The following are the welcome comments from Dr. James P. Keane, IPM International Executive Board Chair, at IPM’s 45th Anniversary Celebration in Saint Louis, MO, USA, May 10, 2019.
IPM 45thAnniversary Luncheon
Welcome by Dr. James Keane, International Executive Board Chair
May 10, 2019
Good afternoon everyone! I am Dr. James Keane, Chair of the IPM International Executive Board and I am thrilled to be here in St. Louis with all of you to celebrate the 45thanniversary of IPM!
I’m a graduate of Yale Divinity School and hold a doctorate from Marquette University in systematic theology.
My academic work—surprise, surprise!–has focused on the writings of Gustavo Gutiérrez, the founder of Latin American liberation theology.
And I mention this because the central insight of Gustavo Gutiérrez is that “solidarity” and “partnership” that bridges religious, cultural, economic and geographic divides is what forms authentic human beings and vibrant, vital communities.
And this insight is at the heart of IPM.
IPM connects North and South, East and West, the haves and the have nots, the Christians and those of other faiths. Sure, IPM is about micro-loans and innovative partner projects and programs for women and children in some of the poorest corners of the world…but its essence is relationality and our common humanity.
Its message is that we are stronger together than apart.
Today we want to pause and remember the valuable contributions of the Lutheran Missionaries, the Reverend Jim Mayer and the Reverend Paul Strege, upon whose shoulders IPM is built. And we also want to graciously applaud their families for helping us to keep alive the empowering vision of IPM, the vision of a future steeped in hope and rooted in love.
And we need that vision now more than ever.
Our world is brailing its way through darkness, looking for a beacon to remind itself of humanity’s higher purpose and I firmly believe that IPM is one of those beacons.
It points the way.
IPM reminds us that when we step outside of our “selves,” towards the other, when we embrace the sufferings of our neighbors in need and make their suffering our suffering, when thathappens—we each grow in empathy and become the people we were made to be.
This week, our world lost an extraordinary example of this same principle. Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities in Canada died from cancer at the age of 90.
In his mid-30s, Jeane Vanier began visiting French asylums. He found scenes typical of mental institutions of his time: a “chaotic atmosphere of violence and uproar.” Patients restrained in shackles, some just walked in circles. The screams of the patients were deafening and filled Vanier with revulsion.
However, Vanier overcame his horror and revulsion and discovered, instead, a profound affinity for people with intellectual challenges and came to see them as a “source of life and truth, if we welcome them… and put ourselves at their service.”
His idea was one of inclusion, to treat the intellectually challenged not as the objects of charity, but rather as friends and even teachers. He founded communities in which people with disabilities lived alongside people those without in a spirit of mutual respect and care.
Doesn’t this sound familiar?
Doesn’t it sound like one of Joe Cistone’s letters? Or something Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King would have said? Doesn’t this sound like accompaniment? Like solidarity?
Like…brotherhood and sisterhood?
And does it not sound like something that each of us in this room knows to be true? Community helps build authentic human beings, people who know who they are and where they stand. Community generates love, understanding, support….and hope.
So, again, welcome everyone to this wonderful community born some 45 years ago!
Let’s use this time to celebrate our past, honor the memories of our founders, cherish the efforts of their families and begin to imagine, with resolve –and the same kind of audacity and courage used by Jim and Paul—the next forty-five years of IPM.