Archive of November 26, 2010

Tensions rise in Haiti as cholera spreads

Port au Prince, Haiti, Nov 26, 2010 (CNA) - The deadly cholera outbreak in Haiti is causing serious tensions inside the country and in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

“It is said that the dead are many more than a thousand, and they say that numbers continue to rise. Even here, at the border with Haiti, the situation is very critical," Fr. Demuel Taverz, SMF, reported from the small town of Jimani.

The priest told Fides news agency that the closure of the border at the town Jimani has seriously affected those who sell their products at shops across the border, depriving the poorest people of a “minimum income.”

“The most incredible part is that the trucks of the larger companies continue to enter Haiti, while the poor cannot sell their products to the market,” he commented.

He added that communications are poor and media reports are generating a “psychosis.”

“The tensions are high,” he said. He recounted the story of a fight at a university at Barahona in the Dominican Republic where students beat up a young man because he was Haitian. The students claimed that those from Haiti carry cholera. A religious brother of Fr. Demuel calmed the crowd and helped the victim.

Fr. Demuel repeated the report of Fr. Anibal Zilli from Kazal, a town of 20,000 people about two hours’ drive from Port-au-Prince. The priest said that in Kazal cholera continues to spread amid increasing tensions.

“There have been demonstrations against the U.N. troops because they are accused of having brought the disease to the nation, especially the group from Nepal. According to reports, there were over 1,000 deaths and more than 10,000 diagnosed with the disease,” Fr. Zilli’s report said.

In Kazal seven cases have been reported and others have been hospitalized.

The real death toll for the whole country may be closer to 2,000, according to Reuters. Hundreds of thousands are vulnerable to the disease and the epidemic could last a year. Around 1,000 trained nurses and at least 100 more doctors are urgently needed to control the epidemic.

This Sunday Haiti will hold presidential and legislative elections which will help determine the future of the country.

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Giving thanks has life-changing impact, priest and psychologist says

Denver, Colo., Nov 26, 2010 (CNA) - Fr. Charles Shelton –a Jesuit priest, psychologist, and the author of a new book on gratitude– says that the choice to live gratefully can help to improve virtually every aspect of a person's life.

The multi-talented priest, a professor of psychology at Denver's Regis University, recently published “The Gratitude Factor,” a book that examines the importance of giving thanks for one's work, leisure, relationships, and other everyday experiences of God's grace.

Fr. Shelton has made notable contributions to the field of “positive psychology,” a branch of the social science which studies the cultivation of virtue and well-being. “The Gratitude Factor” combines his work in the field with an emphatic focus on Christian spirituality, in the tradition of St. Ignatius Loyola.

Speaking to CNA on Nov. 20, he explained how the choice to live gratefully, even in the midst of difficulty, could profoundly change one's experience of the world. Gratitude, he said, gives depth to the experience of joy, and profound meaning to less desirable tasks–  by “re-framing” both as important aspects of the life that one receives from God.

He stressed that gratitude, for Christians, comes most of all from understanding that “we are God's sons and daughters, and Jesus' brothers and sisters.” That “core experience” is “channeled, through our hearts, into various commitments” that allow believers to share God's gifts to them with others.

“The more we can carve out some time to reflect on that (identity) in our lives,” he offered, “the more rich they become.” He described the fatherhood of God as a “centering point” for Christian gratitude, allowing the entire range of human experiences to be viewed as God-given responsibilities.

Jesus himself, Fr. Shelton observed, was grateful for every aspect of his human life: not only for his family, community and work, but also –as the priest explains in a profound passage of “The Gratitude Factor”–  for his suffering and death, which he accepted to give new life to humanity.

While some experiences naturally inspire a feeling of gratitude, others take work, patience and prayer to appreciate. Sometimes the benefit of a situation is completely hidden, requiring the attitude of faith. “Regardless of what happens, I would want to be a grateful person,” Fr. Shelton said. “You could weather anything, and draw from it, if you are grateful.”

But even when it comes to obviously good experiences, Fr. Shelton stressed that gratitude is a virtue that requires attention and effort to develop. His book offers a number of strategies for making thankfulness a part of life, including a “daily gratitude inventory” modeled on the Jesuits' traditional
techniques for recalling God's presence.

Besides making a person aware of God's blessings, Fr. Shelton explained that gratitude helps people appreciate one another. The act of giving thanks, he noted, is always outward-directed. “Because it's always an acknowledgment of someone else, or something else, by definition there has to be an openness (to others) … That's just inherent in what the experience is.”

Since it is oriented toward others, the experience of gratitude can especially deepen bonds with friends and family. “The whole idea of bonding, and community, comes out of gratitude,” he reflected. “We see the gifts of others, we're grateful for the gifts of others, and we all need the gifts of others.”

Fr. Shelton also affirmed that the gratitude-centered holiday of Thanksgiving, while not a liturgical feast in its own right, could offer Catholics in the U.S. a unique chance to prepare themselves for the season of Advent. Modern consumer trends have tended to eclipse that liturgical time, in favor of a “shopping season” filled with anxiety.

But Fr. Shelton noted that Thanksgiving was perfectly timed to help American Catholics rediscover Advent. An authentic Thanksgiving experience of gratitude, he said, could help Catholics begin preparing to receive the surpassing gift of Jesus' arrival, rather than focusing on shopping.

“Studies show (that) people who feel grateful, don't feel the need for as many material possessions,” he noted. “They don't have to fill themselves up” to compensate for a perceived “deficit.” By using Thanksgiving to consider “the gifts God has given … through this year, up to now,” Catholics could more easily embrace “the idea of waiting” that should define Advent.

“It makes sense, psychologically,” he said. “Although this is a secular holiday … it does become, for American Catholics, a fitting end to the liturgical calendar – as we really reflect on what Thanksgiving is.”

Although the Church's solemnity of Christ the King formally closes the liturgical year and signals Advent's beginning, its moveable date always closely coincides with the civic holiday of Thanksgiving. Fr. Shelton reflected that the combination of the national and liturgical celebrations could enrich American Catholics' experience of both.

“Having felt God's gifts,” he said, “we can now prepare ourselves for the greatest gift,” –that of Christ's birth –“which is coming.” 

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Temperatures fall, needs rise at Catholic Social Services

Lincoln, Neb., Nov 26, 2010 (CNA) - As the weather turns colder, more and more people across southern Nebraska turn to Catholic Social Services (CSS) for help. CSS is ready to respond with several different programs, each largely dependent on generous benefactors.

It’s hard to cite a most-urgent need. This time of year, it seems that every aspect of CSS’s multifaceted outreach is taxed.

Food is a constant want. CSS operates food pantries in multiple locations, plus a mobile food pantry that delivers truckloads of goods to every corner of the Diocese of Lincoln.

At the First Friday Fish Fry Nov. 5 in Lincoln (which supports another CSS project: St. Gianna’s Women’s Homes), any guest peeking into the pantry would have seen shelves more empty than full.

"Thanksgiving is coming up – and Christmas," said Father Christopher Kubat, director of Catholic Social Services.

As always, his plan is to give away the fixings for complete Thanksgiving meals.

"It’s not just the turkey," he said. "It’s the stuffing, the potatoes, the vegetables...."

CSS needs to stock up – and stay stocked – on these items and all other types of foods, including perishable items.

"Since we have these large walk-in coolers and freezers, people can donate cheese, meat and so on," Father Kubat said. "It’s good to give frozen meat, because we can throw it right in our freezer."

Speaking of freezing, outside temperatures are heading that way.

"We’re going to need coats, scarves, gloves, hats, boots. We do every year," Father Kubat said.

He recalled one client in particular, a young man who was living in Lincoln temporarily while receiving chemotherapy.

"He didn’t have a winter coat or any winter clothes, and he didn’t have enough furniture or food in his apartment. This kid needed help with everything," Father Kubat remembered.

The young man couldn’t even pay his utilities. He was trying to heat his little apartment by turning on the oven.

"The only thing worse than being in need is being alone and in need," Father Kubat said.

The CSS team went to work.

"We gave him a space heater to tide him over, and we were able to get his utilities taken care of," Father Kubat said. "We gave him food, a winter coat, gloves and so forth."

None of this would have been possible without faithful Catholics across the diocese who donate money, goods, time and talent to CSS.

"If it wasn’t for the help of our donors and volunteers, there would be a big gap in our ability to serve the 20,000 people we help in one way or another across southern Nebraska," Father Kubat stated.

The continuing generosity of these faithful supporters have enabled CSS to expand. In the last few years, CSS has grown all across the diocese with more brick-and-mortar locations, more travelling food pantries and travelling thrift stores.

CSS has also launched new projects, such as the Saint Gianna’s Women’s Homes for women who are abused, threatened or suffering the pressure to abort.

"Our ability to help people is growing every year," Father Kubat said.

In addition to the practical support of food, clothing, housing, vehicles, and help paying bills, CSS has an extensive clinical program that assists all people in southern Nebraska – regardless of religious affiliation, income level, or ethnicity – with family and mental health issues.

Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas and New Year’s are all occasions that can make emotional and spiritual anguish more painful.

"We’re seeing more clients than we ever have at our Immaculate Heart Counseling Center and across the diocese," Father Kubat said.

He added that cash donations are critical to this program. CSS maintains a grant system that helps fund treatment for uninsured or underinsured people who need clinical services.

"We accept most insurance and Medicare," Father Kubat said, "But when somebody is uninsured or underinsured, where do they go for mental health needs? CSS is one of the few places I know of that they can be served."

Last year, he said, "We gave away almost 100,000 in grants. It’s a vital part of our mission."

Father Kubat reiterated his thanks to all CSS supporters again and again.

"I would be remiss in not stating my gratitude," he said. "There’s a lot of joy in this work… not only for me but for our staff and our volunteers. And I’m sure that’s true for our benefactors. When they donate to us, they know they are helping people who really need help."

Above all, Father Kubat is grateful to the intercession of the saints.

"We have many patron saints at CSS, and their intercession is powerful," he said.

He hopes that people across the diocese will join in with their own prayers to keep this important outreach going… and growing.

Printed with permission from the Southern Nebraska Register.

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