Reno, Nev., Nov 1, 2009 (CNA) - Before moving into Casa de Vida, a residential program for young, pregnant women, 22-year-old Dominique Sawyer had two options: the street or a homeless shelter. “It was the shelter, the streets or here,” said Sawyer, who is expecting a baby girl in December. “I thank God every day that I was sent here. Everything turned around for me. It opened a lot of doors.”
Casa de Vida in Reno provides support and services for young, pregnant woman who have nowhere to turn. They may be homeless. They may be drug addicts. They may be rejected by their family and friends for being pregnant out of wedlock and refusing to have an abortion.
Some girls are as young as 12.
“A lot of the girls would not be in a very good situation,” said Valerie Luevano, executive director. “This is a ray of hope for them.”
Casa de Vida, a nonprofit program, gives them a roof over their heads, nutritious meals that support maternal health and access to medical care. For many of the women, it’s the first time there’s been enough to eat.
“Sometimes there’s some hoarding and stockpiling of food,” Luevano said. “So we really have to teach them that it’s safe to be here. You never have to worry about being hungry.”
Casa de Vida was founded in 1982 by three Catholic women: Pat Glenn, Terry Ricciardi and Sister Peter Damian. The women were answering phones at a crisis pregnancy hotline and realized the community lacked a residential resource for the women they were counseling.
The program, which is privately funded through grants and donations, has the capacity to house six women. Some women stay after the babies’ births in order to get on their feet. A social worker provides case management services to the clients, as well as any other pregnant or parenting women in the
community. The women receive individual and group counseling by a behavioral health care professional, and classes on parenting, budgeting and child development.
“When girls come in, we make sure they are physically prepared to care for their babies,” Luevano said.
In return, the women must attend school, take parenting classes, abide by the 9 p.m. weekday and 11 p.m. weekend curfews, stay sober and perform simple daily chores.
The women receive assistance in completing their educational goals and finding jobs, health care and permanent housing. Some attend adult education on site through the Washoe County School District, while the younger women leave the home each day to continue high school at Cyesis-Washoe High School for pregnant teens.
Before moving to Casa de Vida, Sawyer didn’t have a high school diploma. Today, she is making plans for nursing school.
Sawyer wakes up each day by 7:30 a.m., attends classes to receive her high school equivalency diploma, then performs daily chores and attends parenting classes.
“I am very determined to get my GED,” she said. “I need extra help with the math, and the people here encourage me to stay in school.”
Following the birth of her daughter, Sawyer plans to move in with her mother and grandmother. The baby will be named Mary LaRae after her grandmother.
“I’m doing this for me and the baby,” she said, rubbing her belly.
In the house’s basement, each resident has a locker where their parenting essentials are stored, including a stroller, a crib and a car seat. The residents will take the items with them when they leave.
Ongoing resources are available on-site at Wanda’s Baby Closet, which provides free infant, child and maternity clothing, along with diapers, formula, baby furniture and toys to Casa de Vida clients and anyone in need in the community.
From July 20 to Aug. 20, 294 children received goods from the store, Luevano said. There are no qualifications to receive aid, and clients can visit every three months.
Donations of size 4, 5 and 6 diapers always are needed, she said.
In the future, Luevano would like to expand Casa de Vida’s services to provide a day program for the women after they’ve had their babies.
“We’re here to have healthy babies, but we’re not satisfied with that,” Luevano said. “We want healthy toddlers, children and adults. We want to make sure they aren’t repeating the same cycle.”
If women do need help immediately after their baby is born, Casa de Vida offers House of Hope, a transitional home for new mothers and their babies younger than 6 months old.
Residents pay a fee and must be 18 or older, with priority given to former Casa de Vida residents.
The women at House of Hope must either be working or in school and meet weekly with a social worker.
Printed with permission from Northern Nevada Catholic, newspaper from the Diocese of Reno, Nevada.
CNA STAFF, Nov 1, 2009 (CNA) - On Friday, November 6, the Church will celebrate the feast of St. Jean-Théophane Vénard, a French missionary to Vietnam who was martyred for the faith.
Famous for having inspired St. Therese of Lisieux, who said of St. Jean-Théophane that he was someone who had lived her own image of a martyr and missionary, St. Jean was born in France, became a priest in the Society of Foreign Missions, and was sent to Vietnam.
Due to the persecutions of the anti-Christian emperor Minh-Menh, priests were forced to hide in the forest and live in caves. They were able to sneak out at night and minster to the people. Eventually someone betrayed St. Jean, and he was arrested. During his trail, he refused to renounce his faith in order to save his life. He was condemned to death, and spent the last few weeks of his life locked in a cage.
It was during his incarceration that he wrote many letters, some to his family. His most famous line is from a letter to his father in which he said, “We are all flowers planted on this earth, which God plucks in His own good time: some a little sooner, some a little later . . . Father and son may we meet in Paradise. I, poor little moth, go first. Adieu."
In reading these letters, St. Therese the Little Flower came to understand and use the image of being a little flower, whom God nevertheless cared for and cultivated, despite her minute size.
St. Jean-Théophane Vénard was beheaded Feb. 2, 1861.
His severed head was later recovered and is preserved as a relic in Vietnam. The rest of his body rests in the crypt of the Missions Etrangères in Paris.
Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2009 (CNA) - A Washington, D.C. City Council proposal to recognize same-sex “marriage” would redefine marriage and could force Catholic educational and charitable institutions to close or face lawsuits, burdensome regulation and the compromising of their faith, the Archdiocese of Washington has warned.
The proposed law, called the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, redefines marriage as “the legally recognized union of two people.” It says a religious association or a non-profit associated with a religion shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities or goods related to the solemnization, celebration or promotion of a marriage that is in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs unless the entity makes those services available to members of the general public.
Representatives of the archdiocese spoke at an Oct. 26 hearing before the D.C. City Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. They argued that the law would endanger Catholic services to the general public.
In written testimony, the archdiocese opposed the legislation and “any effort to redefine marriage as any other than that between a man and a woman.” The archdiocese voiced “deep concerns” that the bill would restrict religious freedom if it is passed as drafted.
To continue the archdiocese’s service to the poor of the District of Columbia, the archdiocese testified, a “meaningful” religious exemption is needed to ensure that the government “will not suppress its religious exercise in such a way.”
In its support, the archdiocese cited a legal analysis of the bill by the Williams & Connolly law firm, which said the expected effect of the bill would put the archdiocese in an “untenable” position under the First Amendment unless religious conscience protections are expanded.
“The District will effectively force the Archdiocese either to violate the law or to abandon forms of religious practice – care for the poor, hungry and homeless – that are fundamental to the practice of Catholic social teaching,” the law firm commented.
In addition to overturning the definition of marriage, the legislation has no exemptions for churches, religious organizations such as the Knights of Columbus or religiously-owned nonprofits such as Catholic Charities if they provide services to the general public or rent space to individuals or groups outside of their faith.
According to the archdiocese, six prominent legal scholars including Prof. Robin Fretwell Wilson of Washington & Lee University have independently submitted a letter to City Council Chairman detailing serious religious freedom problems with the legislation.
“They note that religious organizations are at risk of lawsuits if, for example, they decline to offer their facilities to same sex couples or to limit married student housing to couples of the opposite sex,” the archdiocese said in a press release.
Other risks for religious organizations and individuals who cannot recognize same-sex “marriages” include the denial of access to government contracts and access to government facilities, such as leases. Licenses for objecting doctors and social workers could be revoked while child care licenses could be denied.
The proposed law could also allow lawsuits against those who do not provide same-sex benefits to employees and could result in the revocation of the accreditation of religious colleges.
“This would have serious implications in the District of Columbia, where Catholic Charities provides foster care and adoption services for nearly 100 children every year as well as shelter every night for nearly one in three of the city’s homeless men, women and children under contracts with the city, which cannot provide these services itself as efficiently and cost effectively,” the Archdiocese of Washington said.
“Every year, Catholic Charities provides shelter, food, counseling, medical and legal assistance, and more to 68,000 people in the District of Columbia regardless of their faith,” explained Ed Orzechowski, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. “If the Council passes this bill as written, these programs are at risk along with nearly 100 different parish social ministry programs, all of the other ministries operated by the Catholic Church and even meeting space for groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Scouts and neighborhood organizations who partner with churches.”
The lack of an adequate exemption, the archdiocese said, would require religious organizations and individuals to choose “between exercising their faith and following the law.” This would cause “division and dissatisfaction” among the citizens of D.C., it warned.
Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops’ proposed document on the relationship between sex and procreation and the moral issues concerning infertility treatments will be debated and voted on by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at their fall assembly in Baltimore.
The draft of the document, “Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology,” expresses the Church’s compassion to couples suffering from infertility but rejects some “reproductive technologies” as non-legitimate solutions to such problems.
“We bishops of the United States offer this reflection to explain why. We also offer it to provide hope—real hope that couples can fulfill their procreative potential and build a family while fully respecting God’s design for their marriage and for the gift of children,” the draft reads, according to the USCCB.
The document reportedly draws on church teaching such as Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith instructions “Donum Vitae” and “Dignitas Personae”.
The draft includes questions and answers on the topic, testimony from couples who followed the Church’s teaching, and pastoral guidance and encouragement for couples struggling with infertility.
Catholic teaching against in vitro fertilization, egg and sperm donation, surrogacy, cloning and embryo teaching are reaffirmed in the document, the USCCB says. The document also discusses ethical treatments such as hormonal medications, surgery to repair damaged fallopian tubes, natural family planning, and male infertility alleviation.
“These avenues do not substitute for the married couple’s act of loving union; rather, they assist this act in reaching its potential for giving rise to a new human life,” the draft reads.
The document was prepared by the Pro-Life Committee as a companion to the 2007 USCCB document “Married Love and the Gift of Life.” It will require the approval of two-thirds of the membership of the USCCB.
Vatican City, Nov 1, 2009 (CNA) -
To the faithful gathered on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI presented the communion of saints, a “beautiful and comforting” reality that says “we are never alone.” In particular he held up the ancient cult of martyrs in the early Church, and in this Year for Priests, “the saintly priests, both those canonized…and those many more that are known to the Lord.”
Pope Benedict also spoke of Monday’s commemoration of the faithful departed, also known as All Souls Day. "I would ask,” he said, “that this liturgical memory be lived in a genuine Christian spirit, that is, in light of the Paschal Mystery.”
Benedict XVI explained that Christ died and rose again and opened the door to the house of the Father, the kingdom of life and peace: “Those who follow Jesus in this life are welcomed where He came before us. So as we visit cemeteries, let us remember that there, in the tombs, are only the mortal remains of our loved ones awaiting the final resurrection.”
Pope Benedict concluded his remarks by teaching that the most proper and effective way to honor and pray for the faithful departed is by offering acts of faith, hope and charity: “In union with the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we can intercede for their eternal salvation, and experience the deepest communion, as we wait to find ourselves together again, to enjoy forever the Love that created and redeemed us."
After the Angelus prayer, the Pope recalled the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration between the World Lutheran Federation and the Catholic Church. "That document,” he said, “attests to an agreement between Lutherans and Catholics on the fundamental truth of the doctrine of justification, a truth that brings us to the very heart of the Gospel and the essential issues of our lives.”
The Holy Father expounded on the acceptance and redemption of man by God, saying, “Our existence is part of the horizon of grace. It is led by a merciful God who forgives our sin and calls us to a new life following in the footsteps of his Son. We live by the grace of God and are called to respond to his gift. This frees us from fear and gives us hope and courage in a world full of uncertainty, anxiety, suffering."
This anniversary, the Pontiff explained, is an occasion to remember the truth about the justification of man, witnessed together, to unite Catholics and Lutherans in ecumenical celebrations and to further investigate this issue and others that are the subject of ecumenical dialogue.
“I sincerely hope that this important anniversary will help bring forward the path towards the full visible unity of all the disciples of Christ.”