The Blessed Blog

News, photos and stories from St. John XXIII Catholic Church.

September 14, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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

We’re SO close!

Last Sunday, we heard our finance committee speak on the future of our Parish – very exciting! We’re close to being debt free. Our numbers continue to swell, and the fact remains, we need a Parish Life Center. For a recap on this plan, check out the Father Bob-Cast in this week’s e-News, and download the bulletin for the rest of the events and happenings.

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And in case you missed it…

Mike Reese’s Church History overview class is now online! Visit the page here.

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September 7, 2014 | The 23rd Times

By | Bulletin, Interviews, Ministries, The 23rd Times | No Comments

It’s hard to stop thinking about Robin Williams. When you cruise YouTube, you find his stand-up, one-liners from The Dead Poets Society, and dance moves from Mrs. Doubtfire. He really raised the bar on vacuuming in tights and a dress. Then I clicked on an old commercial he did as a public service announcement about depression and suicide. It only had a few thousand views, but it struck me. Williams looked straight into the camera and said, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

reflection

Please email Danielle@johnxxiii.net with your scripture reflections today! What is your favorite Gospel passage and how does it affect your life? We’d love to know!

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This week we interviewed Becky Anderson of Verity Pregnancy Center. Becky and her staff meet girls every day who are on the brink of making permanent decisions. They counsel them by telling them the truth. It’s not a clump of cells. It’s a life. It’s not just the hardest decision they’ll ever make, it’s a decision that will change the course of their life, no matter what they choose. It’s not a “problem”, it’s a gift. If we believe in God, then we’re supposed to believe that all life is a gift (even if your Gift is screaming and throwing a tantrum in the line at Publix).
Family, friends and fans mourned the death of Robin Williams. Suicide leaves a wake of untold consequences. You can’t measure the pain because it doesn’t come from a place of loss. It comes from a place of what might have been. When women in their 70’s or 80’s confess an abortion that’s 4 or 5 decades old, they never talk about the guilt they feel for taking a life. They mourn the] fact that “my daughter would be 50 years old today”, or “my son would probably have kids of his own by now.”

When young women reach for a permanent solution, they’re doing so out of fear. Becky and Verity’s job is to get them to look at the bigger picture of their lives and make a decision that won’t haunt them for the next 50 years.

Their job is to inject just a small amount of faith into them because with that, fear can be overcome. Too many young women view an unplanned pregnancy as a temporary problem. As a parish, we are supporting Verity because they’re working to change that stigma one person at a time.

We sat down and asked Becky a few questions, and she gave us a few answers. Keep reading and help support their upcoming golf tournament…

Damian: Tell me what you guys do here, specifically?
Becky Anderson: Verity Pregnancy Center is what some would call years ago, ‘A Crisis Pregnancy Center’– where young women come looking for answers to the unplanned pregnancy they are facing. Many have not made the decision as to whether they want to keep the baby, adopt it out or choose abortion.

DH: So it’s not called a ‘Crisis Pregnancy Center?’ What’s it called?
BA: ‘A Pregnancy Help Center’ or ‘Pregnancy Medical Center.’

DH: Why get away from that term?
BA: Women may have equated the term ‘Crisis’ with a life affirming center. We don’t care what we call ourselves, as long as a woman makes a choice to come to our center before she would ever go to an abortion center.

DH: What do you do differently than other places?
BA: We converted to a medical model. We have a nurse on staff who does ultrasounds on a pregnant woman who is early in her pregnancy. It allows us to verify there is a viable pregnancy. We also provide the pregnancy testing that is done before that. We do a lot of education that goes along with helping a woman to continue a healthy pregnancy for the long term. We provide everything from childbirth classes to answering a mother’s common questions.

DH: What do you say to woman that ultimately ‘changes her mind’ about pregnancy?
BA: Our society says that women have choices. The problem is, women who are looking toward abortion feel they don’t have a choice. For example, there’s the one mother who has a one year-old…the boyfriend just left, she lost her job and feels she doesn’t know how she is going to feed another mouth. They feel they have no choice. What we provide is truth. Truth of what they’re facing. Truth that there is a consequence of each choice they face. We provide them with information. And last, Finally, we provide them hope.

DH: You deal with a lot of heavy situations. What is that like from day to day?
BA: It depends on how prayed-up we are. We begin every morning, as a staff, with prayer because we can’t do this on our own. Even in those circumstances, we leave for the day absolutely exhausted. The reason why we are ready for the next day is because we know we made a difference – not just for the life of the mother who has hope, but the life of a baby who now gets to live.

DH: What is something our parishioners can do help out the cause?
BA: Prayer. Pray that women find us before they find the abortion clinic. Second, get involved with voting. There are tons of laws that are protecting the unborn. Volunteer. We started a Fatherhood Ministry here. It gives dads a connection point. We’re going to be offering “dad” classes. It allows dads to talk with seasoned dads about what it means to be a good dad. They can also help with material assistance. We give out a ton of diapers and clothes—that’s one of the ways we provide hope to our clients. You can also help out with fundraising events.
Verity Pregnancy Center Fundraiser. September 22nd at Pelican Preserve.

‘A Day of Golf’ For More Information: 239-433-1929
If you or someone you know is in an UNPLANNED PREGNANCY and you don’t know what to do, you are not alone. Verity is here to help. Whether you are in need of a pregnancy test, information regarding your choices, a medical referral, material services, or just a confidential friend to talk to, we are here to help.

Verity Pregnancy & Medical
Resources Center
8890 Salrose Lane
Ste. 104
Fort Myers, FL 33912
239-433-1929

August 31, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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

Life as Ministry w/ Robin Dysard

On this election day (last Tuesday), I skim the local news sites for information on the election taking place, and I’m reminded (by Rick Scott), that this election – like every other – is about jobs, and education… and half a dozen other buzzwords that mean nothing in the context they’re being used. The Naples Republican claims 620,000 jobs have been created during his time in office while 832,000 people lost their jobs during Democratic candidate former Gov. Charlie Crist’s tenure. This probably had nothing to do with the natural cycle of the recession that started less than a year after Crist took office, but that’s neither here nor there. The good news is that 620,000 people have new opportunities to make money, feed their families, give to their Church, and buy new Apple products, to avoid suffering the indignity of the iPhone 4S.

Watch the interview.

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Although the function of at least 99% of those jobs will not be addressing the spiritual needs of anyone nearby, each one is an opportunity to do some marginal evangelization.
I’d like to believe that God doesn’t much care what we do for a living (so long as it’s honest and decent), and so if we’re going to be engaged in an activity for 8+ hours per day, why don’t we do the Catholic Thing, and introduce people to Jesus. But is that the Catholic thing? Because most of the people we stumble across in life, the ones aggressively trying to evangelize us and make sure we’re saved, are Protestants (and Jehovah’s Witnesses, even more so). I’ve never been cornered at the Mall by a Catholic, and a priest has never arbitrarily knocked on my door for a visit, but maybe it’s time Catholics step up their game.

Let’s face it, everywhere we go, people are hurting. Whether we sell insurance, mow lawns, or do taxes, we’re dealing with people that could use more love in their lives. Robin Dysard happens to be a physical therapist. She works in home health, so she’s in and out people’s homes who are, by definition, homebound. Without a vibrant and active support system, homebound people suffer from loneliness, and with that, depression. These become the forgotten externalities of a health condition that may seem as mundane as, say, a broken hip. Robin finds small ways to show them her faith. She doesn’t “cram” religion down their throat. She doesn’t try to save them (or assume they need saving). She does the Catholic Thing. She treats them with love and respect, and when asked, she attributes her gentle way of being to her relationship with God. As a volunteer board member at Verity Pregnancy Center, she’s also leading a life of deliberate service to some of the most vulnerable people in society – the unborn. I sat down (we stood, really) with Robin Dysard and we talked about her journey in, away from, and back to the Catholic faith, and what she’s been up to in the mean time. These were some of her answers.

Damian: So you are a Catholic “revert”, and you also sit on the board of Verity – a crisis pregnancy center. Which one do you want to talk about first?
Robin Dysard: I think I’ll talk about being a Catholic revert. It’s a big part of my identity. I was raised Catholic, and I left when I was young because it didn’t really mean anything to me. I was just sitting in the pew, and that was probably a result of ineffective catechesis as a child. But later, I was actually evangelized by another Catholic (when coming back), and I never realized what I had left. I’d probably thought that Jesus founded the Protestant Church. I just had no idea. A lot of people are unaware of the writings of the founding Church Fathers, such as Ignatius of Antioch. It’s really an exciting thing – being a Catholic, and I love being a part of the Faith Education committee here.

DH: Yes, I do see your name in and around the Church… What is it you do in that role?
RD: I work with a team called Faith Alive, and we look at different programs to bring to the Church to educate adults. What I really love is the heart of the people on the committee. We just finished reading the book Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell, and in it, she explains that a lot of people are leaving the Catholic Church because their spiritual needs are not being met. They end up going to protestant churches which are a completely different atmosphere. They really concentrate on forming a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, so that’s what we’re working on right now.

DH: Well that’s their tagline, right? “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” And a lot of Catholics are like you. Raised Catholic and maybe they fell away, but they’re back, and certainly they’ve been approached at the mall by these evangelizers. “Are you saved?” And you’ve got to think, I feel good today… maybe I have been? Tell me what that means – to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Did you get that when you were in that community?
RD: I did, actually, but over time I lost that closeness I had when I first got “saved”, and that was probably my fault. But I still do believe that it’s very important for people to develop an active prayer life and work on a deeper relationship with God. So I’m really excited to help start a group like that, so we can meet the needs of people seeking a deeper relationship.

DH: Certainly there are lots of people that are in need of that, whether or not they pursue it is another story, but more so than in most places, this pregnancy center must serve people in that type of situation. We all know “the deal”, right? Those girls are scared, they’re confused, and they need resources of all types. Why do you choose to serve young women in those situations, rather than, say, the humane society?
RD: That’s a great question. I feel called to that because I have a personal experience related to that ministry, and I think most women are afraid to talk about it openly. There’s a lot of shame involved in crisis pregnancy, but we all need to know the love of God. All people make mistakes when they’re young, but Verity is there to help these women make the right choices and get truthful information – not the type of information they’d get at Planned Parenthood.

DH: So tell me what happens when a girl comes in?
RD: On the first visit they fill out forms and are interviewed, they will have a pregnancy test, and they will meet with a counselor. They may not necessarily have an ultrasound the first visit but if they are abortion vulnerable we try to get them to have an ultrasound that visit; seeing life makes a big difference in these women’s lives.

DH: Okay, so you don’t “work” for Verity, can I ask what you do with your life? You have bills and stuff, right?
RD: Haha. I just give those to my husband. But seriously, I’m a physical therapist, and I do home health care, so that in itself is its own ministry.

DH: Right, because loneliness and the whole shut-in epidemic is huge. What is that like, walking into someone’s home who is literally dying of loneliness?
RD: Any kind of illness causes depression. Aging causes depression, so if I can reach them in any way… Sometimes I just talk about my Church to them and it will spark a fire.

DH: Knowing about this epidemic, you feel helpless, right? We don’t know where they are actually located. We don’t know what their life is like. We don’t know if their needs are met…
RD: I just do what I can to reach them. You sort of get a gauge of their faith when you go into their house. If you see nothing religious, like a crucifix or an image of Mary, you sort of tread lightly. I will still say “God bless you”, or “I will pray for you”, but I stop there. The people I see are hurting though, and it’s a great opportunity to reach them.

Verity is holding a Golf Marathon at Pelican Preserve Country Club. September 22nd, it’s a full day of golf. Golfers will receive free lessons throughout the day. Jim Cole – who played on the PGA tour – will be there to mentor the golfers. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. Monetary donations are accepted, as well as Golfer Sponsorships. Visit Verity’s website for more information http://supportverity.com.

 

 

August 24, 2014 | The 23rd Times

By | Bulletin, Interviews, The 23rd Times | No Comments

How am I supposed to reflect on 5 years worth of people’s stories? It’s just too much. It’s been a remarkable experience, and I’ve acquired a skill set that no school could teach. If you’ve not been around a grapevine recently, I wrote this little reflection because I’m leaving my role as Communications Director within the next few weeks. My replacement, Danielle Koleniak, begins tomorrow, and I’m to train her on…? I haven’t quite figured that out yet. I’m guessing the core function of my job here is: getting people to trust me.

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Aside from laying out the bulletin every week, graphic design, curating content from the media, fielding complaints from the uber-Holy and managing the website, the Main Thing I do is tell stories. I try to tell them in the most spiritually focused way possible, but sometimes, that’s difficult. The one thing I’ve learned about people – Christians of all types, Muslims, Hindus, even the Irish – is that every individual has their own brand of spirituality.

What a vague term, right? “Spirituality”? What does that mean? I looked it up in the dictionary and it tells us that it’s the quality or state of being concerned with religion or religious matters. Hm. Religious matters? Do they mean “God” or prayer? Or something more objective like memorizing your favorite Gospel verse?

Another definition is Sensitivity or attachment to religious values. What are religious values? Values are essentially standards of behavior, so are they referring to helping the poor? Going to Mass? Participating in a bake sale? Paying your bills on time?

I guess you could argue that values are all of these things, and that spirituality is an intangible concept that can be neither measured or judged from the outside. I’ve seen some decidedly non-spiritual people participate in the rituals of religion, and I’ve seen some people who’ve lived brash, licentious lives become humble, selfless servants of the suffering.

What I’ve learned through the people I’ve met and interviewed, is that God is acting through all of us, and the stories of our lives are our journeys away from, and back to Him. Each person has their spectrum of fatal flaws and deadly sins that they struggle with, but their willingness to admit those flaws, and seek God’s will, can be the closest thing to a measure of spirituality we can get.

I have met people with an unbelievable capacity for forgiveness. Remember the guy who was shot 6 times by a gangster in DC? That was a spiritual event in his life, one that taught him acceptance and forgiveness.

Remember the young Vietnamese man whose refugee boat was attacked by pirates twice, lived on a half cup of rice per day for a month and fled his country with not even a shirt on his back to find religious freedom in the States? He had to be open to God’s plan for his life (he didn’t really have much of a choice).

And the spouses… The spouses that deal with dementia, cancer, 1000 forms of addiction, dying children – these become the events that form the spiritual life. What can teach a person acceptance better than a loved one who commits suicide? It’s that type of powerlessness that brings people closer to the reality that we live in God’s world, and the time we spend ignoring that fact, is time spent in pain.

People are only willing to tell these stories because they trusted us. Either Father Bob or I got through to them enough that they became willing to share. They came to the idea that their humanness, or their pain, or their frailty could potentially help another person. They realized that they were already naked before God. The veil of denial had already been lifted. They could choose to withdraw into themselves and feed the monsters of self-pity and resentment, or they could acknowledge that the majority of people around them – to varying degrees – are off their rocker, and let them know they are not alone.

Our college student friend Vinny, the one who suffered with an eating disorder, didn’t tell his story because he wanted to broadcast his shame to 2000 people. He told it because it had the potential to give someone hope.

If nothing else, I’ve found that we should tell our stories because they diminish the shame and guilt we’ve spent our lives accumulating. We share and we realize that our sins are the same as other people’s. Our emotions are all the same. But more than that, our need to be loved is something that is planted in us by God, and it’s something that cannot be experienced in isolation.

When we share ourselves with other people, and when people share themselves with us, that is an act of love. Telling our stories is how we show that love, and it’s the medium through which others grow to love us. When we can tell the truth about ourselves, we can allow people into our lives – the ones God intentionally places there – and they can help us through our difficulties.

Our spiritual journey is finding out who we are – what God’s truest expression of our ideal can be – and then letting the world know who that person is. When people get to know us, they will love us, and we will love them… and that’s the stuff that matters… and that’s what the past 5 years have taught me. Thank you for telling me your stories.

I also want to extend my gratitude to the Pastoral Team and Tony Majeri. Tony basically created my job out of thin air in 2009. The “bulletin as publication” was his idea. The multimedia approach to our communication strategy was his idea. As the retired senior editor for the Chicago Tribune, I could not have gotten luckier than to have him land in our Parish. He’s proof that we never retire, God just uses us in new ways. Thank you. -DH

August 17, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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

On Control | With Suzie Norfleet

Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “Well, I’ve got options today. I think I’ll get terminal cancer.” That’s not something we want. We never want people we love to die or get sick. We want the best for people, but I have no control over what happens to my body. I have my mind and my attitude to work with.  I can accept what’s to happen and do the best I can, or I can be miserable and make everyone around me miserable too. -Susan Norfleet

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We all want control. And at times, we all think we have it. It’s natural for us to take actions that will ensure our survival, give us a certain amount of security and provide us with a reasonable amount of comfort and pleasure, but making those things the sole focus of our lives will backfire. The more control we think we have, the more disturbed we’ll be when the realities of life come knocking.

Susan Norfleet learned a long time ago that delusions of control come in many forms, and the lessons we learn regarding the nature of control can be painful. If God only gives us what we can handle, then he must have pretty high expectations of us. Her experience in Al-Anon (the 12-step program for families living with alcoholics) and her more recent cancer diagnosis have been lessons in how little control we have over the big-picture events in our lives… you know, the ones that make us who we are.

Damian: What was it like to hear your diagnosis?
Susan Norfleet: I’m very lucky to have the doctors I have, but I chose them because they are very honest and very direct. They never sugar coated anything from the get-go. I knew what I was going through and what I was facing.

DH: So what role does your faith play in your health?
SN: During this time, I was unlearning all I’d been taught about the Catholic Church by watching a lot of EWTN. So when I got to RCIA, a lot of the program already made sense. I think that I was also attracted to the thousands of years of tradition of the Catholic Church, because so much of the Old Testament is mirrored in the New. God’s plan isn’t just 2000 years old! It goes back much further. It’s reassuring and comforting to know that God’s prophecy is coming true. So of course I want to question my diagnosis and fight with it, but God has a plan for all of us… and it’s a much better plan that what we could have come up with on our own.

DH: How old were you when you realized the spiritual life is all that really matters?
SN: I think because of the way I was raised, I always knew the spiritual component of life was very important. When people are young, they put a lot of emphasis on things, and feelings and they get distracted by other people, and their emotions. I get really distraught about young people that have no one to mentor them, and no one to listen to them. When I grew up, I had a lot of support from my parents. We ate dinner together every night. We used to do laundry for the military ships on Saturday nights together. We’d laugh and carry on. So I think staying close to family is the key to a happy life. The closer you are to the ones you love, the better off you’ll be.

DH: Tell me a little about your family, and how important they were to you.
SN: My dad was the choir director at Church. Our Church would have these big parties – well, there were only about 250 members of our Church – but everyone would come. So growing up, life was really fun. I knew that you always had to be inclusive with people. I realized early on that things were not important – people were. So I’ve had faith throughout my life, but coming to RCIA laid out the tapestry of my beliefs in a way that made sense like it never had before.”
DH: What are you grateful for now that you’re a full-fledged Catholic?
SN: I can’t say enough about the beauty of the Church. I pray that people protect that beauty with vigilance because it’s the only thing that will last in this world. People’s politics come and go, but the Church gives us the greatest miracle of all – eternal life. We’re all eventually going to die in our physical form, but that only reminds me to live every minute to the fullest and love people the way God loves us.

DH: You’d mentioned you had some experience with Al-Anon?
SN: Throughout my childhood my father only drank socially. It was never a problem. He was in the laundry and dry cleaning business – and he started that business at the height of the depression in 1936. He did well after the War as most small businesses did. I had an ideal childhood. We went to Church. I was taught to be kind and loving, and to love God. I started out a Lutheran and went to a Lutheran college in upstate New York, so I had a sound liturgical background. But around the time I was 18, alcohol became a problem for my father – one that had to be dealt with. My mother had started to go to Al-Anon, and eventually got me to do the same. It was there that I realized I had all the tools I needed to solve the problems in my life – the tools that I’d gotten in my faith while growing up. I just didn’t know how to use them. And they sort of laid that out in Al-Anon. I can’t change another person. I can only change me.

DH: How did they teach you how to “deal” with your dad?
SN: I learned that I can have peace in my soul, even if all around me, life is going to hell in a handbasket. I could have a positive impact on others if I simply lived my life in a real and honest way. That was a wakeup call. I was able to take those principles into life, and later into business.

DH: How did that program help you to grow spiritually?
SN: Al-Anon and AA are based on a belief in a “higher power” (God). As long as the relationship with your higher power stays intact, you can make it through anything. The program works really well because of the mentoring. I used to go to a morning meeting where there were a lot of women. They’d complain about their husbands’ drinking. ‘You’re not going to believe what he does… etc etc. And the mentoring women would respond ‘You’ve pretty much tried everything, huh? Well maybe the person you should be focusing on is you, and how you’re going to live in this situation.’ I learned in Al-Anon that you can’t change another person – you certainly can’t control them. One of the things they always taught us was to treat the alcoholic like a boarder. If they were paying for room and board, and were content to go to their room every night to get drunk, let them do that. You don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to. I learned that my spiritual life was my business and my peace was no one else’s responsibility.

DH: All good advice. Thanks for telling your story. We’ll be praying for you.
SN: Sincerely grateful.