Dr. Susan Nedza Shares the Good News About Olancho Aid at Villanova Conference Celebrating Pope Francis’ Anniversary
Anyone who has taken part in a mission team will remember the moment when they thought, “I am not sure how I ended up here, but I know that the Holy Spirit was involved….” I had a similar moment last week when I found myself at Villanova University, surrounded by Cardinals (Including Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras), Vatican watchers, economists, theologians, lawyers, academicians, and religious who had come together to attend the meeting, Francis, a Voice Crying Out in the World: Mercy, Justice, Love, & Care for the Earth. I could but not wonder how I had been selected to present a paper at the meeting.
Over the next three days, as speaker after speaker shared their thoughts and wisdom regarding the written works of Pope Francis, it became increasingly clear. I was there to speak not of the “works” themselves but of the “work” that we have all been called to do through the Olancho Aid Foundation. While others spoke of the call to go to the peripheries; I was to speak of what happened when one answered the challenge to do so as outlined in Laudato Si’: On Care of our Common Home. In this encyclical, we have been challenged as Americans and Hondurans to heed Pope Francis’ call to recognize the ecologic challenges our world faces, the special vulnerability of the poor and the need to adopt an integral ecology as a part of our Catholic mission. Please allow me to share how these we have embraced this encyclical in our work.
At the core of the Olancho Aid Foundation mission is the acceptance that “the urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.” (Laudato Si’ 13). In response, we are actively working with the Olancho community to bring change through education in the sciences, ecological awareness, and access to clean water.
The Olancho Aid Foundation Board of Directors has heeded his call and we recognize that “a fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing, and limiting our power.” (Laudato Si’ 78). This statement guides us as we ensure that the resources you share with us are used wisely, have a positive impact in the Diocese of Juticalpa, and that we continually ensure that we are not damaging the Honduran environment and culture by our efforts.
Perhaps most importantly, the Pope reminds us that, “rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” (Laudato Si’ 12). The mission experience for our volunteers must continue to focus on keeping God at the center of our work and celebrate the great gift that we have received through our involvement with Olancho Aid Foundation.
As missionaries, our work does not end when we leave Honduras, but begins when we return home and are called to throw open the doors of the church and to let Christ out. As the Pope reminded us earlier this month in Gaudete et Exultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), “We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.” (Gaudate et Exultate 14). It was in hearing this message at the conference, that I understood why I found myself in Pennsylvania.
(On a personal note, I had an opportunity to speak with Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras at the meeting. I conveyed to him our thanks for the opportunity to work with the Bishop Bonello and the Diocese of Juticalpa. He blessed us and ask that we pray in support of the important work he is doing at the behest of the Pope.)
Dr. Susan Nedza, Board Chair, Olancho Aid Foundation
 Villanova University, Mission and Ministry. Francis, a Voice Crying Out in the World: Mercy, Justice, Love, & Care for the Earth
 Words on Fire. Laudato Si’: On Care of our Common Home.
 Vatican publications. Gaudate et Exultate