What if Love Really Does Win?

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What if Love Really Does Win?

By Jackson Curreri

Ask anyone close to me my family, my friends etc. about my views of the American church and you will come to find out that I am as cynical as can be. Why so cynical? Well that is a long and complicated answer, but in short I am fed up with the politicized evangelical Christianity which has made its job not to sacrifice for others in love as Jesus did, but rather to lay judgment on others through the sword. By sword I simply mean the use of violence on those with whom we view as a threat to our righteous way of life. This includes, but is not limited to, passing laws against certain “unrighteous” groups of people, waging war against perceived enemies of our nation, and refusing to share our resources with those in need because of some perceived sin they have committed. 

To be clear, I am a part of this communal sin of the church community myself. I am certainly not as giving with my money as I should. And at times, I have been made aware of my own hypocritical self-righteous attitude wherein I judge others for their tendency to judge. But my cynical distaste for American Christianity lies not in the fact that church is so filled with hate and judgment, but in its failure to recognize this hate and judgment as the wrong in any way. Instead, this kind of judgment in many circles is celebrated as a necessary means to bring Christian values back to this nation and to the world. One only need begin looking into the attitudes and practices of Christian schools, festivals, and other institutions to begin to understand what I am talking about.    

But my internship experience has changed everything about how I view the future of the American church. During this internship, I worked with and for amazing Christians who have dedicated their lives to helping those who are in need. I particularly was inspired by the loving service of my fellow interns whom I am honored to have worked with for six weeks. Together we experienced so many amazing things. From serving food at Cityteam in Chester, to leading a church service at a prison, to simply spending time interacting with the local immigrant community in South Philly; this internship was a life changing experience for me. 

I see now that the church is not without hope, and that there are groups all over who are dedicated to showing Christ’s love. And as I spent time learning from the leaders and volunteers of these dedicated groups, I began to get a clearer picture of how I can work to contribute to the building of God’s kingdom. I began to see just how much growing I need to do in order to be ready to use my talents for this kind of work. But at the same time I got a better picture of just what those talents are and how they can be used. 

One example that comes to mind is how my experiences at My Brother’s House. My Brother’s house is a safe-haven for men who need a place to stay as they work towards permanent housing. During my time there, I worked directly with many of the men, learning their stories and helping the staff with different projects. From this experience I learned that my biggest weakness is fear of rejection. I often found myself afraid to approach certain men in the house either because they intimidated me, or because they seemed not to be interested in conversation. But as I spent time there, I noticed that in most cases my fears rang hollow. Other interns and volunteers approached these men and I watched on as they reacted with warmth and kindness. As such, I spent time during my internship working on my internship skills with MBH’s director Larry. 

On the flip side, I also found areas where my skills could greatly contribute to MBH’s mission. For example, when I learned that it costs $120 to complete a G.E.D. degree, I was outraged! How are people who have no jobs going to be able afford this test? I believe that this is an area where my gifts could be put to use. What is needed is a movement to address this kind of injustice which keeps the poorest in our society from receiving the basic education they need to improve their situations.  What we need is direct action on behalf of church communities and grassroots organizations to address these problems. I believe that I have a unique ability to convince others of the injustice of certain practices in our society. And I believe that I can be a part of mobilizing church communities to meet the needs of these people who have been robbed by the system. 

That was just one small example of what I learned during my time as an intern with Liberti Church. But I hope it gives you a clearer picture of just how much of an impact this internship has had on my life. As for all those in the Liberti community who made this internship possible, thank you for restoring my hope in the American Church. 

Jackson grew up in Perry Hall, Maryland which is near Baltimore. He played the clarinet and guitar in high school, and is currently studying Theology at Eastern University, and might double major in Sociology. He participates in several campus ministries including a homeless ministry and concert band, and is the treasurer for the Eastern Theological society. In his free time, Jackson enjoys making music with his friends and am a member of an amateur band known as the Fridge Magnetiers and the Jackson Curator. He is very excited about this opportunity to serve the Philadelphia community. 

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The Liberti Internship in Pictures

By Dan Tornetta
July 7, 2014

What’s a better way to start a blog out than with the location? Here we have the city of Philly summarized in three iconic images: The love statue, the water fountain, and the newly built Comcast building. For the record I have no clue who is posing under the statue. This is also the lock screen on my iphone. Now that you know everything about me lets venture forth!

A Bridge. At dusk. 

Dan Pic 3.jpg

To the left is me. To the right is Mrs. Seeger. We went to her house with the Philadelphia Project to assist in cleanup. The better word is remodel, because Mrs. Seeger tends to keep all items she encounters on a day in day out basis. She’s a chatty Cathy if you mention poetry, roses, birds, Edgar Allen Poe, and my favorite topic: Being a nudist. My summarization of the adventure: “She ain’t up for no small talk c’mon now!”

Everybody knows Mr. T. Well, here’s my new all-star from Cityteam. His name is Big T: Nickname origination and explanation? Big T = Big Teamplayer. And that's what you got right a here. A valuable asset to the grind, aka Cityteam, down in Chester. He’s my boy and I love him just about equal with how much I love Hoagie Day at Wawa.

Here we have Liberti’s own intern, Matthew Kaehler. I implore you to ask him questions that include but are not limited to: Biodiversity or Villanova. To the right of Matt is the game we decided to play. It’s called Falling Food. It ends when we either

A) Move the mess to another room for somebody else

            Or

B) Matt is buried alive by removing the wrong bag of food

Everyone in the internship and everyone one of these people have influenced and affected me in so many positive ways. Here we have the celebration of Vito Baldini

(Dead center with the killer smile) Becoming The Great Baldini. On the right, in the red sox shirt, is Jackson. Ask him about Divine Providence or disagree with anything he says. Daniel, beside Jackson, can hold a conversation in about any topic but prefers nature and more specifically animals. I’m next. Ask me about that face I’m making. I talked about Vito already so I’m skipping him and moving on to Courtney who is crouched holding the cake. She is incredible and being with her these past couple of weeks has been inspirational to me in our seemingly different yet similar backgrounds. Behind Courtney is Amrah, The Great Baldini’s wife. Every Master of Divinity needs a Master of everything else and that's who we have here. To the left…yes in the Villanova shirt (I told you to ask him about it!) is Matt. Matt can run for long distances in extremely hot conditions. He also has mad skills on and off the basketball court. He is and will always be my partner in crime at city team, and working with him has truly been my honor. Finally, Shannon. My girl. Shannon not only inspires, but some of my favorite conversations have been with her. I believe it is because we are both direct people, which fuels interesting conversations.

So there’s the team everyone. 

Thanks for reading!

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The Clash of Kingdoms: Jesus Christ and the Kingdoms of the World

By Jackson Curreri
July 1, 2014

In John 18:34, we read that Jesus our Lord is standing before the Roman Prefect Pilate. Jesus has been sent to Pilate by the Sanhedrin (Jewish High Council) with the hope that he would bring the hammer of Roman justice upon Jesus - the so-called criminal from Nazareth - who was charged with claiming to be the King of the Jews. Pilate, in response to the complaints of the Jewish leaders, inquires of Jesus “are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33, NRSV). Jesus' response is not simply some sly answer meant to reveal his innocence, but rather a revelation of the true nature of the Kingdom of which this Nazarene makes the bold claim of dominion over. “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36, NRSV).

The significance of these words is often missed as we, in suspense of the crucifixion to come, quickly move past this short exchange. But I submit that this reply from Jesus should be used as a model of how Christian communities should behave in this world. In this exchange, Jesus describes the very essence of what the kingdom rules over. Jesus is separating himself from all earthly kings and kingdoms. We immediately understand that the Kingdom Jesus rules over is unlike any other kingdom we have yet to see on earth. Jesus offers as proof of this difference the visible fact that his followers, unlike the followers of earthly kings, are not fighting to secure his freedom. John’s readers, as first century Roman citizens and subjects, would have understood the point quite clearly: Jesus is contrasting the true peace of his Kingdom against the false peace of Rome and other kingdoms of the past.

This Roman peace, or Pax Romana, was not really peace at all but rather order, which is a false tranquility that is only held together by the threat of violence. Essentially, Rome is saying behave yourself or else! The first century reader would see that the Jesus is calling his followers to ignore the false claims of peace brought by Rome and the other rulers of the world and place trust in the ways of God. For it is only through following them that peace can truly be brought on earth.


Here, I want to make the controversial argument that this has big implications for how Christians are to engage the kingdoms of the world. If we truly want the Kingdom of God to reign on earth, the way to do it is not by getting worldly governments to become more Christian. All worldly kingdoms are sustained and kept in power by threat of violence and retribution. But the Kingdom of God is sustained by following the self-sacrificial ethic of its king. For us, this means taking and wielding government power will never bring about peace and shalom on earth. In reality, forced peace brings no peace at all. The evil and darkness of this world can only be defeated by making loving sacrifice for others just as Jesus did on the cross. So let us not seek worldly power, but let us humble ourselves in service of a world in need of the love of Christ.

Jackson grew up in Perry Hall, Maryland which is near Baltimore. He played the clarinet and guitar in high school, and is currently studying Theology at Eastern University, and might double major in Sociology. He participates in several campus ministries including a homeless ministry and concert band, and is the treasurer for the Eastern Theological society. In his free time, Jackson enjoys making music with his friends and am a member of an amateur band known as the Fridge Magnetiers and the Jackson Curator. He is very excited about this opportunity to serve the Philadelphia community. 

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Reflecting on Cityteam

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Reflecting on Cityteam

By Matt Kaehler
June 25, 2014

I had lived in smalltown, USA for my entire life before venturing off to Villanova University for four years of college. My parents, especially my father, have worked harder than anyone I have ever met to provide for my family. Every night I came home from school, dinner was placed on the table, and I always had fully stocked cupboards when I was craving that midnight snack. I have no first-hand experience with the struggle to obtain a meal.

At Cityteam International, I watch as dozens – sometimes even as many as 250 – of individuals and families walk through the door to shop through food donations every day. Most need this service to survive, and Cityteam does an incredible job of meeting its food service mission: Feed the People. It is a humbling blessing to take a step back and thank God for the privileges and opportunities He has offered me to share with others.

One guest that entered the dining area to pick through that day’s selection of fruits, vegetables, pastries, and assorted offerings was wearing a uniform that looked familiar to me. He was clearly an employee at an organization that I knew from my time at Villanova on the Main Line. For the sake of refraining from controversy, I will refer to the organization as "BigBusiness, Inc." I know that only the most fortunate of individuals can afford BigBusiness, Inc., so why was this man, who was seemingly employed by this company, walking through a line of food donations? Surely his job at BigBusiness, Inc. should pay well enough for him to sustain a decent living, right? Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in today, and I believe it is our responsibility as Christians to work for the quality of life of everyone around us.

My time at Cityteam has challenged me in a litany of ways, and I hope this anecdote offers a challenge to everyone reading as well. What are the blessings in our lives which we take for granted? Who are the faces, the stories, the men and women made in the image and likeliness of God who make those blessings available to us – even when we do not immediately notice their work? Let’s all take a moment to thank God for the opportunities in our lives; and to ask for the strength to work for the same opportunities for each of our brothers and sisters.


Matt is originally from McSherrystown, Pennsylvania. He is a 2014 graduate of Villanova University, where he studied Economics and Peace & Justice. This August, Matt will be accepting a position with the Cabrini Mission Corps as a Campus Minister at Cabrini College in Radnor, PA. He is hoping to discern his future plans over the coming months, but he is passionate about devoting his life to serving and growing with those around him. Matt is honored to be a part of this internship program, and could not be more excited!

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Halfway Through

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Halfway Through

By Shannon Morgano
June 22, 2014

We just finished week three of our internship, and are officially halfway through. The time has really flown by and we’re enjoying every minute of it. We’ve met incredible people who have opened their homes to us and taught us a lot about the community. We have done so much over the past couple weeks, from a trip to the Franklin Institute to volunteering at an organization called the Philadelphia Project, which fixes up homes for low-income families.

This week also marked the beginning of the Green and Growing Club, a summer camp for kids entering K-6. Courtney and I have been working with the Aquinas Center to plan it over the last few weeks. The camp runs four days a week for the next four weeks, and teaches children how to lead a healthy lifestyle. This week we focused on teaching them about gardening and the delicious food that can come straight from the ground. It’s been pretty incredible to watch these kids learn and play every day.

We were expecting 25 kids and ended up with over 50, which made our lives a little more hectic. We ended up breaking the younger kids into three teams so now I am only responsible for eight kids instead of 33. The job keeps me busy - making sure all eight of them have what they need, are doing what they are supposed to, and are behaving themselves all while dealing with each personality and the individual needs of every child. At the end of the day Courtney and I are tired and ready for a nap.

This week really got me thinking about what public school teachers must go through every day. Teachers in Philadelphia are responsible for at least 30 kids in one room. Some of these students have behavior problems or learning disabilities and require more attention than the other kids. These teachers willingly go to work every day knowing that they face a room of challenging students. They deserve a lot of credit - if I’m tired after four hours with eight kids, I cannot imagine what eight hours with 30 kids must be like. We should all take a moment and thank every teacher not just the ones in cities, but anyone who has willingly gone into a class of rambunctious kids trying to make their lives just a little bit better.

Shannon hails from Nazareth, PA, where she lives with her parents, three sisters, and two cats. She is a junior at Misericordia University, where she is majoring in psychology and pre-physical therapy. At school, she is involved in campus ministry, climbing league, and the student immigration reform group. She enjoys rock climbing, reading, and volunteering throughout her community. Shannon is very excited to be part of the internship program this summer and experience all the opportunities it has to offer.

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"Be Successful Wherever You Go"

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"Be Successful Wherever You Go"

By Courtney Mintz
June 11, 2014

As I write this, my fellow interns are in the community room watching the NBA finals, and I can't help but sit back and reflect on how well we all hit it off from the moment we got here. While we've had enough free time to relax as individuals, most of the time we can be found in a group exploring the neighborhood, arguing over which movie to watch on Netflix (because, really, there aren't that many), or congregating in the Aquinas Center garden for dinner. It's nice to take a look at all of this from the outside and see six individuals begin to turn into a family.

Last week was a whirlwind of experiences: the Philadelphia Fire Department paid us a friendly visit (which means Dan is no longer allowed to make grilled cheese); we attended a Catholic quinceañera (15th birthday) Mass that was performed entirely in Spanish; we visited Love Park, Reading Terminal Market, and the Rocky Statue near the Philadelphia Museum of Art; we hosted a salsa dance party; and we had to say good-bye to one of our fellow interns. All of these events, all of these wonderful memories, especially the departure of our Jacob, reminded me of a verse that I stumbled upon a few months ago:

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go." (Joshua 1:7, NIV)

This verse really spoke to me as we blessed Jacob for his journey home. We are definitely making our six weeks in Philadelphia count. With the help of the program administrators, we've been placed exactly where God wants us to be, and I feel as if I am witnessing His love for this city each day. We have been called to "be successful wherever we go," and not one of us has missed the opportunity to do so. Shannon is planning a summer camp program for the Aquinas Center. Matt, Dan, and Jackson are working with City Team and the Bethesda Project to minister to the homeless in Philadelphia, and they're forming great relationships in their communities. I'm learning about the need for women's empowerment at Alpha Pregnancy Services.

Sunday night, we all sat down to discuss our temperaments and spiritual gifts. It was entertaining to discuss the gifts we didn't know that we had, but already saw in one another. We all agreed that Shannon's gift of Administration was pretty much the only thing that got us through the SNAP challenge (until that fateful night where we ended up at El Gallo Pinto), and gifts such as Mercy and Service were common among all of us.

We've made quite a few "turns" as we've gotten off at the wrong subway exits or walked one too many blocks past our destinations, but all of it was done together. These moments have allowed us to see each other's hearts - for God, for the community, and for one another. No matter where we end up during and after this internship, we will carry with us many real connections and stories; I have no doubt that these next few weeks will bless us with the means to succeed in God's plans for us and beyond.


Courtney is a Junior at the University of Dubuque in Iowa, where she is studying Business Administration and Criminal Justice. She currently runs a nonprofit organization based in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, which focuses on ending modern day slavery on a domestic and international level. Courtney plans to continue her education and earn a JD/MPA degree before she returns home to open and manage a community center for at-risk youth and human trafficking survivors in the Greater Cleveland Area.

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Food Stamp Challenge

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Food Stamp Challenge

By Shannon Morgano
June 5, 2014

It has been almost a week since we first arrived at the Aquinas Center ready, to begin our adventure in Philadelphia. We have experienced a lot, from learning the subway system to visiting all of the intern sites around the city. We have met dozens of people and answered the same questions numerous times all while learning so much about people and the work they do to make the world better for everyone. It has been a whirlwind so far and it is very exciting to think about what the next couple weeks will bring.

One of the biggest challenges we have faced so far is not navigating the streets or trying to remember which train will take us where, but rather it is participating in the Food Stamp Challenge. Over the course of five days, we are given 21 dollars each (126 dollars total) to spend on food and drinks, which boils down to 4 dollars per day. The purpose of the challenge is to experience what it is like to be reliant on SNAP or food stamps. People who utilize this program are given an average of 21 dollars a week to feed their families. On top of that there are restrictions on the kinds of food they can buy with the stamps.

We are about two days into the challenge and have successfully prepared two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners all under 4 dollars. To give you an idea of the kinds of food that are cheap, we have been eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit that is on sale, oatmeal, pasta, and vegetarian chili. So far it has gone fairly well none of us are starving and the food creates a similar diet to what most of us are used to eating.

There have been a few lessons we have learned while taking on this challenge. Firstly, it is difficult to eat healthy on food stamps. We are limited to inorganic fruits and vegetables because the fresh organic food is much more expensive. Additionally, whole wheat bread, which provides a lot more nutrients than white is twenty cents more. That may not seem like a lot but when you’re on a tight budget of a combined 22 dollars a day for six people, every cent counts. People on food stamps also have to eat a lot of processed and canned foods in order to stay within their means.

A fellow intern brought up another interesting point. We are only on this challenge for five days and really only have to focus on ourselves, we don’t have children to worry about like must people on food stamps. We really don’t know what it is like for the people who live like this day in and day out, worrying about every penny the spend while trying to put food on the table. The Food Stamp Challenge has definitely given us a new perspective and appreciation for those we are serving.

Shannon hails from Nazareth, PA, where she lives with her parents, three sisters, and two cats. She is a junior at Misericordia University, where she is majoring in psychology and pre-physical therapy. At school, she is involved in campus ministry, climbing league, and the student immigration reform group. She enjoys rock climbing, reading, and volunteering throughout her community. Shannon is very excited to be part of the internship program this summer and experience all the opportunities it has to offer.

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The Kingdom of God Knows No Bounds: The Call of the Christian to Care for the Immigrant

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The Kingdom of God Knows No Bounds: The Call of the Christian to Care for the Immigrant

By Jackson Curreri
June 1, 2014

As part of my internship with Liberti Church, I will have the privilege of living in intentional community at the Aquinas Center in South Philly. The Center is connected to the Saint Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church, and one of the facility’s primary goals is to serve and assist South Philly’s immigrants. As I live and commune within the parish, I will be able to learn from and interact with these unique immigrant groups.  At the same time, I want to express the vast challenges many of these immigrants face as a result of United States immigration enforcement laws and procedures.

Many immigrants who live in South Philly are considered undocumented, meaning their presence here has not been approved by the government and if identified, they may be subject to detention and deportation. Additionally, undocumented immigrants cannot obtain a driver’s license, and undocumented students are unable to attend colleges and universities at in-state rates. Instead, students must pay the same out-of-state rates that international students must pay, even if they have been living in the United States since infancy. Undocumented immigrants are subject to mistreatment by employers as well. Employers will underpay and overwork undocumented workers, and these workers are powerless to turn to authorities for help, because they know if they do their employers will report them to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Once ICE gets involved they begin the process off deporting the undocumented immigrant. This process often includes detention in for-profit prisons where immigrants with no criminal record are housed side by side with immigrants whom are guilty of committing violent felonies. In these conditions women are particularly vulnerable. There are documented cases of sexual assault on women by both “inmates and detention center workers” (José Villalobos, from "Promises and Human Rights").

It is within this reality that I want to remind all of my Christian brethren of our call to love other as Christ loved us (John 13:34). This call by Christ to radically love others by sacrificing of ourselves for others is modeled by Christ’s decision to die for those who had rejected him rather than respond with violence and judgment. We must recognize that this call is not limited to those with whom we choose to love; instead Jesus calls us to love the other as he loved us. This does not leave room for us to withhold love and sacrifice for immigrants, because we view them as being here illegally. Christ’s call to serve does not recognize worldly boundaries of Jew and Gentile, American and Hispanic, Christian and Muslim. So Liberti Church, let us love our immigrant neighbors. 

Jackson grew up in Perry Hall, Maryland which is near Baltimore. He played the clarinet and guitar in high school, and is currently studying Theology at Eastern University, and might double major in Sociology. He participates in several campus ministries including a homeless ministry and concert band, and is the treasurer for the Eastern Theological society. In his free time, Jackson enjoys making music with his friends and am a member of an amateur band known as the Fridge Magnetiers and the Jackson Curator. He is very excited about this opportunity to serve the Philadelphia community. 

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