God Lives There

October 15, 2012
God Lives There

A leadership coach and members of her parish in Kansas find meaning in supporting Marianist ministries in India — ones that provide much-needed services to those living in extreme poverty.

By John Schroeder

As a leadership development coach, Marceta Reilly pours her professional skill and energy into helping people reach their full potential. That same passion for nurturing the human spirit may be one reason she was drawn to REDS (Ragpickers Education & Development Scheme), a Marianist ministry in India that serves the country’s neediest families. It’s a program that the Marianists have been running for the past 20 years, and one that her brother, Marianist Father David Fleming, has long championed.

“I love REDS’ holistic approach of involving the whole family,” says Reilly. “The country has no official support system to help people rise above the crushing poverty. REDS changes that dynamic by teaching preschoolers the language skills they need to succeed in school, by helping mothers learn about nutrition and home economics, and by training young men in construction, tailoring and other trades. It’s a powerful model.”

Even before Reilly learned about REDS, she and her husband, Larry, had supported the Marianists’ ministries in India for more than a decade. But something stirred in her when they visited the country for the first time in 1989.

“It was wonderful getting to know the young men who were studying to become Marianists,” she recalls. “It’s illegal to try to convert anyone in India — and I think that’s why Marianist spirituality works so well there. They lead by example, and they’re accepting of the religious traditions they find among their students.”

Eight years later, Reilly teamed with her brother to create an even deeper immersion experience. “I asked David if I could do a mission trip, thinking I’d work in a soup kitchen,” she recalls. “He said he had a better idea. He invited me to present leadership workshops for the staff and students at several Marianist communities.”

That discussion led to a three-week trip during which she and two colleagues conducted training sessions in Bangalore, Ranchi and Deepahalli.

“The idea was to provide enrichment experiences for them, but it also became an enriching experience for me,” she says. “It was moving to meet people living in such extreme poverty and yet witness their resilience, joy and tenacity.”

After returning from that 2009 trip, Reilly decided to share the good news of REDS with her worship community at St. Dominic Parish in Holton, Kan. The 300-family parish agreed to make REDS an official mission — and now contributes at least $1,200 annually to support Marianist ministries in India.

“It’s humbling to play a part — even a small one — in supporting such a wonderful program, because the people you meet in India simply exude holiness,” she says. “You get a real sense that God lives there.”

John Schroeder is a freelance writer from St. Louis.

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