International immersion trips

At an Oct. 17, 2014 Wine and Wisdom event at St. Thomas, several parishioners shared how their lives had been changed through taking part in international projects.  We share with you their activities and how you might take part in or support these efforts.

When Mass Ends…Serving in the World Begins

Global Volunteer Opportunities by St. Thomas Aquinas Parishioners

Bethesda Lutheran-Shighatini, Tanzania Ministry (Through Bethesda Lutheran Church in Ames, Iowa)

Formalized in 2003, the Bethesda-Shighatini covenant’s purposes are to 1) strengthen one another for life and mission within the body of Christ; 2) offer the privilege of participating in the life of another church through prayer, study, communication, and exchange; and 3) open our eyes to the global challenge that Christ offers us today and to deepen our commitment and discipleship.  Carl and Nancy Bern traveled to Shighatini as part of a Bethesda team in May, 2007.  The trip was exciting, rewarding, and life changing for them; they continue to participate in Shighatini programs.


How to get involved:   Attend monthly meetings at Bethesda Lutheran Church to learn about many programs and opportunities.

Parishioner Contacts:  Carl/Nancy Bern, 515-292-1219,


Budongo Conservation Field Station (BCFS)

Since 1990, BCFS has blended research and conservation to ensure sustainable management and utilization of the Budongo Forest Reserve, as a tropical rain forest in Uganda. 


How to Get Involved: Adopt a chimpanzee for $20-$40

Parishioner ContactStephen Todey, 515-520-3232,


Caritas Shanghai’s Weekend Migrant Education Project (Charitable Outreach for the International Community) 

All volunteer driven, CARITAS Shanghai’s Weekend Migrant Education Project (Circle of Hope) works with the children of ethnic Miao families who live in He Qing, a village on the outskirts of Pudong, China. Begun in 2008, the project focuses on improving children’s English vocabulary and encouraging them to further their education. Website:

How to Get Involved:  Donate money to buy textbooks and school supplies; adult volunteers needed to teach the migrant children and teenage volunteers to assist

Parishioner ContactsDave/Jean Dirks, 515-450-6050, jean_dirks


Challenging Heights

Founded in 2003 by James Kofi Annan, Challenging Heights is a non-governmental organization that promotes youth and family empowerment and children’s rights to education and freedom from forced labor in the coastal and farming communities in Ghana. Its social justice interventions include rescuing, rehabilitating, and reintegrating children who have been trafficked in the fishing industry and running a school with 700+ children who are survivors of child trafficking or at-risk of child trafficking. 


How to Get Involved: Join the Challenging Heights Sponsors’ Club--$25 monthly to help rescue, educate, empower and protect children; plan a 2-week visit or explore an internship or longer-term volunteer opportunity; support their efforts through prayer.

Parishioner Contacts: Chuck/Kathy Glatz, 515-232-1017,


First Love International (Boracay and Panay Island Ministries, Philippines; On the Rock Ministries)

Established over 20 years ago, First Love International serves the people of Boracay and Panay in South East Asia, helping build God's Kingdom within the Filipino community.  Ministries include home bible studies, constructing and running a school for local children, English church services, and outreach programs that provide food and medical care coupled with a message of God’s love.  Websites: and

How to get involved:  Support their efforts through prayer, donations, go on a service/mission trip or volunteer for a longer term.

Parishioner ContactsDave/Jean Dirks, 515- 450-6050, jean_dirks


Honduras Ministry Committee (Through St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Ames)

Since 2007, St. Thomas Aquinas (STA) parish has been in a parish-partner-relationship with the people of Dulce Nombre de María Parish in the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras. STA parishioners, through the Honduras Ministry Committee, work to build relationships with the people of Dulce Nombre by being present to them and helping with identified needs; while being supportive, STA parishioners focus on learning about life in Honduras from the experience and perspective of their partner parishioners.  The Honduras Ministry Committee also educates STA parishioners about the people of Honduras and supports it’s representative, John Donaghy, in prayer as he walks in their midst.   Website:

How to get involved: 1) Financially support high school students wanting to participate in Maestro en Casa, a distance learning program, which involves class materials presented over the radio and weekend meetings, with an instructor. 2) Help a group in the Dulce Nombre de Maria parish develop a coffee coop, to import and market coffee in the US.  3) Become a prayer partner between the 2 parishes--Eucharistic Ministers at both ends praying for each other.  4) Join the Honduras Ministry Committee.

Parishioner Contact: Diane Lyon, Chair of Honduras Ministry Committee, 515-451-1034,


INP-Toulouse ENSIACET (National Polytechnic Institute Toulouse - National School of Engineers in Chemical and Technological Arts)

Located in Toulouse, France, INP-ENSIACET offers a comprehensive range of training courses in the field of transformation of matter, energy and related sciences; faculty also perform research in these areas.  Website:

How to get involved:  Volunteer internship abroad for an ISU college student

Parishioner Contact: Stephen Todey, 515-520-3232,


Shanghai Healing Home

Since 2009, Shanghai Healing Home has been assisting local Chinese Children's Welfare Institutes by providing pre and post-surgical care to abandoned Chinese orphan babies born with surgically correctable deformities. Shanghai Healing Home provides a home-like environment that meets not only the babies' physical needs, but also their emotional and developmental needs.  Website:

How to get involved: Support their efforts through prayers, monetary sponsorships or participate in an onsite active volunteer program.

Parishioner ContactsDave/Jean Dirks, 515-450-6050, jean_dirks


Unbound (formerly the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging)

Established in 1981 by a family in Kansas City, Kansas, Unbound works side by side with people of diverse faith traditions in 21 countries to bring people together and challenge poverty in new and innovative ways.  Fr. Patrick Geary got involved because of a former college roommate/retired priest, Fr. John McClean:  “Fr. McClean had been preaching for this program and told me it was time for me to get busy.  That was four years ago.  We are invited by pastors to come and do the preaching.” Fr. Geary himself sponsors a boy and a girl from Uganda.  With sponsorships, children are able to get some medical help and go to school. The children and elderly write to their sponsor about four times a year. Website:

How to Get Involved:  Sponsor a child or an elderly person - costs $30 per month; hear more in January at a weekend homily at STA; check into the possibility of sponsoring child in  the Dulce Nombre area of Honduras (STA’s parish-partner)

Parishioner Contact:  Fr. Patrick Geary, (515) 451-2732,


World Languages and Cultures Department with the Center for Interamerican Studies (CEDEI) in Ecuador (Through Iowa State University)

The Spanish section of World Languages and Cultures has had a summer service-learning program in South America since 2002. Over 7 to 8 weeks, ISU students learn the language and culture (6 credits) in one of the cities that formed part of the Incan empire and do community service projects/reflections (3 credits) generally in rural villages. In 2015, the In the Footsteps of the Incas program will be held from May 24-July 12, with projects in the village of San Joaquín, just outside of Cuenca, Ecuador.  (Application deadline for students: February 20, 2015.)

Websites: (search Programs for Term = Summer and Country = Ecuador for information and click Apply Now to apply) and for more information about Spanish courses and the CEDEI in Cuenca

How to Get Involved: Prayers, sponsorship of students, parish program upon return by ISU students

Parishioner ContactNancy T. Guthrie, 515-294-1162 (office) or 515-520-2169 (cell),


The following document served as discussion on the evening of Wine and Wisdom.  You are invited to consider these quotes.


When Mass Ends…Serving in the World Begins


Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created and as He created it, without manipulating and destroying creation; rather to help it grow, to become more beautiful and more like what God created it to be. And above all, Saint Francis witnesses to respect for everyone, he testifies that each of us is called to protect our neighbor, that the            human person is at the center of creation, at the place where God – our creator – willed that we should be. Not at the mercy of the idols we have created! [Pope Francis, 10/4/13, Assisi]


If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbors, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you” (Lk 14:14). There can be no room for doubt or for explanations which weaken so clear a message. Today and always, “the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel”,[52] and the fact that it is freely preached to them is a sign of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish. We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them.  [Pope Francis, 48, The Joy of the Gospel, 2013]


Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members. [Pope Francis, 186, The Joy of the Gospel, 2013]


Solidarity is a spontaneous reaction by those who recognize that the social function of property and the universal destination of goods are realities which come before private property. The private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and increase them, so that they can better serve the common good; for this reason, solidarity must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor what belongs to them. These convictions and habits of solidarity, when they are put into practice, open the way to other structural transformations and make them possible.  Changing structures without generating new convictions and attitudes will only ensure that those same structures will become, sooner or later, corrupt, oppressive and ineffectual. [Pope Francis, 189, The Joy of the Gospel, 2013]


Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs. [Saint John Chrysostom]


Accompanying on its own is not enough. It is not enough to offer someone a sandwich unless it is accompanied by the possibility of learning how to stand on one’s own two feet. Charity that leaves the poor person as he is, is not sufficient. True mercy, the mercy God gives to us and teaches us, demands justice, it demands that the poor find the way to be poor no longer.

It asks — and it asks us, the Church, us, the City of Rome, it asks the institutions — to ensure that no one ever again stand in need of a soup-kitchen, of makeshift-lodgings, of a service of legal assistance in order to have his legitimate right recognized to live and to work, to be fully a person. [Pope Francis, 9/10/13]


Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.  [Francis of Assisi]