April 30th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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The Gift of Life

TESTIMONY FROM A ORGAN DONOR RECIPIENT

by: Clayton Atkins

If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Brian Bourgraf in person, my bet is that you wouldn’t immediately realize that he is a walking miracle. He is a cheerful man of fifty-three, with a delightful smile that emits a warm aura. Despite this general kindness that surrounds Brian, there isn’t anything else about him that strikes me as extraordinary—he seems like a normal guy. But that’s the miracle. Brian is here. He’s living his life, like any one of us.

However, Brian is not just a normal guy. He was born with Eagle-Barrett syndrome, a rare congenital disease that affects the abdominal muscles and urinary tract. In 1963, this uncommon birth defect could have been a death sentence. For the first 4 ½ years of his life, Brian lived in the hospital, tethered to a dialysis machine. He needed an organ transplant, a procedure which was still in its infancy. At that time, the surgery that Brian needed had only been performed on baboons. Four year-old Brian needed a double kidney transplant.

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Brian is a walking piece of history. His double kidney transplant was the first successful operation of its kind. But the doctors’ ingenious solution to his rare medical problem is not the most miraculous aspect of Brian’s story. The real miracle is the gift of life. The surgeons who performed the life-saving transplant were working with tools that only God could provide. Brian is here with us today because he received two kidneys from an organ donor, an infant who was taken off life support. I cannot begin to comprehend the pain of losing a newborn child, and neither can Brian. Yet, he owes his life to this couple, who chose to donate their child’s organs. From death, came life.

We all suffer—some more than others. But our suffering is never in vain. How could we experience joy without suffering? How could we appreciate life, without death? And here we approach one of life’s essential mysteries: why do we suffer and die? Such a stark and staggering question. Fortunately, when this brutal reality of everyday life rears its ugly head, we can choose to respond positively…we suffer and die for others. This is Christ’s essential message. We must sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. This is what saved Brian’s life. A child died; but in death, that child preserved life.

Essentially, Brian’s story is an Easter story. What did we just witness in the Easter season? Jesus died, and in death, he gave us life. This is what Brian experienced when he received two healthy kidneys in 1968. Death, pain, and suffering…we can dwell on these things and let them dominate our perspective, or, we can view them from the Christian perspective, and choose to see life in death, growth in suffering. One grief-stricken family’s choice led to a full and productive life.

When I asked Brian to explain his outlook on life, as someone who almost lost it, his meager reply was: “Something was given to me, so now I have to give back.” What better words could we live by? You shouldn’t have to undergo such a harrowing experience to reach this message. You can find it throughout the Gospels: as Catholics, we believe that we are born in God’s grace, and that we must extend that Grace to everyone we meet. Brian has dedicated his life to this principle. He spent his career in a special part of the family business, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity and trying to make an impact on other people’s lives, just like one couple did for him, when he was only four years-old.

But Brian’s story doesn’t end with the successful operation from his childhood. Eventually, the kidneys he received from his infant benefactor wore out. It’s a miracle that this didn’t happen sooner. Most kidney transplant patients can expect to live for 10–20 years.

Brian was going on 50 when, suddenly, he felt something inside of him “turn off.” His second kidney failure did not cause him any direct pain; he simply noticed that something was wrong. The diagnosis was grim. He would need another transplant immediately. By this time, Brian had built himself such a reputation of selflessness and giving, that the mayor, a judge, and many other citizens of the small town that he called home offered to donate a kidney. However, it was ultimately his older brother, Joe, who wound up on the operating table beside him.

In 2011, Brian received another kidney, which saved his life once again.

Brian’s life is truly a miracle: if that caring couple hadn’t donated their dying child’s organs, Brian would be dead. If his brother hadn’t undergone the grueling process of testing and donating his own body, Brian would not be with us. He is here today because of the selfless choices that others have made. And he is grateful for everything. I have never seen anyone who has suffered so severely, strive to give back as much as Brian has. His fundraising efforts alone could account for millions of dollars’ worth of aid, but his true testament to humanity is his dedication to service. Brian considers his life a gift, because it truly was one. But we shouldn’t need such an extreme example to guide our own actions. All of our lives are a gift from God, and the only way that we can return the favor is by selflessly helping others.

Because Brian has lived his entire life on borrowed time, he is hyper-aware of how he owes his life to others: the infant who lost his life; the parents who made a selfless decision; Brian’s own parents, El and Elaine, who spent countless hours in doctor’s offices and hospitals, agonizing over their son; Brian’s younger brother, El-B, who has supported him since they were children, his older brother, Joe, who extended Brian’s lease on life; and, especially, his wife, Cathy, who has undergone health troubles of her own. One of the positives sides to suffering is that it prepares you to face whatever challenges life can throw at you. Brian admits that without the love and support from these people and countless others, he wouldn’t be here with us today. Thankfully, he is, and through his suffering, he has emerged as a strong, resilient person who has devoted his life to serving others.

Organ donation is perhaps one of the easiest ways that we can help others. Although, of course, the tragedy of a death is difficult to overcome, we can humbly mimic Christ’s sacrifice on the cross; by offering parts of ourselves or our loved ones to others, we reenact Christ’s death and resurrection—we give life.

April is National Donate Life Month. Brian’s story should serve as a reminder that each of us, no matter how broken, are gifts from God, and we should not waste the gift of life. Currently, there are 5,300 people awaiting lifesaving organ transplants in Florida, and 118,000 people across the country. One organ and tissue donor can potentially save the lives of eight people and enhance 75 other lives. Please consider making the selfless choice of becoming an organ donor. This is a decision that should be undertaken in conversation with your loved ones. We are here now, but one day, we won’t be. However, we all have the opportunity, even in death, to extend the gift of life that we were given by God.

To learn more about organ donation, visit Organ Transplant Recipients of South West Florida’s webpage at www.organsupport.org or call (239) 247-3073

April 2nd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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U.S. Catholics asked to accompany migrants, refugees seeking better life

By Julie Asher | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. bishops in a pastoral reflection released March 22 called all Catholics to do what each of them can “to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.”

Titled “Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times,” the reflection was issued “in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands,” said a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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“To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the Resurrection,” said the reflection, which was approved by the USCCB Administrative Committee on the first day of a two-day meeting in Washington.

The 50 37-member committee is made up of the executive officers of the USCCB, elected committee chairmen and elected regional representatives. It acts on behalf of the nation’s bishops between their spring and fall general meetings.

“To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear,” it continued. “Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes.”

The bishops urged Catholics to pray for an end to the root causes of violence and other circumstances forcing families to flee their homeland to find a better life; to meet with newcomers in their parishes and “listen to their story, and share your own”; and to call, write or visit their elected representatives to ask them to fix our broken immigration system” in a way that would safeguard the country’s security and “our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.”

The statement opened with a passage from Chapter 19 of the Book of Leviticus: “The word of God is truly alive today. When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.”

The bishops urged Catholics to “not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future.”

“As shepherds of a pilgrim church,” they wrote, “we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: “We are with you.”

Those families could include “a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence,” they said, adding that “it is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity.”

The bishops said that “intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well.”

“When we look at one another do we see with the heart of Jesus?” they asked.

Their pastoral reflection comes at a time when the Trump administration’s rhetoric and its policies on national security, refugees and immigration are in the headlines almost daily. Those policies have sparked almost nonstop protests in various parts of the country since President Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. In some cases, the anti-Trump demonstrations have turned violent.

The latest action on the refugee issue came March 16 when two federal judges blocked Trump’s new executive order banning for 90 days the entry into the U.S. of citizens from six Muslim-majority nations and suspending for 120 days the resettlement of refugees. Two federal judges, one in Hawaii and one in Maryland, blocked the order before it was too take affect March 16 at midnight.

The Department of Justice announced March 17 it will appeal the Maryland ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which is based in Richmond, Virginia.

In their reflection, the bishops said that all in this country find “common dreams for our children” in their “diverse backgrounds.”

“Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, ‘out of many, one,’” they said. “In doing so, we will also realize God’s hope for all his children: that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin.”

Christ, as the word made flesh, “strengthens us to bring our words to life,” they said and suggested three ways Catholics, “in our own small way,” can “bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life”: by praying, welcoming newcomers and writing to their elected representatives urging them to support humane immigration policies.

“Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children,” the bishops said.

They asked Catholics to meet with newcomers in their parishes, and to “listen to their story and share your own.” The bishops noted parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees “both to comfort them and to help them know their rights.”

They also urged Catholics to “to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us. The more we come to understand each other’s concerns the better we can serve one another. Together, we are one body in Christ.”

Finally, Catholics should call, write or visit their elected officials urging they “fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.”

The reflection ended with a quote from Pope Francis: “To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey toward our heavenly homeland.”

Mar. 26th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Pope: Conversion doesn’t happen through magic, but concrete actions

By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Conversion doesn’t come from the wave of a magic wand, but from learning to do good through concrete actions every day, Pope Francis said.

While even “the saintliest person sins seven times a day,” conversion happens through humility and trying to become “better than the day before,” the pope said March 14 during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

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“Converting doesn’t mean going to a fairy with a magic wand,” he said. “No, it is a path, a path of turning away (from evil) and of learning.”

Reflecting on the day’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah (1:10, 16-20), the pope said, “You learn to do good through concrete things. Not with words, but with actions.”

The reading from Isaiah gives three examples: “Help the oppressed, hear the orphan’s plea and defend the widow.”

In the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew (23:1-12), the pope continued, Jesus also reproaches the scribes and Pharisees because they do not practice what they preach.

“They do not know concreteness. If there is no concreteness, there can be no conversion,” he said.

Pope Francis said Christians are called to embark on “the path of Lenten conversion,” knowing that God “is a father who speaks, he is a father who loves us.”

“He accompanies us on this path of conversion. He only asks of us to be humble,” he said. “Then our sins all will be forgiven.”

Feb. 26th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Building a Civilization of Love

PARISH MISSION WITH FR. BERETTA

The news in our world is dominated by turmoil. Violence and political tensions are on the rise at home and abroad.

Last summer, in the midst of many other incidents, an 84-year old French priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, was murdered as he celebrated Mass. Archbishop Dominique Lebrun, in Poland for the World Youth Day when Fr. Hamel was killed, issued a statement to young pilgrims before rushing home: “The only weapons which the Catholic Church can take up are prayer and brotherhood among peoples. I return home leaving hundreds of young people who are truly the future of humanity. I ask them not to give up in the face of violence, but to become apostles of the civilization of love.”

The Mass that Fr. Hamel died celebrating reminds us that adversity, tragedy, and loss do not relieve us of our call to love one another. As disciples, Jesus calls us to love our enemies, pray for our persecutors, and turn the other cheek.

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We are called to build the Kingdom of God, a civilization of love, and to do so requires both trust in God and the radical optimism that affirms the goodness of every human being. This trust and optimism is at the heart of the Catholic faith.

As our world is gripped by fear and anxiety, our mission as a Church is that much more vital and necessary. The mission will explore how authentic faith and vibrant spirituality can help to ground us in our challenging and difficult times.

ABOUT FR. BERETTA:

Fr. Chris Beretta, an Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, is the principal at Salesianum School in Wilmington, DE. A native of California, he graduated from Paul VI High School in Fairfax, VA, in 1986, and Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales (now DeSales University) in Center Valley, PA, in 1991, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Theology.

As a young Oblate, he taught Social Justice to juniors and helped coach basketball and baseball at Salesianum from 1991-1993. He returned to graduate school and earned a Master of Divinity from the DeSales School of Theology in Washington, DC, and a Master of Arts in Sport Psychology from the University of Maryland, in 1997. He was ordained a priest on May 31, 1997, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, and was assigned again to Salesianum from 1997-1999. In July, 1999, he transferred to Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, FL, where he would spend eleven years, first as campus minister from 1999-2003, and then as principal from 2003-2010, maintaining involvement in the classroom, coaching, and retreat and service programs as he transitioned into school leadership.

In Holy Week of 2008, he made his first trip to Haiti, where the life and work of Fr. Tom Hagan, OSFS, has had a transformative influence on his faith and ministry. In July 2009, he received a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from the University of Notre Dame, and one year later, in July 2010, returned to Salesianum as the school’s 17th principal.

Now in his seventh year at Salesianum, he remains energized by the challenge of building a community of faith and learning, integrating 21st century learning with Salesian spirituality, and working with dedicated colleagues to maintain a student-centered environment that is both reflective of the world’s diversity and authentically Catholic. He has served in Catholic schools for twenty-two years as a teacher, coach, campus minister, and principal.

Dec. 11th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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The Season of GIVING continues!

St. John XXIII would like to extend a HUGE thank you to Stella McCaffrey and her group of angels for all their hard work organizing and distributing gifts for the Angel Tree Program.

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You truly will make a difference in children’s lives this Christmas. Thank you for your continued kindness and generous spirit for those among us who are struggling and in need.

Over 800 gifts were donated! We are blessed to have such generous and giving parishioners who continue to support our growing community.

Nov. 20th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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A Thanksgiving Legacy

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to tell you how grateful I am for each of you- the people of St. John XXIII. I am thankful for you and your families; I am thankful for the opportunity to shepherd you; I am thankful for your generous sense of giving in so many different ways. The people of this parish are an inspiration and gift to me. And now, as you can see, I want to thank you for your contributions and pledges to our Capital Campaign. Such huge strides have been made in the short time since we began this journey.

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The picture on the cover of the bulletin depicts the new Parish Life Center. I want to let you know that included in the estimated original cost, we are able to include an Adoration Chapel (see insert on this page) and additional office space. Both of these things are not only needed, but will prove to be a wonderful blessing to the parish community.

The Adoration Chapel will allow our parishioners a place for private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in a beautiful setting overlooking the lake. This will be a wonderful addition to the parish campus.

I ask for your continued prayerful support and encourage everyone to continue making your pledges. If you haven’t yet made a pledge, please consider this opportunity to Build on Our Legacy. The Diocese of Venice has stipulated a three year fundraising period which will conclude in December 2017. All monies raised by this date are not assessed. As you know, 80% of our total building cost is necessary to break ground.

Wishing you a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving in Christ Jesus,

Fr. Bob Tabbert

Oct. 23rd, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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A Spiritual Solution Until a Medical One Arrives

By Damian Hanley

…In sickness and in health, till death do us part. When we hear those words, we immediately picture a young couple facing each other at an altar, about to take the most meaningful vows of their lives. And they mean it. It’s a black and white agreement. You are my responsibility until you or I perish. Healthy, happy marriages are one of the few institutions that, when we see that two people have it, it renews our faith. But what happens when the death of the mind precedes the death of the body?

Is this still the same person to whom you made vows? It is… and it isn’t. It is in the sense that their physical body has held continuity through time and space, but it isn’t if you’ve ever watched a loved one go through it. I have. I venture to guess many who read this have. Much unlike your vows, it is not a black and white process. It begins subtly, and ends… as American novelist Philip M. Roth attests, “old age isn’t a battle: old age is a massacre.” No matter how it’s caused, how it begins or ends, Alzheimer’s and dementia, and their many variants, are tragic.

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If you’ve been with your spouse long enough to witness them diagnosed with memory loss disease, then your love is sturdy. This is not someone you’d abandon because of some garden variety tough times. This is someone who you would die for, but alas, they need more than that now.

When your spouse is diagnosed with memory loss disease, and you are called to become their caregiver, more will be asked of you than you’d ever thought possible. They will become the most vulnerable version of themselves right before your eyes, until the day they no longer remember your name, let alone recognize your face.

And you are a good person. You fear God and take vows seriously. You weren’t prepared for this but knew it was in the realm of possibility. Becoming a caregiver to someone with memory loss disease has unique spiritual and ethical components. How good of a person are you? How patient are you? How deep is your faith? Do you really trust God?

Thousands of people in Southwest Florida find themselves asking these questions. Mary Freyre of the Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center wants to help answer them. “We typically get calls when people are in crisis. They say ‘I need help. I need help, now. What can I do?’ And then we start connecting them with resources and people in the community – neuropsychologists, neurologists, other family doctors. If they need a home health agency or respite care, we can help them find that.”

Mary is the Health Education Specialist for the Dubin Center – a community resource that is free to caregivers which was founded in 1995. “When someone finds out that their spouse has been diagnosed, they go through a tremendous amount of grief and loss. We call this anticipatory grief. We try to explain the process they’ll go through, but more than that, we try to get them into support groups.”

As an Education Specialist, Mary finds that a lot of the caregivers think they have to carry this burden on their shoulders by themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth (unless you watch the news). “There is a ton of support out there. In these groups, the caregivers form some really tight-knit friendships. It’s a safe place where they can talk about what they’re going through.”

This is not an uncommon example, but imagine if you’ve just retired and you expect to spend the remainder of your life traveling and enjoying life. Or imagine if you’re a husband and wife taking care of a parent with dementia, and you also have three kids in your home. Memory loss disease can affect the entire family, and it affects each person differently. This is how anticipatory grief can become overwhelming. (Anticipatory grief refers to a grief reaction that occurs before an impending loss. Typically, the impending loss is a death of someone close due to illness but it can also be experienced by dying individuals themselves.)

In reference to the title of this article, the Dubin Center is offering a new program whose origin came in the form of a promise to Mary’s uncle. Before his diagnosis, Mary’s uncle was a pastor of a large Protestant church in New Jersey. Seven years before his passing, during the early stages of his dementia, “he said to me, Mary, you’re a nurse, please be a voice for us. He had to give up ministering, he had to give up home visits, he had to eventually give up going to church. People stopped visiting. Even the other pastors stopped visiting. It was a very lonely and painful time for them.”

Two years ago, Mary got to work on the Dementia Friendly Houses of Worship Initiative. She mobilized a handful of organizations, among them the Lee County Sheriff Department, Dr. Mable Lopez of Mind & Brain Care of Fort Myers, Comfort Keepers Home Health, Right at Home, Shell Point Retirement Community, and Choices in Living Adult Day Care of Cape Coral.

These organizations came together and reached out to local churches with the understanding that most churches do not offer an AD friendly service, or resources for caregivers who generally cannot leave the house to attend a service.

“Many churches have a separate portion of the service geared towards the needs of children. We would help train churches and assist in designing a program or service geared towards the needs of AD patients. This would get them out of the house and give the caregivers a respite. We leave it up to the churches to customize each initiative around their particular denomination.”

But how big of an issue is this really? It’s huge. According to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, there are close to 21,000 people diagnosed with AD in Lee County. The Alzheimer’s Association reports there are about 450,000 people currently in Florida with AD, and that number will increase to roughly 750,000 by 2050 if no cure is discovered. Those do not include the seasonal residents or the undiagnosed. Every 67 seconds someone in the US is diagnosed with memory loss disease, and by 2050 that rate will increase to every 33 seconds unless there is a cure. There are about 5.4 million Americans with memory loss disease, and by 2050 that number could be between 13-16 million, barring no cure. Millions of caregivers will need help.

Mary says, “Now do you see why I started this initiative? We offer one-on-one counseling with licensed clinical social workers, education, a safety program, a wanderer’s ID program, home visits, office visits, networking with other community agencies to help the families in coping with the disease. We also offer open support groups for caregivers caring for someone with dementia. The Center also offers a free evidence-based course to help teach the caregivers on how to improve the quality of life for their loved one with dementia and for themselves. All of the Dubin Center’s services are free.”

Individuals and families living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia will face many decisions throughout the course of the disease including decisions about care, treatment, participation in research, end-of-life issues, autonomy and safety.

Oct. 2nd, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Moved by Mercy: Respect Life Sunday

What is Respect Life? The Respect Life Program, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, started in 1972 and begins anew each October-the month set aside by the U.S. bishops as “Respect Life Month”.

We observe Sunday, October 2nd as Respect Life Sunday.

The program promotes respect for human life in the light of our intrinsic dignity as having been created in God’s image and likeness and called to an eternal destiny with him.

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Who is involved with Respect Life? The Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, under the guidance and direction of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, works to teach respect for all human life from conception to natural death, and organize for its protection.

What is the goal of the program? Below are examples of how the committee serves with the following goals”

  • Develop educational material on pro-life issues.
  • Conduct educational campaigns in the Church such as: Respect Life Program and People of Life Action Campaign.
  • Circulate fact sheets and other information on critical issues.
  • Encourage and enable programs to meet the needs of pregnant women, children, persons with disabilities, those who are sick or dying, and all who have been involved in abortion.
  • Assist dioceses to implement major pro-life programs.

The current Committee serves from November 2015 to November 2018 and is chaired by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York.

“We proclaim that human life is a precious gift from God; that each person who receives this gift has responsibilities toward God, self and others; and that society, through its laws and social institutions, must protect and nurture human life at every stage of its existence.” – U.S. Catholic Bishops, Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities

Ways To Support Her When She’s Unexpectedly Expecting:

An unexpected pregnancy might be confusing along the way, but life at times is difficult but ultimately beautiful. Perhaps you know someone who has become pregnant unexpectedly. You want support anyone on the journey of being a mother. Not sure how to do? Here are some tips:

Be Available: An unexpected pregnancy can send a woman into crisis mode. If you just found out she is pregnant, she may not be thinking clearly, and she may feel she has no control over anything at the moment. Listen to her and let her know you love her and are there for her any time she needs you. Don’t pass judgment on her either interiorly or through words or body language.

Respond Positively: When a woman experiences challenging circumstances and confides she is pregnant, the reaction of the first person she tells tends to set the tone for her decision-making. Avoid responding with shock or alarm, and be calm and understanding.

Be Honest: The journey through an unexpected pregnancy is not easy, and it’s okay if you don’t know the perfect words to say. Just be honest. Let her know you are there for her, and ask her how she is feeling and how you can support her. It’s a good way to open the door to communicate, and she may be grateful for the opportunity to talk freely with someone.

Offer Specific Help: Don’t be afraid to ask her if she needs help with anything or to make specific offers to help. For example, you might offer to help with cleaning, finding a good doctor, or running to the store to pick up the one food that won’t make her feel sick. But remember to read her cues, and make sure you’re not being overbearing.

Set up a Support System: In addition to the standard baby registry, you can help her get other kinds of support by lining up much-needed, practical help. Take advantage of websites that allow friends and family to sign up to make meals, send food deliveries, or simply donate money. You can also look into what programs and assistance may be sponsored by your local diocesan pastoral care or Respect Life offices.

Tell Her She is Beautiful: She may be feeling physically, spiritually, and emotionally drained with this pregnancy. Take the time to reassure her of her beauty, both inside and out, especially when morning sickness might make her feel otherwise.

Help Her Recharge & Relax: First-time mothers may have difficulty crossing that threshold into their new life as a mother. She may be fearful that her life is “over,” so help her see it’s okay and to still focus on herself sometimes. Even though she is a mother, she will still continue to be a woman, so affirm that it’s healthy and important to take care of herself.

Reassure Her it’s Okay & Good to Be Happy: It can be hard to be happy about a pregnancy that many people see as unfortunate timing at best and totally irresponsible at worst. Even if your friend wants to be happy about her bundle of joy, she may not feel she “deserves” to show that happiness. Get excited about her pregnancy in front of her, and she may just feel comfortable enough to share her own excitement with you.

Encourage Her: Society tends to focus on ways that an unexpected pregnancy can be challenging. Help her think of the benefits. Remind her of the fluttering kicks, somersaults, and maybe even dance moves her son or daughter will be rocking once they grow a little more. With moms’ groups and opportunities for play dates, there’s a whole new social world to explore.

Point out Real-Life Role Models: Many amazing young mothers and birthmothers have experienced unexpected pregnancies and still followed their dreams. Other women have discovered that, even when unable to follow their lives as planned, something beautiful and good came out of the twists in the road, bringing opportunities, growth, and joy they hadn’t imagined. And let’s not forget Mary, whose “yes” to bearing Jesus affected the course of history. The Blessed Mother is a great person to pour her heart out to, and she’s a powerhouse of intercessory prayer.

For More Information Visit The United States of Catholic Bishops at: www.usccb.org

Sept. 25th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Fight Complacency with Cursillo! Christ is calling you

By Damian Hanley

It is very, very difficult to achieve a state of perfect stagnation. And, so it is with our faith. The maxim goes something like: We can only live in faith or fear. When we’re living in one, the other is necessarily absent. By living in faith, we trust God. Gratitude is in our hearts. We are effective in our jobs, in our homes, and in the lives of friends. We are present.

When we live in a state of fear, our hearts are closed, we are selfish, mean-spirited and we isolate. We are moving away from God when we live in fear. On an esoteric level, fear is the liar that tells us we are doomed to a life of misery and meaninglessness. And on a pragmatic level, fear makes us hard to be around.

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And, so we must look for opportunities to grow in our faith so that we can grow closer to Christ, and then ideally, become better at giving and receiving love. Cursillo is one such opportunity.

You may have heard of Cursillo before, but if you haven’t, it is a three-day retreat experience, which takes a New Testament look at Christianity as a lifestyle. It is a highly structured weekend designed to strengthen and renew your faith, and in turn, help strengthen and renew the faith of your family, Church and environment.

From the Cursillo website: Cursillo (pronounced “kur-see-yoh”) is a Spanish term which means “short course in Christianity”. It is a combined effort of laity and clergy toward the renewal of the Church. Cursillo is an encounter with Christ that encourages growth in grace and intensifies the Catholic Christian’s ability to be His witness in the world. This encounter strengthens faith, promotes personal holiness and assists Christians in discovering their personal vocation.

Cursillo originated in Majorca, Spain in the 1940’s. Eduardo Bonnin and his companions developed the Cursillo Method while attempting to train others for a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St James at Compostela. This first effort produced such a profound effect that the group began holding three-day “short courses” and soon the method was accepted officially by the Church. The first Cursillo in North America was in Waco, Texas in 1959.

Cursillo is supported by the Roman Catholic Church. It is joined to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops through an official liaison in the person of Bishop Emeritus Carlos A. Sevilla S.J. from the Diocese of Yakima, and through the Bishops’ Secretariat for the Laity in Washington, D.C. The spiritual advisor for the movement in the United States is Rev. Alex Waraksa from the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.

“It’s really a great chance to get away from the ‘rat race’ and spend some time learning about the Catholic faith and God’s incredible love for you,” shares Kelly Mamott. She and her husband, Tom, are parishioners at St Katharine Drexel Parish, in Cape Coral. “It is wisely recommended that spouses experience the Cursillo weekend in the same year. It was wonderful to share this experience as a married couple. Not only did Cursillo help my faith, but our marriage has been enriched too.”

Marriage is work, and the Mamott’s have four children. It would be easy for them to fabricate an excuse for avoiding a 72-hour weekend. But they recognize that life and spirituality is a constant process of course correction. The quality of our relationships is a function of our ability to emulate Christ in our interaction with other people. In the minutia of daily life, it’s easy to lose track of the bigger picture – which is to become more loving people.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking our job is to make money, provide for our family and stay out of trouble. The rest of our time should be spent watching pro athletes do things we would do if God really answered prayers. We want to live this one-dimensional life because the older we get, the better we get at it. By default, life keeps getting easier if these are our goals. But alas, these should not be our goals. We get complacent. We stagnate, and inevitably, fear creeps into our lives. If our focus is only on the material side of life, we will always be disappointed. We need regular reminders that serving God first is not an arbitrary suggestion.

“I was looking for a group of men that was more than just a social gathering. I was looking for a group of men interested in growing in their faith and sharing,” Tom shares. “My Pastor suggested making a Cursillo weekend since they have small group meetings after the weekend.”

See? We crave connection with other people on a spiritual level. If Tom had made a lifelong habit of ensuring his spiritual needs were met, he would have never gone looking for Cursillo. That doesn’t make him a bad person. It makes him human. We all slip. We all need to refocus our priorities. What Tom was feeling wasn’t irregular. We’ve all felt it.

How many times in our adult lives have we found ourselves participating with minimal effort and motivation, experiencing a general, vague malaise that you can’t really put into words? There is something missing.

Well, practicing Catholicism demands that you are shaken from your lethargy, and Cursillo can do this for you. There is an excitement that can be found in shifting one’s primary mindset from a fear-based existence to a faith-based life. Once your frame of reference shifts, the spirit in which you engage in life is altered dramatically.

Was it worth it? “The Cursillo weekend really got me excited about my Catholic faith and opened my understanding of Christian community,” Tom continues. “Cursillo helps me strive to be closer to Christ. I can witness to my faith through normal everyday encounters with people.”

And isn’t that what living your faith is all about? Show me someone that hides their Catholicism and I’ll show you a person that merely lacks the right education. Being prepared to deploy and defend the principles of our faith is synonymous with upholding the dignity of life.

The more time that passes in our lives, the more God expects from us. The more people He puts in our lives (children especially), the more responsible we are to being there for these people. So if we are not actively looking for ways to expand our spiritual capacity, we are losing ground. We are living in fear if we are resting on our laurels.

This is the role that Cursillo will play in your life. You don’t need to be married to participate, but you do need to be sponsored. Find out more at www.JesusInFlorida.com (I bet you’re a little surprised at that domain name).

If you’ve been lax in your spiritual development, it’s okay. You’re human. If you’ve been lax, and you’ve ignored this fact for the last decade, that’s not okay, and you need Cursillo more than you think. But seriously, complacency is a spirit killer. Take the action today and find a sponsor.

PLEASE SEE PAGE 10 of the Bulletin:

For more information regarding weekends available and Cursillo representatives.

August 28th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Ministries, The 23rd Times | No Comments


Amid Louisiana floods, victims become helpers

By Kevin J. Jones | http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/amid-louisiana-floods-victims-become-helpers-95698/

Baton Rouge, La., Aug 16, 2016 / 11:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In southern Louisiana, the flooding is perhaps unprecedented. And the local Catholic Charities is stepping up to help, even as its own staff is affected by the disasters.

“This is something that we’ve never experienced before,” David C. Aguillard, executive director of Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge, told CNA.

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“We’re the disaster capital of the world down here. We’ve had oil spills, rig fires, tornados, ice storms, hurricanes, floods,” he said Aug. 15. “The thing about this is it’s such a widespread area. This is basically all of south Louisiana from the Mississippi border to Texas. Everything south of I-10 is flooded.”

More than 30 inches of rain fell in southern Louisiana beginning on Friday, flooding rivers and waterways. Some rivers won’t recede for two days, and any additional rain would risk more flash floods.

At least seven persons have died because of the storms.

More than 20,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes and 12,000 were staying in shelters, ABC News reports. Some shelters were over capacity and lacked sufficient beds, and expanding floodwaters caused evacuations at some shelters that were supposed to be safe havens. Some people still need to be evacuated from their homes.

President Barack Obama has declared a federal emergency in the affected areas.

Over 40,000 homes are without power, hundreds of roads were closed, and 1,400 bridges need safety inspections before being reopened.

“Riding Interstate 10 was like riding an elevated causeway through a waterway. It was water on both sides of the interstate,” Aguillard told CNA.

Normally the agency would be deploying its resources, case managers, and mental health workers. But the impact is so broad, many of its staff are affected, too. They and their families are seeking shelter or trying to leave their neighborhoods.

“The water backed up and nothing was draining. In neighborhoods that have never been flooded, people have four, six, twelve inches of water in their house,” Aguillard said. “We were not spared ourselves.”

Some agency staff feel the same emotions as other victims: shock, trauma, sadness, a feeling of loss; but also a realization that, in Aguillard’s words, “it’s time to get to work and help people.”

“I’ve had staff in here who had to evacuate their homes. They’re feeling sad, you can tell, but at the same time they’re here today,” he added. “We’re going to do everything we possibly can to help people who aren’t as fortunate to have a place to come to.”

Some shelters are inaccessible from Baton Rouge and relief workers comes in from New Orleans. Catholic Charities is now aiding parishes that need toiletries, food, and even coffee. Case managers and mental health professionals are going to the shelters, which are “full to the brim.”

Cash, though, is the most useful asset in such a situation – and for Catholic Charities’ long-term relief work.

“In the weeks and days immediately after a disaster, there’s a tremendous rush of good will and high energy and compassion. And that is desperately needed,” Aguillard explained. “That is very valuable. But the fact is, there are people who might take years to recover.”

“Their workplaces might close down. They might be one or two paychecks away from losing their house or their lease. That’s where we come in. We’re here for the long term to help with that recovery process that can take two to five years, sometimes longer.”

There are still some people have yet to recover from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Not everybody has a savings account. Not everybody has family with resources to help. That’s what we’re here for,” said Aguillard.

“We go out and we do the work immediately when it is needed. We just pray and we trust and have faith that the resources are going to come. And we’ve never been let down,” he said.

“The generosity of people around the country is just overwhelming. It’s phenomenal. It’s very touching when we start getting donations from the state of Washington or Alaska, not only from within our diocese.”

Baton Rouge Catholic Charities is asking for donations to help flood relief work through its website, www.ccdiobr.org.

August 14th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Ministries, The 23rd Times | No Comments

Pope Says Fallen World Prefers “Couch Potatoes” to Youth Who are Awake

Addressing more than a million young women and men who’d walked almost nine miles to participate in a prayer vigil, Pope Francis called on youth not to be “couch potatoes.”

“The times we live in do not call for young ‘couch potatoes’ but for young people with shoes, or better, boots laced. It only takes players on the first string, and it has no room for bench-warmers,” Francis said.

Talking to young people on Saturday night in Krakow, Poland, where they’ve been participating in a week-long rally called World Youth Day, Francis warned them against the “sofa-happiness,” calling it the most “harmful and insidious form of paralysis.”

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A sofa, he said, that “makes us feel comfortable, calm, safe,” away from any kind of pain or fear, spending hours playing video games or in front of a computer screen.

He said it’s a dangerous paralysis because as “we start to nod off” other people, “more alert” but “not necessarily better, decide our future for us.”

For many people, Francis warned, it’s better to have drowsy, tone-deaf and dull kids who confuse happiness with a sofa.

“For many people, that is more convenient than having young people who are alert and searching, trying to respond to God’s dream and to all the restlessness present in the human heart,” the pope said, adding that they hadn’t come into this world to “vegetate, to take it easy” but to “leave a mark.”

“But when we opt for ease and convenience, for confusing happiness with consumption, then we end up paying a high price indeed: we lose our freedom,” Francis said.

Following Jesus, the pope continued, demands courage and a readiness to change the couch for walking shoes.
“[God] is encouraging you to dream. He wants to make you see that, with you, the world can be different. For the fact is, unless you offer the best of yourselves, the world will never be different,” Francis said.

Throughout the day, young pilgrims staying in Krakow and in cities surrounding it to participate in World Youth Day (WYD) trekked on foot to arrive at Campus Misericordiae, a field prepared for the occasion on the outskirts of Krakow.

Many made the hike carrying backpacks and sleeping bags, since they’ll spend the night in the field. Along the way, hundreds of Polish people came out from their homes to give them fresh water and, in some cases, even to hose them down to help them keep cool.

At Campus Misericordiae, on a 100-yard-long altar area where the final Mass will be celebrated Sunday morning, Francis led them in prayer, but before and after him, several dozen artists from around the world kept the flow going.

During the night, after the pope left the field, chapels for adoration were set to be open all night and priests available for confession in many designated areas.

“Today’s world demands that you be a protagonist of history, because life is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully, when we choose to leave a mark,” a visibly animated Francis said, responding to the questions posed to him by three youth before the Eucharistic adoration began.

The pontiff was visibly moved by the experience of Rand Mittri, a 26-year-old Syrian from Aleppo, who told the pope and the millions attentively listening to her that her city has been destroyed, and “the meaning of our lives has been cancelled. We are the forgotten.”

Attempting to “share a few aspects of our reality” with those participating in the event, Mittri spoke about the fear that overcomes her when she leaves her home every morning, because she knows it’s possible that when she comes back from work, her family might not be there. “Perhaps we will be killed that day. Or perhaps our family will,” she said.

“It is a hard and painful feeling to know that you are surrounded by death and killing, and there is no way to escape; no one to help,” Mittri said, visibly emotional, before an audience that was equally tearing up.
This young woman shared her personal experience with the ongoing Syrian war, which began five years ago and has caused the death of 400,000 people, and which does not seem to be coming to an end any time soon.

The conflict, she said, has caused her to grow up ahead of time and to see things differently.

Mittri works at a Don Bosco Center in Aleppo, which daily receives more than 700 young men and women who “come hoping to see a smile,” and seeking something lacking in their lives – she called it “humanitarian treatment.”

“But it is very difficult for me to give joy and faith to others, while I myself am bankrupt of these things in my life,” Mittri said. “Through my meager life experience, I have learned that my faith in Christ supersedes the circumstances of life. This truth is not conditioned on living a life of peace that is free of hardship. More and more, I believe that God exists despite all of our pain,” she said. Pope Francis began his remarks talking about Mittri, who was the second of the three who shared their lives with the crowd. He talked about where the pilgrims who took part in WYD come from: from countries at conflict and war, or from countries “at peace” where most terrible things are stories on the evening news.

“For us, here, today, coming from different parts of the world, the suffering and the wars that many young people experience for us are no longer anonymous, something we read about in the papers. They have a name, they have a face, they have a story, they are close at hand,” Francis said. Throughout the week, Christians who are victims of persecution around the world had a special place at World Youth Day, with Archbishop Bashar Warda of Iraq addressing over 20,000 English-speaking pilgrims at the Mercy Center, the largest catechesis spot in Krakow, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

Warda came to Poland with 200 pilgrims from his country, some of whom carried the cross during the Way of the Cross prayer on Friday.

Saturday’s vigil was the eve of the closing of a week-long celebration and affirmation of the Catholic faith. Young people from around the globe gathered in the city of St. John Paul II to share their experiences, to pray together and to get to know the reality of Christians living in different places.

For one week, no border divided Americans from Mexicans, Middle Easterners from Europeans, Ukrainians from Russians. For one week, the remainder of what unites them was more important than that which divides them.
As the pope put it, situations that would typically seem distant, “because we see them on the screen of a cell phone or a computer,” became a reality for many.

Getting involved, Francis said, is not about “denouncing anyone or fighting” because “we have no desire to conquer hatred with more hatred, violence with more violence, terror with more terror.”

“Our response to a world at war has a name: its name is fraternity, its name is brotherhood, its name is communion, its name is family,” the pope said. “Let our best word, our best argument, be our unity in prayer,” Francis said.

Close to the end of his remarks, the pontiff encouraged the youth to take the path of the “craziness” of God, “who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbors who feel abandoned.”

God, he told them, encourages the young to be politicians, thinkers, social activists, and promoters of an economy inspired by solidarity. Amid all the seriousness during these days, with Francis’ visit to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration cand often talking about some of today’s dramas such as war, terrorism and migration, the pope nevertheless found moments on Saturday to let it all hang out.

For instance, earlier in the day, he had lunch with 14 youngsters, including one from Brazil. Known for his love for soccer, Francis asked the young man who’s better, Argentina’s famous soccer player Maradona or Brazil’s Pele. To which he answered that, “as a Brazilian” it’s another Argentinian, Lionel Messi.

He had a similar relaxed moment at the beginning of the vigil. He was scheduled to go through a Holy Door accompanied by six young people. After doing so, he unexpectedly invited them to join him on the Popemobile, took them for a spin and then asked them to sit next to him on stage.

Towards the end of his remarks on Saturday’s vigil, Francis said that nowadays it’s easier to concentrate on divisions, and asked everyone on the Campus Misericordiae to hold hands, building a “great fraternal bridge.”
“People try to make us believe that being closed in on ourselves is the best way to keep safe from harm. Today, we adults need you to teach us how to live in diversity, in dialogue, to experience multiculturalism not as a threat but an opportunity,” the pope said.

July 31st, 2016 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Ministries, The 23rd Times | No Comments

Celebrate Faith Formation

The Faith Formation Program at St. John XXIII strives to provide a Christian atmosphere of faith, love, and compassion to welcome children and families into our program. Beginning with the faith received in Baptism, we seek to collaborate with parents and the parish community to teach children the gospel message so they may live their life in worship and service in the love of Jesus Christ. Below are listed some of our programs. Please visit us in the next weekend at our Faith Education Celebration Weekend for more information or to register for classes.

  • Children’s Liturgy of the Word each Sunday during the 9:15 and 11:15 Mass.
  • Faith Formation Kindergarten through 5th grade (formerly known as C.C.D)
  • Sacrament Preparation classes for Baptism, First Reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation
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St. John XXIII Youth Ministry

The Youth Ministry at St. John XXIII provides our pre-teens and teens on a path where their faith meets their lives. We “meet our youth where they are” so they can better relate to God as Christians and grow in their Catholic Faith. Faith, love, healthy friendships, character-building and fun teambuilding activities are the focus of our youth group sessions. Please visit us next weekend in the Narthex during our Faith Celebration Weekend for more information and to register for Youth Group.

  • Middle School Youth Group meets during the academic school year on Wednesday evenings 6pm to 7:15 pm
  • High School Youth Group meets during the academic year on Sunday evenings 6:30pm to 8pm

St. John XXIII Young Adult Ministry

All are welcome: married, single, women, men, parishioners, and non-parishioners…anyone seeking to journey toward and with God along with other sojourners.

Our 2 Young Adult Ministries serve to encourage friendship, through a faith- based environment, between those who are post-high school through their 30’s. Each group meets monthly for dinner to enjoy socializing with folks of their own age and to explore current topics, faith topics, and life’s various shifts as it relates to their age group. Whether young adults are involved in educational, occupational or relationship objectives, our ministry strives to empower them to be excited about their faith as it meets their everyday life.

Please visit us next weekend in the Narthex during our Faith Celebration Weekend for more information about our Young Adult Ministries and upcoming Thursday Evening dinner gatherings. CONVERGE – ages 18 to 21 | ROOTED ages 22-30 “Something”

St. John XXIII Adult Faith Education

As Catholics, we are always on the journey to learn more about our faith—even as adults. Our parish’s Faith Alive! Team continually offers a wide variety of programs to assist you. You can participate in a bible study, enhance your prayer life, strengthen your relationship with Jesus, learn more about your faith, or explore your own unique God-given talents. Sessions are held Tuesday mornings and/or evenings with some sessions requiring registration and the purchase of materials.

All sessions are advertised weekly on the Faith Alive! page in the bulletin with dates, times and registration information. Please join us in the narthex the weekend of August 6 and 7, after all of the Masses, to learn more about all the adult faith education opportunities being offered.

St. John XXIII | Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

The Rite of Christian Initiation presented here is designed for adults who, after hearing the mystery of Christ proclaimed, consciously and freely seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion as the Holy Spirit opens their hearts. By God’s help they will be strengthened spiritually during their preparation and at the proper time will receive the sacraments fruitfully.

The initiation of adults is gradual (RCIA). While it recognizes key moments (aha! moments) in the life of faith, it recognizes a certain sobriety in committing to Christ. While we read of disciples leaving behind family and career on the spot to follow Jesus, the reality is that for most all people, becoming a Christian is a serious undertaking. The Church wants newcomers to take this very seriously, aware of the ramifications of what they are doing.

Initiation takes place within a community. There is a realistic notion that people are becoming Catholics, and coming over not just to a campus parish but to a Catholic Church you can live with and grow with in your future adult experience.

The community serves as an example to newcomers. As much as we believers are open to and embrace our continuing conversion, new believers see and align with the example we give. If our example is strong, they will be inspired to adapt to it.

The Trinity, as we see it, is not a compartmentalized thing. The Spirit, for example, doesn’t wait for Confirmation, but is truly active in the life of the unbaptized. We recognize this. We pray accordingly.

The rite of initiation is suited to a spiritual journey of adults that varies according to:

  • The many forms of God’s grace,
  • The free cooperation of the individuals,
  • The action of the Church, and
  • The circumstances of time and place.

July 24th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, The 23rd Times | No Comments

Police chaplains struggle amid summer of pain, fear

By Rhina GuidosJuly 14, 2016 | CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON – The week had been emotionally draining at the predominantly black parish in Oakland, California. Along with the rest of the country, they had felt the weight of two more fatal shootings of black men by police. Then things got worse July 7 when a sniper opened fire and killed five police officers during a march in Dallas where people were protesting the fatal shootings.

Two days later, Father Jayson Landeza, pastor of Oakland’s St. Benedict Catholic Church, declared there would be no homilies during his Masses that weekend, and instead allowed parishioners to do the talking during that time. What he and those gathered at St. Benedict’s heard was sadness, pain, fear.

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“My voice was not important,” said Landeza, a priest who finds himself in the middle of communities colliding with each other this summer.

As national leaders call for unity and calm, particularly between black communities and law enforcement, it is up to chaplains like Landeza to shepherd their flocks through this tense summer of mistrust and fear of one another. “Everyone is going to their corners,” said Landeza.

Many in the black community have voiced fear, as well as anger toward police. And police feel that “here are these people who hate us,” said Landeza, explaining what some of the police officers feel when they see some of the protests taking place around the country.

What is his role and the role of other chaplains in all of this?

“I’m struggling with that,” said Landeza during a telephone interview with Catholic News Service. “I’m not going to lecture anybody. I’m just listening and facilitating talking, just talking to each other. Both sides are pretty strongly entrenched.”

Feelings all around are raw, he said, and there’s a lot of acrimony. But it’s also important to hear what everyone is feeling.

“I’m a friend to both sides,” said Landeza, who was with Oakland police during a particularly dark moment in the department’s history. In 2009, four Oakland law enforcement officers, two Oakland police and two SWAT team members, were killed by a felon after a traffic stop.

Landeza led the public memorial service for the officers.

In 16 years as police chaplain, he’s learned that cops are mission-oriented and idealistic, people who are generally trying to do the right thing. His brother-in-law is a police officer, so, in a sense, his mission has a personal element.

But he’s also a pastor and he pays attention to what his black parishioners experience.

“There are people in my parish with deep and profound pain that I will never know as an Asian man,” he said.

Some of that pain comes from mothers and grandmothers worried about sons and grandsons, teens, but also men in the 40s and what can happen to them at the hands of police. Outside of those communities, many don’t understand this fear and dismiss it, he said, but it’s important to listen and understand it.

That’s why he allowed his parishioners to express what they were feeling following the recent shootings. Many thanked him publicly and on Facebook for allowing their voices to be heard.

Along with the mourning, chaplains also are dealing with a growing lack of trust for the police communities they serve, and are trying to find ways to build trust and show support for officers.

“I never experienced the amount of distrust that officers experience today,” said Conventual Franciscan Brother James Reiter, a former reserve officer who lives in Castro Valley, California, and who once served as chaplain for the Los Angeles Police Department. It’s critical that all sides find common ground, he said.

“Both police officers and the public would benefit by asking God for the grace to see each other with his (God’s) eyes,” said Reiter.

“The vocation of a police officer is similar to the vocation of St. Michael the Archangel, their patron saint. As St. Michael battled the forces of evil, so, too, must police officers battle the forces of evil to protect God’s people.”

But are there police officers who bring dishonor to their profession?

“Yes, there are,” said Reiter, but there also are complicated situations that police face and that are difficult for a person without police academy training to consider. Reiter said his personal ministry is to pray for police officers daily.

He opened the @brojimr Twitter account, which he uses daily to tweet support and encouragement to officers he’s never met and lets them know that they are appreciated.

On July 12, at a memorial service for the five officers killed in Dallas, President Barack Obama reminded the nation that “despite the fact that police conduct was the subject of the protest, despite the fact that there must have been signs or slogans or chants with which they profoundly disagreed, these men and this department did their jobs like the professionals that they were.”

But he also acknowledged that despite great strides in race relations in the country, “bias remains.”

Landeza, who was attending a conference of police chaplains during the memorial, said that as an African-American, the president is in a unique situation but he also has to be careful about what he says, and what he’s confined to saying as commander in chief.

However, “no one can deny that the president isn’t trying,” he said. But it’s hard to get all sides to listen to one another, Landeza said. Chaplains, however, will keep working at it, this summer and beyond.

In New York, Monsignor Robert Romano, deputy chief of chaplains for the New York Police Department, attended a candlelight vigil after the Dallas killings to show unity between police and community. He urged people to build bridges with officers, to not be afraid of them and greet them when they see them in public.

In Washington, Monsignor Sal Criscuolo, chaplain for first responders, also called on the public to consider circumstances they may not see in a brief video. But consider, he said, that it’s not an easy job and it’s one that asks for the ultimate sacrifice, including saving the lives of people who may not like you.

“I honestly believe they’re called by God,” Criscuolo said. “It’s a vocation, a commitment of going above and beyond. Like Christ himself, you might be called to sacrifice your own life to save the life of another.”

May 22nd, 2016 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, The 23rd Times | No Comments

Sharing the Trinity

By: Kevin Tierney of Catholic Exchange

When the Gospel was proclaimed at Pentecost, the Church entered a new phase in history. Likewise, with our celebration of Pentecost, while a new liturgical year is not restarted, we do enter a new liturgical season. As with all new things, the first thing we should do is acknowledge God, and this Sunday’s liturgy is no different. Throughout the week (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) traditionally Latin Catholics entered this new season with what were known as Ember Days, days set aside specifically for prayer and fasting. Once those days ended, the Church celebrated Trinity Sunday.

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What does it mean to acknowledge the Trinity? To say we are just acknowledging God is true, but what does that mean? The Collect states that we are able to acknowledge the Trinity “in confessing the true faith”, and that is the first lesson we should learn here. To know the fullness of God is a gift, something we are incapable on our own merits. We can understand God exists from our reason alone. Yet knowing he exists is different from knowing the extent of who he is.

Why does God wish to reveal this to us? The Gospel gives us a hint, where Christ commands us to baptize all in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Christ is engaging in a play on words here. He isn’t giving the Apostles three names, rather, he is giving them one name. The name of God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three are together, and you cannot mention one without the other two. That is why in our liturgies, prayers are never addressed solely to the Father, but to all three persons of the Trinity. All three play a role. In the Extraordinary Form, prayers ar concluded with (or with something similar to) “through Our Lord Jesus Christ your son, who lives and reigns with You (The Father), in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

In the Hebrew culture of Christ’s time, sharing one’s name implies an intimate friendship. So when Jesus is revealing the name of God, He is revealing the desire of God to be close to His Church. That closeness is demonstrated in the way we address God. He is not simply “God”, but rather Abba, father. (Romans 8:15) God wishes himself to be understood in familial terms with us.

In addition to knowing God, Christ commands that we share Him. The first impulse of the Father is to share love with the Son, and that sharing is the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we who have had God made known to us likewise have an impulse to share our faith, our love with others, to make God known. This is the basic impulse of Christianity, to share it with others, both inside and outside the Church. One can even measure the Church by that impulse to share. While we should always be leery of measuring Christianity by the amount of converts we have, we should be measuring Christianity by our willingness to share that faith.

If we are looking for something to say “this is the cause of the Crisis”, I would argue it is that reluctance to share our faith. Due to our divided and factional nature, we do not share our faith with each other. Almost a decade after Summorum Pontificum, traditionalists in prominent dioceses are forbidden from advertising their Latin Masses, from sharing the faith as they understand it with their fellow Catholics. In a desire to go along to get along, how often do we avoid sharing our faith with others? As the Gospel reminds us, we aren’t just failing to share with them an abstraction known as “God”, but we are failing to bring them their family. Is withholding the identity of one’s father a kindness? Is it not cruel? Yet when we scare away from evangelizing, that is what we are doing.

If we aren’t sharing the faith, what’s the point? I want you to reflect on that a bit before answering. What’s the point of having a relationship with God, a relationship that can transform the entire world, just to sit on it and not let anyone know? When you do that, the Gospel loses its power to transform lives, at which point it becomes just another pointless self-help manual, and not a very good one at that. I don’t think any author would say the key to fulfillment is to annoy the world, invite its persecution, and then get killed in the Colliseum or at the hands of fanatics. Yet if we are sharing the message that can transform humanity and all the cosmos, such things are minor in comparison.

Another thing worth remembering in sharing the Trinity with others is that you are sharing something that is not of your own creation. This is the great temptation today. God wishes to reveal himself to humanity, and to be revealed in a certain way. When we change or water down his doctrine and truth, we are trying to show the world something that is not the Trinity. This is why all these debates about tradition and doctrine, frustrating as they can be, matter. We aren’t bitter Pharisees because of it; at least I hope we aren’t! We’ve been given a great gift, and we want everyone else to have it to, but when we change it, it is no longer God’s gift, but rather ours. Our gift can be nice. Our gift can even make people feel better. What it cannot do is change people’s lives. What it cannot do is offer them salvation. Only God can give that to someone, and all we can do is give that message to others in love, and try to create an environment where God’s grace can flourish.

That last sentence gives us our third and final truth about sharing the Trinity. In Catholicism today a large emphasis is placed on conversions. Conversions are great. They are wonderful. Many of us are either converts, or those who rediscovered the faith. Yet beautiful as they are, we cannot base our “success” on the amount of people we convert. We cannot do this because it is not us who converts. St. Paul made this point clear in his epistle to the Corinthians. He planted seeds, others watered, and God made it grow. If we limit our evangelization to simply announcing the word of God, what good is it? The most fertile plant in the world still doesn’t grow without some sort of nutrients. The best way to reveal God’s love is to love. What better way to show a life transformed by love than to show that great love unconditionally? How are we building up a culture of the Gospel so the grace of the Spirit can be fruitful? When we share the faith with others, are we still there the next day helping them out? Or did we do our good deed and go home? Are we sharing the faith in our actions as well as our words? While St. Francis of Assisi almost certainly never said “preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words”, it must be remember we are revealing to others a new way of living, not just a new way of thinking. The Gospel is meant to transform every aspect of our lives. Unless we live out that transformation, why should anyone believe what we say?

I think all of these reasons are why Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday after Pentecost. We are called to take up the mission of spreading the Gospel just as the Apostles were. Their first task was to receive the truth about God, and then share it with others. When we go to Mass this Sunday, we are given the truth about the Trinity, and immediately expected to share it with others, in both our words, and our deeds.

May 15th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Introducing Our New Parish Nurses

By: Danielle O’Brien

One of many things St. John XXIII Catholic Church is blessed with are parishioners with great talent and want to use that talent to serve the Body of Christ. Parishioners, Helen Tuffy (pictured left) and Judy Balyeat (pictured right) are a true example of that. Both registered nurses with active licenses, Helen and Judy are taking their passion of nursing and combining it with their faith as they have just been commissioned as the Parish Nurses at St. John XXIII. The program, headed by Lee Memorial Health Systems, aims to bring a spiritual component to the encouragement of health and wellness making for a successful plan to focus on whole person health.

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Judy and Helen will be the first ones to say that they won’t be able to make your health problems go away, but they will do their best to understand what is happening and explain it to you in a way that you can understand.

Danielle O’Brien: Tell us a little bit about your nursing experience.

Judy Balyeat: I worked for forty years as a nurse. Since my husband and I were raising a family many of those years, I was part-time. I retired from Ohio State University after 27 years. I worked in individual departments such as critical care, peripheral vascular disease, trauma and same-day surgery. I also worked for five years in home health, three years for an allergist and three years volunteering for a pro-life clinic.

Helen Tuffy: I have been a nurse as long as I can remember! Since before we couldn’t tell our patients what their blood pressure was! I worked mostly in the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Units. My transfer to Home Health opened up a new world where I had one-on-one with my patients. I love it.

DOB: How did you first hear about the Parish Nurse Program?

JB: I was intrigued by the parish nurse program when I first came to St. John XXIII 10 years ago. I didn’t know anyone in the program at the time, so I got involved in home health ministries. Then about six weeks ago, Helen approached me about the parish nurse program. I was so honored and blessed to be asked. I can now combine the faith and profession that I love and cherish.

HT: Parish Nursing has become increasing in popularity over the past 20 years. Presently, there are only two Catholic Churches in Lee and Collier County that have the same program that we are involved in. Nancy Roberts of Lee Memorial Health Systems met with Holly and me to explain its advantages. After some discernment, we thought it might be a good ministry for St. John XXIII.

DOB: What are you most passionate about in nursing?

JB: All my life I wanted to be a nurse! I love helping people in all aspects of need and care.

DOB: What exactly does a “Parish Nurse” do?

Here’s an idea of what we do:

A.We’ll speak at the Parish Advisory Council (PAC) meetings and offer services, collaboration and resources to all parish groups and ministries.
B. We assist parishioners who are being discharged from the hospital and rehab facilities. We’ll make sure they have food, care and an understanding of the discharge instructions.
C. We assist with community resource referrals.

DOB: Why is the Parish Nurse program an answered prayer for many parishioners at St. John XXIII?

So many of our parishioners are very sick and need education and care in physical, emotional and spiritual areas. We are now beginning to offer assistance and hope to be fully operational in the Fall of 2016.

We hope to prevent problems for our parishioners before they rise to a crisis level, and lessen hospital re-admissions when we can, through the use of resources and education, as we share God’s love and mercy.

DOB: Talk about the process you had to go through in order to be commissioned as a Parish Nurse?

JB: Lee Memorial System has an awesome community program available to all parish nurses. Nancy Roberts will serve as our mentor and is guiding us through the learning and set-up process. We’ve had to get training through Lee Memorial Health System, CPR certified, Florida Nursing licenses and take a minimum 35 hour Parish nurse education program.

DOB: Can the parish nurses assist in helping non-members of St. John XXIII?

JB: Sure. While our parishioners come first, we can try to help any referrals given to us by the priests or parish office.

If someone would like to speak with you about one of your services, what should they do or how do they go about getting in contact with you?

Right now folks can contact the parish office, (239)561-2245. The office will pass the information on to us. Once we have visited a patient/parishioner, they will contact us directly for their future needs.

May 8th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Happy Mother’s Day

As we celebrate Mother’s Day to honor the most important woman in our lives – our moms – we should also honor Mary, the Mother of God, and us all. The Bible tells as that she was the one who bore Christ, our Savior from our sins.

Jesus himself told His beloved disciple, John, “Behold your mother” (John 19:27), in a message to all the members of his Church that we should all behold the mother who brought God’s life to us. It is not surprising that Mary has become one of the most important images of the Catholic Church. Mary, our mother, has become the most sacred symbol of God’s love to his Church. As children of God, we are bound to one another through His love. And, Mary is the perfect symbol to remind us of this.

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Through Mary, the faithful is called to her son. She is our shining example of human virtue and we look at her as the epitome of our faith, the true humble handmade of the Lord. Yet, she is a woman with intense compassion to her children. Many faithful believe that we can get faster through Christ through her intervention. Such is the power she wields.

Even the Vatican Council II recognizes her importance when it decided to include a summary of Marian doctrine in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, instead of issuing another decree on Mary. Perhaps the Council Fathers want to remind the Catholic faithful that we should always place Mary equally within our understanding of the Christian faith.

Because Mother’s Day is also a time to pay tribute to the greatest mother of all, Mary, we can show our devotion to our Church with these Bible verses that will help us to reflect and renew our faith.

1. I Corinthians 13:4-7 – Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous; is not proud; is not conceited; does not act foolishly; is not selfish; is not easily provoked to anger; keeps no record of wrongs; takes no pleasure in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

This is one of the most well-known passages in the Bible on love. A mother’s love knows no boundaries.

2. Philippians 4:8 – Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of a good report – if there is any virtue and if there is any praise – think on these things.

Moms are a great source of honor, loveliness and goodness. A mother’s love for her children is pure and full of virtue.

3. Psalm 127:3 – Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD, and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
The Bible also teaches us to praise motherhood as God himself praises the woman who gives life to a child. Being a mother is God’s reward.

4. Isaiah 49:15 – Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? A mother will never forget her child no matter what. A mother’s love and devotion to her child will stand the test of time.

5. Psalm 139:13 – You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb
And even while we are still in our mother’s womb, God’s hand is already working to nurture us and make us what we are now.

By: Komfie Manalo

Prayer for Mothers

Loving God,
We ask your blessings on all mothers.
May they be inspired with your mercy, wisdom, strength and selfless love.
For new mothers with new responsibilities; For expectant mothers, wondering and waiting;
For those who are tired, stressed or depressed; For those who balance the tasks of work and family; For those whose children have
physical, mental and emotional disabilities;
For those who raise children on their own; For those who selflessly place their child for adoption; For those who adopt a child into their family;
For those who have lost a child; For those who care for the children of others; For those whose children have left home; For those whose desire to be a mother has not been fulfilled.
Bless all mothers, that their love may be deep and tender, and that they may lead their children to know and do what is good.
Amen

 

Mar. 6th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Parish Mission | At a Glance

Sunday, March 6th
What is God’s extravagant mercy? 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Reading: Isaiah 61: 1-2 | John 8:2-11
Quiet Reflection: What does the word “mercy” mean to me?

Pope Francis:
Jesus’s attitude is striking: we do not hear the words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversation. “Neither do I condemn you; go and do not sin again.”

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Monday, March 7th
How is God’s mercy experienced? 8:45am – 9:45am & 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Readings: Ezekiel 11:19-20 | Luke 5: 12-16
Quiet Reflection: When have I had the most profound experience of receiving mercy?

Pope Francis:
Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.

Tuesday, March 8th
How do we share God’s mercy? 8:45am – 9:45am & 7:00pm – 8:00pm with evening Reconciliation Service
Readings: Micah 6:8 | Luke 19:1-10
Quiet Reflection: How can I grow in compassion for others?

Pope Francis:
The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.

Reconciliation Service
1 Peter 2:4-10
Quiet Reflection:
How am I in need of mercy and forgiveness?
How can I extend mercy and forgiveness to another?

“A Parish Mission is an opportunity for us to get away and get into that boat with Jesus. It’s a time to quiet ourselves and listen to Him and ask, ‘What is Jesus saying to me right now?’”

– Father Bob Tabbert

Feb. 28th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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2016 St. John XXIII Parish Picnic Recap

The Annual Parish Picnic was a great success! A special Thank You to Picnic Coordinators, Dick & Pat Dohack and Al & Sharon Natella, along with their amazing team of volunteers in the kitchen. Thank you to Bill & Lois Becker, Carol Davis, Andy & Betsy Engelbrecht, Tony Gravette, Knights of Columbus, Youth Group, Bishop Verot Students, and Boy Scout Troop 1! Big Thanks to Lt. Angelo Vaughn with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and South Trail Fire Department for participating in the event with fun tutorials about law enforcement and fire safety. Thank you to The Hispanic Community for their delicious empanadas! Last, none of this would have happened without the hard work of Robert Erp, our Maintenance Supervisor and his team of helpers.

We are so grateful to have all of you part of our parish community!

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Feb. 21st, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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GOD’S EXTRAVAGANT MERCY | Parish Mission 2016

By: Danielle O’Brien

For those who aren’t too familiar with a Parish Mission- in short, a parish mission is what renews one’s faith, commitment and attachment to the Body of Christ present in our faith community. Let’s face it… the Parish Mission is dead-smack in the middle of what is likely your busiest time of the year—but what if Father Bob scheduled it during this specific time for a reason. Yes, it’s also Lent, but, maybe, just maybe, attending the Parish Mission in the middle of mayhem is just what you need. Here are a few words from Father Bob Tabbert on what you can expect this March 6th-8th!

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Danielle O’Brien: Tell us a little about the upcoming Parish Mission?

Father Bob Tabbert: I think it’s going to be a marvelous opportunity for us to enter into the desert- to go into the heart and have prayerful time to reflect on where we are now with our relationship with God, our neighbors, family, friends and coworkers. Presenting the Parish Mission this year, are two wonderful sisters, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany. Sisters Colleen Brady and Jo Streva are wonderful. You may remember them from St. Francis Xavier School. Now, they are stationed over in Miami. I admire and have great respect for the both of them.
This year, of course, is the Year of Mercy. Pope Francis has called us to the Year of Jubilee, by which we experience the mercy and compassion of God in our lives.

You know, if we are going to be merciful to others, we also need to be merciful to ourselves.

A Parish Mission is an opportunity for us to get away and get into that boat with Jesus. It’s a time to quiet ourselves and listen to Him and ask, “What is Jesus saying to me right now? What are the areas of my life that I need to reflect upon that need some reforming? How can I deepen my own relationship with God, our Father?”

This year’s theme for our Mission is “God’s Extravagant Mercy.” God never gives up on us, even when we’ve given up on God. God’s mercy is constant in our lives.

On Sunday, March 6th at 7:00pm, we will hear from the Sisters on “What is God’s extravagant mercy?” They are going to go into the scriptures and various encyclicals and doctrines of the Catholic Church on God’s mercy.

On Monday, March 7th at 8:45am and 7:00pm, we’re going to dive into “How is God’s mercy experienced?”

We’ll learn about how mercy is experienced through prayer, relationships etc.

On Tuesday, March 8th at 8:45am and 7:00pm, we’ll focus in on “How do we share God’s mercy?”

Catholics often ask, “How do I share God’s mercy with my family members, coworkers, and with strangers? How do I portray that merciful spirit that might engage them to experience the mercy of God that they may have never embraced before?”

Maybe, for the first time, you and I might become conduits of bringing that powerful, merciful, compassionate love of God to other people. Let’s face it, so many people are dealing with heavy issues. All of us are carrying various crosses. That’s especially why this Parish Mission, especially during the season of Lent, can be a powerful time for us to listen to Jesus and become disciples of mercy. That’s my challenge to each and every parishioner. How can you become a disciple of mercy?

Danielle: Why did you select Sisters Colleen Brady and Jo Streva to present the Parish Mission?

Father Bob: I have the greatest admiration for these two sisters. They have been a great example of faith in Lee County and have touched many people’s lives. A couple of years ago, they presented at our staff retreat and it was so engaging, especially how they bounce off of each other when presenting.

In the past number of years, I’ve had priests present our Parish Mission, but this year I wanted to have a different angle. Religious women bring a different dimension of spirituality. When parishioners attend this Mission, they will leave in awe.

Danielle: Talk about how the Parish Mission isn’t just for parishioners at St. John XXIII?

Father Bob: I encourage everyone to invite someone to the Parish Mission. You may know someone who has been away from the church and need to experience the healing and mercy of God… perhaps they are angry at God. Just invite them and let God take care of the rest. Wouldn’t that be the greatest thing you could do during Lent?! I truly hope to see you and a friend at this year’s Parish Mission!

Feb. 14th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Ministries, The 23rd Times | No Comments

2016 Catholic Faith Appeal: Your Pledge is a Promise of a Better Future for so Many

From the Diocese of Venice in Florida

Thank you for assisting St. John XXIII and the Diocese of Venice in Florida! Your gift to the Catholic Faith Appeal directly impacts the lives of people from all walks of life who seek spiritual nourishment or temporal services from one of the following:

  • Building Department
  • Catholic Charities
  • Catholic Schools Department
  • Child and Youth Protection
  • College Campus Outreach
  • Continuing Education
  • Diocesan Marriage Tribunal
  • Diocesan Retreat Center
  • Family Life Outreach
  • Haitian Apostolate
  • Hispanic Apostolate
  • Marriage Preparation
  • Mass on TV for the Homebound
  • Office of Religious Life
  • Office of Evangelization
  • Peace and Social Justice Office
  • Permanent Diaconate
  • Poor Parishes and Missions
  • Prison Outreach
  • Religious Education Office
  • Respect Life Department
  • Safe Environment Program
  • Seminarian Education
  • Stewardship/Development
  • Support for Convents
  • The Catholic Center
  • Vocations Office
  • Worship Office
  • Young Adult Outreach
  • Youth Outreach
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Evangelization & Family Life Outreach

The Office of Evangelization works to infuse the Spirit of the Gospel throughout the Diocese—in homes,parishes, schools, prisons, workplaces, and, most importantly, in our hearts—so that all can draw closer to Our Lord Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church.

  • Evangelization Efforts
  • Strengthening the Faith of practicing Catholics
  • Fostering Prayer and Catholic Teaching
  • Proclaiming the Gospel in the Public Square
  • Reaching out to the Homebound
  • Promoting Catholic Identity
  • Inviting all Catholics to return home
  • Reaching out to interested non-Catholics
  • Overseeing Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) Programs
  • Visiting those in Prison
  • Family Life Outreach
  • Marriage Preparation
  • Natural Family Planning
  • Marriage Enrichment
  • Civilly Divorced/Separated Catholics
  • Elderly and Vulnerable Assistance

Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities in Southwest Florida is a leading provider of social services in the private sector and holds the esteemed four star rating from Charity Navigator. The programs of Catholic Charities serve more than 40,000 individuals and families. Ninety-two ($0.92)cents of every dollar donated goes directly to programming. For this support Catholic Charities relies not only on fundraising and grants, but also on the Catholic Faith Appeal.One of the largest human trafficking assistance programs in Florida is run by Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Venice. The Catholic Charities team works to provide and coordinate an expansive array of services to survivors, from basic human needs to legal representation.This is accomplished by collaboration with public authorities. Each year Catholic Charities provides assistance to those striving to achieve family reunification and those seeking citizenship. A refugee resettlement program offers job training, placement and employment status assistance, as well as connecting refugee children and youth with educational services. Catholic Charities manages designated housing for veterans, and each year honors those who have served our country with a special tribute at the Veteran’s Ball.

Vocations

Overseeing the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation of seminarians, the Offi ce of Vocations and Seminarian Formation promotes vocations and evaluates candidates. The Catholic Faith Appeal supports candidates for the priesthood, candidates for the diaconate, continuing education for priests, as well as the Offi ce of Religious Life.

In order to be prepared for the many challenges of priestly life, seminarians undergo an extensive formation program, often lasting up to eight years. Academically, four years of philosophy, followed by another four years of theology studies at the major seminary are required. At the same time seminarians are expected to grow spiritually and mature as persons. Broad pastoral formation rounds out their preparation to serve as priests. The Diocese invests over $68,000 per year for the comprehensive formation of each seminarian. There are eighteen men currently discerning the call to the priesthood for the Diocese of Venice. Four men are training to serve as permanent deacons, and a new group of candidates is now forming.

Thirty-five different women’s religious orders have sisters present in the Diocese. Twenty-six different religious communities of priests and brothers are also represented. Faithful to their religious vows, these men and women are an inspirational witness to the Christian life lived in prayer and service to others.