NPH at 65: Our Mission Lives On
Executive Director Miguel Venegas shares his personal NPH history.
August 16, 2019 - NPH International
65 years ago in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Father Wasson took in the first child. Our dear founder could not have imagined that the divine inspiration of this “Work of God” would one day extend to 23 countries around the world. That’s right. 23 countries. The NPH family includes all the girls and boys we care for with love in nine countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, plus 14 other countries where thousands of people through their love and support are proud members of our global family.
But let's go back to August 1954. Father Wasson, inspired by his deep Christian mercy, showed compassion for a little boy who, though he had misbehaved, was a child in need of love first and foremost. Father never imagined that a week later he would be in charge of eight more children by order of a Mexican judge. This new mission from God was clear to Father Wasson. He didn’t even have to think about it, even though the calling came with no immediate resources to undertake this mission.
In his book Who Will Care for the Children?, Father Wasson writes, “I had no home, no money, no place for my children, and I had no idea how I was going to feed, dress, shelter, and educate them. From the beginning, as people say, I played it by ear and step by step, despite the mistakes I made (and still make), the arrival of more children, and lack of money, a concept began to emerge that makes children happy, who feel confident, who share, work, and are responsible.”
When I read these lines, I understand that this “Work of God” must continue. Because despite the enormous challenges we face, the need to have happy, confident children and youth who know how to share and be responsible is a need greater than any small difficulty we have today. I say ‘small’ because I can only imagine the great obstacles Father Wasson had to overcome 65 years ago: sleepless nights, anguish over the lack of money, prayers asking for strength not to give up.
65 years later, the path has been forged. We need only follow the inspiring philosophy of Father Wasson.
In the beginning, Father had many problems to solve before thinking of a name for this "Work of God.” Today, on this special 65th anniversary, I reflect on my personal story—my memories as a child running and playing in the NPH Mexico home—and how the name “Our Little Brothers,” today known as NPH, emerged.
Some of you may remember that in the 1950s our first benefactors proposed the name “The Children of Father Wasson,” to which our dear Father said, “I felt that the good we were trying to do belonged to all of us—not just me.” The idea was dismissed.
Being a good priest, Father Wasson was always inspired by the sacred texts of the Bible, especially the Gospels. In a familiar passage from the Gospel According to Matthew, he found the name that 65 years later continues to identify us.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. … Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
There in that last verse Father Wasson found the name for this “Work of God”—Our Little Brothers. He says, “This indicates that we truly are a great family.” I find it so inspiring to remember our beginning because it encourages us to champion the principles and values that are the foundation of this great NPH family.
Father Wasson always dreamed that this “Work of God” would be directed by a person who had grown up in the family, by one of the children he had welcomed with love.
I am Miguel Venegas. I grew up in the NPH Mexico family where I learned, along with my three brothers, the principles and values that guide our organization. NPH is in my mind and in my heart. I became an adult here and later returned to serve all Pequeños and the global NPH family.
After pursuing a career outside of NPH, I returned to serve the family of NPH Guatemala, I then joined the international finance team, and for the last 10 years, by the grace of God, I have served as Executive Director of NPH International. Another dream of Father Wasson came true.
But I am not the only Hermano Mayor in a leadership position. With me, there are other Hermanos Mayores like Rafael (Rafa) Bermudez in Mexico, Olegario (Ole) Campos in El Salvador (who at the end of the year will leave his post to enjoy his retirement, but who will always be part of our NPH family), Marlon Velásquez in Nicaragua, Kenson Kaas in Haiti, Jean Francois Seide who serves on the NPHI Board of Directors, and many other adult Hermanos and Hermanas Mayores who model the philosophy of our founder. In their workplaces, their communities, their places of worship, their families, in positions of leadership and of service, they are living examples for today’s Pequeños.
I am very proud of the work we do and the thousands of girls and boys we serve, protect, and offer a family. We have broken the cycle of poverty. Now, we face the challenge of transformation. Reaching thousands of girls and boys who live in vulnerable situations with biological families who struggle to care for them is also the "Work of God." My vision is to nurture all the children in our care by the principles and values of NPH, thus breaking the cycle of poverty—both economic and spiritual—further extending the NPH family.
When I think about all we have achieved during these 65 years, I feel Father Wasson's legacy remains the light that illuminates our path yesterday, today, and forever.
Congratulations NPH for 65 years of family.
Executive Director, NPH International
16 August 2019
Executive Director, NPH International