Thank God for the internet and digital communication! What would we do right now without it? We have been able to visit with family and friends across the miles via Zoom, WhatsApp or FaceTime. The internet allows us to get work done even when we can’t be in the office.
How would so many of us maintain jobs, stay informed, stay entertained without it? How would our feelings of isolation increase without the ability to connect virtually? For all its shortcomings, the digital world has been a bright spot during the pandemic, allowing us to remain connected when in-person gatherings of any kind are limited.
This ability to stay connected so easily is not readily available to everyone. In countries like El Salvador, 60 percent of the population has little or no access to the internet, often with serious consequences.
In the U.S., when in-person classes are canceled, many students are able to continue their studies through distance or virtual learning. But in countries like El Salvador, online classes are impossible for many students. As a result, many fell behind this year or dropped out of school completely. To make matters worse, dropping out of school doesn’t just mean fewer economic opportunities. It is often the start of a downward spiral that leaves young people isolated, vulnerable, and the target of gangs, which are so prevalent throughout the country.
Good news comes through ministries like that of Maryknoll lay missioner Larry Parr. Larry has been working with at-risk youth for some time in the small, rural town of Las Delicias, El Salvador. Through mentoring programs, group activities, library access, educational and sports programs, Larry has helped students strengthen their sense of community and develop leadership skills.
The hope and resilience of the community in Las Delicias has been especially beneficial in the face of increasing challenges caused by the pandemic. Working together with Larry and a local organization, when young people started dropping out of school, his students designed and implemented a plan to install Wi-Fi centrally in their community library, where everyone would have access to it. In addition, your donations to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ COVID emergency fund helped to purchase a much-needed computer, tablet and printer for the library. At-risk youth are now not only engaging in remote learning, but are also accessing the safe space, support, mentorship and many other activities Larry’s program offers.
As Larry’s work demonstrates, people can overcome almost any problem when they are able to build a strong community and are given the resources they need to develop creative solutions. And that’s where Maryknoll Lay Missioners come in. We are there on the ground to see where sometimes even a small change can lead to a big difference. We are there to help local communities as they develop the confidence, leadership and support they need to transform their own lives and their societies.
Your support of our work allows our lay missioners to create bridges and tunnels where there were only walls. Especially now, as we navigate an uncertain future, it is critical that we find new ways to use limited basic resources to address communities’ needs in the most efficient manner.
This Lent, our prayers will be in gratitude for the indomitable spirit of the people who lay missioners work with around the world and for the way they welcome us into their lives and communities. Some will be in gratitude for lay missioners themselves, who help people like the scholarship students of Las Delicias develop the confidence and determination they need to succeed. And some will be in gratitude for you. Because we don’t do this work alone, and we can’t do it without you!
May your Lent be filled with reflection, awareness and a renewed closeness to Christ.
Please consider making a donation today so that we can continue this work around the world.
Our Lenten Prayer Card this year features a crucifix from Haiti: