Wilmington, Del., Jun 6, 2008 (CNA) - Anna Schuck always wanted to make a difference. In middle school, she began her volunteer work by helping with weekly bingo games at a local nursing home. Later, she served on the diocesan Youth Leadership Team and was an adviser to Bishop Michael Saltarelli on the Diocesan Pastoral Council. She taught first-grade religion for four years at her parish, St. Matthew’s in Wilmington.
But perhaps the biggest difference she made came when she embraced efforts to help the needy overseas. She led a group of friends that founded the HUG Club (Helping the Underprivileged Globally). “My friends and I heard a story about babies in China being tied to their beds because no one was there to take care of them [and] that really struck us,” she said. “I felt like there were bad things happening and no one was doing anything.”
Schuck, 17, a senior at the Charter School of Wilmington decided to take matters into her own hands and formed the club.
Shuck said she and her friends started out by piling into their parents’ cars and volunteering at places like the Ronald McDonald House and local soup kitchens.
“It was crazy because these were all people I had just met my freshman year of high school,” she said. “We were all interested in helping others and that’s how we all became friends. It was the uniting factor.”
Disgust and inspiration
At the end of their sophomore year, Schuck presented the HUG Club with a documentary film that would bring the group together for their greatest — and most daunting — task yet.
The film, called “Invisible Children,” was a documentary about the horrific effects of a 21-year civil war in northern Uganda. According to Schuck, the film depicts thousands of kids being kidnapped and forced to be soldiers. “It was inspiring, moving — and disgusting. The hour-and-a-half I spent watching this movie completely changed my life,” she said.
About 1.8 million people have been forced out of homes in Uganda into displacement camps, she said. “Children were fleeing their homes and sleeping on the streets because there’s safety in numbers. The rebel soldiers would drug them, brainwash them and desensitize them to violence. They were only kids - kids as young as six and seven were holding guns and killing people.”
In an effort to increase awareness within her own school, Schuck asked to show a screening of the film during school hours. The only way she was given permission to show the film, she said, was to make it an optional viewing.
Schuck said there must have been some divine intervention that day when the whole school showed up to watch it.
“We were graced with a hot day that day,” she said. “The only room in the whole school that was air conditioned was the room where I was showing the movie. It was amazing.”
She said it only took one movie showing to get the entire school “pumped” to help the children of Uganda.
“That’s when Rock Uganda was born,” she said.
St. Barnabas embraces HUG concert
Rock Uganda, the biggest undertaking of the HUG Club, is a series of concerts featuring more than 30 bands. Ninety cents of every dollar earned from these concerts benefited
the Sir Samuel Baker Secondary School in Uganda.
After promoting the show via MySpace, passing out flyers in local high schools, middle schools and colleges and advertising in various area newspapers, the HUG Club held their first Rock Uganda Concert Dec. 9, 2006.
More than 300 people showed up, raising $3,426. “I was incredibly surprised by the turnout,” she said. “I had no idea we could make that much money. I was entirely blown
Schuck took the success of the first concert as a sign to keep on going. “It just reaffirmed our confidence that we could change the world,” she said. “We had to do more.”
What began as a onetime event turned into a concert series, she said. “The amount of people who ended up being involved is insane to me. We invited everyone to be a part of us — we had no restrictions. We joined together and connected over a common goal.”
Nursing peace and justice
Eleven concerts and $30,000 later, Schuck was honored for her efforts. In April Schuck was presented with the Prudential Spirit of the Community Award, which recognized her as the top high-schoolaged volunteer in Delaware. She won a $1,000 scholarship and an
all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. to meet other top volunteers from across the country.
“I got to meet amazing people who all do incredible things,” she said.
Now, as she prepares to graduate this month, Schuck will leave the club in the hands of the underclassmen. “I know they’ll come up with some amazing ideas of their own [to raise money for international causes],” she said.
The goodbye concert will be held June 21. She anticipates more than 400 people will attend. “It’s going to be really sad, but it’s definitely time.
It will probably be our biggest one because this time, there’s no next time,” she said.
Although there’s some sorrow in closing this chapter of her life, Schuck is excited for all that lies ahead of her. In the fall she will attend the University of Scranton, where she will major in nursing and minor in peace and justice.
After college, she plans to join the Peace Corps. “I want to put my degree to work for the sake of helping others.”
The Dialog is the weekly newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington in Delaware.
Eugene, Ore., Jun 6, 2008 (CNA) - An Oregon woman suffering from lung cancer was notified by the state-run Oregon Health Plan that their policy would not cover her life-extending cancer drug, telling her the health plan would cover doctor-assisted suicide instead.
Barbara Wagener discovered her lung cancer had recurred last month, the Register-Guard said. Her oncologist prescribed a drug called Tarceva, which could slow the cancer growth and extend her life.
The Oregon Health Plan notified Wagner that it would not cover the drug, but it would cover palliative care, which it said included assisted suicide.
“Treatment of advanced cancer that is meant to prolong life, or change the course of this disease, is not a covered benefit of the Oregon Health Plan,” said the letter Wagner received from LIPA, the Eugene company that administers the Oregon Health Plan in Lane County.
“I think it’s messed up,” Wagner said. She said she was particularly upset because the letter said doctor-assisted suicide would be covered.
“To say to someone, we’ll pay for you to die, but not pay for you to live, it’s cruel,” she said. “I get angry. Who do they think they are?”
A doctor appealed to Genentech, the company that markets Tarceva in the U.S., to cover Wagner’s medication. On Monday Wagner was told the company would cover the drug treatment for a year, after which she could re-apply for the drug.
“I am just so thrilled,” Wagner said. “I am so relieved and so happy.”
According to the Register-Guard, Oregon oncologists say they have seen a change in state health policy, saying their Oregon Health Plan patients with advanced cancer are no longer covered for chemotherapy if it is considered comfort care.
“It doesn’t adhere to the standards of care set out in the oncology community,” said Dr. John Caton, an oncologist at Willamette Valley Cancer Center. He said many studies have found that chemotherapy in a palliative setting decreases pain and time spent in the hospital and increases quality of life.
Officials of LIPA and the state Health Services Commission, which sets policy for the Oregon Health Plan, say they have not changed their coverage of recurrent cancer patients, but have only clarified the rules.
Lander, Wyo., Jun 6, 2008 (CNA) - Wyoming Catholic College’s first freshman class has spent its first year on a deliberately low-tech campus where outdoorsmanship is taught alongside a classical “great books” program to provide a wholistic education.
The students, who finished their final exams on Thursday, have taken Latin immersion classes and read some of the masterpieces of Western literature. They have also learned leadership and survival skills and horsemanship on wilderness trips made to observe nature, which college officials call “God’s first book,” according to the Casper Star Tribune.
All incoming students participated in a National Outdoor Leadership School program before the start of the academic year. The students were broken into small groups to spend three weeks in the wilderness with a NOLS instructor and a priest from the college. Amid the hiking, camping, fishing, and rock climbing, they laid a foundation for a close community.
"It was hard, it was challenging, and it was survival," said Kate Harrison, a student from Kansas City. "I think the NOLS experience bonded everybody."
The school has a strict policy banning televisions and cell phones. It allows limited internet access only in an on-campus computer lab. Mario Coccia, the college's director of admissions, told the Star Tribune that school administrators find the gadgetry distracting, intrusive, and addictive. He said after a few weeks under the policy, the students tend to feel freed, rather than restricted by it.
Hannah Gaddis, a student from Casper, Wyoming, said the school’s studies kept her too busy to think about technology.
"You kind of realize how much you don't need these things," she said.
The college, whose motto is "Wisdom in God's Country," is located in the small town of Lander, close to the eastern slope of the Wind River Mountains.
Several students agreed that their common Catholic faith and their shared desires to be challenged physically, spiritually, and intellectually, have helped them become close friends. They have also built commonalities upon the school’s fundamental academic philosophy, which holds that there is such a thing as truth and that one can learn to identify and internalize the truth.
Vatican City, Jun 6, 2008 (CNA) - Today the Holy Father met with Silvio Berlusconi, the recently elected prime minister of Italy. During their discussion, the two focused on the Church’s role in Italian society, the state of education, and the importance of responding to international concerns.
According to a Vatican press release, the Pope and Italian prime minister discussed the Catholic Church’s contributions to the country as well as “questions upon which the Holy Father had dwelt during his recent discourse to the plenary assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference.”
At the conference last month, the Pontiff addressed the Italian bishops, and recalled the country’s “educational emergency.” During his talk, Benedict XVI noted that educating the youth in society necessitates that teachers “negotiate the obstacles placed in our way by relativism, by a culture that puts God within parenthesis and discourages all truly committed choices, and in particular definitive choices, rather privileging ... self-affirmation and immediate satisfaction."
In May, Pope Benedict also told the bishops that the educational crisis can be remedied by introducing an “education that is truly educational," an education that "re-establishes full and integral formation of the person as the center of its focus.”
At their meeting today, the two heads of state also turned their attention to the events in the Middle East and other international situations.
The Pope and Prime Minister were also sure to turn their attention to Europe, which has in recent years lost much of its Christian faith. In an effort to bring hope to the region, the two discussed “the prospects for the spiritual, ethical and social development of the European continent.”
Vatican City, Jun 6, 2008 (CNA) - Bishops from the Asian countries of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei met with Pope Benedict at the Vatican on Friday and heard him call them to follow in the footsteps of St. Paul. The prelates must help their flock to deeply absorb faith in Christ and to guard against the pitfalls of materialism and relativism, the Pope said.
The bishops’ visit, the Holy Father remarked, comes on the cusp of the start of the Pauline Year, which starts on June 28. As he began his address to the bishops in English, the Pope invited them to follow the example of the apostle, an "outstanding teacher and courageous witness to the truth of the Gospel."
"The Church's faith in Jesus is a gift received and a gift to be shared; it is the greatest gift which the Church can offer to Asia," said the Pope quoting the Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Asia."
Referring to the parable of the sower, the Holy Father noted that, “Happily, the peoples of Asia display an intense yearning for God. In handing on to them the message that you also received, you are sowing the seeds of evangelization in fertile ground.”
Yet, there are also obstacles to the flourishing of the faith in Asia, the Pope said. One of these is the impression that some have of the faith as a “foreign import” that is seen as “alien to the culture and traditions” of Asians.
Benedict XVI again pointed the bishops to St. Paul’s example by calling to mind the “manner in which St. Paul preached the Good News to the Athenians.” In the same way, the Church should present the Christian faith in ways that “resonate with the ‘innate spiritual insight and moral wisdom in the Asian soul,' so that people will welcome it and make it their own."
Another danger that the Church in Asia must protect itself against is the separation of faith from reason that occurred in the Enlightenment.
"In particular, you need to ensure that the Christian Gospel is in no way confused in their minds with secular principles associated with the Enlightenment. On the contrary, by 'speaking the truth in love' you can help your fellow citizens to distinguish the wheat of the Gospel from the chaff of materialism and relativism. You can help them to respond to the urgent challenges posed by the Enlightenment, familiar to Western Christianity for over two centuries, but only now beginning to have a significant impact upon other parts of the world. While resisting the 'dictatorship of positivist reason' that tries to exclude God from public discourse, we should welcome the 'true conquests of the Enlightenment' - especially the stress on human rights and the freedom of religion and its practice."
"This Pauline apostolate," said Pope Benedict, "requires a commitment to inter-religious dialogue, and I encourage you to carry forward this important work, exploring every avenue open to you. I realize that not all the territories you represent offer the same degree of religious liberty, and many of you, for example, encounter serious difficulties in promoting Christian religious instruction in schools."
With the conviction that the presentation of the Gospel helps their fellow citizens observe the law ‘written on their hearts,’ the Church must also pursue “open and honest dialogue with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and the followers of other religions present in your respective countries,” the Pope added.
If the bishops take this approach, they will reach a wide audience with the Gospel and help to promote a unified vision of the common good. This will also enable the Church to promote “religious freedom and greater social cohesion between members of different ethnic groups, which can only be conducive to the peace and well-being of the entire community," Benedict said.
Rome, Italy, Jun 6, 2008 (CNA) - In an interview with the magazine “Maria Mensajera,” famous Italian exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth said, “Everybody is vulnerable to the work of Satan” and that “the devil loves to take over those who hold political office.”
The Spanish daily “La Razon” published the interview in an article by Alexander Smoltczyk in which the 82 year-old priest describes what happens in an exorcism. He said he has performed more than 70,000.
“Evil exists in politics, quite often in fact,” Father Amorth said. “The devil loves to take over business leaders and those who hold political office. Hitler and Stalin were possessed. How do I know? Because they killed millions of people. The Gospel says: ‘By their fruits you will know them.’ Unfortunately, an exorcism on them would not have been enough, since they were convinced of what they were doing. We can’t say it was a possession in the strict sense of the word, but rather a total and voluntary acceptance of the suggestions of the devil.”
“I tell those who come to see me to first go to a doctor or a psychologist,” the priest continued. “Most of the time there is a physical or psychological basis for explaining their suffering. The psychiatrists send me the incurable cases. There is no rivalry. The psychiatrist determines if it is an illness, the exorcist if it is a curse,” Father Amorth explained.
Nobody, he went on, not even himself, is “safe from the devil. Everyone is vulnerable.” “The devil is very intelligent. He retains the intelligence of the angel that he was.”
“Suppose, for example, that someone you work with is envious of you and casts a spell on you. You would get sick. 90 percent of the cases that I deal with are precisely spells. The rest are due to membership in satanic sects or participation in séances or magic. If you live in harmony with God, it is much more difficult for the devil to possess you,” Father Amorth stated.
“The Pope supports exorcists,” he explained, but “satanic sects are proliferating,” and for this reason Father Amorth said his calendar for the next two months is full. “I work seven days a week, from morning until night, including Christmas Eve and Holy Week,” he said.
, Jun 6, 2008 (CNA) - Suspended priest and former Sandinista leader Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann has been elected to lead the next U.N. General Assembly, beginning in September of this year.
D’Escoto has been a Maryknoll priest since 1961, and in 1975 he became involved with the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua, eventually becoming the country’s minister of foreign relations, a post he held until 1990.
He was suspended by the Vatican in the 1980s together with two other priests involved in the Sandinista revolution, Ernesto and Fernando Cardenal. During a visit to Central America, Pope John Paul II publicly reprimanded him for his political activities.
D’Escoto, who was born in Los Angeles, California, is a close advisor to the current president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, and is a member of the World Council of Churches.
In 1999, then Archbishop of Managua, Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo, criticized those priests who became involved with the Sandinistas and abandoned their priestly ministry for politics. He said the priests never denounced the injustices that took place at that time.
D'Escoto will succeed Macedonia's Srgjan Kerim in September as president of the U.N. General Assembly and will hold the position for a year.
Rome, Italy, Jun 6, 2008 (CNA) - Catholics in China continue to reach out to those suffering from the recent earthquake in May, while survivors continue to show great faith in the midst of their sufferings.
According to the Fides news agency, the Diocese of Beijing has raised some $78,000 which was donated to the Red Cross in China. Bishop Giuseppe Li Shan made his own donation of $314. Special collections will continue to be taken up for earthquake victims.
A local resident in one of the affected areas told Fides, “When the first tremor ended, I ran to the closest church to pray. But I stayed outside, because the building was already seriously damaged. Now we celebrate Mass outside.”
On local priest said people were grateful for the solidarity of Pope Benedict XVI and Caritas offices around the world. “We have had the chance to reflect upon the fragility of man’s life. We should examine our consciences more often and always be ready to face life and death,” he said.
Santiago, Chile, Jun 6, 2008 (CNA) - The archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, said this week dialogue is always the best route for resolving complaints, such as those being raised by student and teacher groups and that have led to confrontations with the police.
Asked about the protests led by students and professors who are opposed to a new law on education, Cardinal Errazuriz said, “The first thing is to always opt for dialogue.”
He said there was no sign of “unwillingness to listen to the complaints and needs of these groups. I believe the president herself (Michelle Bachelet), when she established the Presidential Council for Education, wanted to include students.”
The cardinal explained that students may feel that some of their complaints have not been addressed, but he noted that the protests are being carried out “by groups of students, and not by all the students in Chile.”
“Dialogue should always be the first choice, and force should not be used to force a dialogue in which authorities seem willing to participate,” Cardinal Errazuriz said.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 6, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Spanish Forum on the Family, Benigno Blanco, said this week that Spain’s Health Minister, Bernat Soria, should listen “to those who up to now have not been taken into consideration,” to the “thousands of women who have been abandoned and are alone and have considered abortion because of a lack of solidarity and positive alternatives.”
In response to Soria’s announcement that a “commission of experts to study reform of the law on abortion” would be created, Blanco said the plan was cause for “grave concern” and simply an effort by the Health Minister and the current government to use the panel of experts as cover for their own complicity in abortion.
Blanco said that rather than listening to a panel of experts, Soria should instead listen to the “thousands of women who have been abandoned and are alone and have considered abortion because of a lack of solidarity and positive alternatives.”
She added that the Health Minister should listen to those who for years have been reaching out to such women “with zero support from public officials,” and to “those committed to defending life and the rights of the unborn and the mother.”
Blanco also said Soria “should remember that the life of the unborn is protected and shielded by article 15 of the Spanish Constitution.”
Since 2006, the Forum has sponsored 17 legislative initiatives to secure assistance for pregnant women, including financial aid and a support network that would offer “24 hour counseling, psychological, medical and gynecological help, communication with family members, employment and educational opportunities, housing assistance and child care.”
Konigstein, Germany, Jun 6, 2008 (CNA) - The global food crisis could close the Catholic seminary in the central Nigerian city of Makurdi by June 20 as “astronomical prices” force food rationing there.
According to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the major seminary has at least 520 seminarians from 15 dioceses around the country. The seminary’s food problems are compounded by electricity supply problems caused by the rising price of diesel, which has increased by one third in just one week.
Seminarians’ home dioceses are also taxed by rising food and gas prices.
Since the food crisis began in April, the seminary has taken out credit to function. Seminary rector Monsignor Kenneth Enang told ACN that he may be forced to close the seminary before the students begin to suffer from malnourishment and the debts increase further.
Monsignor Enang said that the seminary had only recently been planning to expand because of inadequate space. The number of seminarians had increased to 520 from 400.
In a previous report, Monsignor Enang had told ACN he was delighted at the “good vocations” and the well-qualified staff. He had said the seminary was a “bridge” between north and south Nigeria. In the young men’s camaraderie, he said, one could see “how Nigeria ought to look.”
Monsignor Enang has said the growth of the Catholic Church in Nigeria is “phenomenal.” Adherents of traditional African religions are often drawn to Christianity.
However, there are still too few priests, especially in rural areas.
Father Andrzei Halemba, head of the Africa desk of ACN, said that feeding seminarians is a major expense for African seminaries, and further price rises are expected. He said the global food crisis could threaten other seminaries in the Third World.