Archive of February 15, 2009

Struggling workers look for silver lining in tough times

Wilmington, Del., Feb 15, 2009 (CNA) - When Invista announced plans last fall to lay off 400 of the 500 employees at its Seaford nylon plant in Delware, Bill Evaristo went into a limbo-like state, wondering if he might continue to be employed at the place where he had worked the past 37 years. Last week, Evaristo, 56, received his final judgment from Invista. On Monday, he will join the burgeoning ranks of the unemployed.


While some might liken Evaristo's news to moving into hell, he takes a different slant.


“We’re blessed, even though I’ve been laid off,” he said, noting that his wife, Becky, works with the Upward Bound Math and Science Program at Delaware Technical & Community College and that he receives early retirement benefits from Dupont, which had owned the nylon plant until 2004. “There are a lot of people in a lot worse position than I am right



Evaristo, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Seaford, is among a growing legion of people who have lost their jobs, had their work reduced, or who struggle to find full-time employment in the current recession. For the week ending Jan. 17, the U.S. Labor Department reported that a record 4.78 million Americans received unemployment benefits.


“They keep saying another big company is laying people off. I wonder when it’s going to end,” Evaristo said.


Those affected are from all economic levels and in virtually all sectors of the economy. Within the diocese, the impact has been felt in many areas, including emergency mergers and subsequent reductions in force of various banking institutions, closing of the Chrysler car plant in Newark and elimination of an entire shift at the General Motors plant in Wilmington, the layoffs at Invista, and a drastic drop in  construction in Sussex County.


Despite their struggles, many have kept their faith and some even see silver linings in their plight.


‘I forgot how blessed I was’


“Everything happens for a reason; I’ve always believed that,” said J.D. Belmonte, 48. He lost his job as general manager of Advantage Dodge in Elkton, Md., when the dealership with more than 25 employees closed in September. New car sales in Maryland last year plummeted to their lowest level since at least 1998, according to the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles.


“I’ve thought of it as a blessing, to be honest,” said Belmonte, a member of Immaculate Conception Church in Elkton. “After all those prosperous years I forgot how blessed I was — and still am.”


He had managed to set aside money that he now uses for living expenses and to continue his health insurance policy. “I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who didn’t have any reserves and are struggling,” he said.


While he looks for another job, he does things around the house — maintenance projects and tending to the yard — that he did not have time to do when he spent 50 to 60 hours a week at the dealership, where he worked since moving from Texas in 1990.


The spare time also has Faith, hope and the economy allowed him to spend time with his wife, Peggi. “We do a lot of things together now.” The couple celebrated their 25th anniversary in December.


Marlee, the younger of the Belmonte’s two children, attends Elon University in North Carolina. J.D. Belmonte had paid for some of her education while he was working. In a sense, he said, he still is helping her through college: By not having the salary he previously earned, she now is eligible for a number of grants and scholarships.


Struggle after loss


Last summer Don Elder, 38, and his wife Jodie had to decide whether they could continue to afford sending their son D.J. to Most Blessed Sacrament School in Berlin, Md., about 30 miles from their Sussex County, Delaware home.


A drastic downturn in residential construction meant Elder had less and less work, which translated to a decrease in income.


“The last year or two things just slowed and slowed and slowed,” Elder said. “I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve been down here 15 years.” Building permits for dwellings in Sussex County declined by 49 percent from 2006 to last year, according to the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Department.


As the Elders looked at their finances — even considering Jodie’s work with Xerox and some scholarship assistance that was offered — they reluctantly decided they could not afford to keep D.J., 8, at Most Blessed Sacrament. He now attends Long Neck Elementary. “With what I lost, it’s really been a struggle” to keep up with the mortgage and basic monthly bills, Don Elder said.


Elder said he still has a strong faith in God and in the Catholic Church. The family attends Mary Mother of Peace Church in Millsboro.


“We all have our trials,” he said. As his trials have continued, “I definitely pray a lot more.”


Home in jeopardy


Sometimes, prayer seems to go unanswered.


Elizabeth White of Holy Cross in Dover had purchased a modest house in 2006 but a year later lost her seasonal position as a social worker for a state program called CARE Delaware. She has received unemployment benefits and gone through a senior training program but has yet to land an ongoing job.


“My home is now in jeopardy, (and) the electric, gas and car insurance seem to come around sooner than they used to,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I pray to my patron saints daily and to God, friends light candles and pray for me, but things are more tight. I have great faith but have exhausted my resources.”


Francis “Frank”Jackowski admits “God hears some very salty language” as he questions God’s will. Jackowski, 58, an accountant, said he had worked at temporary positions recently but can’t find a temporary or permanent position in today’s market. “We’re struggling,” said Jackowski, whose wife is a public school teacher in New Jersey. They attend St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Bear.


“I want to go back to work. I like to work hard, earn a paycheck, and look up in the sky and say ‘thank God.’”


The ones who need prayers


Evaristo will brush up on his computer skills and may take some college courses as he seeks a new job. “My wife says an opportunity has opened up; that’s the way I am looking at it.” As he upgrades his skills and looks for a new job, he plans to become more involved in service activities.


Even during his employment limbo, he was among Our Lady of Lourdes parishioners who packed groceries for Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for needy families; his wife was in charge of the program.


Now he’s eyeing a new program at Our Lady of Lourdes called Angel Food Ministries; a training session was held last week. The Georgia-based program purchases restaurant-grade food in bulk and passes the savings — about 50 percent of retail cost — through a network of church host sites in 35 states.


Evaristo worries about the poor, and wonders if Angel Ministry will help those who received the Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets, some of whom may not be able to pay the reduced price. He believes their needs are far greater than his. “I’ll find a job,” he said. “They’re the ones who need our prayers.”


Printed with permission from the Dialog, newspaper for the Diocese of Wilmington, Deleware.

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U.N. committee rejects homosexual group with possible pedophile link

New York City, N.Y., Feb 15, 2009 (CNA) - Despite an opposing vote from the United States, the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Committee responsible for approving U.N. NGOs has rejected the application of a Brazilian homosexual group because of questions concerning the group’s position on pedophilia.

The Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians and Transgendereds (ABGLT) faced scrutiny because of allegations that one of the group’s founders was being investigated for posting pro-pedophilia essays on his blog, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) reports.

“The UK pushed hard for the group to be accepted,” C-FAM President Austin Ruse said in a statement. “The Obama administration also voted in favor of granting official status to the group.”

The 19-member NGO Committee is a subcommittee of the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) which uses various criteria to decide whether to recommend official status for NGOs. Accredited organizations are invited to participate in U.N. meetings. They may deliver oral and written reports and may organize events on U.N. premises.

According to C-FAM, the committee voted against deferring a decision on AGBLT and rejected the application in a vote of eight to six. The Russian Federation, China and Pakistan were among those who voted to reject the application, while the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel were among those voting against its rejection.

The NGO committee member from Egypt urged that the committee not make a rushed decision on any group where there was even the “slightest shadow of doubt” about its involvement in pedophilia. The committee member charged that the answers provided by AGBLT were not yet sufficient to clear the case and assure committee members that the NGO did not have any members or associates involved in such a “deplorable act.”

After the vote, the representative from the U.K. said she deeply regretted the committee’s decision and claimed the vote reinforced the view that the committee could not properly undertake its assigned work.

The observer from the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the EU, agreed with the U.K. statement, arguing that the committee acted in a “discriminatory manner” against the AGBLT, claiming the group “has every right to participate in the work of the U.N.”

The observer for Brazil, who had vouched for the organization, charged that the committee failed to evaluate the merits of the organization and had acted as a “censorship chamber.”

C-FAM says that debates in NGO Committee meetings over applications from homosexual rights groups have become “increasingly heated” in recent years. While ECOSOC almost always accepts subcommittee regulations, it has made exceptions in order to accredit radical homosexual groups. Two homosexual rights groups have received a negative recommendation from the NGO committee, only to have that decision overturned by ECOSOC.

According to C-FAM, the ECOSOC council is expected to review the NGO Committee recommendations at its July session in Geneva.

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Expo in Rome commemorates Vatican City State’s 80th anniversary

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2009 (CNA) - The President of the Governorate of Vatican City State, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, inaugurated an expo on the Vatican City State on Thursday, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of its founding.  The expo will be open to the public until May 10.

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the commemorative exposition, one of three events celebrating the anniversary in addition to a special conference and a concert at the Paul VI Hall, is divided into five sections. The first focuses on the Vatican before 1929; the second on Pius XI—who signed the Lateran Accords which created the Vatican City State; the third on the Lateran Accords; the fourth on the construction of the State; and the fifth on the six pontificates that came after Pius XI: Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

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Pope Benedict: sin, not sickness, separates us from God

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2009 (CNA) - With 20,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus prayer Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI recounted the gospel episode of the leper who is healed, recalling that it is sin, and not physical illness, that separates humans from God.

The Holy Father explained that in his passion, Jesus became like a leper, “made unclean by our sins, separated from God. He would do all of this for love, for the purpose of obtaining for us reconciliation, forgiveness, and salvation."

Reflecting on the Gospel reading for this Sunday, Pope Benedict once again recommended to the faithful the practice of sacramental confession, expounding on the historical meaning of the words that Jesus spoke to the sick man: "Be made clean."

The Pontiff said: “According to the ancient Jewish law, leprosy was considered not only an illness, but the most serious form of 'impurity.'”

“It was the responsibility of the priests to diagnose it and declare the sick person unclean,” he added. The Holy Father stressed leprosy constituted “a sort of religious and civil death,” and its healing “a sort of resurrection.”

“In leprosy, it is possible to glimpse a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of the heart that can separate us from God,” he continued.

“In effect, it is not the physical illness of leprosy, as stated by the old norms, that separates us from him, but sin, spiritual and moral evil.”

He then said, "If the sins that we commit are not confessed with humility and trust in the divine mercy, they can even reach the point of producing the death of the soul.”

The Holy Father explained: “Jesus, as Isaiah had prophesied, is the Servant of the Lord who bore our infirmities and endured our sufferings.”

“In the Sacrament of Penance, Christ crucified and risen, through his ministers, purifies us with his infinite mercy, restores us to communion with the heavenly Father and with our brothers, and gives us his love, his joy, and his peace,” he continued.

The Holy Father concluded by invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom God preserved from sin, “so that she may help us evade sin and make us have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Confession, the Sacrament of Penance.”

After the Angelus prayer, in his greetings to the English-speaking faithful, the Pontiff told them: “I encourage all of you to place your trust in Jesus, and to bring before him your hopes and your needs, for yourselves and for your loved ones. May the Lord grant your prayers and pour out upon all of you his abundant blessings.”

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Venezuelan bishops encourage voting ‘without fear’

Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 15, 2009 (CNA) - The leadership of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference issued a statement on Friday in anticipation of the Feb. 15 vote on a constitutional amendment to approve indefinite reelection for the president.  The bishops encouraged Catholics to vote “without fear” and with “a conscience for the country,” calling on election officials to guarantee transparency in the vote.
The statement was read on 11:00am Friday in Maracaibo by Archbishop Ubaldo Santana, president of the Conference.  The bishops noted that on Sunday “all Venezuelans have been called to a new electoral event. As pastors of the Church we exhort all Christians and men and women of good will to take this referendum very seriously and assume the task that has been assigned to them with responsibility.”
“Let us overcome apathy and indifference and let us all get out and vote. Let us vote without fear. Let us vote with a conscience for the country. Each vote is fundamental for building democracy in Venezuela,” the bishops said.
The bishops also exhorted election officials to “facilitate for voters the fulfillment of this duty as well as the exercise of their right to express their sovereign will without stumbling blocks, restrictions or manipulation.”
“Each voting place, each voting booth should be a school of democratic transparency,” the bishops said, asking that all citizens accept the official results “democratically and courageously.”

“Let us avoid violence and disorder which endanger peace and peaceful coexistence among citizens. If there are complaints or protests to be made, let them be done through the international channels,” the bishops urged.

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Israeli Prime Minister confirms Pope to visit Israel in May

Jerusalem, Israel, Feb 15, 2009 (CNA) - During a meeting with his Cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI will visit Israel in May.

He did not name specific dates for the trip. 

"This May, we will receive a special visitor, Pope Benedict XVI," Olmert said. "President Shimon Peres will accompany him to various sites in Israel."

"We hope that the Pope's visit would be conducted in the proper atmosphere and be as successful as the previous Pope's visit," he added.

Pope John Paul II conducted a successful visit to the Holy Land in 2000, as part of the Jubilee Year.

Pope Benedict also mentioned on Thursday he would go to Israel, but also did not mention any date.

As consequence of the recent Israeli elections, it is very likely that Pope Benedict will find a hard-liner as new Prime Minister. Last Tuesday’s elections ended with a statistical tie between Mrs. Tzipi Livni of the Kadima party and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a proponent of a much harder line against the Palestinians.

Livni has rejected joining Netanyahu in a “government of unity,” and has announced her decision to either lead the government in coalition with minor parties or become the opposition of a Likud-led government.

Kadima won 28 seats in the 120-member parliament to Likud's 27, but a strong nationalist bloc that unexpectedly emerged in the vote as a consequence of the conflicts in Gaza seems to have given Netanyahu the edge.

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