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MaryJo’s dreams bring hope to Afghan children

September 20, 2018

By Ed Byrne The Brillion News

ASKEATON – Even as a child, MaryJo Aerts wanted to do missionary work.

But unlike many children with dreams, Aerts never gave up on the idea, and lived her dream until, at age 33, an illness took her life.

Now, her family and friends are working to make sure the seeds she planted in Afghanistan and Laos grow, mature and bear fruit.

For the past two years, Aerts worked with Catholic Relief Services in Laos and Afghanistan. It was in Afghanistan where she took sick.

Her mother and father, Tami and Joe Aerts, said MaryJo’s interest in missionary work was not new.

“She, at a very young age, said ‘Mom, I want to go on a mission trip,’ and I’d say ‘When you get older,’” Tami said. “Then, at the end of her sophomore year [at Wrightstown High School], she said, ‘Mom I think we need to talk about this because I’m getting older.’”

MaryJo went on a mission trip, through the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, to the Dominican Republic. She raised the money she needed to subsidize her trip with the help of her home parish, St Mary’s Church, and many hungry people eating candy bars. She was fortunate to be able to return the following summer.

After high school MaryJo worked two summers at Camp Tekakwitha, the church camp on Shawano Lake. The following two summers, MaryJo spent with YouthWorks in Pennsylvania and South Dakota, again doing Christ-centered missionary work.

MaryJo graduated from high school in 2003, and then did her undergraduate work at UW-Stevens Point, and graduate studies at the University of Portland (Ore.).

In Portland, she taught at St. Andrew Nativity School, a tuition-free, inner city, Catholic middle school for “young people of all faiths from low-income backgrounds.”

When children enter Nativity, they are academically three to five years behind, but are up to speed by the time they leave Nativity at the end of Grade Eight.

Please see the full story in the September 20, 2018 edition of The Brillion News. 



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