Oct. 15th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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The Now Moment for America: A Conversation about Racism

By Joanne Halt, M.A.

Racism is one of those topics that can immediately put us on edge. We fear examining our beliefs because to do so could open a Pandora’s Box and we might be judged. The violent outcome of the march in Charlottesville V.A. illustrates that we are at a decision point in America about racial beliefs. People of conscience could not allow the coalition of white supremacists to march there without a counter march of protest since such hate groups such as the KKK and Neo-Nazis pose a direct challenge to the dignity of human life. To be supportive in any way to such activity is to foster racism. What many folks might feel is a “Where did all of this come from?” moment in society has been developing as the demographics of our country are changing and fear predominates. White supremacy group membership is at an all time high and increasingly vocal. White privilege, which fueled the march in Charlottesville, is a concept waiting to be unpacked for many of us. Concurrently, the issue of color determining one person’s response to another has been festering individually and collectively for the lifetime of pretty much every black or brown person living in America today. Ask any man of color what it feels like to see the kneejerk reaction of a white woman clutching her purse in fear as he walks toward her. For African Americans skin color is the barrier they face to assimilation, unlike other minority groups who have assimilated much more easily in our culture.

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To deny the racial divide in our country is not possible. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently announced the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism which is addressing the sin of racism in our society and Church, and the urgent need to come together to find solutions. Almost 40 years ago, the USCCB wrote a Pastoral Letter on Racism which stated that “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.”

Prejudice can lurk unnoticed in our unconscious beliefs. Without prayerful reflection, it can feed on the fear of what is different and grow into overt racism. Self-reflection is a beginning that must then lead to action. Our bishops are calling us to this moment of self-inquiry and conversion.

To help us with this beginning step of self-inquiry, The Respect for Life Committee is hosting a presentation by Dr. Martha R. Bireda, PhD. on October 17th. She is Director of the Blanchard House Museum of African History and Culture, located in Punta Gorda, Florida. For over 30 years, Dr. Bireda has consulted, lectured, and written about social issues related to race, gender, class, power, and culture. She has contributed many magazine articles that explore critical issues past and present impacting our global society. She believes that awareness and recognition of the universality of social issues can contribute to the resolution of problems that affect all societies, and confirm our human connectivity. She is the author of twelve books.

When asked to describe her presentation, Dr. Bireda responded that we need the opportunity to explore our beliefs in a safe place. Our beliefs often operate on an unconscious level. Examining the beliefs on race that have been operative historically in America is a first step. Identifying those authority figures, educational systems and important others who contributed to our individual belief system is also important. Dr. Bireda’s presentation invites us to ask ourselves these questions: why do I believe what I do about my group and about other groups? Where did this come from and why do I believe it now? If I don’t believe what I was taught as a youth now, how do I express my present beliefs? Finally, she says, “The ultimate question is- how can I demonstrate with my actions what are my ‘now’ beliefs?” Ultimately we take responsibility for solving and not perpetuating the problem,
Dr. Bireda’s interest in raising consciousness began when she was 10 years old in 1955 and heard about Emmet Till being killed. Emmet was a 14 year old tortured and murdered in Mississippi by two Caucasian men. “Emmet was a child and I thought, so am I, …am I going to be killed too?” This question and feeling of vulnerability by virtue of skin color became the foundation for her life’s work.

According to Fr. George Murry, S.J., the Head of the USCCB Committee on Racism: “Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I’m hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society.”

TUESDAY, October 17th
The Now Moment for America:
A Conversation about Racism
6:30pm-8:00pm – In the Community Room
Guest Speaker: Dr. Martha Bireda

Oct. 8th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Understanding Addiction | A Respect Life Issue

By Joanne Halt, M.A.

On October 10th at 6:30pm, we will have a golden opportunity to increase our knowledge of addictions when Dr. Marguerite Poreda, MD, staff psychiatrist at Park Royal Hospital comes to speak on “Understanding Addiction: My Brain; My Genetics; My Environment”. Dr. Poreda completed her residency in 1982 in Anesthesiology at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston. In 1994, she began her retraining in Psychiatry, after learning about addictions in the hospital setting. She is board certified in Psychiatry with three sub-specialty board certifications and over 25 years in the field.

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Addiction is all about the loss of control over one’s life. We all know someone who causes us to feel uneasy or who has hurt us by their addictions. We can suspect addiction when we see: pre-occupation with using (craving); compulsive use in spite of negative consequences (legal, interpersonal; occupational, physical); using just to feel normal (tolerance); and efforts to control use fail (relapse). Dr. Poreda has a powerful presentation that gives the basics on understanding the interplay of genetics (Native Americans are genetically predisposed for alcoholism and Asians are not), brain issues (addiction is a complex disease process of the brain) and the effect of the environment (culture, family & friends) on developing an addiction and on treating addictions. Other factors leading to addiction include: trauma or stressors that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, the presence of psychiatric disorder with an attempt to self medicate, and distorted beliefs in connection with self, others and God. It seems a slippery slope from use to abuse to addiction/dependency, but there is a way to assess what stage a person may be in.

Dr. Poreda shared some alarming facts with me. She stated that emergency room admissions for opiod addiction are up two and a half times what it was last year. The home medicine cabinet is the most likely place to begin a spiral into drug abuse. Narcan, the remedy for opioid overdoses is now being prescribed for family and friends of addicts. Nearly 1 in 8 adults in U.S. have been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder in 2013, a 50% increase from a decade earlier. Marijuana today is 10-15 times more potent than what it was in the ‘70s. Designer (lab/home manufactured) drugs usually are sold mixed in with other drugs. When asked about the consequences of legalizing marijuana, Dr. Poreda focused on our youth. “If there is any susceptibility mental health wise, pot can produce psychosis. Plus pot usually gets handed out with designer drugs. When teens get addicted, they stay stuck at the age they began using and a lot of their treatment is about helping them grow up emotionally.”

How can we improve our approach to addictions and utilize the tools available in the medical community for properly designed treatment? The steps include: prevention, early identification, treatment, relapse prevention and the policy and environmental changes needed to alter our addiction supporting culture. As Dr. Poreda explains it, we can force people into treatment by the Marchman Act, which nationwide, allows the court to order detox and evaluation, but only for a limited time. “Drug addicts are not going to get well with 3 days in the hospital. It’s what’s going to be happening after that, that makes the difference-the aftercare and recovery programs. We are faced with an overwhelming number of people needing treatment and have nowhere to send them and also, who wants to pay for it? As a Christian person, I don’t see a lot of social justice for this issue” according to Dr. Poreda.

Addiction takes an alarming toll on individuals, families and on our country as a whole. It costs taxpayers an estimated 235 billion dollars per year in lost productivity, medical services, and crime. According to Dr. Poreda, part of the problem is resistance at high government levels to fund recovery programs when the top priority is cutting programs to rein in the budget. Funding services for mental illness and addictions is not a high priority at the local level either. Public education is needed to understand addiction, its treatment and recovery, so that we can change attitudes at both a local and national level. Dr. Poreda estimates that addiction related (both substance and alcohol) deaths cost 6,000 Floridians their lives in the past 12 months. Helping those who suffer to acknowledge their addiction is just a first step. Giving them the tools and the time necessary to achieve recovery and return as healthy, productive citizens is something that requires awareness, commitment and action on all our parts. How many lives are we willing to lose? Make plans to hear an informative Respect for Life awareness session on Tuesday night with a dynamic speaker.

TUESDAY, October 10th
Understanding Addiction, My Brain;
My Genetics; My Environment
6:30pm-8:00pm – In the Community Room
Guest Speaker: Dr. Marguerite R. Poreda

April 9th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Palm Sunday Story – Bible Story Summary

by Jack Zavada

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19.

PALM SUNDAY STORY – THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY SUMMARY
Jesus Christ was on his way to Jerusalem, knowing full well that this trip would end in his sacrificial death for the sin of humanity. He sent two disciples ahead to the village of Bethphage, about a mile away from the city at the foot of the Mount of Olives. He told them to look for a donkey tied by a house, with its unbroken colt next to it.

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Jesus instructed the disciples to tell the owners of the animal that “The Lord has need of it.” (Luke 19:31, ESV)

The men found the donkey, brought it and its colt to Jesus, and placed their cloaks on the colt. Jesus sat on the young donkey and slowly, humbly, made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In his path, people threw their cloaks on the ground and put palm branches on the road before him. Others waved palm branches in the air.

Large Passover crowds surrounded Jesus, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9, ESV)

By that time the commotion was spreading through the entire city. Many of the Galilean disciples had earlier seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. Undoubtedly they were spreading the news of that astonishing miracle.

The Pharisees, who were jealous of Jesus and afraid of the Romans, said: “‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.'” (Luke 19:39-40, ESV)

POINTS OF INTEREST FROM THE PALM SUNDAY STORY
When he told the disciples to get the donkey, Jesus referred to himself as ‘The Lord,’ a definite proclamation of his divinity.

By riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, Jesus fulfilled an ancient prophecy in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (ESV) This was the only instance in the four Gospel books in which Jesus rode an animal.

Throwing cloaks in the path of someone was an act of homage and submission. The people were recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah.

The people’s cries of ‘Hosanna’ came from Psalm 118:25-26. Hosanna means “save now.” Despite what Jesus had foretold about his mission, the people were looking for a military Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and restore Israel’s independence.

QUESTION FOR REFLECTION
The crowds refused to see Jesus Christ as he truly was, placing their personal desires on him instead. Who is Jesus for you? Is he someone whom you want to satisfy your selfish wants and goals, or is he Lord and Master who gave up his life to save you from your sins?

(Sources: The New Compact Bible Dictionary, edited by T. Alton Bryant; New Bible Commentary, edited by G.J. Wenham, J.A. Motyer, D.A. Carson, and R.T. France; and the ESV Study Bible, Crossway Bibles.)

Feb. 5th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Connecting to God With Spiritual Fulfillment

by: Mike Navarro

Throughout the month of January, we have discussed some of the suggested actions our Parishioners could take to develop a stronger discipleship with our Lord Jesus Christ. This week we discuss the fourth category, “connect”. It urges us, as brothers and sisters in faith, to a deeper participation in activities which broaden our ability to bring peace and love to others.

Some common uses of the word “connect” are: to unite or fasten together, to relate or be in harmony with, to associate mentally or emotionally with a fact or a meaning. It comes from the Latin word ‘connectere’, meaning “to tie” and a synonym is “to join”, while an antonym is “to dissociate”. So it is very clear that if we wish to be a greater disciple, fully enlightened and capable, then we must extend our involvement in order to increase our understanding … Lets look at some examples of how we can do that.

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“Men’s Gospel Forum”: this group is now in it’s 7th year, meeting at 7am each Monday. During the winter season as many as 45 men spend the hour before 8am Mass, studying the gospel message for the next weeks liturgy. Their first objective is to gain a greater understanding of the biblical passages. An equally important objective is an enhanced awareness of the applicability of the message to the pursuit of life today. From the questions and shared testimonies of other attendees, they gain a personal understanding and empathy that points them to the need for changes and growth in their personal life and within the society around them.

Following on the success of the Men’s Gospel Forum, the parish formed a ministry titled “Faith Alive”. Its goal is to develop adult faith formation programs which address the desires and needs of our members. A recent example of their efforts is the “Opening the Word” program. It is held each Tuesday from 9-10:30am and is open to all men and women that wish to attend. It also focuses on the upcoming Sunday readings, uses a short video, and prompts discussion on the implications presented in the Word. Of course, all are welcome to connect!

The spiritual camaraderie and greater sense of hope and purpose are the blessings given through forums such as these and the zeal of the participants is broadened even further when many also attend the “Faith and Ale” events held in other parish halls throughout Lee County during the winter months. The stated mission of “Faith and Ale” is to provide the opportunity for growth in wisdom and understanding, and to strengthen our roles as spiritual leaders. Socializing with beer and pizza, attendees participate in a multi-parish program with up to 250 men living out their faith as they hear of the challenges, and learn how to support the solutions brought to them by popular and respected national speakers and leaders of Christian life .

The same opportunities are available for women through attendance at the meetings held by “Faith and Wine”. This organization shares the same objectives and methods, (though the women prefer wine and snacks) and provides 5 or 6 events attended by several hundred women from parishes throughout the county.

The programs discussed above are excellent examples of “connecting” to further one’s spiritual fulfillment. Similar opportunities for growth and contribution are to be found in any of the other parish ministries, and all are eager for more participants. For example, if you haven’t been a part of a prayer walk opposing abortion, then you have never felt the positive impact of a “thumbs up” sign from the car of a passing supporter. If you want that sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, just get involved in the “Respect Life” ministry.

Or, if you want to do something extra to connect with the educational needs of our local youth, then please volunteer for one of the many jobs at the Parish Thrift Store where the annual revenues are donated to the Catholic Education Fund. You will also be creating solutions for many of the needy and disadvantaged as you help to provide the clothing they so desperately need.

In conclusion, let us focus on the theological virtue of faith… It enables us to express our belief in God and His words, as we search to know and do His will. We can best learn to profess that faith, bear witness to it, and pass it on, by “connecting” to the opportunities around us. At St. John XXIII, we pray for the spiritual fulfillment of all parishioners.