Melissa Wheeler
Catholic Relief Services: Rice Bowl
March 22, 2017 // National

Greenhouse projects build community

Melissa Wheeler
Catholic Relief Services: Rice Bowl

Each week of Lent, this reflection series will provide ways to incorporate global solidarity and the struggles of our brothers and sisters throughout the world into your Lenten journey

Nation focus: Mexico

Catholic social teaching principle: Call to family, community and participation

Question: Who in your community supports you, and how do you support them?

Scripture quote: “We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.” — Hebrews 10:24-25

Prayer intention: For Maria Martinez and her community in Mexico, that they may continue to find strength and joy in the time they spent planting and harvesting together.

Almsgiving challenge: Give $.25 to CRS Rice Bowl for each hour you worked with someone today.

Mexico is a nation about three times the size of Texas, where Catholic Relief Services works with more than 58,000 people in the areas of emergency response, agriculture, peace building and capacity building. Mexico has one of the largest economies in Latin America, but around 50 percent of the population lives in poverty; and issues with drug trafficking and violence affect the lives of thousands of Mexicans. These situations cause many to leave their communities to find work. CRS is working to help individuals to stay in their native communities and provide for their basic needs.

Maria de la Luz Lugo Martinez is one of the beneficiaries of CRS’ work in local Mexican communities. Martinez’s community participates in a greenhouse project that empowers women by helping them grow cacti to sell in their local market. Not only do the women work in gardening to be able to make a profit that will help feed their families, but they grow in their sense of community. Martinez told CRS, “At the greenhouses, we laugh, we talk, we spend time together. Sometimes we leave our homes angry or sad. But then we start working with the plants, and we forget. Talking, laughing — we forget our problems for a while.”

This sense of community is one of the principles of Catholic social teaching. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops calls this principle the call to family, community and participation. We remember through this principle that human beings are social by nature — we need each other. We, like the Disciples, are called to come together and grow in community.

St. Frances of Rome provides us with a shining example of the social nature of the human person. Frances grew up in a wealthy family, which led her to marriage to a nobleman. Throughout her early life she felt compelled to the religious life, but her parents favored marriage. Frances found ways through her marriage to help the poor of her local community. Frances and her husband had two sons and a daughter, so she spent much of her time in devotion to her family. When a great plague came through Italy, Frances used all her money and sold her possessions to help the sick with whatever they might need. Once all of her money was gone, Frances begged door-to-door to get what she needed to help the sick.

Unfortunately, Frances’ daughter and one of her sons fell ill and died. This compelled Frances to open part of her house as a hospital. In the later years of her life, Frances continued to serve the poor and sick of Rome as a part of a religious society of women. Throughout her life, St. Frances gave to her family and her local community in a selfless way. Even though we may not be able to live a life just like Frances’, we can keep ourselves open to how God has called us to participate in our families and our local communities. A life of prayer and openness to God can help us to see how we can contribute to all of God’s children. May the stories of Martinez and St. Frances of Rome serve as a model for us in our continued efforts to serve God in our everyday lives. As Pope Francis reminds us, “The Good News is no mere matter of words … It is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others.”

Melissa Wheeler is the diocesan director for Catholic Relief Services.

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