An Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

Every person needs food, water, work, housing, school, and medical care. Those who do not have these are poor. Our Church teaches that these brothers and sisters must be treated with extra respect and extra care and given what they need. Those who are not poor must share what they have with the others.
Study Guides

December 2012
Based on "Defender of the Poor", Spirituality series

April 2012
(K-5) Based on "Children of Myanmar", Option for the Poor, Spirituality series

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012 

Based on "A Famous Good Reputation"
Related video: Maryknoll’s Father Thomas O’Brien leads local team helping the neediest in Vietnam. Produced by Sean Sprague.

November 2011

September 2011
Based on "Giving Them a Chance"

February 2011 
Based on "Beautiful Little Pumpkins"

December 2010 
(6-12) Based on "Answering the Call to Combat Trafficking"

January 2011 

November 2010 

September 2010 

April 2010 

March 2010 

February 2010 

November 2009 

May 2009
Based on "Haruma Means Compassion"

November 2008 


Related Activities

Activities based on "Saving the Rains of Africa"

Activities based on "The Good Samaritans of Oaxaca"
For 7-12
For K-6

Book Suggestion: 

"The Quiltmaker's Gift"
  • by Jeff Brumbeau, illustrated by Gail de Marchen, Scholastic Press
  • For grades K-4
  • This exquisitely illustrated fable cleverly introduces the importance of maintaining an option for the poor and vulnerable.

Supplemental Articles

  • July/August 2011, page 41
  • For all grades
  • Lay Missioner Larry Parr began a soccer program in a small community in El Salvador. It is called  Playing for Peace and its goal is to give kids an alternative to the gang culture in their area. A happy result was that  one of the teams, from one of the poorest parts of El Salvador, got to compete in an international tournament!

Liberation in Ecuador

  • July/August 2011, page 35
  • For grades 9-12
  • Sister Elsie Monge has spent years standing with the poor and oppressed. Prompted by her faith, she fought for human rights and teaching others how to do so too. This article should be used with only the most mature students as it speaks of torture, kidnappings, people forced from their lands, and other tragedies. Despite this, the article is hopeful, as progress has been made in Ecuador. It would be a helpful supplement to any study of human rights, or the history of Central America during the 1970's-80's.  Sister Elsie, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, and named "Woman of the Year" in Ecuador in 2005, is a study in herself.

Building the City of God

  • January/February 11, page 48
  • For grades 7-12
  • In an area of great poverty and high unemployment in Peru, Sister Margaret Rose Ibe works with the diocesan Human Dignity Commission. Its purpose, she says, is "to promote the dignity of the human person through the defense of their human rights." They work toward overall human development as a path towards human dignity. Volunteers play an enormous role in educating others about issues of children's and women's rights, ethics, values, labor rights, self-esteem and conflict resolution skills as well as legal assistance, etc. This article can lead to discussions or research on a variety of issues.

Dwelling in the Kingdom

  • October 2010, page 24
  •  For grades 7 and up
  • This interview with Lay Missioner Coralis Salvador is two-fold: it shows the creative ways she works with families affected by AIDS and the strength and ingenuity of the caregivers of the many orphans, as well as offers Salvador's wisdom on spirituality and mission.

Supplementary Articles continued

Saving the Rains of Africa
  • July/August 2008, page 30
  • For grades 4-12
  • This tells of the varied work of Fr. John Lange in both rural and urban Kenya. His main focus is on water availability. The article could lead to discussions on water usage and importance, tremendous poverty in slums, dignity of people and use of money. Note: the sidebar story, "Danger in a Day's Work" describes a violent incident.
Graduation in El Cedro
  • May/June 2009, page 38
  • For grades K-12
  • Lay Missioners Erick and Margaret Cambier work to offer learning opportunities to children and adults in El Salvador. This article helps readers think about education: how much do you value it if it difficult to get, what would you be willing to undertake to get an education, what might it mean to only finish 9th grade? For younger students, read the article before showing them the photos, then talk about the different challenges of the students in the articles.
Keeping Hope Alive
  • November 2008, page 16
  • For grades K-12, used in various ways
  • This short article is packed with information for exploring what is"an option for the poor and vulnerable", with an story on a person who was given these options is now making them available to others. It can easily be paraphrased for K-6.

Living What We've Learned, series of Catholic Social Teaching  
  • December 2008, page 34
  • For grades 6 and up
  • A short article that succinctly sums up different principles of Catholic Social Teachings with clear examples. This also shows the connection between CST and how national polices can be formed for the common good (along with prayer!)

 Learning from Anawim
  • March 2009, page 34
  • Grades 5-12
  • This short article is both a story and a call to prayer. Father Donald McQuade tells of an experience he had in the Philippines. When a family of subsistence farmers approached him because of the death of their child, he saw their great poverty, lack of resources and humble faith. He calls us to look radically at our own priorities and pray for guidance. Use this story to help students become aware of those with no resources and God's love for these anawim. Then invite your students to pray with you.

The Good Samaritans of Oaxaca
  • July/August 2009, page 36
  • For grades 7-12
  • For K-6, see Related Activities for a story based on this article
  • The Center for Migrant Orientation opened in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2003, a result of a joint pastoral letter of Mexican and United States Bishops calling for compassion for migrants. Situations of migrant people vary, as does the assistance offered to them, but compassion and care is similar to the Samaritan and the innkeeper of Luke 10:25-37.

Down from Paradise
  • September 2009, page 12
  • For grades 7-12
  • Former gang members from Honduras work with Father Thomas Goekler to establish a Catholic Worker House in an area of Guatemala City, where "poverty is not an option." Goekler speaks of systemic poverty and they all work to develop situations where people have opportunities to flourish. This offers discussion opportunities on poverty, justice, responsibility, as well as recognizing one's own values and choices.
From Magazine to Mission
  • November 2009, page 30
  • For grades 4-12
  • Victoria Iaconis and her fiance attended a Maryknoll Youth Day and got their picture on the cover of Maryknoll  Magazine. This led to a letter asking Victoria, a speech therapist, to spend two weeks in Nicaragua. Using her skills, Victoria helped many people and in turn had a life-changing experience. While she is not a student, her decision to  plunge into a mission situation as a young professional is reflective and challenging and can be inspirational to student

The Mission of Charity 
  • May/June 2010, page 18
  • For grades 6-12
  • For K-5,  go to "Five Minutes with Mission" for The Miracle Dog, a side story from "The Mission of Charity"
  • Saint Theresa Opportunity Center in Taiwan is a vibrant place for people with disabilities, from infancy to adulthood. Director Mei-Hua Yang (also named Charity) is enthusiastic about her work and credits Father Brendan O'Connell with bringing the concept of inclusivity and special education to Taiwan.

Feeling the Earth Beneath His Feet

  • September 2010, page 24
  • For grades 7-12
  • Father Thomas Burns' commitment to mission and social justice has led him down a harrowing path at times. When Peru was wracked by violence in the 1980's and 1990's, he survived threats to his safety and later post traumatic stress disorder. His passionate struggles for justice have resulted in great accomplishments. He continues to try "to create a world where people live together as one."

  • October 2010, page 38
  • For grades K-12
  • Maryknoll Affiliate Ann Coady had a Peace Corps experience as a young adult. She always planned to go back, but her life kept her in the United States. Still mission work continually "found" her in ways she could never have anticipated and in numerous and varied situations. Use this to talk about the ways people use their skills to reach out to others, and to look into needs of people nearby.

Climate Justice for All
  • January 2010, page12
  • For grades 6-12
  • At a United Nations summit on climate change in 2009, Catholic lay and religious leaders advocated for poor and vulnerable people. Information in this article will open discussions on what are individual and group responsibilities in caring for the earth, views of religious people from varying parts of the world, what kind of numbers of people have already been affected by climate change disasters. Encourage research about what kinds of work religious organizations are currently doing on care for creation.
  • See Maryknoll Office for Global Concern.