Fr. Don Kenny spent most of his pastoral career in the Joliet, Illinois Diocese, serving as Pastor of many parishes throughout the western Chicago suburbs. Nearing retirement, he felt a strong call to change his life.
At 70 years old he began to study Spanish and headed off to South America as a long-term missionary. He established the Quito poor Parishes Fund (which was later changed to Quito Barrio Outreach.) His vision has revitalized a neglected area of Quito Ecuador where he developed many social justice initiatives to bring dignity to those who live in his community. He was a living testament to the impact one person can make when we answer God’s call.
Fr. Don's mission started in 2002. From that poit forward, Fr Don was able to establish a Medical Clinic, Soup Kitchen and SubmitEducation / Day Care Center. In 2010, Fr. Don put together Quito Barrio Outreach (QBO) which consists of two boards: One is in the United States and the other in Quito Ecuador. Both boards were directed by Fr. Don Kenny, a catholic priest from the Joliet Diocese (a Chicago-area Diocese) who entered eternal life in December 9, 2014. The U.S. Board establishes programs, coordinates missions and determines support targeted to Quito. The Ecuador board provides input, logistics and the continued implementation of programs set by the U.S. Board."
The mission of St. Charles Borromeo Clinic is to provide the local Community assessable primary health care in a personalized fashion at affordable rates.
Founded in 2005 by Fr. Don Kenny and the Joliet Diocese, St. Charles Borromeo Clinic treats the underserved population who can't afford routine medical services by providing low cost healthcare services and medication. These services include lab work, health screenings, dental and primary care. These services are provided to those who are often the ones that most desperately need medical attention but have little or no way to pay for it. The clinic has served thousands of people since it was started.
The goals of the clinic are to:
- Improve quality of life by implementing appropriate health education and cost effective care that is easily accessible.
- Increase visibility through flyers and announcements, and off site screenings at local churches and schools.
- Make available medication, free of charge year round to patients who are in need (and at a nominal charge for those who can pay.)
- Supplement in-country doctors with training and patient support via yearly medical missions of health care professionals from the United States (this effort is led by Dr Colin Sumida – a renowned doctor / surgeon from the United States.)
Father Patrick McIntyre, the St James Society missionary priest from Ireland with whom Father Don Kenny served with for many years, always had a dream. Many of the children who went to public schools in the barrio go to school each day without a breakfast. He had always hoped for means to build a soup kitchen to give these needy children one square meal a day. He had the means to purchase the land for a potential soup kitchen, but not to build a facility. He shared his dream with Father Don. With financial help from the parishes that Father Don had been involved with through his pasturing in the Diocese of Joliet, enough money was raised to build the soup kitchen – which opened in the fall of 2004. Its name in English is “Soup Kitchen of St Charles Borromeo”, the patron of the Joliet Diocese.
Besides the very young, there is also the condition of the very old. If you are elderly in Ecuador and have no job or family, you are out of luck. You may starve. For these reasons the soup kitchen is open to the young as well as the old.
Any Monday through Friday over 100 meals are served per day from about 12:30 to 1:30, which is when the children leave school. The cost for this meal is minimal, and the food is well worth the price of about 50 cents for those that can afford to pay. This small amount is charged to safeguard the pride of the children and their families. For those who simply have no money there is no charge. Low monthly and family rates are also offered which most families take advantage of.
Each year over 5400 meals are served. It means the difference between having health and not having health for many Ecudorian people. For some, it might be the difference between living and dying.
EDUCATION / DAYCARE CENTER:
Quito Barrio Outreach (QBO) supports a daycare center in Rancho Alto called El Miguelito. This center not only gives the children a head start with their education, it also allows for some mothers to have jobs during the day because they can drop their children off at a facility they know will provide a loving environment for their children. The school is the center of the community and is a beacon of education, values and hope. It has recently grown from 120 to support over 350 children.
A little history, many young women live far away from their natural families - they have children, but no husband around. They have to work in the city to support their young ones. Twenty years ago a young mother left her two very young children in charge of a baby when she went to work. In the barrios there are lots of free-roaming animals - dogs, goats, cows, cats, roosters, etc, who don't make any distinction between what is outside the home and what is inside. They walk everywhere. One day, when the mother was working and the two very young children were playing outside, the family pig came in and ate the baby. This tragedy came to the notice of a local Jesuit missionary, Padre Luis Casanas, who decide that something had to be done. He started construction on a daycare center for single parent families whose mothers have to go into the city to work. With the cooperation of the Catholic Church, barrio, Sisters, and Father Patrick McIntyre, the center was completed and dedicated in 1993.
The Sisters of the barrio manage the school and teach the students. Over the past few years, QBO missionaries have added classrooms, replaced roofs, provided books, taught classes and installed playground equipment. QBO also sponsors drug/alcohol/HIV/Aids awareness and prevention programming.
Finally, education is not as high a priority in Ecuador as in the United States. Often neither parents nor students care much about the grades on report cards. One reason is that there are very few jobs, and as a result, many kids don't finish high school. But later, as adults, they realize the value of a high school education. Recently, a program was created that provides the means for these individuals to obtain the equivalent of a GED. It is a six-year program with 18 different courses, on Sundays from 7:30 to 1:30. The courses focus heavily on computers, but there are also courses in Spanish, English, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Human Relations, and Human Formation (values), which Fr Don has had the privilege to co-teach. To get a degree the students must pass tests written and corrected by the government education department, which periodically inspects the program. This past year one student did not pass because she didn't study hard enough, but 16 other students graduated with a high school equivalent diploma. Now there are 90 students in the program, more than ever before. It is an achievement to be proud of.