‘Living Water’ for Kenya

| April 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

Local schools, parishes share resources and a spiritual connection with Kitui diocese

Fourth-grader Andrew VonEschen takes a first look at the Living Water calendar April 2. Each student was given a calendar and a water bottle in which to collect coins. Below, teacher Amy Hohenecker put together a bulletin board in her classroom to introduce her students to the program. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Fourth-grader Andrew VonEschen takes a first look at the Living Water calendar April 2. Each student was given a calendar and a water bottle in which to collect coins. Below, teacher Amy Hohenecker put together a bulletin board in her classroom to introduce her students to the program. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

“Why can’t we just send them some of our water?”

Amy Hohenecker was standing in front of her fourth-grade class at St. John School in Hopkins when the question came from the back of the room.

The class was discussing the differences between the United States and Kenya as they relate to water — its abundance in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and its scarcity in many parts of Africa.

Hohenecker and her students were preparing to participate in the Living Water program, a new initiative organized by the archdiocesan Center for Mission to build greater awareness about water issues facing the Diocese of Kitui, Kenya, while strengthening the faith partnership between the two dioceses.

The archdiocese has been in a global solidarity partnership with Kitui since 2004, and the focus of the partnership is the mutual sharing of faith, relationships and resources.

“The Living Water program is a two- to four-week Easter season experience where children and adults increase a sense of solidarity with others lacking water for physical and spiritual health and participate in increasing the water supply and water access in Kitui,” said Eric Simon, mission promotions manager for the Center for Mission.

As part of the program, participants receive an empty Living Water bottle in which to collect coins and a calendar with a different lesson, prayer or story for each day.

The money collected will be used to fund water projects in the most needy areas, Simon said. The water will also be used for baptisms.

“With limited access to water there, sometimes it has inhibited them from even being able to do baptisms,” said Mike Haasl, global solidarity coordinator for the Center for Mission.

Each participating parish and school in the archdiocese has been matched with a parish in the Kitui diocese to make the experience more personal for both adults and students.

“With the Living Water program, participants are learning about their brothers and sisters in Kenya through the calendar, they’re learning about how water affects faith there, they’re praying for them and being connected on a spiritual level,” Haasl said. “We have this connection and this faith unity with the people in Kitui, Kenya and I think we’re helping people here to really feel and embrace that connection.”

And that goes a longer way than trying to simply ship water, which would be costly and not solve the long-term problem of water shortages, Simon said.

Eight parishes and four schools are participating in the pilot program this year. “The plan is to launch it archdiocesan-wide next year and really engage all parishes and schools, anyone that wants to participate,” Haasl said.

Learning experience

Last fall, a delegation from Kitui visited the archdiocese, and St. Nicholas parish in Carver hosted one of the diocese’s priests, Father Charles Matia.

“We learned so much about the people of Kitui and their need for water in a very personal way.  Father Charles had so many great stories to share with us,”  said Jodee Korkowski, parish business administrator. “It was interesting to see his reaction to the land of 10,000 lakes, coming from such a dry part of the world.”

The parish had such a good response to the program that it ran out of water bottles and encouraged parishioners who wanted to help to use other containers.

“Many who visited with [Father Charles] wanted to do something to help our brothers and sisters in Kitui,” Kor­kowski said. “We have been anxiously awaiting the start of the Living Water program.”

In the classroom, Hohenecker has put up a display with information about the project and the calendar.

“We use the prayers and information on the Living Water calendar each day to discuss the project on a daily basis,” said Hohenecker, noting that the school has raised $334.92. “The kids are very much into this project.”

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