Homegrown Change

April 20, 2015

The C in tCI

The Claretian Initiative (tCI) is a network of community development programs in high-poverty urban neighborhoods in the U.S. But who are the Claretians? What are they all about?

The Claretians are leaders, builders, teachers, students, mentors, neighbors, and friends. They’ve served in the U.S. since 1902, developing programs to address immediate needs while also building healthier communities. They work for the people, with the people, to make the greatest impact in communities challenged with poverty and violence. And they don’t just do this in the U.S.; the Claretians are a global order of Catholic priests and brothers committed to social justice who currently serve in more than 60 countries.

Guatemala: An Example of Claretians at Work

Claretians are partners with those they serve. Their way of working involves physically residing in an area so they can live as neighbors and take the time to actively listen and learn about the issues of a community. By doing this, Claretians can serve with agility and flexibility and cultivate lay community leaders to take ownership of the programs and services that grow out of the partnership.

An excellent example of this Claretian way of working is their ministry in Guatemala, where the Claretians went to serve in 1966. They settled in an area in great need, a place that needed attention right away—the Izabal area in the eastern part of the country. Upon arriving, they saw a real need for creating lay leadership and teaching basic job and life skills.

Claretian Fr. Richard Todd recalls starting their leadership training program there:

“The people came from the different villages and studied with us monthly for nine months a year over the course of five years. When we first started we went to the villages and asked them for five men and five women who would be good figures for the community. They didn’t know what we were talking about, really. So they just gave us five men and five women. But after the first year, the leaders of those villages came to us and said, ‘Father, I think you should change these people. You should have this one, this one, and this one.’ It really purified itself because they began to understand what we were doing.”

During this leadership training, the Claretians also taught important job and life skills their students could, in turn, teach other villagers. Fr. Todd explains:

“We had special courses for the men and women. To the men, we taught agriculture and Spanish, the language, because a lot of them didn’t speak Spanish very well. The women learned about sewing and other arts and crafts so they could create things to sell. But the main thing for the women was the health program. We trained the women and gave each of them a box with really simple medicines. These women visited the villages and treated people while also giving talks about how to care for the children and all the other health things nobody else knew. It was a real help to these villages. People really responded well.”

Claretians Back in the States

In 2000, the U.S. Claretians handed over their work in the Izabal area to Claretians who served in other parts of Guatemala, who continue that ministry today. Given their missionary commitment to serve those in great need, the returning Claretians moved on to additional underserved neighborhoods in the U.S. and to positions of support in other mission areas, including Ciudad Mexico.

You can see the fruits of their labor in the many tCI programs running in at-risk communities today. Holy Cross’ Youth Council is training young leaders to take active roles in improving their community. Corpus Christi’s Little Ones Preschool is helping a diverse group of young learners get ahead in their education. Our Lady of Fatima’s Bread of Life Food Pantry gives neighbors the opportunity to take care of each other and fight food insecurity. All of tCI’s programs are infused with this unique Claretian spirit that makes them so effective in bringing about sustained change.

Please join us today to help the Claretians continue to build the kinds of programs that have been successful all over the world.

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