There are few more valuable gifts than knowledge and a good education. A ministry is truly a success when the people being served are able to help improve their own lives and build a future for themselves, their families and communities. That’s when we know the fire has been lit and will take on a life of its own, spreading much further than the original mission!
One of the most important ingredients for turning a developing country into a developed, prosperous one is an educated and well informed populace.
Sister Julia Shideler, M.M., has spent almost all of her ten years as a Maryknoll Sister working among the poor in the Southeast Asian country of East Timor. This small island country was a Portuguese colony for centuries. Then it was occupied by Indonesia for many years, leading to a devastating war that resulted in independence 16 years ago, but whose aftershocks are still being felt.
“I didn’t come to East Timor as a trained teacher,” Sister Julia writes. “I honestly had no idea what kind of work I would get involved with or what kind of society I would enter. I simply came with an open heart and a desire to draw close to local people in ways that would encourage, empower or help them to develop their own talents and potential.”
The Lord made it clear to her that teaching was where her ministry was, and Sister Julia answered the call. She has been teaching several different subjects, all of them vitally important to her students:
- Health and biology. Like most people in the developing world, the residents of East Timor are especially at risk from diseases like malaria, leprosy, Zika, and HIV/AIDS. Sister Julia’s classes and presentations emphasize a healthy lifestyle and treating one’s body responsibly. “Health promoters” are taught to bring their knowledge to the benefit of their families, friends, and communities.
- Geology. The information in this subject is important for farming and garden cultivation, as well as the environmental conservation vital to an area that depends heavily on agriculture.
- Religion and ethics. Sister Julia was recently asked to teach this subject at a local school. In addition, she runs the Maryknoll Youth Ministry Project in her area, to teach and discuss Catholic doctrine with an emphasis on Dominican spirituality.
Sister Julia also assists with the tuition of many of her students who have gone on to higher education. It is an ongoing process.
The generosity of friends like you has, over the past decade, enabled Sister Julia to meet most of her goals and to maintain and expand her education ministry—most recently by building new classroom space to ease the overcrowding. So many children wanting to learn!
More help is needed. Sister Julia hopes to build a Biology lab for the use of her students, as well as for the training of new teachers. There is a special need for microscopes. In addition, she has to provide most of the textbooks, workbooks and other materials that her students use. And, of course, her own personal upkeep and expenses are completely dependent on the generosity of our benefactors.
Your financial offering will have a much greater impact than you would expect! The nature of education is that it creates a “ripple effect”—a single person armed with knowledge and training can change entire communities, even whole nations.