowship. Leaders are sought from the participants to shepherd these prayer groups on a continuing basis. At the same time, lay missionaries from our Coral Springs, Florida CFC chapter schedule frequent, ongoing pastoral visits to encourage, nourish, and help the prayer groups grow.
These same local leaders will be trained to continue mission work with Couples for Christ in neighboring parishes. Last fall Couples For Christ did a Christian Life Program at San Juan Bautista Parish in Los Esteros (Guayaquil); 3 leaders from the prayer groups which were formed there came to Quito to help with the missions at the Centers! They are also working with us in the planning of 3 more missions in June and August in Guayaquil: one on the Isla Trinitaria, another in Los Esteros, and another with the families on the Air Force base.
At the Center, the talks themselves, the small group discussions, the sharing, witnessing and the testimonies during each CLP truly humbled us missionaries and several times brought us to tears. What a privilege to be able to witness the Holy Spirit sweeping through this Andean country! A litany of photos graphically shows our two exciting missions, which led to the establishment of 6 Couples households, 5 Handmaids of the Lord Households, and over 30 youth who are waiting for our Youth Ministry to come down and develop their program in the near future (after the youngsters make their Confirmation this June).
WBC Featured in Latest Book by Rene Unda on Benefits of Child Labor
On Thursday evening, October 18, 2014, in the Salesian Polytechnic University of Quito, a book was presented which is a study of the “Socialization of the Children of the Working Boys’ Center- A Family of Families, with respect to Work, Family and Education.” The study was completed by the team of Rene Unda, a specialist in the study of the rights of children, a professor of the University and an internationally known sociologist.
According to the findings of the study, the Working Boys’ Center – A Family of Families model clearly demonstrates that when children are educated to see work as a value rather than an evil, they learn other values as well. They tend to be more responsible than other children their age, more articulate and more convinced that they are making a contribution to the good of others. This led the investigators to embrace the idea of the necessity of dialog about children working, rather than espousing the worldwide insistence on the abolition of all types of work for children.
A number of persons participated in a panel to present the book, including the representative of Save The Children, for Latin America; but, without a doubt, the most impressive presentations were made by Fabricio Guerrero, a WBC graduate, and Rene Unda.
Fabricio told his own story of shining shoes when he was 6 years old, learning automechanics when he was a teenager and now directing a program for working kids in the Center. He insisted that working as a child prepared him better for adult life than had he not worked.
Rene Unda reiterated his conviction that the issue of children working is sufficiently complicated that government, and other international authorities, should begin to consider the need for dialog about the so called “problem.” He expressed his idea that the legislation by international organizations and politicians against children working closes the door to any possibility of critical evaluation of the issue.
The presentation was well received by the over 500 people who attended. A brief coffee was served after the presentation during which those in attendance could exchange views on the subject.
Madre Miguel explained her emotional response to the event and all that transpired. “It made me think of the Old Testament story where the prophet waits to hear the Spirit and the Spirit doesn’t come with noise and loud proclamations, but in a gentle and quiet voice. Ours is being heard, after only 50 years of speaking. We all must keep the faith.”
Hoy Article Features WBC’s 50 Years of Success
Translated to English for your reading enjoyment is this February 16, 2014 Hoy Article…
The Catholic organization was a pioneer in the involvement with working children in Latin America and today is recognized as a leader in this field.
Father John Halligan, SJ, known by all as Padre Juan, is the ” father ” of the Family of Families of the Working Boys’ Center (WBC). In 1964, the then young Jesuit priest began his work in an attic of the Church of the Society of Jesus. The organization is now celebrating a half century of success.
Fr. Halligan started working with 200 shoeshine boys and soon realized he would need a “mother”: the Working Boys’ Center is, as its name boasts, is a “Family of Families.”
Finding her took three years and when she arrived, she arrived with a special gift of commitment. Still today, Sister Miguel Conway of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), and Padre Juan are the heart of the Working Boys’ Center movement.
The WBC is committed to working with families and understands this process requires the involvement of the entire family.
This requires active involvement of those who carry-out this work. It demands an attitude or openness, cordiality to others and acceptance of what the others can teach us; all attitudes that come from deep within the heart.
In his research on the methodology of the WBC in 2008, Nadia Rodríguez explains that this is an open and flexible approach focused on “doing with the people” and not “for the people.”
The transformation cannot come, according to Padre Juan, “even if they are given food, clothing and training without them taking their destiny into their own hands along with a firm desire to get out of their situation.”
Looking for that change, many families come voluntarily to the WBC and go through three processes: integration, development and output. Usually families arrive by reference from another family or by invitation from leaders of the WBC, many of whom are graduates of the Center, who stayed there to serve and help.
During its 50 years of service, this Catholic organization has helped more than 6,000 families, providing education, food, and health services. But, most importantly, they teach values that serve one forever – loyalty, personal formation, family, religion, education, economics, work, recreation, health and housing – the WBC’s ten core values.
Testimonials taken from the memoirs of WBC to be published during the anniversary celebrations:
Myriam Chasiluisa , WBC Director of Social Area No. 1
She dreams of twice the number of families…
“The WBC has given us everything: education, family. But when leave is up to you if you want to be here contributing something. And it has nothing to do with economics, it’s personal. We speak of gratitude, compensation, self-determination to serve, to help.
My dream would be to double the current population of the Center, motivating them to excel as families, as individuals, that they would see it as something possible. ”
Carlos Gomez, first generation WBC shoeshine boy
Carlos is currently a teacher and director of the WBC.
“I was 10 years old and was shining shoes in the Plaza Grande. I saw a gringo and said, “Shoe shine, mister?” While shining, the gringo, Padre Juan, talked about a place where you could go to eat , play … I went to the attic of Gonzaga High School : it was beyond belief!
The WBC gave me very important values. Being a Jesuit organization, our guide is Jesus.”
Marco Polo, Education Program Coordinator
“When I arrived in 1978 there were three workshops: automotive, furniture and metalworking. With the philosophy of involving the whole family we expanded to include plumbing, beauty, sales, and sewing.
The members here have the advantage of carrying human values created on the basis of family, work, togetherness and solidarity. These are important to apply to the work environment. ”
Juan Carlos Oquendo Tates , graduated 1992
Juan Carlos is a robotics expert and author of novels.
“I was 6 years old, had no money and had to leave school. While working at a car shop, my aunt heard about the Center. It seemed like a fantasy. My mom finished primary school in adult education and we graduated together. After 10 years of working in the medical field, I am now in charge of Robotic Neurorehabilitation System IESS.”
Ready, Set, Teach!
The road leading up to the first day of classes at the Center is challenging! That challenge exists for two parties – our new year long volunteers (YLVs) and our trusted orientation leaders, John and Corry Cochol. It’s truly amazing how the new YLVs are transformed into teachers of English, art, physical education, marketing, health and much more as a result of their intense training. What a fabulous group of young people committed to serving others and acting as role models of Christ’s love!
This short video shows the transformational the YLVs go through..