Children’s well-being, understood as the acknowledgment of their rights and the opportunity to have their basic necessities guaranteed, should be the central object of our prayer, thinking, and action as School Sisters of Notre Dame. The care of children was the intention of our foundress, Blessed M. Teresa, from the beginnings of our congregation; it is still our concern as stated in our constitution You Are Sent 24, “like her, we educate in schools and in other areas of urgent need; like her, we exclude no one from our concern, but are especially sensitive to youth and women and are impelled to prefer the poor.” Today, 184 years later, we see with pain that the well-being of children is not guaranteed; we must increase our awareness of this problem and act!
Call to Prayer
Lord God, merciful and omnipotent, children have a special place in your heart and you showed us that their simplicity is a way to come to holiness. We ask you to transform our hearts into “small hearts”, so that we can be aware of how your children live, and we can act for them, finding ways to make all the children of the world live in well-being, harmony and peace according to your will. We ask this by the intercession of Blessed Mary Theresa of Jesus, Amen.
In the recent data from UNICEF, State of the World’s Children 2016, the following numbers emerge:
- Of the 2.1 billion children in the world (35% of the world’s population), 1 in 4 lives in poverty.
- 149 million children are undernourished (1 child worldwide dies every 7 seconds of hunger).
- 11 million die from preventable causes.
- 100 million do not go to school due to poverty, discrimination, or lack of resources.
- 1.4 million children under the age of 15 have AIDS.
- 50 million children under the age of 15 are fatherless or motherless or orphans due to AIDS.
- 250 million, between 4 and 5 years, are exploited, engaged in child labour.
- 300,000 actively fight in armed conflicts.
- 2 million died between 1990 and 2000 from armed conflict, 6 million were injured or disabled, 12 million lost their homes and more than 1 million are war orphans.
These numbers, cold and distant, are chilling when we fully grasp that they represent human LIVES, people loved and dreamed by God from Eternity. There is a gap between the acknowledged rights of children and the grim reality. What does it mean concretely for children to live “well”? In the words of 9-year-old Bautista, it is to “live calm, because I know that nothing bad is going to happen to me because there are people who love me.”
“The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to children.” (Lk. 18:16)
What would our common home be like today if we all understood the importance of the well-being of children? In our societies, especially in our Latin American and Caribbean reality, childhood is a long way from being a fairy tale or a Disney movie. The realities of hunger, work, and servitude, lack of adequate housing, education, clothing, and health are realities which children experience early in life.
In the beginning of the 21st century, there is also the reality of children who may have their physical needs met, but are “orphans of living parents”, parents with intense schedules, with absences, addictions, consumptions, etc.
We must grow in global consciousness, think from an integral ecology, as Pope Francis proposed in Laudato Si’, so that not only do we work, pray, think and feel for the material well-being of children, but also, fundamentally, for their physical, psychic and spiritual well-being, guarding and respecting their individualities. It is also being mindful for them of the use of resources, water, the planet we share and which we will leave to them.
Children are our hope, but they are also our day by day. They are those looking at us with astonished and grateful eyes; they are also those looking at us with critical eyes, knowing that we are a model or example for them to imitate.
May the example we give them, be like the model that Jesus left us; may they feel good, knowing that they have everything they need to achieve their integral development and well-being. May they feel and know that they are deeply loved. This is our mission. It is our way of bringing them to Jesus.
- Be aware of the real situation in which children live in each of our environments.
- Inquire how our governments are working to achieve the United Nations’ agenda
- Listen to children themselves. Take them into account and promote the discussion of the situation of children and their well-being from different points of view, and not only from the “adult” point of view.
- Watch, in community, the following videos and encourage a time of debate and prayer from them.
- Protection of children and adolescents (cartoon)
- UNICEF: #IMAGINE a better future for all children (English)
- Jose Luis Perales: Que canten los niños (Let the children sing) (Spanish)
- Children Song: Children Human Rights (English and Spanish)
- Análisis de la Unicef sobre situación de las niñas y niños en Latinoamérica. (Spanish)
Our God, we thank you for the opportunity to know and reflect more on your favorites, on children. Assist us with the grace to be able to create situations of well-being and peace for them, knowing that everything we do, no matter how small, is a saving action of yours. May the work of our hands and our hearts be true to your plan of love. Bless all your little ones. We ask this through Christ, our Lord and by the intercession of Blessed Maria Theresa, who dedicated her life to the well-being of children. Amen. (cfr. Card. Bergoglio, “Educar: exigencia y passion”)
Prepared by Hermana Paola Baliño, ALC Province, for the International Shalom Office, Rome, Italy