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About: tstreit

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Fr. Thomas Streit, CSC
a blog (justification?) . . . May 30, 2010 by Fr. Thomas Streit, CSC There are several places in our Gospels where we are encouraged NOT to brag about what it is that we do as followers of Christ. Most notably perhaps in St. Matthew 6, we find encouragement to give of ourselves and our various riches without attracting attention or expectation of applause, to pray in the quiet of relative privacy, and deny ourselves cheerfully. In short: it’s best to perform the traditional Jewish acts of piety and justice with a pronounced dose of humility. It has long seemed to me that for a religious priest, if I were to follow these (Our Lord’s!) suggestions, any blogging I would do would be pretty dull. Or potentially pretty self-centered indeed. As a priest, and also a member of the Univ. Notre Dame faculty doing public health / research work on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, I’ve been privileged to be part of a team working to forever eliminate lymphatic filariasis (a.k.a. elephantiasis), and to work toward controlling malaria, dengue fever, three kinds of soil transmitted worm infections, and iodine deficiency disorders. But isn’t this bragging just a bit? And in a rather public forum at that (the Internet)? Well, since I am on faculty at the Notre Dame, where appropriate (great?) defense in athletics (especially football) has more often than not been a secret to our success, let me try some circuitous justification for a blog . . . Hopefully I’ll not be stretching the oft-trite image of sport as a metaphor for life too much here, but I’m going to give in and try a bit to blog—with the justification that I simply have to—there is no choice. It’s not about bragging (tho it may seem so) and it’s not about being self-centered (tho that may leak thru at times) . . . And not that I’ve been particularly good at following the Gospel instructions anyway, but, well, this web stuff is SO very public! I’ll use the need for defense (particularly of the “why?”) of what we are doing in Haiti as an excuse to report (interestingly I’ll hope) on what it is that we are doing. I’ll just have to hope it doesn’t seem like bragging. Or rely on commentators to groan about hypocrisy when I do. Moreover, because (again, as they say in sports) we want to help the Haitian people finish and “win” what we have helped them to start (a battle to stop elephantiasis), advocacy from a defensive perspective seems A-okay to me! To again use a football image, for our project, we are past the 50 yard line and well into enemy territory; perhaps we are even close to the red zone. Without good defense, we could lose our gains – and this would be a tragedy for several million folks in Haiti and perhaps even beyond Haiti! So let this blog be a sort of defense of why we need your help to keep working toward the goal line of a historic scientific and public health achievement, namely the elimination of lymphatic filariasis and malaria as public health problems in Haiti, Hispaniola, and beyond. In the aftermath of the horrific tragedy of the 12 January 2010 earthquake here in Haiti, it is even more important, it’s turning out, to defend what we have been working on in Haiti for 17 years. To defend our work as critically important to a better future for Haiti. There are so many many legitimate and important needs now in the aftermath of this disaster – perhaps the greatest disaster in recorded history to date! But we cannot allow efforts toward the permanent elimination of a couple of terribly burdensome infections, and the control of several other taxing health burdens be abandoned or even weakened during this very difficult period for Haiti. In fact, I will argue with anyone, it has been through the capacity built by these public health research programs that we and others have been positioned (actually poised), and ultimately able to offer tremendous relief to thousands over the four and a half months since the earthquake. The name of this blog (obviously I hope) refers then to what I have come to see as the now virtual necessity of blogging – blogging not to brag about what it is that we do in the Notre Dame Haiti Program, but as a way of participating in the new global village . . . those town square conversations and debates made possible by the World Wide Web. More and more I have found that the curiosity about what it is that we are doing in Haiti and elsewhere, if not sated, contributes to a bit of a questioning of the importance of our goal and our strategies. People expect to know what is going on with work they are invested in — more and more every day – and especially so when the Internet makes us all so very very close. This is in fact a thing so very very good, because in the REAL Spirit of the Gospels (that Holy Spirit of the Gospels), one person on continent A can now truly be concerned for and interested in sisters and brothers on a distant Caribbean Island (and vice versa) in ways never before possible. We have seen this growing concern every year with more and more young people eager to love those they do not know half a world away. Neat! Today is the 144th anniversary of the dedication of the statue of Notre Dame atop the 2nd Main Building erected at Notre Dame, Indiana. When that building and statue were completely destroyed in a fiery blaze not even 14 years later, Fr. Edward Sorin, C.S.C. declared that the UND family had simply not dreamed big enough about how they could honor our Blessed Mother and her remarkable path to the heavens. In 2010, as Haiti is now in some ways so broken, let our Notre Dame family be one means of healing and rebuilding – in fact of ‘building back a better Haiti’. We can contribute in many ways and will, but the health-related work we started in 1993 here will, with God’s help, be at the front of our contribution to how Haiti can be an even better place for folks to live in peace and joy and worship God while loving one another. And that takes us back to the Gospel, again. Whew. Thank goodness.

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