Archive of April 21, 2012

Louisiana moms sew 'Threads of Love' for preemies

Baton Rouge, La., Apr 21, 2012 (CNA) - Thirteen years ago Dolly Courville’s family received a packet of clothing and baby items for her tiny twin grandchildren who were born premature and placed in the Neo Natal Intensive Care unit at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge.

One of the twins passed away. The other stayed in intensive care for four months, and is now a thriving 13-year-old. But Dolly never forgot how much that package given to her by the Threads of Love ministry meant to her and her family.

“When I found out my church parish of Immaculate Conception had a Threads of Love chapter, I joined. We appreciated it so much, and now I can give back,” she said.

Courville is one of about 22 women in the Denham Springs, La. church who meet once a month to prepare as many as 60 packages for babies in the NIC Unit.

Each packet contains a tiny bonnet, a shirt about the size of an adult hand, crocheted booties, a “lovie doll” and a prayer.

“We all love babies. This is a ministry of love and faith and of believing in life,” said coordinator Linda Lopez. “Parents expect to have a healthy baby, but something can go wrong and they find themselves in the NIC Unit. We all believe in what we are doing.”

Joan Feucht, who said her mother taught her to sew when she was a child, agreed. “I love sewing. This is a way for me to give back the gifts God gave me.”

Dorothy Cwieka said she decided to join Threads of Love after all of her children had grown. “Once they left home, we decided we wanted to do something for babies,” she said.

Courville and her husband stuff the white socks that form the base for the Lovie Dolls. A brightly colored ribbon is tied around the filled sock about a third of the way from the top to form a head. Other Threads of Love members draw facial features on the doll.

The doll is placed first with the mother, so that it can absorb her scent. Then it is placed with the baby, who is in intensive care, and returned again to the mother, hopefully forming a bond between them. Lopez said the dolls are also thought to help bring in the mother’s milk.

The group started about 10 years ago when a nurse at Woman’s Hospital approached then pastor Father Cleo Milano about sewing for the NIC Unit. He placed an inquiry in the church bulletin and the ministry began as a group of ladies, many of whom are still members, responded to the call.

Threads of Love is not just about sewing. It’s the camaraderie of being with the other members. It’s so much fun to be together, Feucht said.

 “As you can hear, we all talk at the same time,” Lopez added during the groups’ March meeting held in the church hall. “We have a good time and after we sew, we have lunch, which we take turns preparing.”

The group is funded entirely through donations and a raffle of a christening gown made by one of its members, Barbara Chatelain.

Posted with permission from The Catholic Commentator, official newspaper for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, La.

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Catholics praise Nebraska law helping pregnant immigrants

Lincoln, Neb., Apr 21, 2012 (CNA) - In a move surpassing anti-immigration sentiment, the Nebraska legislature overrode the governor’s veto of a bill that provides taxpayer-funded prenatal care for immigrant and imprisoned women.

Nebraska Catholic Conference executive director James Cunningham lauded the bill as “a strong pro-life policy that helps to ensure that babies are born healthy and have a good start in life.”

The legislation “identified the unborn child as an eligible recipient in his or her own right,” Cunningham told CNA April 20.

The Republican-controlled Nebraska Senate, the only legislative body in the state’s unicameral system, on April 19 voted to override the veto 30-16, gathering the minimum vote necessary for an override. Three other senators did not vote.

Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln introduced the bill after a 2010 Medicaid policy change eliminated prenatal care for low-income mothers. Bill opponent Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln said the bill would provide care to those who are “breaking the law to be here,” the Daily Nebraskan reported.

The faith community and the private sector should “stand up” and provide the prenatal care, he said.

Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, said Thursday that he “strongly” disagrees with the decision. He said the legislature decided to provide “taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal immigrants.”

He has previously voiced concerns that the bill would make Nebraska more attractive to undocumented workers.

The legislation restores services to about 1,100 illegal immigrants per year and about 40 legal residents who are in prison. The services will cost about $650,000 in state money and $1.9 million in federal tax dollars each year, the Los Angeles Times says.

Senate Speaker Mike Flood cited his pro-life stand in support of the bill.

“If I'm going to stand up in the Legislature and protect babies at 20 weeks from abortion, and hordes of senators and citizens are going to stand behind me, and that's pro-life, then I'm going to be pro-life when it's tough, too,” he said Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

The state’s Catholic bishops also backed the bill.

Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, speaking as head of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, praised the legislation April 9 for being “consistent with pro-life principles.”

Cunningham told CNA the bill recognizes “the humanity of the unborn child” and addresses unborn children’s healthcare needs even if their mothers are impoverished and are otherwise ineligible for state-funded care.

“We thought it was a sound public policy all around,” said Cunningham, who added that prenatal care will lessen the risks of more serious problems for a baby after birth after birth and will “give them a good start in life.”

“Ultimately this will save the state money on Medicaid expenditures,” he said. “We are pleased the legislature overrode the veto.”

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Baseball star organizes Catholic sports camp for youth

San Diego, Calif., Apr 21, 2012 (CNA) - Retired pro baseball star Mike Sweeney has organized a Catholic baseball camp this summer in San Diego to help young boys connect their sports life and their faith life while learning from professional athletes.

“I want to try to build the Church,” Sweeney said. “There is a need for true, authentic Catholic formation in young men.”

Sweeney, a former first baseman for the Kansas City Royals who played for three other major league teams, cited Pope John Paul II’s example as an inspiration.

“Pope John Paul the Great lit a flame,” he told CNA April 19. “His idea was to use sports to bring the gospel to the Church and to the lost.”

“My goal,” he noted, is “to build up these young men, because that’s what our culture is lacking: real Catholic men of faith who are leading their families and leading their schools and their friends.”

The first annual Mike Sweeney Catholic Baseball Camp is open to both Catholic and non-Catholic youth aged 7-14. It will take place at San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic High this July 24-26 under the personal direction of Sweeney, with the help of several other prominent athletes.

Former Los Angeles Dodger infielder Mark Loretta and former San Diego Padres relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman, a likely Hall of Fame inductee, will be among the coaches. San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will also attend.

Sweeney emphasized that faith will be a major part of the camp.

“We’re going to have authentic faith formation,” he said. “It’s not going to be baseball for 95-98 percent of the day and give them a gospel message the last ten minutes of the day.”

The camp will offer daily confession and daily Mass said by priests from the Miles Christi religious order.

Sweeney said the coaches will help apply Scripture to “the principles of baseball.” They will start out exercises with a Bible verse, explain what it means and talk about how it relates to life. Then they will talk about how the verse helps players remember something about baseball.

One typical baseball drill has a player at bat keep his eyes on a pitched baseball until it makes contact with his bat.

Sweeney said coaches will link this exercise to the scriptural verse Hebrews 12:2, which stresses “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

Attendees will hear from “great authentically Catholic speakers” and take part in praise and worship sessions, Sweeney said.

The last day of camp will feature a rosary recited around the baseball field.

“We’re going to line up around the bases. We’re going to have each kid lead half of a prayer and have the other hundred-something kids shout out the rest,” Sweeney said with enthusiasm.

The last day will also have an “open mic” night for youth to share their faith and say how God affected them during the three days of the camp.

Sweeney’s vision for the camp was based on his relationship with Fr. Kevin Lixey, a priest in Rome who created the Division of Church and Sport in Vatican City.

Though the baseball player has done Christian baseball camps before, they did not have a specifically Catholic focus.

After meeting with Fr. Lixey, Sweeney envisioned “a baseball camp that was not only Christian but authentically Catholic.”

“It’s super-cool to have an authentically on-fire Catholic faith in young men. That’s hopefully what we will accomplish,” Sweeney told CNA.

Applicants have already filled more than half of the 100 open spaces.

Sweeney’s camp is partnered with Catholic Soccer Camp, whose fifth event will take place at St. Norbert College in Green Bay, Wisc. from July 23-27. Italian professional soccer coaches Massimo Carli and Luigi “Gigi” Dussati from Verona, Italy will serve as camp leaders. Both have coached extensively at the youth, semi-professional and professional levels in northern Italy.

Fr. Jim Baraniak, the pastor of St. Norbert College and chaplain of the Green Bay Packers, will provide spiritual guidance for the event.

The camps operate in cooperation with Catholic Athletes for Christ and Varsity Catholic, a division of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

Sweeney sees the collaboration as an opportunity to build a reputable network of Catholic sports camps.

He has already received comments from possible organizers of a Catholic golf camp in Arizona and a Catholic basketball camp in Orange County, Calif.

Young players can find registration information for the baseball and soccer camps at the websites and

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