First, let me introduce myself. My name is Scott Wright, and I am the new director of the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach (CCAO). I welcome the opportunity to invite people to respond to the call to mission through our internship, volunteer, and short-term mission programs, and to bear witness to the transformative power of God’s love in people’s lives through participation in the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) ministry.
Truly we are called to mission by our baptism, and nurtured in that call by our family and faith communities. In my own life, I experienced that call most personally in 1968, with the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the dramatic events that unfolded during those turbulent years. During that time the voluntary poverty and pacifism of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker, as well as the experience of living in community with return missionaries and exiles from Latin America, formed my conscience and nurtured a call to mission that has marked my life ever since. In 1979, I was formally received into the Catholic Church.
In 1980, I experienced the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and later the four U.S. church women, as another invitation to mission. From 1981 – 1989, I was affiliated with Caritas-Honduras and later with the Archdiocese of San Salvador to work as a lay missionary, first with Salvadoran refugees on the border with Honduras, and then with displaced communities in the rural areas and conflict zones of El Salvador. That was my first direct experience of war, and profoundly shaped my conviction that war truly is “a defeat for humanity.” There “the church of the poor and a poor church” about which Pope Francis speaks came alive in the prophetic witness of the martyrs, including Archbishop Oscar Romero.
Since returning home in 1990, I have spent much of my time working for faith-based organizations and in solidarity with multi-cultural communities in their struggles for justice and peace, helping to develop and implement programs that both serve and support refugees and immigrants, survivors of torture and victims of war, and poor communities at home and abroad. Recently, on a visit to the U.S. – Mexico border, I witnessed the work of Columbans on the border, and the opportunities that delegations have to experience and reflect on their faith in light of the border reality. Truly the call to mission comes from the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth, and Columbans embody for me a faithful witness to the Gospel call to justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.
The Gospel calls us to transform lives – beginning with our own – and to transform structures so that they more faithfully embody the values of the Gospel and the Kingdom – that “beloved community” and “communion of saints” to which we are all called to bear witness and to bear fruit. I look forward with hope and gratitude to answering with you the invitation to mission.
Director, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach