Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Fast is Broken, Christ is Risen!

 "I break this fast with you."

On Saturday night, after the vigil I eat solid food for the first time in seven days. It is glorious.  I take my first bite, bread and butter melting in my mouth. I think, "How Blessed I am."  I chose to fast, chose it as a vehicle to build support for a world without hunger.  Development and Peace exists because for 1 billion people, hunger is not a choice. Poverty is not a choice. Suffering at the hands of others is not a choice. None of it is a choice. And so we must make the choice to stand with them.

We were founded over 40 years ago to "Renew the Spirit of Lent."  I pray that this Holy Week fast helped to do that.  I have been humbled by the support that was given to me. I started out with a goal of $250.  You helped me meet it more than ten times over. Every day I had to increase the goal until I gave up at $1500 - and the number kept rising.  Over fifty of you gave gifts of donations to our work. Thank-you, Thank-you, a million times Thank-you.

"He is not here; for he has risen, as he said."

These words from Matthew's Gospel, heard Saturday night at the Easter Vigil, evoke one emotion - HOPE.

This is what it is to commit oneself to international solidarity.  So often, we head to the tomb, expecting to find death.  But God breaks through - He is not Here.  There are a thousand stories from our work around the world that share in this HOPE.

In gratitude for your support of Development and Peace through your support of my Holy Week fast, I leave you with this message from Abilio Pena, a partner of Development and Peace from Colombia. His work to protect the rights of that country's most vulnerable is made possible by your support.  Listen to his words, "Jesus is a crucified person who did not remain on the cross. Jesus is a crucified person who has risen...that is also present in the communities we are assisting."


May God bless you all as we celebrate this Easter Season.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


 Holy Saturday is a time of waiting.  We know how how the story ended then....Resurrection.  The disciples did not know.  No doubt they were afraid, frightened and lost.

It is much the same for those working for development, working to build more human conditions out of less ones.  They do not know how the story will end all the time.  Death is a common experience in their work whether by disease, violence or hunger and thirst.  Will everything be lost, or will we see the resurrection?

When Development and Peace first started to work with the Catholic Church in Timor Leste,  we did not know whether we would ever see the end of the Indonesian occupation.  We did not know if the Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), founded by Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo with our support, would ever get to stop documenting abuse after abuse committed against the Timorese people by the occupying army.

There was only the work to be done and to wait...and yet the end did come. Bishop Belo, who was awarded a nobel peace prize for his efforts, spoke of Timor Leste's journey towards independence saying, "We, the predominantly Christian people of East Timor, like to think of the road we have taken to freedom as the road that Jesus Christ took toward Easter - toward resurrection."

But of course, development does not end but in fact, really begins with independence.  Sr. Clare Garcillano has been in the country for close to five years now and is the director of the JPC.  She is a short Filipina nun, but her heart is head and shoulders above most of us.  "Donors want to see results so quickly," she tells me.   "These things take time though. And if the funding stops, then what? we have to start all over again. That is why we are grateful to Development and Peace for your long-term support." 

After speaking at St. Dominic Parish in Bracebridge, a student asked Sr. Clare, "Why did you want to become a nun?"

"To serve the poor," she answered.  That vocation has led her to Timor Leste.   Living that commitment means having to place ourselves in the dark sometimes.  In the dark we find ourselves waiting and hoping, but like the disciples not knowing, that the light is going to break through.

Sr. Clare speaking at Holy Family parish in Kingston

Friday, April 22, 2011

In the Tomb

Emptiness.  This was the emotion that struck me most during the Good Friday service today at our church, St. Cecilia on Annette St.  The altar, empty of God's presence.  Crucified - everything hoped for gone.  Jesus is in the tomb.

It is so easy to become empty in our search for a better world. So many forces aligned against life. 

"Over 50% of the population in Timor Leste are youth," says Sr. Clare Garcillano.  This, she explains, is because so many of the older generation are dead - killed during the Indonesian occupation and the struggle for independence.  Timor Leste was an occupied country for over 450 years. Four Hundred and Fifty.  Its current independence was achieved in 2002, making it one of the newest countries in the world.

Sr. Clare is a Filipina missionary in Timor Leste and the director of the Justice and Peace commission (JPC) in the diocese of Dili.  The JPC is supported by Development and Peace.   From April 1-11 I traveled with Sr. Clare through my Central Ontario territory, coordinating 18 different presentations she gave. Through the Triduum, I want to offer some reflections on my time with this very special woman.

"My dears, you cannot imagine." This phrase I heard from Sr. Clare so many times.  She used it when telling the story of when they tried to teach the children to wash their hands at home. " 'But Sister,' they said, 'we don't have any water.' "  She used it when relating the story of the 12 year old girl, raped by a family member, and taken for help by the local priest.  That priest sought to take action against the perpetrator, only to be rebuffed by authorities who told him, "that is normal here." My dears you cannot imagine.

Emptiness. Jesus is in the tomb.

"My Dears, You cannot imagine." - Sr. Clare Garcillano

 It is Day 6 of my Holy Week fast for Development and Peace.  To learn more and make a donation visit here:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"You ought to wash one another's feet"

 Day 5 of my Holy Week Fast -

On Holy Thursday we remember the last supper and that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.  His act was to remind us that we are all servants to one another.

Today is a short entry because: a) I was hungry and have low energy so fell asleep for a chunk of the evening b) My wife, kids and I were busy washing each other's feet to remember the lesson of Jesus.
c) I was giving my wife a foot massage as we made our Easter plans.
 The most essential element of life in the field as a D&P animator is balancing your family and work life.   Today that means serving the needs of my family first - washing and massaging feet. Something we all ought to take the time to do.

The Stocking Family: Luke, Jacob (8), Joanna, Amy (5)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Lord, when was it we saw you?"

 DAY 4 of the Holy Week Fast for Development and Peace

 In Matthew 25 Jesus shares the terms of our final judgement.

The righteous are baffled at the words of the Lord, "I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me."

"Lord when was it we saw you?" they ask as they are welcomed into heaven.

And they are answered, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."

At Development and Peace we do not carry out the works of mercy named above simply because its a nice thing to do, or to feel good about ourselves.  We do it because our very salvation depends upon it.  We do it because this is what God requires and it is through doing what God requires that we realize our true humanity.

On April 2nd over 250 members of the Latin American community gathered at St. Jane Frances school (Jane and Sheppard Ave. in Toronto) for the first Development and Peace "Hispanic Family Day."  The theme of the conference was "Agua Para Todos" - Water for All.

"I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink."  Children young and old, heard about the 884 million people who lack access to clean water in our family to day. They heard about what Development and Peace is doing to change that.  Families added their water drops to our growing river of justice.

Most of the people who came to the day are immigrants from the 11 Latin American communities where Development and Peace supports development projects to the tune of over 5 million dollars this past year.  These projects including helping communities gain access to clean affordable water - sometimes at great personal cost.  In El Salvador staff from our partner CRIPDES were arrested en route to a demonstration against the privatization of the water supply in Suchitoto

One of the touching moments of our Hispanic Family day came from learning that one of the many volunteer organizers who helped to put the day together used to work for another one of our Salvadoran partners - FUNPROCOOP!

A HUGE thank-you to every who has donated and pushed this fast over $1000 raised for Development and Peace.  Your generosity means the world! Anyone learning about the fast for the first time who wants to join these amazing donors can do so by clicking "Support Me" at my fundraising page

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Love your Neighbour as Yourself

 It's Day 3 of the fast....

 Jesus spends his time in the temple teaching and curing the blind and lame. When asked which commandment is the greatest, he does not hesitate, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself."

I open my office door to look for Omar Almajdalawi and find him praying on his knees.  He is a Muslim and a partner of Development and Peace visiting here in Canada.  His commitment to prayer and his faith, his Love for Allah, is an inspiration to me  It is February 23rd and I have come to tell him we are ready for his presentation. 

We are funding a project Omar oversees that works with Children in Gaza, helping them overcome the trauma of living in a war zone through special counseling. Tonight, we share a simple solidarity meal with him and about twenty-five other D&P members.  Omar speaks to us about the situation in Gaza, about what it is like to live under siege.  My children are with me.  Jacob, my son, sees the large scar on Omar's arm. It is from pulling his children from the rubble of his father-in-law's bombed home. Fortunately they lived.  My daughter Amy draws a picture - flowers, smiling people, a nice house.  Omar takes her picture.  It nearly breaks my heart.

 Drawing pictures in one way that the children in Gaza overcome their trauma with the psychologists.  Their pictures are very different from Amy's. They look like this:

Love your neighbour as yourself.  How often we fail to do this.  My prayer this night is for Peace in the Holy Land, peace for these children of Gaza. I pray that there be an end to the siege and an end to the senseless violence that comes when we cannot see God in our neighbour.

Special Thanks to All who have already made donations to support my Holy Week Fast for Development and Peace! I have already doubled my original goal of $250 and so have set the bar a bit higher now at $800.  If you have not made a donation yet you can do so by clicking the blue 'support me button' at my fundraising page.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Starting the Holy Week Fast for D&P: "My House will be a House of Prayer"

My fast began Palm Sunday after Mass. With no food in my stomach the past appx 36 hours, my thoughts and prayers are yet full with this joyous entry of Jesus into Jersualem. "Hosanna in the Highest" the people cry, laying palms at his feet.

Throughout this fast, I want to offer prayer and reflection on not only Christ's Passion but also his Jerusalem ministry.  In the days ahead I will share how that ministry relates to the mission of Development and Peace as we are trying to live it here in the Central Ontario region.  Life in the field these past two months has been busy.  Between scenes of pirate ships made from plastic water bottles, visitors from Gaza, and travels with Sr. Clare from Timor Leste, there has been no time to breathe, let alone write.

Fasting leaves you no choice - one must slow down. There is now time to share.

"My House will be a House of Prayer"

Upon arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus comes into the temple with a bang - he quotes Isaiah and Jeremiah as he turns over tables and casts out the sellers and money-changers.

Our sacred places cannot be made into marketplaces and neither can our sacred resources.

On Bottled Water Free Day, we arrive early at the TCDSB Catholic Education Center (CEC) to prepare for the big rally.  It is March 10th, the day after Ash Wednesday.  Close to 30 schools have built pirate ships out of plastic water bottles and sailed them here to celebrate a bottled water free culture as part of our Water for All campaign.

 Our stage for the rally becomes incorporated into the sacred space Fr. Mike has created in the Atrium for Lent.  Presentations will be given in front of the chapel. The altar is our rock.  Pirates of the water commodification resistance (over 100 elementary and secondary students) arrive and eventually gather behind the flowing fountain Fr. Mike has placed in the atrium center.

"Do you hear that?"

There are prayers, speeches, poems and music.  A student from Mary Ward opens his spoken word piece echoing the sound of the water and asks, "Do you hear that?"

The sound of living water, flowing water, permeates our desires to see the TCDSB become a bottled water free zone. 

A river made from 1500 plus drops of water, each bearing one person's reflection on their experience of this God's precious gift falls from the 3rd floor and rolls across the stage.

It is time to celebrate this gift - a gift given not for the profit of few but for the life of all.

Thanks to all of you who have already contributed donations.  For others who wish to join them, please click the "support me" button on my fundraising page


Friday, April 8, 2011

Development and Peace | Graphic Novel that Tells Story of Hope in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Development and Peace Graphic Novel that Tells Story of Hope in the Democratic Republic of the Congo On April 5th Development and Peace just launched a new graphic written and illustrated by a Congolese artist, Seraphin Kajibwami. It's worth checking out! (I am trying out the share button on our website to blog this entry about the novel. I have been trying to encourage our D&P members to share items of interest they find on our website through the various social media outlets. Many a pleased to find out that by using the sharebuttons found at the bottom of any web article, they can pass on the news to friends and family.)