|Charity is Freedom: Witnesses of the AVSI method visit DC, NYC|
“Charity: discovering, recognizing and responding to another as a good in themselves and a good for me. Charity: the way in which I can finally, fully become who I am. How beautiful and amazing it is that for me to really be me, for me to really be free, I need you...There is no greater experience of freedom than finally arriving at yourself, discovering and becoming who you really are. Charity is freedom.”
With these words, Fr. Herald Brock, CFR and with the Franciscan Mission Outreach unlocked the meaning of the title AVSI-USA chose for its week of events to celebrate the declaration of the first UN International Day of Charity on Sept. 5 and the 20th anniversary of the foundation of Crecemos-DIJO, an AVSI Network partner in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Two evening receptions were held, one on Oct. 2 in Washington DC, and one on Oct. 4 in New York City. The first took place in the radiant tiled hall of the Mexican Cultural Institute, with food generously donated by Casa Oaxaca restaurant. Rev Msgr. John Enzler, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, gave an introduction to the evening emphasizing his personal experience of charity, which was inspired throughout his life by his father. In New York, the evening took place at Church of the Holy Family just blocks from United Nations Plaza, with Fr. Herald as the guest speaker. For both events, María del Socorro del Río, Executive Director of Crecemos, and Jackie Aldrette, AVSI-USA, presented on the impact of the non-profits’ work with communities in Mexico and around the world.
Del Río, spoke about the gaze of charity that has shaped the success of Crecemos over the past 20 years. She told stories from some of the 2,500 children who have benefited through the 6 centers over the years, emphasizing the engagement of the entire family to combat deeply-rooted mentalities resulting from the violence, resignation and drug culture of the impoverished neighborhoods.
“I believe that the most important thing is to understand that we do not strive to meet all necessities,” Del Río said, “not only because it is impossible and the needs are so many and different for each individual, but what we have learned is to make a proposal to people to risk their freedom. Not just to help them learn a lot of things, but also to learn to awaken their desires, which will lead them to greater development and fulfillment: this is what it means to put the child in the center. … I have learned not to have preconceptions about the results of work, because in the end working with a person has infinite possibilities.”
Aldrette concluded by offering what she sees as the point of unity of the work of AVSI, Crecemos, and Catholic Charities or the Franciscan Mission Outreach: “an experience of being loved, the awareness that all my life, including each and every breath I take, is not a fruit of my effort or doing but has been given.”
Emphasizing the importance of relationships for charity, Aldrette invited those present to join AVSI-USA in the relationships with those supported in Mexico and other parts of the world, including through an annual donation to Crecemos through the Opportunity program.
*Photos of Del Rio and Aldrette and Mexican Cultural Institute by Malik F Mendenhall - Johnson