Archive of June 16, 2012

Heart transplant provides new outlook, inspiration on life

Paterson, N.J., Jun 16, 2012 (CNA) - John Trommelen makes certain to devote every Thursday to helping ease the fears of organ-transplant patients at Newark Beth Israel Hospital with simple gestures: a reassuring word or a hug.

But this 77-year-old parishioner of St. Bonaventure in Allegany, N.Y. here also calms the anxiety of these patients and their concerned families with help from his two “new” hearts — one physical, the other spiritual.

For several years, Trommelen has been traveling weekly to Beth Israel Hospital, where he speaks to patients at all stages of the organ-transplant process — those being evaluated for transplant; those waiting for an organ; those, who have received a transplant; and sadly even those unable to receive an organ. He volunteers for the hospital’s Hearty Hearts Program with a deep understanding about what these patients experience.

Trommelen too underwent a successful heart transplant there Aug. 3, 2004 — the date he describes as his rebirth, both physically and spiritually.

“I almost died,” said Trommelen, who retired as co-owner of an auto-parts store in 2002, having suffered over the years many health problems, including two open-heart surgeries, due to serious coronary disease, and a battle with skin cancer.

“I feel that I owe somebody something. God is saving me for something,” he said.

That lifesaving transplant ushered a spiritual “rebirth” in the always-active Trommelen — for an even greater commitment to service to others. He got more involved in ministries at the St. Bonaventure’s, especially those to benefit the poor; Knights of Columbus Council 240; Hearty Hearts program; and the Sharing Network of New Jersey, which promotes organ donation.

On any given Thursday, Trommelen brings his compassionate heart for God’s people to Beth Israel Hospital, where he talks to numerous patients, including some difficult cases. He finds it tough to counsel teen-age patients and to those who have been unable to get a new organ and eventually die.

Speaking with all these patients reminds this former south Paterson, N.J. resident of his experiences lying in a hospital bed, waiting for an available heart.

“Unlike many of these patients, I was not afraid (of transplant surgery). I had no alternative,” said Trommelen, who travels around Beth Israel Hospital with a team of other Hearty Heart volunteers, speaking with patients.

“We (volunteers) can tell these patients things that their doctors can’t tell them, unless they have had a transplant. One thing they’ll notice — with the new organ, they’ll feel better. They’ll also realize that they didn’t know just how sick they were,” he said.

Trommelen uses “his natural skills, enhanced by his own experience” that “make him an effective counselor for patients and their families. He answers questions, calms fears and eases anxieties,” said pastor of St. Bonaventure parish, Father Daniel Grigassy.

Forever thankful to the donor of his “new” heart, Trommelen in turn helps promote organ donation through the Sharing Network of New Jersey. He speaks at local churches, civic groups and businesses.

Over the years, Trommelen has opened his “new” heart to the poor by getting more involved in St. Bonaventure’s outreaches.

He commits himself to this urban parish’s food collection program, getting donations of countless bags of groceries and hundreds of turkeys and hams in time for the holidays. Also, he volunteers his carpentry skills to refurbish furniture, such as tables, podiums and kneelers in the church.

Trommelen also has deepened that sense of compassion during his 16 years in the Knights of Columbus. He has participated in the Citizens with Disabilities Drive and has chaired the council’s food drive and winter coat drive. Trommelen often sorts through piles of donated clothes — sometimes getting them dry cleaned — and then ships them to the Father English Community Center, St. Joseph Parish and Martin De Porres Village, all in Paterson. Also, the Knights have collected toys for needy children, said Trommelen.

“I help, because I feel that people need stuff,” said Trommelen, a past grand Knight of the council and former district deputy, who recently accepted an award from the N.J. Knights of Columbus in recognition of the council’s successful food drive.

“People are so good in helping us. We couldn’t do all this without them,” he said.

It’s no surprise that big-hearted compassion runs through the Trommelen family. His wife of 56 years, Jean, who works at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson, remains active in charitable activities. So do their children: Mary Jane, Thomas, Lisa and Michael, and their grandchildren. Their son, John Jr., died Dec. 20, 1997 of heart disease, which also runs in the family. Trommelen quickly points out that many of his children and grandchildren have chosen careers of service as teachers, nurses, medical students, police officers and firefighters.

Earlier this year, Franciscan Father John O’Connor, provincial minister of Holy Name Province of the Order of Friars Minor, conferred the Francis Medal upon Trommelen in appreciation for his selfless service to the friars and the people of the parish.

“I was surprised. Obviously, I don’t do any of this (charitable activities) for recognition,” Trommelen, a 17-year resident of Totowa, N.J., said about the award, which he received from Father Grigassy and Franciscan Father Christopher Van Haight of St. Bonaventure’s on April 21.

“We express our gratitude and appreciation to John, who unselfishly gives himself for the building up of the kingdom of God, for his dedication to the common good and especially for his care of the needy and the sick,” Father Grigassy and Father Van Haight wrote of Trommelen, in the parish bulletin.

This was not the first time Trommelen was recognized for his service to the Church and others. He also received the Vivere Christus Est Award from the Paterson Diocese last year.

“He has embodied the values of St. Francis of Assisi by putting himself last and the work of Christ first,” Father Grigassy said.

Posted with permission from The Beacon, official newspaper for the Diocese of Paterson, N.J.

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News analyst examines media failures on Catholic issues

Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2012 (CNA) - News media coverage has “ranged from imbalanced to near-fraudulent” in its contrasting reports on the religious freedom rallies and the controversy over Vatican action towards the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, media observer Mollie Hemingway says.

“While the dissenters against the HHS mandate are marginalized by the media, the dissenters against the Vatican are uplifted,” she told CNA June 13. “Dissent against the Obama administration seems to be questioned while there are few things the media like more than dissent against the Vatican.”

Hemingway, a reporter who writes on the religion news analysis blog, said 2012 “has not been a great year for media coverage of religious news.”

She suggested this is because it is an election year “and everyone gets more partisan.”

The first six months of the year have witnessed several major Catholic news stories.

The Department of Health and Human Services in January mandated that most employers provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs, as “preventive care.”

The mandate won praise from feminist groups, Planned Parenthood and secularists.

However, the Catholic bishops and other faith leaders objected that the mandate requires employers to provide coverage for procedures and drugs to which they have religious and moral objections. The bishops particularly objected that the mandate’s religious employer exemption is so narrow that it will not include many Catholic colleges, charities and health care systems. They also said a proposed compromise from the Obama administration is unacceptable.

Recently, the news media have focused on the reaction to a doctrinal assessment by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concerning the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The assessment found a “crisis” of belief and “serious doctrinal problems” in the leadership organization, whose members represent 1,500 religious congregations and some 57,000 women religious.

The LCWR argued that the assessment process was “flawed.”

Hemingway saw differences in how the media has dedicated time to covering the stories and how the issues are framed by it.

She noted that on the day of the June 8 Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies, National Public Radio dedicated 14 minutes of “scarce broadcast coverage” to highlight the religious sisters’ organization but gave no coverage to the rallies.

When the controversy over the HHS mandate first began in January, media attention was “slight and slow, if it was there at all.” News coverage similarly neglected the religious freedom rallies held in March.

If they did cover the rallies, many media outlets “diminished the religious liberty concerns expressed by attendees.”

“Some media outlets took to scare-quoting the terms ‘religious freedom’ and ‘religious liberty,’ to show how much they disputed these concerns,” Hemingway told CNA.

She suggested that the news media can get “carried away” by “a desire to turn everything into a partisan fight.”

While reports on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious pointed out "how helpful the LCWR had been to President Obama and Democratic supporters of Obamacare,” very few accurately described the decades-old roots of the conflict between the conference and the Vatican, she said.

“They mischaracterized the actual words of the doctrinal assessment, stating wrongly that the Vatican had derided their social work,” Hemingway continued. “One of my favorite media missteps was seeing a story about the Vatican crackdown accompanied by a picture of a bunch of habited nuns attending a Rick Santorum rally in Michigan.”

She said stories on the controversy “routinely” used pictures of traditionally dressed religious sisters, while LCWR members often do not wear traditional garb.

Hemingway also saw problems in how the HHS mandate controversy has been covered as a battle about “access to contraception.” This viewpoint “certainly matches the talking points of its supporters but doesn’t accurately reflect the concerns of its opponents.”

Misstatements of fact have also marred the coverage.

She said media outlets wrongly depicted a religious liberty hearing as a hearing on “birth control” and ignored the hearing’s two female panelists “in favor of a narrative that no women were present.” Other reports wrongly claimed that  98 percent of women take birth control.

“Since the media's primary job is to inform and accurately describe opposing positions, they're failing and that failure hurts civil discourse,”

She said the disparity in coverage is “striking” when compared to the “major media onslaught” after the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer foundation briefly withdrew grant opportunities from Planned Parenthood, or to the “heavy and high profile coverage” of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who supported the HHS mandate.

Hemingway did find some good examples of media coverage, like St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Tim Townsend’s reporting on the local religious freedom rallies.

She also had some advice for how reporters can improve.

“I have no doubt that reporters have the best of intentions in covering these issues, but they need to expand their rolodexes to include better voices in their stories, redouble their efforts to frame stories fairly, put aside their partisan inclinations and reflexive defense of the Obama administration, and simply work to inform readers about what's going on,” she said.

“Journalists can and must do better. And news consumers should be aware that the media aren't always informed or thoughtful in the way they handle religion news.”

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Some think new bishops in Ireland should be non-Irish

Rome, Italy, Jun 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A leading commentator on the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland is asking the Vatican to consider appointing non-Irish bishops to currently vacant dioceses on the Emerald Isle.

“I think we need to think outside the box in a big way,” said David Quinn of the Dublin-based Iona Institute in a June 5 interview with CNA in Rome.

“We may need to appoint overseas-based priests as bishops in Ireland or bring suitable people in to run the national seminary,” he suggested.

At present, four of Ireland’s 26 dioceses are vacant. Quinn believes that any new bishop will find a local church where “morale is low” and that is still “very shell shocked” after years of attack from the country’s political and cultural elite in the wake of several clerical abuse scandals.

In making his case for foreign bishops, Quinn points out that in contemporary Ireland there are now “non-nationals running our banks, running Aer Lingus, running Dublin Zoo, managing the Irish football team.” All that, he believes, begs the question, ‘Why not a few non-Irish priests running parts of the Church if that is what it takes?’

He also thinks that importing non-Irish bishops “would probably take a bit of adjusting” but that it could work “if the right people were found and they were personable and were able to get out and about and meet people and set their minds at ease.”

The idea of foreign missionaries coming to Ireland is not a new one. Historic legend suggests that Saint Patrick, the island’s patron, hailed from Wales or Scotland. And it’s a Celtic connection that Quinn thinks should once again be fruitfully re-established.

“There is obviously a lot of affinity between Scotland and Ireland, so I think it would be quite easy for them to adjust and for us to adjust to them.”

A key player in any new episcopal appointments will be Ireland’s papal nuncio, American Archbishop Charles Brown, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2011.

Ireland is currently hosting the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, June 10-17. Quinn hopes that the sight of so many “public, happy, joyous young Catholics” in the streets of the Irish capital will leave a lasting and positive legacy.

“It is a side of the faith that has not been seen in Ireland for a very long time,” he said. It shows “a more positive side of Catholicism, and if that sticks in the memory of some people that would obviously be amazing.”

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