Bringing the Edmundite Missions to Greenwich 

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Mr. Joseph O’Quinn, Director of Development and Special Assistant to the President of the Edmundite Missions, visited Sacred Heart Greenwich Thursday, April 18.  Throughout the day, he spoke to Upper School students in the Senior Seminar forum and junior Ethics classes about the Edumundite Missions’ work and the struggles the people in Selma, Alabama face. 
Students and faculty who participated in the eight-day Civil Rights Pilgrimage this March visited the Edmundite Missions in Selma, Alabama, where they met Mr. O’Quinn.  He chose to visit Sacred Heart while he was in the area this month to spread awareness and raise funds for the mission.

During his visit, Mr. O’Quinn discussed the work of the Edmundite Missions with the Senior Seminar class. Caroline Baranello ’20

The Edmundite Missions is a Catholic organization that provides food, clothing, and shelter to the poor and marginalized in the Deep South.  The corporal mercies found in the Gospel of Matthew guides their goal to help end the systematic poverty in the area.  The organization bases their work on their motto, “Do the best we can, with what little we have, to serve those most in need,” according to edmunditemissions.org.  
Mr. O’Quinn has been a part of the Edmundite Missions since 2011 and works with the president, communicates with donors, and coordinates special projects and events for the organization.
During his visit to Sacred Heart, Mr. O’Quinn spoke to Senior Seminar students about the intersection of race, poverty, and geography in Alabama.  He also discussed the work that the Edmundite Missions does and its relation to Catholic Social Teaching.  Many seniors, including Lorraine Rinaldi, appreciated learning about the Edmundite Missions and the issues in some southern cities.

  
“Mr. O’Quinn informed us of the harsh realities that exist in Selma, Alabama including mass amounts of poverty, homeless children without government help, and the virtually racially segregated towns and schools due to racist policies and private schools,” Lorraine said.  “He inspired us to use our faith and resources provided to us to help bring change and make the US as a whole a more equal and accepting home for all.”

Mr. O’Quinn also visited Ethics classes to conduct class discussions. He spoke about the social context of the Edmundite Missions, which began in 1937.  Initially, the Missions offered job training programs and a nutrition center, both of which helped relieve the extreme poverty of many local African-Americans. Today, Edmundite Missions provides a number of services including soup kitchens, temporary shelter, clothing, medical services, education for both children and adults, and programs to support the elderly members of the community, according to edmunditemissions.org

The population in Selma has been declining over the past few years. Courtesy of worldpopulationreview.com

Mr. O’Quinn also discussed the difficulties that Selma faces due to population decline.  Selma’s population has been decreasing since 2011, according to worldpopulationreview.com.  This puts Selma’s economy in danger, especially since many people living in the city often hold multiple jobs.  Furthermore, those who move are usually educated and leave seeking entrepreneurial opportunities.
“When one person leaves Selma, three jobs are being abandoned,” Mr. O’Quinn said.  

Mr. O’Quinn spoke to 11th-grade Ethics classes about the current issues in Selma, Alabama. Christine Guido ’20

In Selma, 38.3 percent of people are living in poverty, according to census.gov.  Mr. O’Quinn also pointed out that employment rates in the city are very low.  Workers are systematically laid-off, and the Edmundite Missions focuses many of their efforts on helping them, according to wsfa.com.  

Another issue that Mr. O’Quinn spoke about was that the city still remains strictly segregated in the educational, social, and economic sectors. Government-funded public schools are of low quality, while private schools, which provide better education, are significantly more exclusive and expensive. This condition makes it more difficult for African-American people to escape the cycle of poverty

“Mr. O’Quinn’s presentation was incredibly eye-opening for me, as I came to realize how pertinent the issues of racism and segregation still are in our country today,” Mae Harkins ’20 said.  “I was deeply saddened to learn this, but at the same time I was grateful to be made aware of this major issue so that I can work for change.”

 

Featured Image by Sydney Kim ’20