Jan. 29th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Catholic School’s Week

Receiving the Call to Serve

by: Clayton Atkins

People often speak of receiving a call to serve. The language has become something of a cliché: we hear how “we are all called to serve God in different ways”; how “we are called to serve each other”; or, especially this time of year, how we are called to serve the Church by supporting this or that drive, appeal, or fundraiser. In my case, I received a literal call to service—a phone call that is.

I had just moved back to Fort Myers with my soon-to-be wife, who had accepted a teaching position at a local elementary school. I had spent the last seven years in Gainesville, Florida, where we met, where I studied Literature, where I soon realized that there weren’t many jobs for bookish types who liked to read and talk about literary things, and where I subsequently jumped around from one job to another. I wouldn’t say that I was floundering, but my life certainly lacked direction. My professors at the university had talked me out of pursuing a graduate degree in English, citing poor career prospects for teaching positions in the humanities. I remember one of them telling me that if I wanted to teach English, high school would be my best bet. So I toyed with the idea; I suppose it was in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t fully committed. I didn’t have a plan.

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Then I received my call. I had only been back in town for a few months when my phone rang with an unknown number on the screen. Upon answering, I recognized the familiar, yet somewhat forgotten voice of my former English teacher from Bishop Verot. She mentioned an unforeseen vacancy in the English department, said that she had heard that I was back in town, and immediately thought of me.

Now, some of you may be thinking, “Great. You got a job. Good for you, but what does any of this have to do with service?” Well, I would encourage you to speak with teachers about their work; I can assure you that even a short conversation about their day-to-day lives would reveal that teaching is nothing if it is not service to others. This is especially true of teaching at a Catholic school.

I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised when I received my call to serve as a teacher at a Catholic school, even if it did seem to come out of nowhere. Although I hadn’t spoken with my former teacher in years, I thought about her often. It was in her classroom where my heart and mind were first captivated by the power of the written word. I remember many late nights in college when something I read would trigger a memory from her class: an oft-repeated phrase, a silly pun, a deep insight. Her passion, understanding, and devotion changed my life, and I hadn’t even recognized it.

I had never given it much thought, but I am most certainly a product of Catholic education: I attended Catholic schools for the entirety of my childhood and adolescence, so I was used to having passionate teachers who cared about their subjects and, more importantly, their students. In my years as a student at Bishop Verot, it wasn’t uncommon to see a dozen or so lonely cars scattered throughout the parking lot as the sun set in the evenings. Today, this is still a common sight. The teachers at Bishop Verot sacrifice their time and energy to serve their students—staying late to help a struggling student, plan a memorable lesson, or read a never-ending stack of college essays.

There is a reason why I chose to use the word sacrifice. The notion of Christian service is intricately intertwined with sacrifice. Perhaps a Bible verse will best illustrate my point. In John’s telling of Christ’s final days, immediately before Jesus serves his disciples his Last Supper, he humbles himself and performs a service for them.

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’, he said, ‘what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you. ‘In all truth I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, no messenger is greater than the one who sent him. (13 John)

What Christ was calling his disciples to do, and what he is calling on us to do by his example, is to serve. It is telling that Jesus chose that particular moment to perform this simple service. He was about to make the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. To serve another is to sacrifice a part of yourself. Service is an act of giving, and in order to give, we must give something up. However, it is important for us not to think of sacrifice only in the negative way that the word is often intoned. There is a beauty to Christ’s sacrifice, made in service to all of humanity.

In this passage, Christ twice refers to himself as “Teacher.” Teachers sacrifice their time and energy every day for their students. But an important aspect of this passage is Christ’s inversion of the roles of Masters and Servants. Christ, the Master, Teacher, and Lord, humbly serves His servants. An integral aspect of Catholic education is attempting to reverse the role of Teacher and Student. Teachers are called to serve their students, but students are likewise called to serve each other.

I know from personal experience at Bishop Verot, that students learn to serve each other in many ways. This service can manifest itself in small acts of kindness such as tutoring a struggling student, standing up for a fellow classmate, or volunteering for local charities. But oftentimes, this service can also take the form of heartwarming displays of communal sacrifice. Two years ago, when a Bishop Verot student was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo costly treatment, our basketball coach, Coach Herting, organized “Southwest Florida’s largest garage sale” in our gymnasium. Students were encouraged to donate anything of value. The result was an entire basketball court littered with stuff, and hundreds of faculty members, staff, students, and parents sacrificing their time to clean, organize, and sell it. Yes, we all gave something up, but in giving, we received what we always receive when we sacrifice ourselves for others—community, warmth, friendship, and that feeling of satisfaction that you can only get from serving others.

This is just the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about how the Bishop Verot family serves the community and one another; there are countless others.

In light of this year’s Catholic Schools Week, I would like to encourage each of you to speak with current and former students from St. Francis Xavier and Bishop Verot, to get an idea about how they are learning to be of service to our community.

For more information visit their websites:
http://stfrancisfortmyers.org/
http://bvhs.org/

Jan. 22nd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Growing in Your Faith Sounds Wonderful… Until the Work Begins

By Damian Hanley

If growing in our faith was easy, everyone would do it. Some days, I feel like stagnation is an accomplishment. But it’s not. Stagnation is a lie. Without concerted effort to become better Catholics, entropy leads us down a path that is so, so easy to walk down. Everywhere we look we see the cheapening of life and the degradation of humanity. And so we go to Church every Sunday and pay our bills. We’re kind to others and we’re patient in our workplace. We forgive telemarketers for interrupting us. Sometimes we even look our waiter in the eye and over-tip because we know his life is hard and we’ve been blessed. But this isn’t growth. This is just common decency.

This week, or month, or year or whatever your stamina can tolerate, we want to challenge you to grow in your faith. What does that even mean? Being a better Catholic means going out of your way to be messengers of Christ. He taught love, tolerance, forgiveness, patience and in general, alleviating the suffering that is everywhere you look… if you look.

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We interviewed Kathy Ogan because she’s an example of someone that didn’t have to change. There are plenty of women in her demographic that play golf and swill martinis and live out their lives in relative comfort because…why not? Let’s face it, most of us need an absolute crisis to get shaken out of our comfort zones. And outside our comfort zones is where real growth takes place. Disagree? Go spend an afternoon on Palm Beach Blvd at our St. Martin de Porres ministry and try to spread the Gospel there. Report back to us.

But by all measures, Kathy had an idyllic upbringing.

“I was the youngest of 6 children and my parents were very involved with the faith. We grew up saying the Rosary during the month of the Rosary and there was a lot of prayer in the home. There were a lot of religious artifacts around the house, and my family was heavily involved with the Church. I went to Catholic grade school and high school, but after high school, there might have been a few years where I didn’t really attend regularly – for no particular reason. But I eventually made it back.”

Dysfunctional parents? Nope. “My mother was my role model. Kind, giving, gentle and faith-filled, she always brought the lessons of life back to her faith.”

For a lot of us, we move through life and take our faith for granted. That is, we make mistakes, we stumble, but we’re surrounded by a social safety net that will catch us before we fall too low. Our appetites are tame because we want for nothing. We have a general sense that the world is a decent place because, well, this is the United States and we believe in fairness and some semblance of a meritocracy.

But somewhere along the way, an inexplicable void antagonizes our peace. Some turn to the drink, others affairs or money. We seek and do not find until we realize that the cure to what ails us is spiritual.

And this is where, whether overtly or in the depths of our soul, we ask our God to touch us and push us in the direction of growth.
Sometimes our need to grow comes later in life, as it did for Kathy. “I was at women’s Catholic retreat in my mid-40’s at my Parish in Indiana. And during that weekend, I heard women share their stories. I heard them talk about serious conflicts in their lives and how they’d depended on their faith to carry them through. It was the first time in my life that I really started considering a personal relationship with Christ. There was also this priest that went through each part of the Mass and explained the evolution of how the modern Mass came to be. It was an incredibly intimate experience.”

Kathy emerged more dedicated and genuinely wanting a closer connection to her faith. She became a Eucharistic Minister and a Sacristan. “It wasn’t even something I was looking for at that time, but I said yes.”

Having that intimate encounter with the women on the retreat – women on the same mission as herself taught her a valuable lesson.
“You see and feel on a deeper level that everyone carries something with them. And you find out how they survive – how they make it. You find out from where they draw their strength. It’s Christ.”

Really, it is though.

“One woman forgave another couple for their son shooting and killing her son. It was accidental, but she knew she had to confront these people and tell them that she forgave them, and that she didn’t hold any ill feelings.”

That experience taught her the vital importance of sharing those parts of ourselves with each other, because we’ve all got something to work on. That’s how we grow. We confront the darkest parts of ourselves. Our culture would have gladly justified her resentment if she were to carry it to her grave, but our faith demands we forgive.

God has a way of covertly touching our hearts when we aren’t expecting it. Kathy is a very poised, elegant woman who you may not expect would jump head first into the gritty side of hospital ministry, but she did.

“I’ve worked on fundraisers and concert committees, and been a Eucharistic minister, but the hospital ministry has definitely provided the most growth in my faith. You walk into a room and you never know what you’re going to find. These are people who are in serious need of communion.”

“I’ve been to many of the women’s retreats and in them you meet so many of the women of the Parish. It makes you feel so connected. You realize we’re all part of this great community… and that’s what I was really looking for. I don’t want to be just a church attendee. I want to be a church member.

Kathy is the community outreach chair of her neighborhood. She volunteers at Lifeline Family Center – a home for at-risk pregnant and new mothers. She’s begun volunteering at Verity, a pro-life crisis pregnancy center. This is the track record of a person who is in “growth mode”.

There have been periods of my life characterized by this path as well. Kathy is purposefully putting herself in situations where the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our society reside – the ill and infirmed, the isolated and ashamed. These are the people that Christ would have spent his time with if he were walking the earth today.

Our Parish – St. John XXIII is a faith-filled place, full of believers and those that understand the Path. We know how to walk the path, and we know better when we’re not walking it. But there is still a huge population of people out there – the young, the neglected, and the exploited, who really don’t know what it means to be loved. Christ to them is an esoteric idea that their lack of self-worth won’t allow them to truly accept.

If they were present, their parents were a disaster. Their educational system failed them, and they’re caught in a spiral of chasing hedonistic pleasure until the consequences become too much for them to handle.

The law catches up to them. An addiction overtakes them. They sell the only asset they have, and we, in our gated communities think only about trafficking and slavery when it hits the news or when October rolls around. But sex slavery and prostitution take no days off.

These are the girls that end up in the NICU, or at Verity, or at Lifeline because the $400 they were given to terminate, ended up at the methadone clinic. And it is the Catholic’s job to love these people.

That’s how we really grow. We love the unlovable – the lepers.
“The important truth that I’ve been searching for, for several years is…my purpose… What is my purpose for Christ on earth? And how can I use my experiences for good? Everything I’ve been through in my past – I’ve found – is to be used for his purpose,” Kathy shares. “Something will come through me and touch someone for His purpose.”

“The early stages of my faith journey didn’t really begin until my 40s, but the lesson I’ve learned is that growth only happens with participation… even the slightest bit of participation will take you somewhere. The one thing I’ve done right is I’ve just reached out. I have a list of past and present ministries that I’ve been a part of – like the soup kitchen or the food pantry. I’ll try something for a year and see if it feels right. Our Parish doesn’t care if something isn’t a fit.”

I think the first step to growth is awareness. If you have a roof over your head, a basic grasp of Christ’s message to the poor (of spirit) and are relatively happy, you have MUCH to give. This is your exercise for this week. Jump on your computer. Go to Google, and type in “lee county sheriff arrest yesterday” and click on the top result. Click on their names and look at their faces. Look at the years they were born – 1995, 1998, 1989. Look at their charges – larceny, petty theft, battery, DUI, trespassing, resisting an officer, possession of a controlled substance. Depending on what time of day, there might be 20 or 30 people. Look at their eyes. If you don’t think there are thousands of people in our city that need a Christian, you are telling yourself a lie. These people will end up at the Salvation Army. They’ll end up in prison. They’ll end up in a women’s shelter. They’ll end up in diversion programs, and they will continue this cycle until someone shows up and loves them the way Christ demands we love them. If you want to grow in your faith, this is the fast track. Volunteer at these places and see what happens to your spiritual life.

Be like Kathy. Put yourself in front of the suffering and you will grow. Common decency is nice, but holiness is much, much nicer.

Jan. 15th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Worship as Identity and Purpose

by: Father Russell Ruggiero

When I was a young man, a family member said to one of my co-workers, “That Russell! Man, is he desultory (aimless).” One of the prominent drives in the human person is self-discovery and one’s purpose in life. There are those of us who go through life like a nomadic tribe, searching for identity and purpose in order to give meaning to our lives.

When Yahweh created the first covenant with Abraham and in Yahweh’s covenant with the Israelites with Moses, “I will be your God, and you will be My people” became significant for them. They now possessed an identity and purpose for an authentic and meaningful life. Worship played a salient role in the covenant because it recalled and reminded the Israelites who they were and how they were to be and live in the world. There could exist no covenant without worship and no worship without the covenant.

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Worship and the Sacramental life are two principal components of Roman Catholic Christians for the same reason. The Liturgy/Mass and the seven Sacraments recall, renew, restore, and celebrate our identity and purpose/meaning in life. As Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution of the Church), chapter 2, article 11 reminds us: “Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, the source and summit of the Christian life, they offer the divine victim to God and themselves along with it. And so it is that, both in the offering and in Holy Communion, each in [one’s] own way, though not of course indiscriminately, has [one’s] own part to play in the liturgical action. Then, strengthened by the body of Christ in the Eucharistic communion, they manifest in a concrete way that unity of the People of God which this holy sacrament aptly signifies and admirable realizes.”

From the Church’s inception, She has reflected upon Her identity and purpose as being defined and lived “through Him, with Him, and in Him.” As the quote above suggests, it is by our participation in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharistic celebration and sacrifice, that we encounter Jesus’ redemptive and salvific action- His Paschal Mystery (Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension). All else (sacramental, liturgical, and devotional acts) flow from His self-donation, self-gift, self-sacrificial love. This is the power of worship.

Without worship to ground and direct us, our Liturgy would be a stage production that would stir emotion but no encounter with the Triune God. Without worship, our ministry would no longer be Jesus’, our mission would no longer be the Father’s, and our acts would be absent of God the Holy Spirit. They would be good and beneficial works of philanthropic and physical importance and change, but the risk would be a loss of our identity and purpose.

St. John XXIII’s commitment to our conviction of Jesus as the new and eternal covenant and worship’s highly unique role for our faith community’s identity and purpose is illustrated in the diversity of our various Worship ministries. Our Worship Committee Team endeavors with our ushers and hospitality team; lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist; altar servers; Art and Environment committee members; the volunteers for laundering the sacred vestments and cloths; Catechists for our Children’s Liturgy of the Word; our cantors, singers, and musicians in our various choirs (Adult, Children, and Contemporary); and the entire congregation to ensure an awareness and openness to the awe and glory that Father, Son, and Spirit come to dwell and celebrate with God’s people.

And our vision of constructing the Parish Life Center and our Adoration/Veneration chapel continue this conviction and commitment of worship’s role at St. John XXIII Catholic Church. All members are contributing not primarily to buildings. Rather, our dedication is continually to build a stronger parish that focuses on availing and increasing opportunities for all worshipers to place and regard worship as foundational to all that we are and do.

Negligence of worship is negligence of who and why we are and to whom we belong. We celebrate and worship because our Triune God has so loved the world that God cannot bear to be apart from any of us. And as the love of God which cannot be bound or constrained by space or time overflows and becomes present in our worship, so the Mass is never over and done, but only ended so that we continue the Mass’ power to be and act as Christ in the world.

Jan. 8th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Living Christ’s Covenant at St. John XXIII

By: Michael Mullin – Parish Advisory Council President

Throughout biblical history God has been actively and deliberately directing people to Him by establishing “covenants” with them. The first covenant was with Adam and Eve whose sinful action resulted in their banishment from Eden. Today, all who sin still share in this woundedness (Original Sin) and can be saved only by a new birth and life in Christ.

The second Covenant was made to Noah, a righteous man, at a time of great wickedness on earth. The wicked were destroyed by flood, but Noah and his people were permitted to be fruitful and increase in numbers.

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A third covenant was formed with Abraham and highlighted grace through faith, and this covenant was passed on to Isaac and Jacob and their heirs. It provided the early foreshadowing and testimony to the eventual New and Eternal Covenant of Jesus.

God continued to give His love and direction to His people as seen in the covenant made with Moses including the gift of the Ten Commandments, providing the Israelites with a way of living the covenant and receiving God’s salvation. The inevitable failure of some to meet those responsibilities pointed to the future need for a Messiah, an “anointed one” who would offer Himself for the salvation of all.

The final covenant of the Old Testament established the physical nation of Israel with David and his descendants, but also foretold that a spiritual kingdom would later come with the Messiah as king.

God’s great love for all people is clearly seen in these historical covenants, and His desire to form a personal covenant with each of us is found in many passages: “They shall be my people and I will be their God. I will make an everlasting covenant with them and will not cease to do them good”. He then became man, and in his final days, at the Last Supper, Jesus offered us this opportunity: “All of you drink of this: for this is the blood of the NEW COVENANT which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins”.

Isn’t it comforting to know that all of us are covered by an agreement creating and establishing a relationship with God that guarantees our heavenly salvation?! Does it move you to consider what you could be doing right now to enhance your relationship with God, offering you spiritual fulfillment and inner peace?

At St. John XXIII we are committed to a mission statement that says we will actively engage all those who desire to live more fully the message of Christ. As a result, over the last 4 years, we have suggested 5 fundamental areas where parishioners could focus their mental, physical and spiritual efforts to nurture personal holiness by living more responsibly as stewards of God’s gifts. You will see them featured on the banners behind the altar during the following 5 weeks, with one being emphasized every weekend.

The 5 pillars are:

Worship: As we seek forgiveness, acceptance and love, can we increase the fervor and zeal with which we admit our dependence on God and offer a greater expression of our gratitude?

Connect: Are we a supportive and positive influence in the lives of those around us in both the parish and in our community, offering friendship and concern as Jesus demonstrated?

Grow: As we consider our current position, can we expand our knowledge, faith, and virtue, to become a better expression of the person God wishes us to be?

Give: Do we adequately respond out of gratitude for the blessings received and enjoyed by sharing these gifts of God?

Serve: In the midst of a world beset with economic, sociological and spiritual dichotomy, what more should we be doing, and how much more should we be loving those needing mercy and help?

We have recently celebrated the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Christmas liturgies which tell of Christ’s birth as the reason for our salvation. Keeping the Christmas message in mind and with the approach of the Lenten season, let us focus on how to receive and live that message as we pray for the Holy Spirit’s direction and guidance to recognize Christ’s New Covenant and our role to live out His Covenant.

We pray that the 5 pillars may nourish your thoughts and actions and bring you to an even greater sense of spiritual fulfillment.

Jan. 1st, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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The Solemnity of Mary Mother of God

We celebrate the liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary on January 1st, which is the Octave of Christmas. Only Christmas and Easter enjoy the privilege of an octave, which is an eight day extension of the feast.

The honoring of Mary as the Mother of God can be traced back to the Council of Ephesus in 431. By the 7th century, January 1st was observed as a celebration of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the 13th century, the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ had come to replace the feast honoring Mary; however in 1751, after a push in Portugal for an official feast day celebrating Mary’s divine maternity, Pope Benedict XIV allowed Portugal’s churches to devote a feast to Mary on the first Sunday in May. Eventually, the feast extended to other countries, and in 1914 began to be observed on October 11. In 1931, Pope Pius XI extended the feast to the entire church, and in 1974, Pope Paul VI removed the feast of the Circumcision of Christ from the liturgical calendar and replaced it with the feast of the “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God”, bringing Mary’s feast day back to the first day of the year.

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The feast is a celebration of Mary’s motherhood of Jesus. The title “Mother of God” is a western derivation from the Greek Theotokos, which means “God-bearer”. On this day, we are reminded of the role that the Blessed Virgin played in the plan of our salvation. Through the Holy Spirit, God the Father prepared Mary to be the dwelling place where His Son and His Spirit could dwell among men. Christ’s birth was made possible by Mary’s fiat, or sanctioning of God’s plan with her words, “Be it done to me according to thy word”. Calling Mary “Mother of God” is the highest honor we can give to her. Just as Christmas honors Jesus as the “Prince of Peace”, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God honors Mary as the “Queen of Peace”. New Year’s Day is also designated as the “World Day of Peace”, further acknowledging the role of Mary in our hearts and in our world.

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Prayer:
Pray for us, Oh Holy Mother of God. May we be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Dec. 18th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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ADVENT: Celebrating the 4th Week

In this Fourth Week of Advent, our final days of preparation before Christmas, we ask Christ to forgive us for our sins and, through His grace, to create us anew when He comes. This week is also a time to recollect, to reflect on our Advent journey. If we have let the hustle and bustle of the season get in the way of our spiritual preparations for Christmas, we have one last chance to refocus and the light of the candles on the Advent wreath can be a symbol of our focus, as well as a symbol of the light of Christ.

Dear Jesus, may the light of your love always shine in our hearts. As Christmas draws closer, we marvel at your great love for us. Let your love transform every aspect of our lives and touch everyone we encounter. Our hearts are open to you, Jesus. Amen.

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General Announcements

Have you listened to our podcasts? Listen to weekly inspirational messages from Father Bob and homilies from Mass. Visit our site weekly at johnxxiii.podbean.com

‘Like’ our Facebook page! For all the latest happenings and inspirational messages ‘Like’ us on Facebook. Search ‘St. John XXIII Catholic Church’.

Our weekly newsletter! Visit our website, Johnxxiii.net, scroll down to “Stay Connected” and enter your email address.

Interested in serving our Parish family during Mass? Men, women and teens may serve as a Greeter, Usher, Lector, or Eucharistic Minister. Please contact the parish office at (239) 561-2245, if you feel called to serve in any of these areas, we can use your time and talent!

Catholic Physicians Registry: Due to frequent requests for Catholic physicians in the Diocese of Venice, the SW Florida Guild of the Catholic Medical Association is putting together a list of Catholic physicians whose practice adheres to the teachings of the Church. If you would like to be listed in this Directory for Catholic Physicians, please contact Dr. Steve Hannan for more information at www.floridacma.org or (239)849-6908 or shannan0@comcast.net

Lee GROWS Classes & Tours: Looking for something fun to do? Lee GROWS has openings for the 2017 classes and tours! The program consists of five one-day sessions running consecutively on Thursday’s. We start at 7:30am and return about 3pm.Each class is comprised of about 20-40 participants. Parking and lunches are included at no charge. It’s our hope that you take this opportunity to get an understanding of what happens “behind the scenes” of Lee County government. Registration is now open and always fills up quickly! For more information visit: https://www.leegov.com/leegrows

Liturgy of Remembrance Feast of The Holy Innocents: St. John XXIII will hold a special Liturgy on December 28th at 6:30pm to honor and celebrate the children of all ages that we have lost. Please bring an unframed picture of your child that can be pinned on a display. If no picture is available, we will have available mementos that can be used. If you are unable to attend but would like your child’s name included, please call Kate Lewis at (239) 561-8123 or e mail: cklew00@gmail.com
Women’s Guild Fashion Show: Will take place Saturday, March 18th, 2017 at Lexington Country Club.

If you are hospitalized at Gulf Coast Hospital and would like to be visited by one of our Eucharistic Ministers, please let the Hospital Admissions Office know you are from our parish and contact our parish office, as well. Once you go home, if you are unable to attend Mass and would like to have the Eucharist brought to you, please call the parish office. (239) 561-2245

People Asking For Money Outside of Church: We remind you that if there is anyone asking for money around the Church outside of Mass at our exits, ignore them. We have been contacted by the police regarding a group of professionals who travel to various churches. Be generous in giving to our Poor Boxes. That is where and how we can assist those who are truly in need. Be sure to take your purses with you to communion.

We need your help with keeping our database current: Have you moved, changed email addresses, dropped a landline or changed your cell number? Please email Maryann@johnxxiii.net with any changes or additions to your contact information.

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.

Dec. 4th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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The Season of GIVING

A total of 356 families received Thanksgiving food baskets through the outreach at St. Martin de Porres, and an additional 115 received a hot Thanksgiving dinner at the cafe on Thursday, November 23rd.

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St. John XXIII parishioners provided the vast majority of the food. Working with the Harry Chapin Food Bank and Publix, we were able to maximize the number of people served.

Part of that outreach included 25 complete meals distributed to parishioners at Jesus the Worker Parish on Thanksgiving morning.

We would like to personally thank all of our parishioners for their generosity and support of the Giving in Thanksgiving Program.

May all who are thankful for your salvation always say “How great is the Lord” Psalm 40:16

Nov. 27th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Blessing & Prayer for the Advent Wreath

During the Advent season, families should spend time together preparing for the approaching celebration of the birth of Christ. An Advent wreath can be a great focal point for family prayers and holiday celebrations.

An Advent wreath is a wreath of laurel, spruce or similar foliage with four candles that are lighted successively in weeks of Advent to symbolize the light that the birth of Christ brought to the world.

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Traditionally three of the candles are purple, the color of kings and of penance. A rose-colored candle is used to mark the Third Sunday of Advent as a time to rejoice over the closeness of Christmas and the coming of Christ.

Children love the beauty of the simple traditional ceremony. Lighting candles in an Advent wreath is a simple way to start a tradition of family worship in the home. Those who participate will cherish the experience all their lives.

Prayer:

Each day your family should gather around the Advent wreath, generally before the evening meal. The proper number of candles are then lighted and a prayer is said.

Blessing of the Advent Wreath:

It starts at the evening meal on the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent with the blessing of the wreath. (The head of the household is the one designated to say the prayer, following which various members of his family light the candles. If the group is not a family, then a leader may be selected to say the prayers and other appointed to light the candles.) The following prayer can be used:

Leader: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.
Leader: O God, by whose Word all things are sanctified, pour forth Your blessing upon this wreath and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming Christ and may receive from You abundant graces. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

The wreath would then be sprinkled with water.

The following prayer which is said before the evening meal each night of the first week of Advent:

Leader: O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come, That by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

The candle is allowed to burn during evening meals for the first week.

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

Nov. 13th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Faith & Wine/Ale & Why Small Groups are Vital to Your Faith

By Damian Hanley

Small groups are the backbone of a healthy and thriving Church. At St. John XXIII, we like to think of ourselves that way. On more than one occasion from the pulpit, Father Bob describes the Church as the “triage hospital on the battlefield of life.” The small group is not just a pleasant addition to our Church, but a necessity for the spiritual health of its members. Without small groups, any ministry will be limited to what just a handful of leaders can accomplish by themselves.

In Exodus 18:21 (NASB), we read “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.”

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There is great wisdom in the people of our small groups. We can’t (and shouldn’t) depend solely on our priests for the love and direction we need. Small groups can help prevent what has been called the “Sunday-Only” culture of our faith. We can’t simply sit and listen only on Sunday – faith is an active, all-week way of life. The opportunities to grow closer to God happen daily, and we need other people to help us see them. Faith & Ale and Faith & Wine Lee County are two such small groups that are growing rapidly in our diocese.

“We kicked off our third season on October 27th, and we’re really excited for this year’s events,” shares Sue Ammon, president of Faith & Wine. “In the beginning, three years ago, we got together month after month and planned it, hoping all along that people would actually want to come! On opening night we had almost 300 women. We were floored! We were so excited.”

“Faith and Ale originated from the Men’s Gospel Forum back in 2008 when we were still Blessed John the 23rd. We actually still meet every Monday morning at 7:00am to discuss this week’s upcoming Gospel,” Mike Lancellot shares.

Even if you don’t know a single person going into a monthly meeting, you’ll at least be inspired and entertained by their slated cast of speakers. Just this past November 10th, Faith and Ale hosted Major Ed Pulido, the Sr. VP of the Folds of Honor Foundation a Veteran’s charity which provides the spouses and children of the fallen and wounded educational scholarships. He’s also a Founding member of Warriors for Freedom Foundation – a leadership institute focused on the mental, physical and wellness support of our wounded Veterans and their families.

In August of 2004, Major Pulido hit an I.E.D, or roadside bomb, while serving with the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team under the command of General David Petraeus. Due to the extensive injuries to his left knee, doctors had to amputate his left leg. During his recovery, he experienced depression, PTSD and suicidal ideation, as part of what he describes as a “deep wounding of a soldier’s spirit.”

He then realized that recovery would become a lifelong process, a process dependent upon God, his country, and his close family and friends. He could not do it alone. This further reinforces the importance of small groups within a larger church. Small groups can provide a sense of family for many whose biological family lives far away. Unlike generations past, it is increasingly more common for adults to find themselves living far away from their biological family. Add the growing number of broken homes and dysfunctional families and you have a snapshot of the 21st century. The right kind of small group can play a vital role in providing a sense of family.

“After every single event, people come up to us as they’re leaving and tell us how much the speaker touched them. They were either struggling with an issue, or – and this is very common – people explain that they were thinking of leaving the Church, but something about the speaker convinced them to stay,” Sue shares. “These are the real reasons we started this ministry and we just get so excited when we hear them.”

Something unique happens in a small group setting, and it’s important we recognize it and explain why it matters. It’s cliché to say that we’re less connected in a world that is more connected than ever, but even if things hadn’t changed, it’s still hard to make friends as an adult! We’re set in our ways. We have a backlog of unconscious prejudice we’ve developed as a natural byproduct of living in our culture. We’re lazy and being social takes emotional energy, which we don’t have.

But small groups are the best place to meet new people, care for others and be cared for yourself. The idea that we can grow spiritually while isolating ourselves is insanity. Getting and giving direction based on spiritual principles must be done in dialogue with our fellows. In our childish minds, the myth of the ascetic visiting a mountaintop to absorb divine wisdom must be dispelled. That’s not you. We belong in community with others.

Dialogue is one of the key ingredients of spiritual growth. If every spiritual experience we have is about listening, if it’s all about one-way communication, then we’re going to miss one of the most important developmental aspects of a growing faith.

“We’ve been really excited about what happens at our events,” says Sue. “The women come in and they’re very enthusiastic. They like their glass of wine and connecting with each other, while eating together. And then after the speaker, we again connect in what we call Table Talk, where we usually share how the speaker has touched us.”

“We have a similar format,” Mike explains. “The men have their name tags with their Parish on them, and we definitely do form friendships with men of other Parishes. From 6:00 to 6:45 we have social time and after the speaker, there’s open Q&A. And the guys love it. We’ve really grown through word of mouth. This past season we averaged 216 men per event. Prior to that it was 174 per event and three seasons ago we were at 145 men on average. That kind of growth year after year means we’re doing something right.”

Despite the large number of people at each event, the social time is constrained to smaller round tables of 5-7 people, so that real conversation can take place. So, if you’re not already a part of a small group at St. John XXIII, Faith & Wine/Ale is a great place to start.

Small groups aren’t just a gimmicky church growth strategy. They’re not just the latest innovation. They’re not just something fun to do, nor are they just something to fill up people’s time.

Small groups are the heart of the Church, because without relational connections, the church isn’t The Church. At best, without relationships with Christ and our fellow Parishioners, we are putting on a show. At worst, we’re wasting people’s time, energy, and resources. Relationships with people who want what’s best for us and who are headed in the direction we want to head, and who aspire to a closer connection with Christ – these are what fuel our faith.

For more information on event dates, speakers and the mission of each organization, visit faithandale.com and faithandwineleecounty.com.

Nov. 6th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Vickie Gelardi Reflects on Her Role Within The Women’s Guild

By Colleen Leavy

Guided by faith, prayer, knowledge and concern, The Women’s Guild helps build St. John XXIII’s community through friendship, spiritual reflection, and the support of those in need.

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The Women’s Guild success is due to the hard work of the many women who give so much of themselves. The following questions and answers reflect Vickie’s faith, commitment and dedication to her role within The Women’s Guild.

CL: What made you decide to serve/volunteer?
VG: I have been involved in volunteer work almost all my life. It comes from the home. My grandmother and mother always opened their home to the poor even though there were times we were the poor ones! I became more involved in St. John because of the people and how the parish is run by Fr. Bob, who makes it very easy for volunteers. I feel I want to contribute in this life to make life better for others. I volunteer my services to other organizations as well, such as St. Martin de Porres which I helped create from the beginning. My daughter and her sons are volunteers as well in church and in St. Martin’s. Like I said, it comes from the home.

CL: How long have you been president?
VG: I have served on the WG Board for almost four years. At first Linda Sayres was president, but a few months after we took office, I took over when she had a kidney replacement. She then resigned from the Board for personal reasons. My term ends next May 2017 after serving 4 years. Being President is a full time job and I give it 100%. I am fortunate to have a good Board to work with: Barbara Artale, VP, Carolyn Hartman, Secretary and Arlene Carlo, Treasurer.

CL: How do you support Fr. Bob with your mission?
VG: We are always supportive of Fr. Bob in whatever he needs us to do. We look to him as our leader in this Parish and try to follow his leadership in serving the poor, and others in need. He has a servant’s heart and so do we. Together we reach out to our community and help where needed. We are fortunate to have a Pastor who allows us the freedom to do our work in serving this community. Right now we are focused on raising funds for the Capital Campaign and we just donated approximately $17,627.58 to that cause.

CL: What would you tell someone who is interesting in volunteering?
VG: Volunteering is a rewarding experience. What is better in life than to help someone else. We do so much in the Guild to help others as you can see from our Snapshot. Money for sneakers, food, funds for Lifeline & Verity, Funeral Receptions, food for St.. Martin’s, etc. I call the Women’s Guild women “angels of the Guild”.

CL: What upcoming events do you have planned?
VG: Upcoming events are the Holiday Rectory Party December 9th, the Fashion Show March 18th, and a cruise in September 2017. Then there’s everything else that pops up in between: we are a busy bunch! Below is a snapshot of our activities. I would like our Parishioners to know what our activities are, how much we raised, and where it went. I would also like to welcome them to join us, we are always looking for new volunteers who want to help others, and have fun doing it!

Oct. 30th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Pope Francis says rigid ideology makes the Holy Spirit sad

While following doctrine is important, those who focus solely on its strict observance can “reduce the Spirit and the Son to a law,” Pope Francis said Oct. 6 during an early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where he lives.

VATICAN CITY – Christians can fall prey to the enchantments of ideology that adhere to rigid requirements yet ignore and sadden the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said.

While following doctrine is important, those who focus solely on its strict observance can “reduce the Spirit and the Son to a law,” the pope said Oct. 6 during an early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

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“It is true that there are the commandments and we should follow the commandments; but always from the grace of this great gift given to us by the Father, the Son; it is the gift of the Holy Spirit and thus, one can understand the law. But do not reduce the Spirit and the Son to a law,” he said.

The pope reflected on Saint Paul’s letter to the Galatians in which he reproaches the Christian community for pinning their salvation on obeying the law rather than following Christ.

“I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? Are you so stupid?” Saint Paul asks.

Saint Paul’s strong denouncement of the community, the pope said, can reveal three possible ways Christians can behave toward the action of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

In strongly denouncing the community, the pope said St. Paul reveals their belief of “being justified by the law and not by Jesus,” which is the first of three attitudes Christians act toward the action of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

“This attachment to the law makes one ignore the Holy Spirit. It does not allow the power of Christ’s redemption to come forward with the Holy Spirit,” he said. “This was the problem of these people: they ignored the Holy Spirit and didn’t know how to go forward. They were closed, closed in requirements: ‘do this, do that.’ We too, at times, can fall in this temptation.”

The second attitude, he continued, is to “sadden the Holy Spirit” when Christians allow their lives to be led by the “theology of the law” rather than “the freedom of the spirit.”

In doing so, he said, “we become lukewarm and fall into Christian mediocrity because the Holy Spirit cannot do great works in us.”

However, the third attitude is to be open to the Holy Spirit which helps to understand and receive Jesus’ words, he said.

“When a man or a woman is open to the Holy Spirit, it is like a sailboat swept by the wind that goes on and on and never stops,” the pope said.

Pope Francis called on Christians to reflect on whether their spiritual lives are solely focused on observing the law or are “a continuous prayer” that helps them to “understand the doctrine of Jesus, the true doctrine, the one that does not enchant, the one that does not make me foolish.”

“May the Lord give us this grace to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that we do not become foolish, enchanted nor men and women who sadden the Spirit,” he said.

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. 16th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Marietta Jaeger to speak October 18th

From Fury to Forgiveness

By Damian Hanley

We like to simplify complex things. Over-simplification keeps our thinking tidy, and preserves our mental energy in a world of infinite information and decision making. It is the basis of all the Dr. Oz pseudoscience that we relish in. Coffee is bad. Wine is good! Chocolate is really good. We like it because morality is complicated and we are lazy. That guy who cheated on his wife is evil. That woman who is smacking her kid in the checkout line at Publix is a lunatic. This driver in front of me should be taken out of his car and beaten with a rubber hose. The Death Penalty is merely an eye-for-an-eye consequence of a criminal act that cannot be forgiven.

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All of us at one point have justified it in our heads – at least for a minute. An attorney once described to me the point system used to determine a person’s eligibility for capital punishment, which is tallied based on the nature of the crime. Did it include kidnapping, torture, a minor..? By the end of the explanation, I admit, I was a bit swayed. My mind hadn’t gone there, but if someone had tortured and brutally killed an immediate family member, I started thinking I’d like to be the one to throw the switch.

marietta2

Casting judgment is a tool that has been sharpened in an attempt to preserve our lives by our homo sapient brain for the past 200,000 years. We used to really need that tool when we were fending for ourselves in the wild, running down our prey with spear in hand, engaging in fist fights with saber tooth cats and such. But alas, a Man showed up 2000 years ago and taught us a better way to live – which is why you picked up this bulletin.

A millennium and a half prior to Christ, God gave us the 10 Commandments. You’d think #5 on the list would have closed the book on the debate over the death penalty, but it hasn’t – not even among Catholics. In this state, we put people to death for crimes other than murder, but considering the Colony of New York’s “Duke’s Laws of 1665” dictated that offenses such as striking one’s mother or father, or denying the “true God” were punishable by death – we’ve made a little progress.

The death penalty has been around for all of recorded history, but in the United States, about 13,000 people have been legally executed since colonial times. Texas leads the way. In 1972 the Supreme Court actually abolished capital punishment. It held the death penalty as “cruel and unusual” and violated the Eighth Amendment. It was reinstated four years later.

Our culture’s relationship with the death penalty has been mixed. Our faith’s has not. Setting aside our commandment not to kill (over-simplified for a reason), there are a few very good reasons we, as Catholics, are obligated to oppose the death penalty.

Proponents of capital punishment cite it as a deterrent to crime. That is trite, but more than that, it cheapens life. Everyone can agree that human life is valuable, but the Catholic’s pro-life stance asserts that life is so valuable that no one, under any circumstance should be denied it.

“Even when people deny the dignity of others, we must still recognize that their dignity is a gift from God and is not something that is earned or lost through their behavior. Respect for life applies to all, even the perpetrators of terrible acts. Punishment should be consistent with the demands of justice and with respect for human life and dignity,” as stated in the USCCB’s A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.

Amnesty International’s appeal to our philosophical side is not purely theoretical either. “The death penalty legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims. As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.”

From the Death Penalty Information Center’s website: On September 2, 2014, Leon Brown and Henry McCollum were exonerated and released from prison in North Carolina. The two African American men, who are half-brothers, had been convicted of the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl and sentenced to death in 1984. Brown was 15 at the time of the crime and McCollum was 19. Both men have intellectual disabilities and were interrogated under duress until they confessed to the crime. In 2010, Brown turned to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission for help. The Commission tested DNA evidence from the crime scene, which implicated a man who was convicted of a similar crime. Robeson County Judge Douglas Sasser vacated the men’s convictions and said the evidence indicated their innocence. District Attorney Johnson Britt supported their release and said no further charges will be brought against them.

How does one recover from that type of injustice? Were the authorities and families of the victim blind with rage when they ran their investigation? You bet they were. That girl’s parents didn’t want justice, they wanted revenge. And who could deny them that?

How would those two men forgive the courts? How would the authorities forgive themselves after stealing three decades’ worth of freedom from Brown and McCollum? Is it even possible to emotionally and spiritually overcome tragedy like this?

It is, and we’re going to show you how. On Tuesday, October 18th from 9am-10:30 and 6pm-7:30pm, – two days from now – St. John XXIII will host a speaker named Marietta Jaeger. “I have my degree from the school of hard knocks,” and her PhD in forgiveness.

Marietta’s experience is every parent’s worst nightmare. I promised not to divulge the details of her story, but imagine the worst possible act being committed against your 7-year-old daughter, and then imagining the other worst things also happening.

Marietta’s story will stretch your imagination to its boundaries of pain and suffering. She’s traveled the world for the past 40 years, speaking to audiences about the importance of developing our ability to forgive.

She spent ten years speaking at a rehabilitation facility for clergy. She’s been interviewed in Rome by the Vatican Radio three times, and testified to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland. Marietta has worked with teen gangs in Peru and given many retreats across the country, including one in India for recovering alcoholic Catholic clergy.

On her own accord, she lived in Nicaragua during the Contra War researching forgiveness, only to discover that her own country had been spreading misinformation in the domestic media on the motives and nature of the conflict. That’s worth repeating. She moved to a country during a violent civil war to learn how the most marginalized and defenseless citizens were coping. Who among us today would move to Afghanistan, learn the language, and then live among the mountain-dwelling civilians to research their ability to forgive their enemies for the constant occupation, drone strikes and bombing?

“I went to Nicaragua to find out what was really going on with the campesinos,” Marietta shares. “How were they able to maintain a spirit of forgiveness during a period of daily occupation? This was an occupation of violence. Life was being taken every day.”

After the crime that took her daughter and changed her life, she spent two weeks wrestling with God, blinded by fury. She’d come from a background of strong faith, instilled in her by her parents and an influential nun, Sister Mary Columkille of Galway County, Ireland.

“She taught me not to be daunted by the division between the clergy and the people of the Church. She taught me this pre-Vatican II, so she was ahead of her time. She was quite progressive.”

She’s taken the pain from her experience and spun it into a ministry that serves the most forgotten and disenfranchised in our world. Who really has compassion for those serving a life sentence for murder? Everyone remembers the feelings and emotions that surround a trauma. We remember when life as we knew it was over. Things were not the same.

Marietta has taken this experience, and in it, she’s found her place in the world. This is the alchemy to which we’re called by Christ. Love is an action, and when we’re told to love our enemies, this is what that looks like.

“Jesus taught in parables, so I try to share my story with as many people as possible to give them hope. Forgiveness is a process. It doesn’t just happen and then it’s over. We have to live with a heart of forgivness. We have to maintain it.”

“If God can help me get through such a horrible situation, He can help anyone.” Our faith gives us the freedom to love those that our secularized world would have us hate. Come listen to her story. Be moved by it, and learn why capital punishment can never be an acceptable solution to our broken heart.

Oct. 9th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Celebrating October 11th | Feast Day of St. John XXIII

October 11th is the feast of St. John XXIII. He was pope from 1958-1963, and best known for convening the Second Vatican Council. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3rd, 2000. His feast is assigned to the day on which the first session of Vatican II opened in 1962. His feast is not on the General Roman Calendar, but can be celebrated locally.

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According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The theological controversies regarding the divinity of Christ which disturbed the Church during the fourth and fifth centuries led to a denial of the divine maternity of Mary. The heretics refused to honor Mary as Mother of God. The Council of Ephesus in 431 declared that the Blessed Virgin “brought forth according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh” and that in consequence she is the Mother of God. Thus she is rightly given the title of divine maternity. In 1931, on the fifteenth centenary of this great Council, Pius XI instituted today’s feast. By this act the pope wished to emphasize not only Mary’s divine maternity, but also her motherhood of all the members of Christ’s Mystical Body.

St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli at Sotto il Monte, Italy, in the Diocese of Bergamo on November 25th, 1881. He was the fourth in a family of 14. The family worked as sharecroppers. It was a patriarchal family in the sense that the families of two brothers lived together, headed by his great-uncle Zaverio, who had never married and whose wisdom guided the work and other business of the family. Zaverio was Angelo’s godfather, and to him he always attributed his first and most fundamental religious education. The religious atmosphere of his family and the fervent life of the parish, under the guidance of Fr. Francesco Rebuzzini, provided him with training in the Christian life.

He entered the Bergamo seminary in 1892. Here he began the practice of making spiritual notes, which he continued in one form or another until his death, and which have been gathered together in the Journal of a Soul. Here he also began the deeply cherished practice of regular spiritual direction. In 1896 he was admitted to the Secular Franciscan Order by the spiritual director of the Bergamo seminary, Fr. Luigi Isacchi; he made a profession of its Rule of life on May 23rd, 1897.

From 1901 to 1905 he was a student at the Pontifical Roman Seminary. On August 10th, 1904 he was ordained a priest in the church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo. In 1905 he was appointed secretary to the new Bishop of Bergamo, Giacomo Maria Radini Tedeschi.

When Italy went to war in 1915 he was drafted as a sergeant in the medical corps and became a chaplain to wounded soldiers. When the war ended, he opened a “Student House” for the spiritual needs of young people.

In 1919 he was made spiritual director of the seminary, but in 1921 he was called to the service of the Holy See. Benedict XV brought him to Rome to be the Italian president of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. In 1925 Pius XI named him Apostolic Visitator in Bulgaria, raising him to the episcopate with the titular Diocese of Areopolis. For his episcopal motto he chose Oboedientia et Pax, which became his guiding motto for the rest of his life.

On March 19th, 1925 he was ordained Bishop and left for Bulgaria. He was granted the title Apostolic Delegate and remained in Bulgaria until 1935, visiting Catholic communities and establishing relationships of respect and esteem with the other Christian communities.

In 1935 he was named Apostolic Delegate in Turkey and Greece. His ministry among the Catholics was intense, and his respectful approach and dialogue with the worlds of Orthodoxy and Islam became a feature of his tenure. In December 1944 Pius XII appointed him Nuncio in France.

At the death of Pius XII he was elected Pope on October 28th, 1958, taking the name John XXIII. His pontificate, which lasted less than five years, presented him to the entire world as an authentic image of the Good Shepherd. Meek and gentle, enterprising and courageous, simple and active, he carried out the Christian duties of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: visiting the imprisoned and the sick, welcoming those of every nation and faith, bestowing on all his exquisite fatherly care. His social magisterium in the Encyclicals Pacem in terris and Mater et Magistra was deeply appreciated.

He convoked the Roman Synod, established the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law and summoned the Second Vatican Council. The faithful saw in him a reflection of the goodness of God and called him “the good Pope.” He was sustained by a profound spirit of prayer. He launched an extensive renewal of the Church, while radiating the peace of one who always trusted in the Lord. Pope John XXIII died on the evening of June 3rd, 1963, in a spirit of profound trust in Jesus and of longing for his embrace.
St. John XXIII was canonized a saint on April 27th, 2014.

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.

Sept. 18th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Chris Biel & Lois Kittenplan Reflect on Catechetical Sunday

By Damian Hanley

“The world is a better place to live in because it contains human beings who will give up ease and security and stake their own lives in order to do what they themselves think worth doing.”

Teaching is difficult. Teaching The Faith amidst a culture that is bound and determined to undermine our beliefs at every turn is noteworthy. Teaching The Faith to young people in a way that makes it relevant and fun? That deserves a day of recognition! And so here we are on Catechetical Sunday.

The third Sunday of September in the United States is celebrated as Catechetical Sunday in order to acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate those who are catechists. In his encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio Pope John Paul II, says: “Among the laity who become evangelizers, catechists have a place of honor…Catechists are among those who have received Christ’s command to ‘go and teach all nations’” (Guide for Catechists, 33).

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“Catechists have a special calling in the Church,” says Chris Biel, Director of Religious Education. “It’s not something you just show up to, and read from a book. These are volunteers who prayerfully prepare, research and then transmit the message in a way in a way that brings the faith to the children. We have children of different ages, backgrounds, and many of our students have special needs. Because we believe that we are all children of God, we accommodate everyone’s needs. We don’t turn people away.”

Today we’re celebrating everyone in our Parish that is involved in the formation of people of all ages. St. John XXIII offers educational programs for everyone no matter what stage of life they are in. “We should never stop learning and growing in our faith,” Chris shares. “As parents prepare to baptize their child, they attend classes. They need to know that in baptizing their child, they are making a commitment to raise their child in the Faith… really throughout their entire lives.”

In forming a child’s faith and specifically Sacrament Preparation, there are three distinct elements, which are essential parts. Two of these agents, the family and the parish community, remain the same. The third element is a specific immediate preparation process in which the families and the parish will be in a strong partnership.

But it’s worth it. Every Catechist has their favorite moment when effort comes to fruition. “First Holy Communion,” says Chris. “I’ve known some of these children since they were baptized. But when it comes to that day – it’s such a transformation. Some days at class the children can seem disengaged or a little fidgety. This is understandable. Most of them have been at school all day and when Wednesday night rolls around, they’re tired. But something happens on that day. God puts His hand on their little heads and they have peace about them. They realized how special the day really is.”

For Lois Kittenplan, the classroom is a bit different. Middle school and high school-aged children present their own challenges.

“The biggest difference? Mostly attention span,” Lois admits. “Our culture is such that instant gratification is the rule, not the exception. And in a way, that reality has changed things when teaching God’s Word. Our lessons have to be short and engaging. The message has to be relevant. There are no more lectures. Our youth group volunteers are not just there to hand out pencils. The facilitate and engage.”

Lois’s Catechists are engaged. They are present because the activities, by necessity, are hands on. There is energy and excitement in the room. Rather than resent the changing of the times, the Catechists must embrace it, accept it, and adapt in a way so as not to dilute the message.

“They’ve been in school all day – they’re tired and hungry. So, in that hour of time, we have focus on one or two things that we can get across to them,” Chris adds. “How can we get them to know the love of Jesus?”

Some things never change.

Lois’s team is in the middle of an 8-week character building study. In it, they’ve chosen a list of relatable contemporary movies – The Pursuit of Happyness, Courageous, Soul Surfer, Facing the Giants, Seabiscuit, etcetera, and they show short clips of these movies that relate to human nature as well Bible figures and their associated character traits – integrity, self-discipline, compassion, a teachable spirit, courage, faith, joy and a servant’s heart.

“We show the clip and have a discussion about how they themselves can relate to it, and take it home with them,” Lois shares. “And you’d be surprised how effective it is. There’s no writing, no homework, no lecturing. Just a discussion about how the challenges in the Bible relate to what’s going on today, not only in their lives, but in the world around them… And I’m teaching the young adults the same way. The Bible and it’s repetitive cycle is the history of us.”

And isn’t that true? Human beings are dealing with the same exact things today that they were 2000+ years ago.

What went on back in Genesis and Exodus, is going on today – human trafficking, slavery, and of course, idolatry. Who among us doesn’t fall victim to some form of idolatry? This is the basic source of all discontent. Not believing who we are and what we have is enough to sustain our happiness.

And so being a teacher of the faith has never been so important as it is now. These Catechists are not merely teaching the truths of the Catholic faith, they are transmitting the key to living a joyful and meaningful life.

What is more important than that? The message might be packaged a little differently, but the truth remains the same. Technology has made sin more accessible and more apparent to those attempting to thwart it, but it is also enabling Catechists to teach more effectively so that students can build a stronger foundation in their faith.

“A strong foundation is what will carry them through the various crises in their lives,” Lois concludes. “We start from the base, when they’re young, but no matter how young or old a person is, we can instill in them what it means to trust God and channel His love towards others.”

We owe our Catechists a debt of gratitude. School may teach them math, science and history, but they teach the meaning of life, and how to live it. They make it fun and engaging – the vast majority of them are unpaid – and so the least we can do is say thank you. Your time is well spent. This is a job that is most certainly worth doing.

Sept. 11th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Day leaders announce plans for the 15th Anniversary of 9/11

In a new initiative called “Tomorrow Together,” announced in preparation for the 15th anniversary of 9/11, the nonprofit, 9/11 Day and a coalition of more than 20 other notable nonprofit organizations will ask Americans and the nation’s political leadership to put aside their differences and pledge to work together on a bipartisan basis to help solve some of our country’s most pressing societal problems.

“Our goal with ‘Tomorrow Together’ is to rekindle and reinforce the important lessons of empathy, service and unity that arose from the 9/11 tragedy,” said David Paine, president and co-founder of 9/11 Day, “and to encourage all Americans and our leaders to work more closely together again as one nation to address the challenges facing our society.”

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“As someone who lost a loved one on 9/11, I was truly inspired by the remarkable way our nation came together in the months following the attacks,” said Jay S. Winuk, co-founder and executive vice president of 9/11 Day. Winuk’s brother, Glenn J. Winuk, an attorney and volunteer firefighter and EMT, died in the line of duty as a rescuer on 9/11. “We owe more than division and discord to those who perished from the attacks and those who served in its aftermath. The anniversary of 9/11 should be a reminder to us all about our common humanity and the opportunity we have to help people and communities in need.”

15th Anniversary Plans Call for Interfaith Service Projects, Lesson Plans That Teach Empathy

The “Tomorrow Together” initiative will include large-scale service projects staged in many cities on September 11, 2016, intended to bring together a diverse community of people to help address hunger in America and other important societal issues.

In Washington, DC, 9/11 Day plans to work with AARP Foundation and other organizations on September 11 to help pack more than one million meals for at-risk seniors, children, veterans and others. Similar large-scale events promoting the value of diversity are also planned for New York City and in communities around the nation in cooperation with area food banks.

“We are proud to work with AARP Foundation to support such a wonderful intergenerational event that will help address hunger in the metropolitan DC area,” Paine said. “AARP has a long history of recognizing and supporting the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, and we are honored to assist the Foundation and AARP Create the Good volunteers on such an important and solemn day as the 15th anniversary of 9/11.”

In addition to helping to support interfaith, multi-racial and other diversity service projects, 9/11 Day will also distribute to millions of teachers nationwide free educational service-learning materials that assist in teaching empathy, in collaboration with the Ashoka’s Start Empathy Initiative and the National Youth Leadership Council.

At the college level, The George Washington University, a “Tomorrow Together” leader, will help organize other universities and colleges to participate in 9/11 Day as well. The American Express Corporation, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), Holland & Knight LLP and Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund are among the underwriters helping to support “Tomorrow Together” activities.

9/11 Day is also expanding release of recently created television and radio public service messages (PSAs) featuring 14-year-old Hillary O’Neill from Norwalk, CT, one of more than 13,000 children born in the United States on the day of the tragedy, September 11, 2001. In the PSAs, Ms. O’Neill urges the nation to see the anniversary of 9/11 as a day to work together to do good deeds. Grey New York, an award-winning advertising and branding agency, developed the new PSAs for 9/11 Day on a pro bono basis. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) began promoting availability of the new PSAs at its annual broadcaster show in Las Vegas this week, and is making the PSAs available to thousands of television and radio stations nationwide though NAB Spot Center, at https://psa.nab.org/view/#/campaign/9-11-day-of-service/tv-psas/.

9/11 Day, with the support of many within the 9/11 community, led the effort that officially established the anniversary of September 11 as an annually recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance under bi-partisan federal law in 2009 that charged CNCS as the federal partners in implementing this annual day of tribute. More than 30 million Americans now observe September 11 each year through charitable service and good deeds, transforming “9/11 Day” into the largest annual day of charitable engagement in America.

Among the many nonprofits, government agencies, and education organizations that are part of the new “Tomorrow Together” initiative are: Voices for National Service, AARP Foundation, Teach for America, America’s Promise, Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality & Equality, Mentor: The National Mentor Partnership, Alliance for Peacebuilding, Repair The World, Catholic Volunteer Network, Points of Light Institute, Service For Peace, Building Bridges Coalition, National Collaboration for Youth, United Way Worldwide, Ashoka’s Start Empathy Initiative, National Youth Leadership Council, City Year, Global Peace Foundation, Compassion Games International, The George Washington University, Youth Service America, Corporation for National and Community Service, Save the Children, After School Alliance, National Human Services Assembly and other prominent organizations.