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.

Sept. 4th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Mother Teresa’s version of ‘small things’ led to big results

On Sept. 4, Pope Francis, who has spent this jubilee year preaching about mercy, will canonize Mother Teresa, who traveled the world to deliver a single message: that love and caring are the most important things in the world.

KOLKATA, India – A favorite motto of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata was: “Do small things with great love.”

But the “small things” she did so captivated the world that she was showered with honorary degrees and other awards, almost universally praised by the media and sought out by popes, presidents, philanthropists and other figures of wealth and influence.

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Despite calls on her time from all over the globe Mother Teresa always returned to India to be with those she loved most – the lonely, abandoned, homeless, disease-ravaged, dying, “poorest of the poor” in Kolkata’s streets.

On Sept. 4, Pope Francis, who has spent this year preaching about mercy, will canonize Mother Teresa, who traveled the world to deliver a single message: that love and caring are the most important things in the world.

“The biggest disease today,” she once said, “is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference toward one’s neighbor who lives at the roadside, assaulted by exploitation, corruption, poverty and disease.”

Her influence is worldwide. The Missionaries of Charity, which Mother Teresa founded in 1950, has more than 5,300 active and contemplative sisters today.

In addition, there are Missionaries of Charity Fathers, and active and contemplative brothers. In 1969, in response to the growing interest of laypeople who wanted to be associated with her work, an informally structured, ecumenical International Association of Co-Workers of Mother Teresa was formed.

The members of the congregation take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but the vow of poverty is stricter than in other congregations because, as Mother Teresa explained, “to be able to love the poor and know the poor, we must be poor ourselves.”

In addition, the Missionaries of Charity – sisters and brothers – take a fourth vow of “wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor.”

The tiny, wizened Mother Teresa in her familiar white and blue sari opened houses for the destitute and dying, for those with AIDS, for orphans and for people with leprosy. She founded houses in Cuba and the then-Soviet Union – countries not generally open to foreign church workers.

Her combination of serene, simple faith and direct, practical efficiency often amazed those who came in contact with her.
In 1982, when Israeli troops were holding Beirut under siege in an effort to root out the Palestine Liberation Organization, Mother Teresa visited a community of her nuns at Spring School, a home for the aged in East Beirut. It was her first visit in a war zone but not her last.

Meeting with Red Cross officials about relief needs, she asked what their most serious problem was. They took her to a nearby mental hospital that had just been bombed, requiring immediate evacuation of 37 mentally and physically handicapped children.

“I’ll take them,” she said.

“What stunned everyone was her energy and efficiency,” a Red Cross official involved in the evacuation said afterward. “She saw the problem, fell to her knees and prayed for a few seconds, and then she was rattling off a list of supplies she needed – nappies (diapers), plastic pants, chamber pots. We didn’t expect a saint to be so efficient.”
She was an advocate for children and was outspoken against abortion.

In a 1981 visit to New York, she proposed a characteristically direct and simple solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancy: “If you know anyone who does not want the child, who is afraid of the child, then tell them to give that child to me.”

When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 1979, she accepted it “in the name of the hungry, of the naked, of the homeless, of the blind, of the lepers, of all those who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society.” She also condemned abortion as the world’s greatest destroyer of people.

“To me, the nations who have legalized abortion are the poorest nations,” she said. “They are afraid of the unborn child, and the child must die.”

Often when criticized about her approach to social issues, Mother Teresa told of a man who suggested she could do more for the world by teaching people how to fish rather than by giving them fish.

“The people I serve are helpless,” she said she told him. “They cannot stand. They cannot hold the rod. I will give them the food and then send them to you so you can teach them how to fish.”

When she was criticized for not using her considerable influence to attack systemic evils such as the arms race or organized exploitation and injustice, she simply responded that was not her mission, but one that belonged to others, especially to the Catholic laity.

“Once you get involved in politics, you stop being all things to all men,” she said in an interview in 1982. “We must encourage the laypeople to stand for justice, for truth” in the political arena.

In 1994, British journalist Christopher Hitchens released a video, “Hell’s Angel – Mother Teresa of Calcutta,” in which he accused her of being, among other things, a fraud and a “ghoul”; of providing inadequate and dangerous medical treatment for patients; of taking money for her personal gain; and of using her fame to “promote the agenda of a fundamentalist pope.”

And New York Daily News columnist Dick Ryan said many American nuns were quietly critical of Mother Teresa’s lack of acceptance of or support for their lifestyle and their self-image as American religious women intent on fostering social justice and religious renewal.

For Mother Teresa, love for the dying, the scandal of abortion and the obedient servanthood of women were paramount – to the exclusion of such issues as social problems and male domination in the church, Ryan said.
American columnist Colman McCarthy sought to answer the critics.

“Undoubtedly,” he wrote, “Mother Teresa would be much closer to the orthodoxies of American social improvement if she were more the reformer and less the comforter. But instead of committee reports on how many people she’s moved ‘above the poverty line,’ all she has are some stories of dying outcasts.”

“Instead of acting sensibly by getting a grant to create a program to eliminate poverty, she moves into a neighborhood to share it,” he wrote.

“When Mother Teresa speaks of ‘sharing poverty,’ she defies the logic of institutions that prefer agendas for the poor, not communion with individual poor people. Communion disregards conventional approaches. It may never find a job for someone, much less ever get him shaped up. Thus the practitioners of communion are called irrelevant.”
“They may get stuck – as is Mother Teresa – with being labeled a saint,” McCarthy wrote.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Ganxhe Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in Skopje, in what is now Macedonia, Aug. 26, 1910. She had a sister, Aga, and a brother, Lazar. Her father was a grocer, but the family’s background was more peasant than merchant.

Lazar said their mother’s example was a determining factor in Agnes’ vocation.

“Already when she was a little child she used to assist the poor by taking food to them every day like our mother,” he said. When Agnes was 9, he said, “She was plump, round, tidy, sensible and a little too serious for her age. Of the three of us, she alone did not steal the jam.”

As a student at a public school in Skopje, she was a member of a Catholic sodality with a special interest in foreign missions.

“At the age of 12, I first knew I had a vocation to help the poor,” she once said. “I wanted to be a missionary.”
At 15, Agnes was inspired to work in India by reports sent home by Yugoslavian Jesuit missionaries in Bengal – present-day Bangladesh, but then part of India. At 18 she left home to join the Irish branch of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Loreto Sisters. After training at their institutions in Dublin and in Darjeeling, India, she made her first vows as a nun in 1928 and her final vows nine years later.

While teaching and serving as a principal at Loreto House, a fashionable girls’ college in Kolkata, she was depressed by the destitute and dying on the city’s streets, the homeless street urchins, the ostracized sick people lying prey to rats and other vermin in streets and alleys.

In 1946, she received a “call within a call,” as she described it. “The message was clear. I was to leave the convent and help the poor, while living among them,” she said.

Two years later, the Vatican gave her permission to leave the Loreto Sisters and follow her new calling under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Kolkata.

After three months of medical training under the American Medical Missionary Sisters in Patna, India, Mother Teresa went into the Kolkata slums to take children cut off from education into her first school. Soon volunteers, many of them her former students, came to join her.

In 1950, the Missionaries of Charity became a diocesan religious community, and 15 years later the Vatican recognized it as a pontifical congregation, directly under Vatican jurisdiction.

In 1952, Mother Teresa opened the Nirmal Hriday (Pure Heart) Home for Dying Destitutes in a dormitory – formerly a hostel attached to a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Kali – donated by the city of Kolkata.

Although some of those taken in survive, the primary function of the home is, as one Missionary of Charity explained, to be “a shelter where the dying poor may die in dignity.” Tens of thousands of people have been cared for in the home since it opened.

When Blessed Paul VI visited Bombay, now Mumbai, India, in 1964, he presented Mother Teresa with a white ceremonial Lincoln Continental given to him by people in the United States. She raffled off the car and raised enough money to finance a center for leprosy victims in the Indian state of West Bengal.

Twenty-one years later, when U.S. President Ronald Reagan presented her with the presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House, he called her a “heroine of our times” and noted that the plaque honoring her described her as the “saint of the gutters.”

He also joked that Mother Teresa might be the first award recipient to take the plaque and melt it down to get money for the poor.

In addition to winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa was given the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in 1971; the Templeton Prize in 1973; the John F. Kennedy International Award in 1971; the $300,000 Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Brotherhood in 1979; the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997; and dozens of other awards and honors, including one of India’s highest – the Padmashri Medal.

Even after health problems led her to resign as head of the Missionaries of Charities in 1990, her order re-elected her as superior, and she continued traveling at a pace that would have tired people half her age. In 1996 alone she had four hospitalizations: for a broken collarbone; for a head injury from a fall; for cardiac problems, malaria and a lung infection; and for angioplasty to remove blockages in two of her major arteries.

In late January 1997, her spiritual adviser, Jesuit Father Edward le Joly, said, “She is dying, she is on oxygen.”
That March, the Missionaries of Charity elected her successor, Sister Nirmala Joshi. But Mother Teresa bounced back and, before her death Sept. 5, 1997, she traveled to Rome and the United States.

Mother Teresa was beatified in record time – in 2003, just over six years after her death – because St. John Paul set aside the rule that a sainthood process cannot begin until the candidate has been dead five years.

August 28th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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


Amid Louisiana floods, victims become helpers

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

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

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

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

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

At least seven persons have died because of the storms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 21st, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Vatican Gardens’ gruesome past grows into green haven

VATICAN CITY Today’s lush and immaculately manicured Vatican Gardens were once just a sprawl of mosquito-infested swamps, clay hillsides and hardy grape vines.
The wild, unpopulated landscape on the fringes of early Rome slowly shifted as it changed to accommodate historical events over the course of 2,000 years: the martyrdom and burial of St. Peter; the blossoming of Christianity; the growth of papal power; and the eventual establishment of the world’s smallest sovereign nation.

The gardens make up almost half of Vatican City State’s 109 acres and their colorful evolution is documented in a newly updated volume: A Guide to the Vatican Gardens: History, Art, Nature, curated by historians and experts from the Vatican Library and Vatican Museums. Illustrated with full-color photographs and historic black and white engravings, the book has been translated into English.

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In the first century AD, the Roman Emperor Caligula set up a circus for chariot racing near a villa his mother, Agrippina, had built in the area, which was still far on the outskirts of ancient Rome. Shipping over a red granite obelisk from Egypt, he decorated the circus with the monument, which now stands in the center of St. Peter’s Square.

Emperor Nero expanded the circus, using it to showcase his cruelty against Christians like burning them alive to light his evening parties on the hill’s gardens and crucifying others, like St. Peter, who was then buried in a roadside cemetery nearby.

As the apostle’s tomb became a place of worship, the “circus fell into disrepair, Agrippina’s villa decayed and the uninhabited hill returned to wild scrub,” wrote the book’s co-author, Ambrogio Piazzoni, vice prefect of the Vatican Library.

After Emperor Constantine converted and granted Christians the freedom to practice their faith, he ordered the construction of the first basilica dedicated to St. Peter, which meant razing part of the hill and covering over part of the cemetery.

A few small buildings were constructed nearby over the next four centuries including a monastery, but the popes — the successors of Peter — didn’t start living in this “rustic and unprotected location” by the basilica until the fifth century, Piazzoni wrote.

With the Saracen Raid in 846, Pope Leo IV constructed a fortressed wall to defend the Vatican area from marauders. Inside the walls, there were meadows, vegetable gardens, orchards and vineyards while outside — which is part of today’s gardens — were more pastures and woods.

Once popes started residing permanently at the Vatican, they added their own personal touches to the vast expanse of greenery surrounding them.

Pope Nicholas IV had his doctor, Simon of Genoa, cultivate medicinal plants and aromatic herbs in the tradition of the Benedictine monks, who were known for creating treatments for illnesses and distilled liqueurs and tinctures.

This 13th-century papal initiative was to become the oldest botanical garden in Italy and marked the beginning of the formal scientific study of botany as a branch of medicine, “predating by centuries the teaching of botany” in academies and universities, Piazzoni wrote.

Pope Pius V made sure the medicinal plant studies continued in the 16th-century by hiring a Tuscan botanist and geologist to take care of the gardens. The pope gave him the title of “medicinal plant expert of Our Lord” and furnished him with a “safe conduct pass” allowing him to travel anywhere in search of rare plants.

The Vatican medicinal garden gradually lost importance — becoming a humble lawn — after Pope Alexander VII built a newer and larger botanical garden, which is still one of the largest in Italy, along the Janiculum hill in 1660. The Vatican lost that and many other properties after the loss of the Papal States in 1870.

Given the variety of habitat and papal proclivities at the time, the Vatican Gardens were also home to a menagerie of wild animals including the brief upkeep of a leopard during the pontificate of Boniface VIII in the 13th century and Hanno, the elephant, which was a gift to Pope Leo X from Portugal’s king in 1514.

Pope Pius XII found an injured finch in the Vatican Gardens and nursed her back to health. “Gretchen,” the finch, would keep the pope company and sit on his shoulder at mealtime while hopping down to peck at crumbs.

Today, green parrots nesting in palm trees and a small sampling of cats are the only free-range fauna easily sighted in the Vatican Gardens.

The gardens went largely unchanged from its Renaissance heyday at the end of the 1500s to the end of the 1900s, primarily, Piazzoni wrote, because the popes had moved their main residence to the Quirinale Palace — judging it to be “more comfortable, functional and situated in a sunny and healthy place.”

Despite the disuse, the gardens were still cared for and embellished with additional fountains, shrines, statues and exotic or rare plant life.

With the end of the Papal States, the pope moved back to the papal residence at the Vatican.

Being largely confined to the small property, Pope Leo XIII spent a lot of time caring for the gardens and pursuing his love for hunting and viniculture. He reportedly tended his small vineyard himself, hoeing out the weeds, and visiting often for moments of prayer and writing poetry. He had a papal guard on duty with orders to shoot to scare off birds threatening his grape harvest.

Modern-day popes still use the gardens for exercise, restful relaxation and meditation. Retired Pope Benedict XVI takes his daily walk there, praying the rosary along the wooded paths.

Not just for popes anymore, the gardens were opened to the public several years ago as part of an organized tour either on foot or on an environmentally friendly open bus.

The tours highlight the gardens’ blend of art, nature and faith, but also help visitors sense what the book describes as the harmonious co-existence of so many species of flora and fauna, which “reinforce the ideals that constitute the universal mission of this extraordinary place” — the love and care for God’s creation.

August 14th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 7th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Intro to Colleen Leavy 101

A new chapter begins in the life of the St. John XXIII Pastoral Team with Colleen Leavy – our new bulletin editor. A true rock star from a small town in Massachusetts, she sat down with me and talked about life as a kid, growing up the youngest of three girls and how she found her balance through design and using her creative gifts. Check out this interview and when you see her, welcome her to our Parish family.

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DH: Where are you from and what was life like as a kid?
CL: I was born in the small town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts and I’m the youngest of three sisters. Being the youngest, yes, I was spoiled a bit. But my sisters and I got along really well. I was a late surprise. My older sister is 10 years older than me so she was more like a mother figure.

DH: What ethnicity were your parents?
CL: Typical Irish/Italians from the Northeast. There are millions of us running around. We favored more the Italian side of our ethnicity. The cooking and family gatherings were all typically Italian. My parents were born and raised and never moved from Pittsfield. My parents were the first to inter-mingle the Irish and Italians, so it was super scandalous!

DH: Have any hobbies as a kid?
CL: My sisters were in college when I was very young, and there weren’t too many kids in my neighborhood, so I learned to entertain myself. I got into performing and writing music. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. So I was alone a lot, but that gave me the opportunity to hone my talent. I performed in, and won various contests in my local area, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I actually sang in a band. That was in Albany.

DH: So you moved to Albany?
CL: It might as well have been New York City in comparison to Pittsfield being such a small town. I was able to spread my wings when I started collaborating with other people and performing in a band.

DH: What kind of music do you perform?
CL: Dance/Rock n’ Roll… anything from Elvis to Pink. I was more into pop when I was a kid. But when I started in the band, the other members said “You could sound like Janis (Joplin), you know her right?” I was more into dance music, but they really introduced me to classic rock.

DH: So you went to college in Albany?
CL: Yes, I went to the College of St. Rose, for graphic design. Design exposed me to marketing and advertising.

DH: So that was a Catholic school… Did you go to Catholic school in grade or high school?
CL: All of it. Sacred Heart. St. Marks. St. Joseph – you name it, ha! The nuns taught us. They were quite strict. We wore uniforms, but I always accessorized with some striped socks. I knew I was going to be different. We just really didn’t know any better in a small town.

DH: What kind of student were you in high school? Book worm? Rebel?
CL: I was a little rebellious, but not crazy. I was searching for a creative outlet, and they really didn’t have anything back then for people like me. I had to struggle for years to figure out who I was and what I wanted from life. Kids these days have so much at their disposal. They have access to everything. They don’t realize how good they have it.

DH: Then you went to College of St. Rose?
CL: It was a breath of fresh air. I was exposed to so many different kinds of people and I could really find my way. College also exposed me to different experiences and subjects. I always knew I wanted to do something creative. The art department had its own building and there were creative people like me everywhere!

DH: So after college…
CL: I met my soulmate Nick, my guitarist, doing karaoke. I was singing “Love will Lead You Back” and he liked what he heard. We performed in a bunch of clubs and venues, and did some touring in other states. And that was the beginning of my band, Electric Lipstick.

DH: How did you get down to Florida?
CL: Nick, the guitar player had an opportunity down here, and there were a lot of different factors that played into it. Basically, we wanted to be in nicer weather (I mean, it was upstate New York) and we found a dream home down here. Unless you have millions of dollars, you’re not getting a house with a yard in the city of Albany. It’s bigger than you’d think up there.

DH: Yes, everyone has this idea of Albany: that it’s this small town (at least I do). So what do you want to bring to this position? It’s obvious you have the graphics skills…
CL: I left my last job doing graphics in February, so I haven’t been doing design work for a few months. I play a LOT of music. My band is booking 10-12 gigs per month, but I think I need to have both art and music in my life. I feel like it makes me a complete person. With my design experience, I hope to bring the bulletin, the other marketing collateral and the communications in general to the next level. I really love to design, so this is going to be fun for me.

DH: Ah, yes, so you need design as a balancing component of your life?
CL: Yes, and music makes me feel alive. I love to make people feel something with my music. When people come away from my shows and they’ve been touched – like, emotionally, it reinforces that this is what I’m put on this earth to do.

DH: Well it’s been great to get to know you a little and we look forward to seeing your work being done in the name of Christ. Thank you for your time and welcome to the family.
CL: Thanks! I would love to meet parishioners at one of my shows. Check out my band at:
www.electriclipstick.com

July 31st, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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

Celebrate Faith Formation

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

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

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

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

St. John XXIII Young Adult Ministry

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

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

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

St. John XXIII Adult Faith Education

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

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

St. John XXIII | Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 24th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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

Police chaplains struggle amid summer of pain, fear

By Rhina GuidosJuly 14, 2016 | CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landeza led the public memorial service for the officers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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