Archive of February 13, 2010

Catholic author and speaker encourages students to train to win heaven

Magnolia, Del., Feb 13, 2010 (CNA) - Getting to heaven is a bit like getting ready for the big game, according to Todd Lemieux. “If you’re playing a sport, you don’t play to be mediocre or average,” said Lemieux, 36, author of “100 Things Every Catholic Teen Should Know.”

“You have to put in the effort. You have to train. If we’re training to be with God in heaven, he wants you to be the best you that you can be. Go from good to better, from better to best and from best to completely awesome.”

Last Friday, Lemieux gave two talks at St. Thomas More Preparatory, located in Magnolia, Delaware. His first was to sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students from Holy Cross Elementary School and later he spoke to St. Thomas More high school students.

Lemieux, who tours the country speaking to youth and young adults, discussed self-respect, chastity, and living a life guided by virtues outlined in the Beatitudes. Lemieux was part of the scheduled lineup for the school’s third annual Spirit Riot, which also included Catholic recording artists The Matt Maher Band, but the event was canceled due to inclement weather.

“He’s able to touch on topics affecting this age group,” said David McKenzie, principal of St. Thomas More Prep. “I think most of them will hear what he has to say.”

Lemieux, who lives on Long Island, N.Y., where he and his wife are expecting their third child in March, said the lives of young adults are full of big decisions that affect everything.

“Where will you go to college? Will you get married? Who will you marry?”

Making the right decisions, he said, depends on how well young people train themselves.

“You have to put in the effort. If we want to better our lives we need to apply these virtues —faith, hope, love, courage, justice, moderation, prudence — to our entire lives, not just one area. Training yourself to get there prepares you for game-time decisions. There is no such thing as an overnight success.”

Citing the deadly sins, which he called “egoisms,” Lemieux said they were seven things keeping “us from being the best we can be.”

Love is more than a feeling — it’s a sacrifice, said Lemieux, who told students of his and his wife’s decision to remain chaste until marriage. “It would have been so easy to give into lust. But then what would our marriage vows have even meant? Sixty percent of marriages end in divorce and that’s why how you behave now affects that. If I waited three years for her, why would I ever cheat? Find the person who wants to get you to heaven. ... If you’re in a relationship and you can’t see yourself marrying that person, get out now.”

That’s not to say we live a life free of mistakes, he said. “The saints were a bunch of people who struggled with sin. Jesus fell carrying the cross. God doesn’t care where we have been. God cares where we are going.”

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

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Catholic Hispanic ministries lack funding and committed personnel, study finds

Washington D.C., Feb 13, 2010 (CNA) - A recent study that focused on Hispanic ministries across the country found that most Hispanic ministries are underfunded, overworked, and have problems retaining staff over time.

The study surveyed a group of existing Hispanic ministries of varying age, with the majority having been founded in response to the first “Encuentro Nacional Hispano” (Hispanic National Encounter) in 1972. About half of the organizations are less than two decades old.

Professor Tim Matovina of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame said that the results “underscore(s) what many Hispanic ministry leaders have been saying: the major challenge in nearly all national and regional Hispanic ministry organizations is the curtailment of their mission due to a severe lack of fiscal and consequently personnel resources.”

“Bolstering the structures that sustain Hispanic ministry is one of the most urgent strategic goals for the vitality of Latino Catholic faith,” alerted Prof. Matovina.

The study found that many of the organizations ministering to Hispanics are underfunded, which leads to a slew of difficulties. Some of the common barriers to effective ministry include an overabundance of work for a small staff, a high turnover rate in the leadership, a dependency on volunteers that causes a lack of continuity and constant change in the way things are done.  The study also noted a limited efficiency in outreaching to youth or to Hispanics who are not affiliated with a parish.

“The USCCB’s assessment of Hispanic ministry organizations and their initiatives, provides important data necessary for promoting best practices across a range of temporal issues facing the Church. These include: effective management, sufficient budgets, strategic planning, sustainable fundraising, adequate staffing, and high quality leadership development,” said Jesuit Father Allan Figueroa Deck, executive director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.

“Without this, we will fail as a community to meet the current and future needs of the Hispanic community and all those served by the Church,” he added.

The Hispanic and Latino community has grown to occupy a significant place in the American Catholic Church in recent decades. According to the USCCB’s department of Hispanic Affairs, Hispanics/Latinos comprise more than 35 percent of the Catholics in the U.S. They have also contributed 71 percent of the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States since 1960 and more than 50 percent of all Catholics in the United States under age 25 are of Hispanic/Latino descent.”

The results of the study will be reviewed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Cultural Diversity, which will listen to the advice of the advisory board before taking any steps to address the situation.

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Ohio House Speaker reverses decision, allows pro-life teen to be honored

Columbus, Ohio, Feb 13, 2010 (CNA) - The Ohio House Speaker decided on Wednesday to finally allow a pro-life teen to be honored for winning a national oratory competition with a speech on what she called the “truth” about abortion. House Speaker Armond Budish (D-Beechwood), a known supporter of abortion, had previously blocked the legislative honor from being awarded to her.

Elisabeth Trisler, an Ohio senior and former homeschooler, won the National Right to Life oratory contest in June of last year. Trisler told CNA that local state Representative John Adams (R-Sydney) had contacted her shortly following her victory and said that he would like to honor her in a resolution. “You can receive a proclamation for something you did that they think is commendable,” Trisler explained on Friday.

Though Trisler was initially “thrilled” to hear that she would receive this honor, she still hasn't received it.

Despite Rep. Adam's attempt to schedule the award presentation before the summer session ended in 2009, it was blocked and eventually canceled on every subsequent month. “I said, 'I'm tired of trying to plan around this,'” laughed Trisler. “They can just send it to me in the mail.”

What Trisler didn't know until recently, however, is why her ceremonial honor kept being canceled. Ohio Right to Life, who first drew attention to the issue last Monday, sharply criticized House Speaker Budish for preventing the proclamation, saying that his actions set a “troubling precedent.” The American Civil Liberties Union as well as a General Assembly lead by Rep. John Adams also urged the House Speaker to reconsider.

“Blocking speech because you don't like what someone is saying or what they stand for goes against the very fabric of who we are as Americans,” argued Ohio Right to Life executive director Mike Gonikadis in comments to the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday.

Although Rep. Budish has changed his mind and will permit Trisler to receive the proclamation, he will not allow the presentation to take place on the house floor due to what believes to be the controversial nature of Trisler's speech. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the House Speaker does not want anything politically divisive associated with the honor as its generally given in response to sports teams victories, individual achievements and the like.

When CNA asked Trisler on Friday what her speech addressed, she replied, “Truth.”

“What is the truth about abortion?” she continued. Looking at “the hard, cold facts” demonstrates that abortion is “dangerous,” said Trisler.“That's what I wrote about.”

The topic, however, didn't come easy, the young orator recalled. “When I was writing the speech I kept trying to write a 'good speech'” but “the right one wasn't coming.” Finally, at around 10:30 p.m. the night before the competition, Trisler recalled saying, “Mom, I want to do a different one. She said, 'honey, do you realize what time it is?'”

Replying “that's ok – I've got all night!” to her mother, Trisler recounted how she stayed up “praying” and talking over ideas with her sister before finding the topic that she wanted to discuss. Commenting on the competition itself, Trisler remarked, “all I can say is that God was really speaking through me.”

The legislative honor is expected to be given to Trisler in the upcoming weeks.

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Proposed textbook implies abortion opposition is wrong, N. Carolina bishops warn

Charlotte, N.C., Feb 13, 2010 (CNA) - A proposed school textbook that describes Roe v. Wade as a ruling against government oppression of rights should be opposed by Catholics, the bishops of North Carolina have said. They argue the text implies that opposition to abortion is wrong.

Bishop of Raleigh Michael F. Burbidge and Bishop of Charlotte Peter J. Jugis reported the problem with the textbook in a Feb. 11 letter to Catholics.

They said the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is considering a proposal for a revised textbook on Civics and Economics. The proposed text asserts that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that mandated permissive abortion laws nationwide, is an example of the Supreme Court upholding rights “against oppressive government.”

If the text is approved, the bishops warned, children will be taught the textbook’s interpretation is the correct one.

“The implication of this proposed text is that opposition to Roe v. Wade is wrong,” the bishops said. “As a voice united on behalf of the unborn who have a right to life, a fundamental human right, we oppose this draft statement.”

They asked Catholics to inform the Department of Public Instruction of their opposition and to ask that any reference to Roe v. Wade be removed from the text.

After supplying contact information, the bishops provided a sample opposition letter that calls the proposed text “reprehensible.”

“As a teaching objective that explains individual liberties, I cannot fathom how removing the right to life for someone who does not possess the power to fight for that right is an example of oppressive government,” the sample letter reads.

The deadline for feedback is Monday, Feb. 15.

“We are grateful for all you do to support the unborn and the formation of our children in the values that support and defend life,” the bishops’ letter concluded.

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Pope tells Rome's seminarians to apply missionary ‘dynamism’ to faith life

Rome, Italy, Feb 13, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI visited the Major Roman Seminary at St. John Lateran on Friday evening for prayer and dinner to celebrate with the seminarians the feast of their patroness. Addressing the gathering, the Pope emphasized the need to apply the "dynamism" of the missionary to the practice of their faith and to live it with joy.

The Holy Father was joined by all of the seminarians from the Diocese of Rome for his visit, which was held on the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Trust, the seminary's patroness.

As reported in L'Osservatore Romano, in his reflections during the Lectio Divina with the seminarians, Benedict XVI emphasized that Christ, in giving himself for us, also gave us "the novelty of the gift."

This, said the Holy Father, is how "God made himself known" and "showed himself in the face of Christ."

Pope Benedict explained that God is "true omnipotence." In Him and in His suffering out of love for us, we observe that the missionary aspect is not something exterior to the faith, but is “the dynamism of faith itself." Those who come to know Jesus are also privy to the joy that comes from sharing Him with others, he told the seminarians.

"If one has found joy," the Holy Father added, "he has found everything and sees everything in the light of divine love."

The Holy Father elaborated that this joy must have its base in a sound spiritual life that is nurtured by prayer at all times.

"We must learn to pray for the great reality, for the divine reality, because He gives himself to us, he gives his Spirit and that's how we can respond to the demands of life and help others in their suffering."

L'Osservatore Romano reported that the papal visit marked the first time that seminarians from all of the diocese's five seminaries had gathered to celebrate the vigil of the feast of the Major Seminary's patroness together.  There were about 200 seminarians in attendance along with rector Msgr. Giovanni Tani, Cardinal Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome Agostino Vallini and other representatives from the diocese, the seminaries and the Papal Household.

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