Friday, September 30, 2011

Bread for the World Took Root in New Orleans at Loyola University

Click on image to enlarge (this photo comes from Loyola Wolf yearbook)
It was the mid- to late 1970s and Bread for the World was still a very young organization.  Students at many college campuses around the country had embraced this new opportunity offered by Bread to address hunger through the use of our citizenship.  College students understood that this new concept was not a substitute for direct efforts to feed people; it was a complement.

At my alma mater, Loyola University in New Orleans, Bread for the World took root through a great group called the Loyola University Community Action Program (LUCAP), which to this day has endured as a strong option for social justice and service fat the university.

As a student, I participated in many LUCAP activities, but I must confess that I didn't jump into Bread for the World efforts at that time.  Still, the name of the organization became embedded in my memory and set the stage for me to eventually become involved.  It wasn't until the early 1980s, when I moved to Kansas City, that I became involved with Bread.  Regardless, I am proud to have been part of a student service organization that embraced Bread in its early days.

Since I wasn't initially involved, I contacted a couple of people who were part of the early LUCAP/Bread relationship: Sister Jane Remson, currently director of New Orleans Bread for the World, and Eddie Fernandez, S.J., now Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Ministry, at the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara.

According to Sister Jane, LUCAP took on Bread for the World and anti-hunger advocacy as one of its projects through the 1990s. "The director of LUCAP was a member of our local BFW board of directors,"she said.

There was a strong endorsement from Washington for campus activities and Loyola was one university that got involved early on. "Art Simon was very supportive of student involvement in BFW," said Sister Jane, who noted that Bread, LUCAP and Xavier University in New Orleans teamed up to send several students to Washington, D.C. for BFW national gatherings.  "One of the earliest conferences attended by students was held at Catholic University and Tony Hall was one of the main speakers along with the director of UNICEF," she said.

A Campus Conference on World Hunger
Eddie Fernandez (who is pictured to my right in the photograph above), said one event that LUCAP participants in Bread for the World sponsored early on was a type of hunger banquet--an exercise that allows participants to appreciate the disparities between the small percentage of the population that is wealthy and the vast majority, who are poor. And there is a small group in the middle.  "We got certain tokens which represented how much buying power we had in the world," said Eddie.  "It was quite a lesson in how some first world countries had so much and third world ones so little."

Another major project sponsored on campus by LUCAP and Bread for the World was a joint conference on world hunger.  The academic community is a natural venue to continue the conversation and empower students and faculty to discuss solutions to global hunger and poverty. Many campuses are involved in this effort through Universities Fighting World Hunger.

There was a more recent relationship between LUCAP and Bread.  One of the participants in Bread's  first-ever Hunger Justice Leaders program in 2008 was Chad Carson, who was very much involved with LUCAP. Chad now works for the St. Bernard Project, an organization that has been rebuilding homes in New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Continued support from Loyola 
Even though the strong link between LUCAP and Bread was lost in the 1990s, Loyola University as an institution has supported Bread for the World in a big way since the 1970s. The Twomey Institute at Loyola is a major sponsor of New Orleans Bread for the World, which Sister Jane Remson has made a strong vehicle for legislative advocacy, witness, and direct assistance in New Orleans.  The annual Walk for the Hungry has been a fixture in that community for many years.

And there is another connection between Bread and Loyola. Father Bill Byron, who was Dean of Arts and Sciences at the university in the 1970s, was one of the faith leaders who collaborated with Art Simon to create Bread for the World in 1974. 

So we take this opportunity to salute the strong history between Bread and Loyola, and Bread's enduring presence in New Orleans, which is just like those live oaks at City Park.

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