When I interviewed for this position last year, I was intrigued by the fifth bullet point in the job description:

Articulate the spiritual values and policies to execute the mission of International Samaritan and develop an internal culture that supports those values.

That’s kind of a big deal to do as a lay person taking over from the visionary Jesuit priest who founded and led the organization for 25 years.  How does our faith impact our work, and how do we talk about and practice it?

Our very name, based on the parable of how a Samaritan loved his neighbor, is a daily challenge for us “go and do likewise,” the advice Jesus gave a young lawyer 2,000 years ago.

The way we go and do likewise is rooted in Catholic Social Teaching.  No one I know is more steeped in this, nor committed to it, than Andrew Pawuk, the steady hand over the last 13 years who has carefully sculpted the programs and partnerships that define us.  His is a quiet faith, shared through his work not his words. You won’t likely hear Andrew preach a message publicly; his faith is best felt in the way he works and treats every person he encounters.  

Andrew Pawuk interviewing a man working in one of Honduras’ garbage dumps. Photo taken in the Summer of 2019.

Not so much with Angelica Cancinos, the leader of our work in Guatemala, also for the last 13 years, who inspirationally, and sometimes provocatively, talks about Jesus’s love and expectations of us in just about every conversation she’s in.  Like Andrew, she has carefully built a beautiful array of partnerships and programs from a blank slate in Guatemala City, and the 161 scholarship students under her care this year will also receive spiritual and character training from her.  Statistically, this is good news for the future of those kids, as an extensive evaluation of a similar program found that graduates of the program were nearly as likely to list the spiritual development they received as important to their success as the scholarship and financial support they also received.

While we are uniquely Catholic, we are not exclusively so.  We are proud to partner with public universities and public high schools on our immersion trips, and our staff and volunteer teams in each nation are filled with people of different faiths.  With the admonition of Christ to go and do likewise as our daily challenge, and with the richness of Catholic Social Teaching underneath us, we do that. Sometimes quietly, like Andrew, allowing our actions to speak for us.  Sometimes vocally, like Angelica, inviting others to join the journey. But making sure that all feel welcomed and loved along the way.

I’d love to hear your experience with us and how you think we’re doing.  Please reply to this email or feel free to call me at (734) 222-0701 to let me know what you think.

Angelica Cancinos presenting at a panel on immigration at the University of Michigan this past Thursday, November 14, 2019.

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