“I personally experienced these trips alongside Protestants, Jews, Hindus, deists, agnostics, atheists and others. I find it hard to believe that an Inuit leading a trip the Arctic that partakes in religious practices and spiritual traditions of their own would be criticized half as much as the SEA trips have been, and that is truly a shame.”
Br. Raoul Masseur, a consecrated layman and Catholic chaplain at the University of Brock, oversees the trips to Peru, where students primarily work in Lima and Cuzco. They have also rebuilt a school destroyed in the 2007 earthquake in the southern Peruvian town of Chincha.
“On each trip we develop projects in health care, education, care of the environment and construction. The purpose is for young people to develop their university careers in service to those most in need,” said Br. Masseur, who is a member of the Christian Life Movement.
He credits the program with helping more than 100,000 Peruvians through preschool centers, schools, medical outposts, health and educational campaigns, libraries for children and other projects.
Rachelle Demetriades, a registered nurse and a non-Catholic who went through the program, rejected accusations of religious pressure. She said that the topic of spirituality is “often addressed and discussed throughout the trips.”
Br. Raoul and members of his community dialogue on topics ranging from poverty to their own spiritual journeys and provided a forum for discussions that allowed all participants – regardless of their religious views – to share their own experiences and beliefs, Demetriades said.
Participants who declined to participate in religious experiences faced no judgment or stigma, she reported.
CNA contacted Isla for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.
The Catholic News Agency (CNA) Staff are a team of journalists dedicated to reporting news concerning the Catholic Church around the world. Our bureaus are located in Denver, Washington, and Rome. We have sister language agencies in Kenya, Germany, Peru, Brazil, and Italy. CNA is a service of EWTN News. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.