Michael Begg, president of Archbishop Rummel High School in New Orleans, Louisiana, recently traveled with CRS to the Holy Land to see first-hand how CRS and the Catholic Church are involved in peacebuilding and development work. Based on that trip, Archbishop Rummel High will be one of the first to become a CRS Global Solidarity school, incorporating justice and peace issues into their curriculum and student activities. Begg recently spoke with CRS.
CRS: What motivated you to become a Global Solidarity School?
Begg: The opportunity to participate in the mission of CRS was exciting. So much of the work of CRS compliments our school mission and our Lasallian charism of faith, community, and service. It is exciting to think that the students, administrators, and faculty have the opportunity to live out our mission on a global scale. I believe that that realization will resonate with them.
My sense of purpose in the initiative grew even deeper as I reflected on the important role that my school’s namesake, Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel, played in the early days of Catholic Relief Services. Rummel organized relief for over 30,000 World War II refugees from Europe and helped provide homes and jobs for them in New Orleans and the southern U.S. Is it any surprise that my school community stepped up to serve over 3,000 students displaced from their schools by Hurricane Katrina? Is it any greater surprise that we are now called to step up with this initiative? The Global Solidarity school initiative provided a spark of excitement by making me see the bigger historical connection for me and my school.
As a dedicated LaSallian educator who is steeped in the charism of the Christian Brothers, I was motivated to learn about Bethlehem University and inspired by its story. The chance to witness the shared mission at work in the Holy Land could not be passed up. It indeed proved to be a most memorable experience to meet the Christian Brothers and their students at Bethlehem University. Their story will definitely provide my LaSallian school with a direct line of inspiration. Here is faith in action … the Catholic faith … the spirit of St. John Baptist De la Salle … the hallmarks of faith, community, and service.
CRS: Can you tell me about your experience of Hurricane Katrina and how it played a role with becoming a Global Solidarity School?
Begg: When I became aware that the immersion trip would involve CRS’ work with refugees, the term “refugee” struck a nerve. I was a “Katrina refugee”. I fled my home, not knowing if it would be there when I returned. My family was displaced from home, work, and school for over a month. Along with thousands of other displaced people, I had to seek assistance from the Red Cross, Catholic Charities, and local church agencies. Many opened their doors, their wallets, and their hearts to us as we struggled to recover and to rebuild. When news reports first began to refer to us as “refugees”, images of people suffering abroad ran through my mind.
CRS: How do you think being a CRS Global Solidarity School helps you live the mission of Archbishop Rummel? What is that mission?
Begg: Peacebuilding seems to be a priority of our government – yet humanitarian assistance sometimes seems meager, except for the efforts of private agencies like CRS. As an American, I cannot walk away from the experiences of this trip and not see the world with different eyes. As a Catholic, simply seeing is not enough. Our mission as a Catholic school, as a Church, is a shared mission. I realize now that shared mission means very little unless it includes shared responsibility and shared action.
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