HOPE AND PERSEVERANCE
By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
Hope and perseverance.
Those are two qualities often found in those who work with peace and justice issues, said Bernadette Rixner, who is chair of the peace and justice committee at Blessed Sacrament Church in Sioux City and a member of the Diocesan Peace and Justice Commission. She found those same qualities to be evident in the Catholic Relief Services training she participated in March 21-23.
“The presenters were grounded with how things work and realities. With peace and justice people, two of their gifts are perseverance and hope,” Rixner said. “Hope was a very big part of what they do. They hope the work they do will have some effect. They hope for better situations for everyone and they do whatever they can to make that happen.”
With this training held in Chicago, Rixner became a Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade Ambassador.
Spread the word
The training was intended for experienced volunteers who encourage others in their parishes, workplaces and community to act in global solidarity, participate in fair trade marketplace and other programs of CRS.
Rixner had been invited to take part in this training by Teresa Dunbar, CRS Midwest relationships manager.
Dunbar had given a presentation last fall at Clergy Day and because Rixner was already organizing many CRS activities at her parish, she was urged by the diocese to connect with the CRS worker.
Given she is so passionate about this work, one of the reasons Rixner agreed to become an ambassador “was I wanted to make what I do more effective in the diocese.”
Rixner has been involved with peace and justice for many years at Blessed Sacrament. In fact, she helped coordinate a CRS fair trade craft sale in her parish, formerly known as Work of Human Hands Craft Sale, the very first year they were offered nearly 20 years ago.
“We have done it every year except for one,” she noted. “We have also been offering a fair trade coffee every other month at Blessed Sacrament where we sell fair trade coffee, tea and chocolates. The chocolates really sell – although I do have a hazelnut cream coffee I can’t keep on the shelf.”
In addition, Rixner said CRS partners with 17 other groups such as Equal Exchange. A percentage of those sales go to CRS, which is the official international humanitarian agency of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops.
Along with fair trade projects, Rixner and Blessed Sacrament are involved with other CRS projects such as Lenten rice bowls and Catholics Confront Global Poverty (CCGP).
The ambassador training sessions ranged from background information about the programs to tips on making them work.
“They had two ambassadors who had previously gone through the training and are now working in the field. They were one of the highlights because they talked about how they did it and what did and didn’t work,” Rixner said.
One of the most interesting parts for her came on the second day of the training when meetings were held at the Serrv headquarters, the agency that supplies most of the fair trade products such as crafts and coffee.
“They supply them to CRS and other organizations,” she explained. “There are an incredible number of volunteers who process items when they come in – sorting, bagging and tagging. It was good to see how it works.”
Rixner said another session explained the fair trade marketing and distribution process. Along with valued information, she added, they were allowed to shop at Serrv and she picked up many items for her parish’s Christmas craft sale in the fall.
“She talked about what was and wasn’t effective,” said Rixner, who noted the speaker stressed the importance of continually getting the word out to legislators. “She did say Congress is very aware that when Catholics get mobilized, they are very serious about it.”
The speaker also gave stats about the effectiveness of emails versus written letters. Rixner learned that emails can be just as effective as long as canned forms are modified and personalized even slightly.
There were 24 people who participated in the ambassador training. Some of the requirements of being an ambassador include creating an action plan, participating in quarterly webinars and submitting monthly journals.
Rixner is now one of about 170 ambassadors in the country who help promote CRS programming and advocacy in their parish and/or diocese.
“One of the things I hope to get from the ambassadorship is that I want people from the diocese to know that I am here. I have information, I have experience and I would be happy to talk to them about the programs,” Rixner said.
If parishes or individuals want more information about starting CRS programs or other peace and justice projects in their own parishes, Rixner said she would love to serve as a resource for them. You can contact her by phone at (712) 258-7855 or email at email@example.com. There is information on online at www.scdiocese.org/peaceandjustice.
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