Davenport, Iowa, May 15, 2010 (CNA) - Keith Bonnstetter believes God gave him a gift that helped his family during a difficult time. Now, he often uses that gift to capture milestones in other families’ lives.
A member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, Bonnstetter has for 10 years run a business cutting personalized paper snowflakes highlighting the hobbies, faith, family or other features of recipients’ lives.
But the Spanish teacher at Bettendorf High School says his creations are “just pieces of paper” unless he tells the story of how he started making them.
That story involves a journey of faith and a medical struggle with his daughter, Claire, now 14, who began suffering medical problems in the early months of her life. Her gross motor skills were delayed; she didn’t sit alone until two weeks before her first birthday and couldn’t walk without a walker at nearly age 4.
In May 1999, a test showed her nerve impulses were traveling at just 10 miles per hour. Normal speed is 1,700 mph. Keith and Marsha, his wife, later took Claire to the Mayo Clinic. There the child received a diagnosis of Dejerrine-Sottas Disease, a progressive nerve disorder that causes loss of function below the elbows and knees. People afflicted with the disorder often must rely on a wheelchair by their 30s, Keith discovered.
He struggled: “I’m her dad; I wanted to fix her.”
Marsha, who’d long been praying for her daughter and for a sense of peace, was skeptical of the diagnosis. “I knew in my heart that Claire did not have this disease,” she said.
The Bonnstetters heard encouraging news the following September, when they traveled to Peoria, Ill., for a talk by a priest who had a glove of Padre Pio, an Italian saint and mystic. The priest, Father Paul Maria Sigl, blessed Claire with Padre Pio’s glove and told her parents she’d be healed, but not yet.
“We were dancing in the halls afterward for joy,” Keith said.
Ten days later, he and Marsha took their daughter to Dr. J. Richard Burns at East Moline Chiropractic Clinic. After taking X-rays, Burns told the couple Claire’s problems resulted from a neck bone pressing on her spinal cord. He gave her an adjustment, but cautioned the Bonnstetters not to expect change immediately.
The next day, though, Claire began walking without her walker. She rode her tricycle several blocks, when she previously “could barely make it to the end of the driveway,” Marsha said.
Over the next few weeks, Claire continued to improve. “We turned to God again, thanking him for the wonderful, beautiful child that he had given us,” Marsha said. “We then pointed out that she is a little more expensive than most, and we asked for a little more money to go along with her.”
She and Keith believe a Medicaid-related waiver was God’s first response. “The second response was much more remarkable,” Marsha said.
In late fall, Keith began cutting paper snowflakes featuring the Holy Family, Santa, the Grinch and other designs to display in the family’s living room. He then took some to Washington Middle School and Lyons Middle School in Clinton to show colleagues, who asked if they could buy his creations.
“I thought, are you people crazy? It’s just paper,” Keith recalled. But he began selling snowflakes with designs from lighthouses to birdhouses to pet dogs, all at his acquaintances’ requests. Word spread, and as Keith sold more snowflakes, more bills got paid.
Now, he said he spends all his free time from October to December fulfilling orders for his business, Clear Visions: Personalized Paper Cuttings — named after Claire, whose name means “clear.” During Christmastime, snowflakes he donated as a “gift back to God” hang at St. Paul the Apostle Church.
Keith’s talent is earning national exposure. Guideposts magazine will feature him in a Christmas issue, and last month, he traveled to New York to discuss his craft on “The Martha Stewart Show” for an episode Marsha said will air May 7 or 10.
At home, Keith said, Claire is doing well and getting treated for scoliosis. “She has a beautiful spiritual life.” Once when X-rays offered bad news about her curved spine, she responded: “I wonder what God wants me to learn from this,” he recalled.
That response reflects an attitude her father worked to adopt during Claire’s early struggles. “I had to let go and truly let God take over… It was difficult. At the same time, I think God did give me the grace to handle it.”
His daughter’s recovery and his success selling snowflakes were eye-opening, he said. “When I look back, I can definitely see God’s hand in everything.”
For more information, visit www.clearvisionssnowflakes.com.
Printed with permission from The Catholic Messenger, newspaper for the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.
Mexico City, Mexico, May 15, 2010 (CNA) - The committee, Pastors United for Mexico recently sent a letter to the Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, calling the attacks on Pope Benedict XVI an attempt to “harm the worldwide image and influence of the clergy.”
The letter said that over time, “the battles against everything that is deemed as faith” will continue against not only the Catholic Church, but Christianity in general.
However, it said, these attacks will not harm Christianity because “the strength of the churches is real, as they are not based on the strength of the leadership of a man but on the Rock of faith who is Jesus Christ.”
The evangelical pastors said that despite these attacks, the followers of Christ will continue to grow in number.
Signed by Pastor Eduardo Rangel Hernandez, the letter also reiterated the importance of the defense of life and the family. It called on the faithful to pray that “'all Christians,’ might be clothed in God’s presence together with our families, in order to remain faithful in the life He gives us.”
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 15, 2010 (CNA) - The Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is providing relief to more than 1,000 people, some of whom are former child soldiers who fled a Ugandan rebel group inflicting raids on villages in the Congo.
Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group, has raided villages over last two years in the northeast region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Killing people indiscriminately and stealing food, the group often abducts children for their own usage.
Bishop Julien Andavo Mbia of Isiro-Niangara, who is overseeing aid for the refugees, described a typical raid, saying that “Within 20 minutes they can search through everything – looting foodstuffs and seizing the young people.”
The bishop added that abducted children are especially at risk.“The boys are trained to fight, while the girls are forced to become sex slaves,” he told ACN.
The Catholic aid group is pledging $6,200 in aid for the victims of the LRA as part of its ongoing support for Church-run projects in the country.
This grant will allow Bishop Mbia to provide food for survivors and give basic shelter and blankets to those who were forced to flee when their huts were burnt down. The money will also supply clothing, since many displaced families had no time to gather possessions when the LRA attacked.
Bishop Mbia’s program will also provide medicine to those who had lips and ears cut off during the raids.
Ottawa, Canada, May 15, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Canada have unveiled a new and improved version of their website. It now includes a Bishop’s Blog and article sharing over Facebook.
Bishop Pierre Morissette, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) announced the revamped site. It presents all the previous information on the bishops’ site but now has “a sleek, dynamic new look, [a] functional and user-friendly interface.”
At the blog bishops will give a first-person account of how they fulfill their role today, a press release from the CCCB reports.
The site’s tagline is “Teach, Govern, Sanctify,” which are the duties of the bishop.
The CCCB connected the launch of the new site to Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the 44th World Communications Day, in which he invited priests to make “astute use” of the possibilities of modern communication.
“…the increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility on the part of those called to proclaim the Word, but it also requires them to become more focused, efficient and compelling in their efforts,” the Pope’s message continued.
Bishop Morissette invited Catholics and others to participate in the “virtual community” of cyberspace
The CCCB was the first Catholic bishops’ conference to launch a website, doing so over 14 years ago.
Its website is at http://www.cccb.ca
Washington D.C., May 15, 2010 (CNA) - The National Review Board, an advisory group established to oversee child and youth protection in the Catholic Church in the U.S., has issued a list of lessons that abuse victims and survivors have taught them. Noting abuse victims’ courage, the board chairwoman explained to CNA that there is a need to learn more and to communicate effectively the Church’s steps to combating abuse.
The list, authored by review board chairwoman Diane Knight, said the board has learned that it takes “great courage” for a victim to come forward with his or her story after years or decades of “silence and feelings and shame.”
“We have learned that the abuse has robbed some victim/survivors of their faith,” Knight continued. “For some this means loss of their Catholic faith, but for others it means loss of any faith in a God at all.”
Hearing an individual abuse survivor’s story is “a sacred trust to be received with great care and pastoral concern,” Knight’s list continued.
“We have learned that we still have much to learn.”
CNA spoke with Knight in a Friday phone interview. She reiterated that abuse victims and survivors who came forward showed “a great deal of courage” despite the “violation of trust.”
Asked about the U.S. bishops’ “zero tolerance policy” for sexual abuse, Knight explained that, in her understanding, the policy was created “to make absolutely sure that to the best of their ability no additional children should be harmed.
"That was their primary concern, and that was the conclusion they came to at that time.”
CNA then asked how she would respond to most Americans who think that the Church has not done enough to deal with sexual abuse, she said she wanted them to know the various things the Church has done.
Two to three years ago Catholics similarly believed the Church had failed to do enough, she explained.
“When you ask them what the Church should do, the things they say are what the Church actually has done,” Knight reported.
“The issue is effective communication about what we’ve done, rather than if we’ve done anything.”
According to Knight, the Catholic Church in the U.S. now does background checks on “anyone working with children in any capacity” and offers safe environment training for those who work in the Church.
There is also “a great deal more screening” for seminary candidates to determine their fitness.
CNA asked Knight how she would respond to the inflammatory contention that the Church is “full of pedophiles.”
This idea is based “pretty much on ignorance,” she replied. “People who, because of the stories that have been out there, would be equally outraged if they heard the things about local public schools or Boy Scouts or any local non-profit or for-profit where people were abused.
“Sometimes it is a matter of prejudice. Some people who are already anti-Catholic have an additional reason to continue to be anti-Catholic.
“But even then I’d say it is based on misinformation and misimpressions and not efforts to hear what the facts are,” Knight concluded.
Rome, Italy, May 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Next Tuesday an afternoon conference will be held in honor of Venerable John Paul II at one of Rome's pontifical universities. The initiative, which will discuss writings and testimonies about the Pope's life, comes on the 90th anniversary of his birth.
"A man come from afar: Homage to John Paul II" is the title of the special event to take place at Rome's Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum on the afternoon of May 18, the Italian Bishops' SIR News reported Friday.
The conference has been organized by the university together with a cultural association of students called the Pascal Center and also the Regina Apostolorum-instituted John Paul II Study Center. The Study Center aims to bring together publications and writings by John Paul II and those produced by others about him for the occasion.
In addition the center will collect significant materials concerning the life of the Pope, including photographs and audiovisual records.
According to SIR, the JPII center is committed to promoting study and research on the late pontiff’s “life, charisma, works and significant traces left in history during his life and pontificate as well as after his death."
Following an opening presentation from the rector of the university, Fr. Pedro Barrajon, and a greeting from the head of the Study Center, Martino Cichocki, a variety of talks will be given by experts regarding the life and times of John Paul II.
Among the six presentations to be given are "John Paul II and the Jewish World" by Dr. Edith Aviv, "A Polish Pope and Eastern Europe" by Hanna Suchocka, the Polish Ambassador to the Holy See and "Why He's a Saint: experience with the Postulator of the Cause of Canonization of John Paul II" by Italian journalist, Saverio Gaeta.
The conference has been planned for the late Pope's birthday, May 18. This year he would have been 90 years old.
Vatican City, May 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In an interview with Vatican Radio on Saturday Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi reviewed the highlights and important messages from the week's Apostolic Trip to Portugal. He noted the vitality of the Church in the country, calling it a sign of hope for the future.
The Apostolic Trip took place from May 12-14, taking the Holy Father first to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, then on pilgrimage to Fatima and finally to the coastal city of Porto.
The outcome of the trip was "certainly positive," according to Fr. Lombardi's evaluation. He added, "I would even say superior to the expectation."
The Vatican spokesman noted a highlight of the "marvelous trip" in the warm and vast welcome of the people of Portugal, which surpassed the organizer's predictions, he said, and left the Pope himself "struck, very content and comforted."
He explained that Pope Benedict was able to “live this trip in the best conditions and also as a moment of great spiritual experience of prayer.”
According to Fr. Lombardi, The “culminating point” of the trip was the celebration in Fatima.
During this trip were moments which echoed across Europe and the world, said the Vatican spokesman, because Fatima is “a place that has really assumed a significance for the Universal Church, as a moment of encounter and, in a certain sense, of communication between heaven and earth..."
The meeting with cultural representatives in Lisbon was also meaningful with its "total" involvement of the world of culture which, Fr. Lombardi noted, shows "the willingness of the Church to speak in a constructive way with all people who search and commit themselves to the world of thought, research, art and creativity."
He went on to review the major messages of the Pope during the four-day trip. He commented specifically on "the very intense way" the Pope spoke of love for Jesus in the homily in Fatima and also supported the Holy Father's observation that the prophetic mission of Fatima continues to be important today.
He also harkened back to the Pope's words from the flight to Portugal when he said that the Church suffers from the sins of its members.
The spokesman observed that, in this context, the message from Fatima calling us to conversion and penance is particularly important.
"This seemed truly very beautiful to me," he said, "very important ... how the Pope was able to insert the theme that afflicts us in these last months regarding the sexual abuses into a very broad spiritual perspective."
In doing so, the pontiff is "recognizing their gravity, but placing them within the condition of the Church in the world."
Fr. Lombardi closed the interview by recalling the vitality he witnessed in the Portuguese Church which he called "a great sign of hope for the Church that walks (ahead)."