whatever you did for one of these least… of mine, you did (it) for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
According to Fr. Roger Plante, M.S., he and Fr. Joe Gosselin, M.S., are “traveling preachers” for the lay Catholic foundation, Unbound, when someone has sponsored one person through this organization, that benefactor actually “did for five of these least brothers of mine.” The reason for this fivefold factor? It’s because the sponsored person typically has several immediate family members who also benefit from the relationship.
Reach Out and Touch
Using that formula, Fr. Roger calculates that, since its founding, Unbound has accumulated 808,125 sponsors. Therefore, Unbound has affected the lives of over four million people in places like Uganda, Madagascar, Honduras, India, the Philippines, plus 16 other countries.
Nineteen years as an itinerant advocate for Unbound have resulted in Fr. Roger alone giving 359 parish presentations, contacting 22,875 sponsors and touching well over 100,000 lives. In 2013, Unbound, which is highly rated and recognized by third party organizations that evaluate charities, provided $100+ million for program support to sponsored friends at a direct assistance rate of 93%.
Each Give to the Other
Additionally, the financial commitment on the donor side, is enhanced and complemented by an obligation on the receiving end. For example, mothers must attend mothers’ groups, workshops on nutrition, as well as dental and medical clinics. Similarly, children need to succeed in their educational efforts. Likewise, families have to start a savings account (matched by Unbound), and seek livelihood initiatives.
Like most La Salette Missionaries, Fr. Roger has traveled the world, starting from his native state of Maine and his New Hampshire boyhood home where he subsequently entered the seminary there in Enfield; to Rome, Italy, for theology studies; and, later, to LaSalette, France, where he spent several summers as an international chaplain. Most recently, El Salvador is home to his latest project.
St. Ann-Santa Ana Sister Project
This endeavor, termed the St. Ann-Santa Ana Sister Project, is a unique ministry that Fr. Roger, together with parishioner, Steve Flaim, initiated and proposed to Fr. Tom Reilly, M.S., Pastor of the Catholic Church of St. Ann in Marietta, Georgia. The purpose was to try to match St. Ann’s directly with a Central America sister community, which had special needs beyond individual sponsorships.
So, with Fr. Tom’s blessing, Fr. Roger turned to the St. Ann Parish, where he currently serves as a senior priest in residence, to ask for special donations to fund such larger projects not covered by regular sponsorships. For example, the St. Ann-Santa Ana Sister Project encompasses scholarships, business loans, disaster assistance, environmental endeavors and even housing. St. Ann parishioners have responded with nearly $60,000 in commitments, in addition to their 600+ previously sponsored children, youth and elderly.
La Salette Religious and Laity Ministering on the Fringe of Society
Fr. Roger’s pace of travel these days, however, is limited to two trips for Unbound per month during the year to parishes throughout the United States. Nevertheless, the amiable, hard-working organizer continues his passion to help those on the “fringes of society” as Pope Francis urges.
Unbound offers a unique opportunity for current or potential sponsors to take affordable “Awareness Trips” to the various project countries. These journeys of discovery let contributors meet their sponsored friend(s) and witness how Unbound works with families to improve their daily lives. People who take these trips also get to meet with Unbound staff, some of whom were once sponsored. The overall experience gives the visitor a unique perspective of the culture, local traditions, resourcefulness and innovation of the people in the community.
For more information about these trips or how to arrange for one of Unbound’s 30 preachers to make a presentation at your parish, go to http://www.Unbound.org.
John Tabellione is a freelance writer and member of the Catholic Church of St. Ann in Marietta, GA, a La Salette parish, and is a sometimes golf partner of Fr. Roger Plante, M.S.