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Casa Don Bosco Serves Immigrant Teens

John Bosco was born August 16, 1815. From as early as nine years of age he had a sense of his vocation: to be a friend to youth and to emanate
 the Love of Christ such that many young people would want to receive
 this gracious Love. Through many trials of misunderstanding and
 political jealousies, as well as varicose veins and spinal pain, John
 “Don” Bosco remained joyful, almost playful, in performing the work Our Lady asked him to do.

It is in the spirit of this determined and humble servant of Jesus that
 Casa Don Bosco is founded. It is a home for Spanish-speaking immigrant boys, ages 12-18. The need for such a house is born out of the  alternative “opportunities” that await these immigrant children in the 
Land of Opportunity. They, just as the older immigrants, come to make 
money to support their families to the South. However, they are often 
too slight of frame or not skilled enough to do the hard manual labor
 that older immigrants do. Most often the easiest way for the kids to
 make money is to prostitute themselves to older, affluent men in nice
 cars or to sell drugs, or both. Clearly, a place such as Casa don
 Bosco, where the principal mission is that these young people feel loved
 as Jesus taught us to love, provides a better alternative for immigrant

Given the colorful diversity of personalities that have already crossed 
the threshold, one is challenged to find practical means to foster
 Christ’s love here. As the committed steward of the house, I hope to
 facilitate this through a combination of work, play, Gospel reflection 
and prayer; all of which is done in the spirit of Catholic Worker
 values. We begin with the truth that God is our Creator who loves each 
of us specially, no matter what! We give thanks to God by sharing in 
the work he has created us capable of doing. This includes house
 chores, fixing up the chapel, and constructing a garden. We also play
 soccer or swim in the public pool with the same grateful vigor.
 Additionally, we approach conflict resolution with Jesus’s example of
 ultimate forgiveness as the ideal–for adolescent boys from different
 countries and family backgrounds this is a slow and worthwhile learning
 process (I’m learning a lot, too!). Finally, Casa Don Bosco is rooted 
in living out the values of voluntary poverty, hospitality, and pacifism
 as proclaimed by Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day, a constant and welcome challenge.

The house and its residents are a part of the Houston Catholic Worker
 family. Mark and Louise Zwick, who have bound their lived to Jesus’s 
message of service (see Mt. 25:31ff), have, as stewards of the
 generosity of all who give to the Houston Catholic Worker, pledged
 spiritual, material, and financial support to Casa Don Bosco. In
 addition, many friends and family members gave hours of meticulous work to have the house ready by August 25 when the first residents were

Here is an introduction to a few of the boys. Simon, 13, is from
 Honduras. he had to quit school after third grade in order to help
 support himself and his family members. He has sold newspapers, cared
 for farm animals, and sweated in sugarcane fields for the last four 
years. Presently he is in school and loving it! We all enjoy his gift
 for rhyming and telling jokes. Jeremias, 15, is also from Honduras. He
 never knew his father. He had to quit computer tech school only one
 year after beginning because there was no money available to continue
 his studies. He hopes to learn English here, and to make the money 
needed for his mother to build a cement block house. He, like no one
 else in this house, has the gift of uninhibited gab. Jose, 17, is from
 Guatemala. He came to the U.S. for fear of his life. His parents, both 
afflicted with a debilitating disease, are unable to hold a steady job. 
Jose supports them and his younger siblings, whom Jose hopes will all
 graduate from secondary school. He is gifted with a wisdom beyond his 
years and a sense of wonder that positively affects all the other boys 
in the house.

Please pray for us as we pray for all who read this.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XVI, No. 6, November 1996