Fostering Peacemakers of Our Time – Isaiah 43

Published in our 2014 Annual Report.

A group of adults and kids stand in a circle in the St. David Parish Hall in the Lower 9th Ward. They are instructed to grab the hand of someone they are not standing next to, until their arms end up criss-crossed across the center of the circle. “Now, it’s your job to get untangled without letting go of the  hand you’re holding!” Sr. Salvatrice Murphy, Assistant Program Director of Isaiah 43 Parenting and Mentoring Program,  instructs the group. Laughter and a flurry of discussion erupt as the group attempts to untangle themselves. Eventually, they realize it’s only by working cooperatively and listening to one another that they are able to unravel the circle again. The group gives each other a round of applause after getting untangled.

The group is gathered for a mentoring workshop with Isaiah 43 Parenting and Mentoring Program. These small lessons are at the heart of Isaiah 43 which strives to engage our youth and provide support for parents to foster future peace makers of our time. Each month, volunteer mentors and mentees come together for an evening of fun and fellowship in addition to one-on-one activities and outings between mentor and mentee pairs.  Among this group are mentor Monica Alicino and her mentee partner, Jyra Phillips, 14. Monica and Jyra have been paired together for a year through Isaiah 43.

There is a need for a program like this in New Orleans and the Catholic Church wants to be involved in stemming the violence in any way possible,” Monica said. “By having kids be more involved in something other than street life makes a big difference.

“My favorite thing about working with Monica is the one-on-one activities,” said Jyra, who is one of ten brothers and sisters. Monica, who came from a family of 11 brothers and sisters, can relate.

“It’s great this program allows us to give attention to one instead of always something in a group,” said Monica. “I have a lot of favorite things about working with Jyra,” Monica said, “I always try to find something we can learn on our various outings.” Some of their favorite outings have included a visit to view the art exhibits at the New Orleans Healing Center and going to the movies.

Isaiah 43 programming is now in about a dozen parishes throughout the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In addition to mentoring, Isaiah 43 also hosts parenting workshops where parents and caregivers of young children can improve their communication skills, learn non-violent discipline techniques and also just find support in one another. In providing these resources and support for both parents and our youth, this program strives to counteract the culture of crime and violence in our city. Since it was launched in 2011, the participation in this program has doubled. Isaiah 43 continues to expand to other parishes and neighborhoods.