Archive of March 31, 2012

Meals on Wheels a 'life-link' for recipients

Tipton, Ind., Mar 31, 2012 (CNA) - Orvin Crook, an 88-year-old widower, still lives on his own in his own house. The retired railroader has diabetes and osteoporosis, yes, but he also has a quick wit and a healthy appetite.

Each weekday for the past six years, he has looked forward to visits from Meals On Wheels volunteers. He likes to chat with them when they deliver his salt-free hot lunches and cold, bagged dinners.

“You can put this in capital letters,” Crook says. “It’s the best thing since popcorn!”

St. John the Baptist Church in Tipton, Ind. helped establish the local meals program in 1971, and it has provided volunteers ever since. Ten parishioners take turns making home deliveries in February and November.

Parish council member Virginia Baker has been involved since the very start, 40 years ago. On a recent Tuesday, Crook’s house was one of her six stops. She picked up the packaged meals at IU Health Tipton Hospital in Tipton, Ind. at 11:45 a.m., then drove to the north side of town.

At each stop, she retrieved a customized hot lunch from the insulated carrier in the front seat of her SUV, and a cold meal from a cooler in the back seat. She walked them to the door of each elderly client.

“When there’s snow, Mr. Crook keeps the walk clean for us,” she said.

Crook just smiled. “I can’t say ‘thanks’ enough,” he told Baker. “I’m sure glad you do it.”

Just down the street, Baker delivered lunch and dinner to William Nelson, 88, a widower and retired furniture upholsterer. He’s been getting Meals On Wheels meals for 10 years.

“It helps me quite a bit,” he said. “I didn’t know much about the kitchen. I could boil water and fry an egg.”

The story began in the fall of 1971, when parishioner Rita Helmuth met with then-pastor Father John Bouvier to talk about starting a Meals On Wheels program.

Father Bouvier supported Helmuth’s proposal. Various organizations enlisted volunteers, clients signed up for meals, routes were established, and a full schedule of deliveries began in 1972.

Baker said that the volunteers provide a vital service. The meals, prepared at the hospital, are well-balanced and inexpensive: a hot lunch is only $3.25 a day; lunch with drink, dessert and side dish is $3.85; full lunch with sack supper is $4.75. All local seniors are eligible.

But there’s a social aspect, too. Sometimes, the Meals On Wheels volunteer is the only visitor that a shut-in sees all day. If no one comes to the door, calls are made on cell phones to make sure that everything is OK.

“Most people are waiting at the door for you. You know the ones who can’t. Some are bedfast, so you put it on the table,” said Baker, who also volunteers at the federal veterans’ hospital in Marion, Ind.

“You take time if they want to talk, but some are right there; they want their meal, they’re ready to get their food,” she said.

Naomi Malston, who has coordinated Tipton’s program for the past seven years, said that 10 local churches provide volunteers. They drive their own cars and donate their time and gasoline.

“Without volunteers, we couldn’t do it — there is no way,” Malston said.

As St. John the Baptist volunteer coordinator, Baker provides Malston with detailed lists of daily drivers, and contact information for backup drivers. Even in the worst of weather, the volunteers show up and make their deliveries, Malston said.

“Their church is wonderful. I don’t think they’ve ever had a no-show,” she said.

Father Bouvier asked Baker to serve as coordinator, and 40 years later,” I’m still doing it,” said Baker, a former real-estate appraiser and county assessor. “I probably should be teaching someone what I really do.”

In February, her 10 drivers — mostly retirees — worked two routes, five days a week. Each route had either 10 or 11 clients, but in the past, there have been up to 15 clients per route.

Stops were clustered geographically, so a route could be completed in less than an hour.

“People ask you what church you’re with, but some already know,” Baker said. “Some (clients) are on for only two or three weeks while they recuperate after knee surgery or whatever, then they can cook their own meals again; others get meals for a long time. My mother was on Meals On Wheels for 10 years.

“People are so appreciative when you bring their meal,” Baker said. “Often, we’re the only person they see all day. Their families may live out of town, or they aren’t here every day. It’s a life-link for them to have us. They can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.”

An added bonus comes when the students at St. John the Baptist School make crayon drawings on the dinner bags. Some of the clients even hang the artwork on their walls.

Without Meals On Wheels, she said, “some (clients) would have to go to a nursing home. They have no family here, and they don’t want to go to the nursing home.”

Hubert “Hube” Tragesser has been a Meals On Wheels volunteer since the beginning. He’s been a member of the parish council at St. John the Baptist Church even longer — starting in 1969.

“I saw in the Sunday bulletin that they needed volunteers, and I had the time to do it,” he explained. “It’s a pleasure to feed people and make them happy by doing volunteer work. Some of them, nobody else goes there.”

Tragesser, a farmer, also volunteers with Caregiver Companion, Habitat for Humanity and other organizations. At St. John the Baptist School, he helps fill backpacks with food for families in need.

He and Baker have been awarded Good Samaritan “heart” awards for their community service.

Tammy Sullivan said she doesn’t know what she’d do without such people.

Her parents receive Meals On Wheels meals. Her father has cancer and her mother suffers from a nerve disorder. Both are diabetic.

“It’s a real convenience. It helps to know they’re eating correctly,” she said.

She and her sister both work during the day. They juggle their work schedules to get their parents to doctors’ appointments and to administer medications.

Meals On Wheels, Sullivan said, is a godsend for her entire family.

“It helps to know that someone is checking on them during the day,” she said. 

Tragesser sees volunteerism as a way to repay God for the many gifts he has given.

“You can’t do too much volunteering,” he said. “You can’t outdo the Lord. Whatever you give, he gives more.”

Posted with permission from The Catholic Moment, official newspaper for the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana.

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High court applies statute of limitations in California abuse suit

Sacramento, Calif., Mar 31, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Oakland's Catholic diocese cannot be sued over alleged abuse cases falling outside the legal time limit and a subsequent one-year extension, the California Supreme Court ruled on March 29.

“We believe the court made the right decision today and are gratified at the justices’ conclusion that the legislature meant what it said when lawmakers enacted a one-year exemption to the statute of limitations,” said Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson, president of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops.

“Nothing in the court’s ruling, however, changes the fact that the protection of young people has been, and remains, our top priority,” said Bishop Wilkerson, who promised that California dioceses “will continue to take whatever steps are necessary to keep children safe.”

Thursday's ruling confirmed that six brothers of the Quarry family could not sue the Oakland diocese over the psychological effects of sexual abuse they say occurred in the early 1970s. The accused priest, Father Donald Broderson, was forced to leave the priesthood in the 1990s, and died in 2010.

During 2003, California legislators opened a one-year “window” allowing alleged victims of sexual abuse to sue for damages in cases that would otherwise have been regarded as too old to pursue in court.

The Quarry brothers brought their suit in 2007. It was only during that year, they said, that they realized the extent of the psychological damage caused by the alleged abuse.

On Thursday, however, the state's high court ruled 5-2 that the statute of limitations could not be suspended again on this basis.

“We are unreservedly sympathetic to the plight of persons who were subjected to childhood sexual abuse,” wrote Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye in her opinion.

But she held that the existing time frame for lawsuits, along with the temporary 2003 extension, gave victims “considerable time following the abuse in which to come to maturity, or even middle age, and discover the claim.”

Statutes of limitations serve to protect defendants' rights in “stale” cases – where a lack of remaining evidence, and problems with witnesses' recollection of details, make it difficult to establish facts and mount a defense.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye noted that the legislature's one-year window for old claims was an attempt at “striking a balance between the strong interest of victims,” and the “burden on third party defendants … of being required to defend stale claims.”

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Priest calls 'Hunger Games' movie dangerously prophetic

Chicago, Ill., Mar 31, 2012 (CNA) - Father Robert Barron says the storyline in the blockbuster film “The Hunger Games,” based on the widely popular young adult book, warns of what can happen when a society becomes totally secularized.

“There is something dangerously prophetic about 'The Hunger Games,'” said Fr. Barron, founder of the media group “Word on Fire” and host of the PBS-aired “Catholicism” series.

The movie, which has already brought in $214 million worldwide since its March 23 release, is based on the young adult book of the same title by Suzanne Collins.

Set sometime in the undefined future, “The Hunger Games” tells the story of sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen's struggle for survival after she volunteers to take her sister's place in her country's annual “hunger games.”

Ruled by the wealthy and authoritarian Capitol, the impoverished Twelve Districts within the country must annually offer its children as tributes to take part in a live television broadcast of an arena battle to the death. The gruesome killings between the children serve as a reminder of the Capitol's absolute power and as punishment for the Districts' failed rebellion decades earlier.

However, as the events in the arena unfold, Katniss and her teammate Peeta begin to rise against the Capitol through attempting to maintain their humanity.

In a March 29 interview with CNA, Fr. Barron said he thought the movie contained elements of modern French philosopher Rene Girard's theory of “human scapegoating.”

He explained that scapegoating has been used throughout history as a means of discharging “all of our fears and anxieties” by assigning blame to an individual or group of people.

This practice is seen as far back in history from civilizations such as the Aztec and the Roman empires and as recently as Nazi Germany.

However, Fr. Barron said, Christ undid the need for humanity's scapegoating by taking on the role of victim himself in his Passion and Resurrection.

“The Hunger Games” shows not only “how very consistent this theme is in human history” and in “human consciousness,” but also what can happen in a totally secular society.

“When Christianity fades away,” Fr. Barron said, “we're in great danger because it's Christianity that holds this idea at bay.”

Just as Christ's sacrifice was the ultimate “undermining” of humanity's scapegoating, Fr. Barron noted  Peeta and Katniss' defiance in the arena is a disruption of human sacrifice in their own culture.

“Christianity,” the priest said, “is the undoing of the scapegoating mechanism which lies behind most civilizations.”

Some critics have said that the book's plot is too graphic for the young adult audience at which it is targeted because it focuses on children killing other children. As a result, much of the child-on-child combat is toned down in the movie.

Youth violence is unfortunately a “human reality,” Fr. Barron said, “it's called war.”

Although he does not think violence should be shown just for entertainment value, Fr. Barron said he thought that “there wasn't enough violence” in “The Hunger Games.”

He understood why the producers would want to make the film more age appropriate, “but there's something about revealing to people what's at stake here that I think is important.”

Muting much of the teen killings “was a bit of a weakness” on the part of the film makers, he added, because “it's actually good to let this violence be seen for what it really is.”

The film was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “intense violent thematic material and disturbing images – all involving teens.”

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Cuban authorities declare Good Friday 2012 a holiday

Havana, Cuba, Mar 31, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

In response to Pope Benedict XVI’s specific request to Cuban President Raúl Castro, the Cuban government has announced that this coming Good Friday will be a one-time national holiday.

The government’s short statement, published March 31 in the official newspaper “Granma,” said that the Pope requested the holiday declaration “in honor of the religious celebrations that take place on the occasion of the passion and death of Jesus of Nazareth.”

Minutes before the Pope’s departure from Cuba on March 28, President Raúl Castro told the Pope of his desire to declare Friday, April 6 a holiday “as an exception, and in consideration to His Holiness and the happy results of this transcendental visit to our country.”

However, authorities will decide in the future whether the holiday will become permanent.

Leaders of the Cuban Revolution suppressed all religious holidays following the island country’s 1959 communist takeover.

The Christmas holiday was reinstated in 1998 after Pope John Paul II’s specific request to then-President Fidel Castro during the pontiff’s historic visit to Cuba.

Pope Benedict requested the Good Friday holiday in his Tuesday meeting with Fidel Castro’s brother and successor, Raúl Castro.

The Cuban government’s March 31 statement said that the decision to make Good Friday a permanent holiday in Cuba “has been left up to the highest governing organs of the nation.”

Although President Castro and the Council of Ministers are in practice the highest authorities, in theory the ultimate decision depends on the Communist Party.

In Rome, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi expressed enthusiasm.

Fr. Lombardi said the fact that the Cuban authorities “quickly welcomed” Pope Benedict’s request to declare Good Friday a holiday is “certainly a very positive sign.”

“The Holy See hopes that this will encourage participation in the religious celebrations and joyous Easter festivities, and that the visit of the Holy Father will continue to bring the desired fruits for the good of the Church and all Cubans.”

An official reaction from the Cuban Bishops’ Conference is expected on Monday.

A source in the Catholic Church in Cuba, who spoke to CNA on condition of anonymity, expressed the Church’s surprise at the quick positive response from the government.

The source, who is not with the bishops’ conference, said that the onetime declaration fits a pattern of government behavior towards the Catholic Church. The Cuban government, by leaving open the decision to make the holiday permanent, keeps using the “carrot and stick” policy usually applied to the Catholic bishops with the aim of discouraging criticism.

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