Cincinnati, Ohio, Jul 12, 2009 (CNA) - When Danny Sexton decided to sell doughnuts at school as a way to do his part to help the people of Darfur, it was supposed to be a one-time project.
The 2009 graduate of St. Xavier High School has since created a new nonprofit organization that stems from a school project called Donuts for Darfur, geared toward providing much-needed assistance in Darfur, located in western Sudan.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Sexton said. “God wants us to do good things for other people.”
Sexton, 18, of Loveland is the founder and chief executive officer of Concordia Humana Corp. The organization’s name is Latin for “human harmony.” Its mission statement includes being “committed to administering social justice to those who need it most around the world.”
Sexton along with his St. Xavier classmates Ryan Finke, Nicandro Iannacci and Peter Beaucage, as well as his friend, Emma Cevasco of Mason, serves on Concordia Humana’s board.
More than 2.75 million people in Darfur have been displaced as a result of civilian genocide. Women and girls from the refugee camps in Darfur are raped and suffer other forms of abuse by militia if they leave to collect firewood needed to cook meals for their families. The men will also be killed if they leave camp.
“It’s basically a modern day Holocaust,” Sexton said of Darfur. “Somebody has to be responsible to clean up the mess.”
A member of St. Columban Parish in Loveland, Sexton recognized the potential of raising funds for Darfur by selling doughnuts in a school full of teenage boys. He established Donuts for Darfur in May 2008. Sexton requested doughnuts from Kroger stores in Northside, Colerain, Loveland and Mason, Busken Bakery in Hyde Park and the Ridge Donut Shop in Pleasant Ridge, all of which have generously donated their stock.
Proceeds from Donuts for Darfur benefit Jewish World Watch’s Solar Cooker Project, which Sexton learned about from his friend, Deborah Backman, whose synagogue has been involved with the project. The Solar Cooker Project provides solar ovens to the people of Darfur who must live in a refugee camp.
“I felt it would be a great project to work for,” said Sexton.
The doughnut sales required some early morning for the St. Xavier students. Sexton, Finke, Iannacci and Beaucage would awaken before dawn. By 4 a.m., the friends were on their way to pick up as many as 500 doughnuts at Busken’s headquarters and 900 doughnuts from Ridge Donut Shop. Loading the doughnuts took 30 minutes. The friends arrived at school by 7 a.m., and sold out of doughnuts, costing $1 each, within an hour.
Sexton raised $1,275 at the start of the 2008-09 school year, and had collected $6,600 by May.
“It was a blast,” Sexton said. “The school cafeteria would shut down for us so we could sell doughnuts. We had a lot of cooperation at St. Xavier.”
Sexton’s father, Pat said he remembers his son spending late nights making preparations for the doughnut sale. Sometimes his son went to bed a few hours before he left for work.
His mother, Kathy marveled at her son’s ability to manage his schoolwork, apply for college and maintain his doughnut sale.
St. Xavier officials said they try to influence their students to think globally and find ways they can help others.
“Danny’s initiative was one of the best I’ve seen,” said Matt Kemper, director of community service at St. Xavier High School. “Having a global perspective is incredibly important. We encourage students to have an understanding, an appreciation and an ability to empathize with the plight of the poor and the oppressed.”
Because Sexton’s Donuts for Darfur gained so much momentum, he created Concordia Human to continue to help the people of Darfur and other countries where people suffer atrocities just to meet their own basic needs. Donuts for Darfur will continue next year at St. Xavier, Sexton said.
As far as other projects with Concordia Humana, Sexton and his friends said they’re still discussing ideas to implement at Xavier University, where Sexton will be a freshman in the fall, and at the University of Cincinnati, where Finke and Beaucage will be students.
In recognition for his efforts, Sexton was selected as a finalist for the 2009 Simon Lazarus Human Relations Award by the American Jewish Committee. In addition, Donuts for Darfur project has been recognized the Greater Cincinnati Advocates for Darfur.
“Love is not a function of distance,” said Sexton in reflecting on his ministry
For more information about Concordia Humana or to make a donation, visit www.concordiahumana.org.
Printed with permission from The Catholic Telegraph, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
CNA STAFF, Jul 12, 2009 (CNA) - On July 14, the Church will celebrate the feast day of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be beatified. Known as the "Lily of the Mohawks," Kateri lived a life of holiness and virtue, despite obstacles and opposition within her tribe.
Kateri was born in Auriesville, New York, in 1656 to a Christian Algonquin woman and a pagan Mohawk chief. When she was a child, a smallpox epidemic attacked her tribe and both her parents died. She was left with permanent scars on her face and impaired eyesight. Her uncle, who had now become chief of the tribe, adopted her and her aunts began planning her marriage while she was still very young.
When three Jesuit fathers were visiting the tribe in 1667 and staying in the tent of her uncle, they spoke to her of Christ, and though she did not ask to be baptized, she believed in Jesus with an incredible intensity. She also realized that she was called into an intimate union with God as a consecrated virgin.
Kateri had to struggle to maintain her faith amidst the opposition of her tribe who ridiculed her for it and ostracized her for refusing the marriage that had been planned for her. When she was 18, Fr. Jacques de Lamberville returned to the Mohawk village, and she asked to be baptized.
The life of the Mohawk village had become violent and debauchery was commonplace. Realizing that this was proving too dangerous to her life and her call to perpetual virginity, Kateri escaped to the town of Caughnawaga in Quebec, near Montreal, where she grew in holiness and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.
Kateri lived out the last years of her short life here, practicing austere penance and constant prayer. She was said to have reached the highest levels of mystical union with God, and many miracles were attributed to her while she was still alive.
She died on April 17, 1680 at the age of 24. Witnesses reported that within minutes of her death, the scars from smallpox completely vanished and her face shone with radiant beauty.
Devotion to Kateri began immediately after her death and her body, enshrined in Caughnawaga, is visited by many pilgrims each year. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, and the case for her canonization is currently underway.
Baton Rouge, La., Jul 12, 2009 (CNA) - Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed a law expanding conscience protections for health care workers beyond abortion.
House Bill 517, sponsored by Democratic State Rep. Bernard LeBas, allows any person to refuse to provide abortions, distribute “abortifacient drugs,” work on human embryonic stem cell research or cloning, or participate in euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.
The drug provision is intended to include the “morning-after pill” but would not extend to regular birth control, the Times-Picayune reports.
The Jindal administration said the measure is necessary to uphold the individual rights of health care workers whose personal beliefs might conflict with their profession.
Social conservatives and religious activists supported the bill, while opponents such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union said the law would restrict patient access to accurate information and timely services.
Benjamin Clapper, executive director of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, told CNA previously that the passage of the bill is a victory for health care workers across the state that would help them “excel” in their profession without concerns about being coerced into providing services against their conscience.
“Even though this legislation was under sustained attack from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, Louisiana understood that conscience rights should be protected,” he said.
Birmingham, Ala., Jul 12, 2009 (CNA) - The beneficiary of a Vatican-approved miracle attributed to the intercession of Servant of God John Henry Cardinal Newman says an EWTN show inspired him to pray to the saint for the healing of his back injuries that could have paralyzed him. His use of a relic of the cardinal may also be linked to a second miracle.
John “Jack” Sullivan had awoken to excruciating pain in June 2000. A CT scan revealed that all or most of the vertebrae and discs in his back had turned inward and were squeezing his spinal cord. A neurosurgeon advised him to have immediate surgery to prevent paralysis.
Sullivan, in the second year of a four-year diaconate program, knew that the pain, the surgery and recovery period would mean the end of his effort to become a deacon.
He turned on EWTN and saw a program hosted by Father C. John McCloskey, a devotee of Cardinal Newman. The episode in question featured Fr. Ian Ker, another Newman expert.
“They were discussing not only Newman’s teachings, but the process of beatification,” Sullivan explained to EWTN. “At the end of the program, they had on screen an address of the Oratory in Birmingham [England] and they said, ‘if you receive any Divine favors, please contact that Oratory.’
“I happened to have a piece of paper and a pen on the table in front of me and I wrote it down. Then, I thought, ‘If I wrote it down, I might as well pray to Newman.”
“I prayed, ‘Please Cardinal Newman, help me with God so that I might walk and go back to classes and be ordained.’”
He said he did not pray for a miracle but just wanted the pain to cease. The next morning, the pain was gone and stayed that where for a year, but came back “with a fury.”
Sullivan had surgery in the spring of 2001 during which his surgeon discovered that in addition to his other injuries the protective membrane surrounding his spine had been torn in at least two places.
Sullivan could not walk and suffered agonizing pain, facing the prospect of not being able to return to his diaconate classes.
On August 15, 2001, four days after his surgery, Sullivan again prayed to Cardinal Newman.
“I felt tremendous heat and a tingling feeling all over that lasted for five or 10 minutes,” Sullivan said. “After I experienced this, I immediately stood up straight. I was able to walk, not with a walker or cane, but on my own, without any difficulty or pain. I walked all over the hospital, just joyful. I never needed any pain medication after that.”
Sullivan was ordained to the deaconate on September 14, 2001. Now 70 years old, he walks 1.5 miles every day and performs “rigorous” outdoor work in his flower and vegetable gardens, including lifting boulders and building stone walls.
“I’ve been told I have the back of a fellow 30 years old,” he told EWTN.
Sullivan reports that his doctor, neurosurgeon Dr. Robert J. Banco of Boston, has told him he has no scientific explanation for why the pain stopped after the intensive surgery.
“If you want an answer, ask God!” the doctor said, according to Sullivan.
The deacon, a father of three, is expecting his first grandchild and now performs healing services many Fridays after benediction at St. Thecla Catholic Church in Pembroke, Massachusetts. In the services he uses a clump of Newman’s hair, a very rare first class relic.
“A lot of the results have been remarkable,” Sullivan said. “A young man in New Hampshire was literally brain dead after an automobile accident. I touched him [with the relic]; he came to life. That may be the subject of the second inquiry. There were many others.”
Sullivan, who also works as Chief Magistrate of the court in Plymouth, Massachusetts, said he has been very impressed by the thoroughness of the Vatican’s investigation.
“I’ve been in a court most of my life – I’ve seen thousands of police investigations – and I’ve never seen such an intense investigation as I’ve experienced with this,” he said.
The investigation included three panels of doctors who voted unanimously in favor of approving the healing as a miracle.
On July 3 Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree authorizing Cardinal Newman’s beatification. Once beatified, another approved miracle is necessary for him to become a saint.
Deacon Sullivan hopes to serve as a deacon at Cardinal Newman's Mass of beatification.
Vatican City, Jul 12, 2009 (CNA) - Before Sunday’s Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated the views expressed in his recently published social encyclical Caritas In Veritate. He reaffirmed the need for a global commitment to development and warned of “dark scenarios” for the world if an absolutist view of technology persists.
The Pope recalled the importance of the just concluded G8 summit, but above all he stressed that "there are social inequalities and structural inequities in the world that are no longer tolerable, which require, in addition to immediate action, a coordinated strategy to find durable solutions." The Church, he said, "has no technical solutions to offer, but, as an expert in humanity, it offers everyone the teaching of Sacred Scripture on truth and proclaims the Gospel of love and justice."
"A new economic plan is required that redesigns development in a holistic way, building on the foundation of ethical responsibility before God and man as a creature of God." Quoting his recently published encyclical, the Pontiff said: "In an increasingly globalized society, the common good and the effort to obtain it cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family.”
The social question has become an "anthropological” issue, which implies a way of conceiving man in truth, body and soul. Solutions to current problems of humanity cannot only be technical, but must take into account all the needs of the person, who has a soul and body.
"The absolutism of technology, which finds its clearest expression in certain practices contrary to life could draw dark scenarios for the future of humanity."
"Acts that do not respect the true dignity of the person,” the Holy Father said, “even when they seem motivated by a choice of love, in reality are the result of a material and mechanistic conception of human life, which reduces love without truth to an empty shell to fill arbitrarily and can thus result in adverse effects in integral human development."
"Despite the complexity of the current situation in the world,” the Pope concluded, “the Church looks to the future with hope and reminds Christians that the proclamation of Christ is the first and main factor of development."
After the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI expressed his "deep concern” about events in Honduras.
"I would to invite you to pray for that country so dear to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Suyapa,” he said. “May the leaders of the nation and all its inhabitants patiently walk the path of dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation. This is possible if, setting aside personal interests, everyone strives to seek the truth and to tenaciously pursue the common good: this is the condition for ensuring peaceful coexistence and genuine democratic life! To the Honduran people I assure my prayers and impart a special Apostolic Blessing."
Tomorrow, the Pontiff moves to Les Combes in the Valle d'Aosta for a period of rest.
"I invite everyone,” he added, “to accompany me with prayer. Prayer knows no distance and separation: wherever we are, it makes us one heart and one mind."