Archive of July 8, 2012

Student volunteers travel to lend a helping hand

Charleston, S.C., Jul 8, 2012 (CNA) - Water stains on the ceiling of her small home remind Susan Tyler every day of the peace Home Works has given her.

The Christian organization is based in Irmo, S.C. and repairs and rebuilds homes for those in need. They came last fall and fixed Tyler’s roof, so waterlogged it sagged in places.

Now the group is back — this time to build a ramp and close in a small room off the back of the house.

Lewis Moore, who attends Nativity Church, in Charleston, S.C. oversees the small group of student volunteers. He said Home Works often returns to the same house for follow up projects because they are in such bad shape.

Tyler’s house is one of dozens that the organization is fixing during their summer blitz across 10 cities.

They also have a cadre of students and adults from the Diocese of Charleston working in Mobile, Ala., repairing homes damaged by a rash of tornadoes that struck in March.

Hank Chardos, director of Home Works, said he received a call from Bishop Robert J. Baker, formerly of Charleston, asking for help.

About 45 people from three parishes — Blessed Sacrament in Charleston, Our Lady of the Lake in Chapin, S.C. and Our Lady of Peace in North Augusta S.C. — plus other individuals responded to the request. Chardos said they are putting on new roofs and doing other repairs.

Most of the homes the group accepts are those of elderly residents who can’t do the work themselves, either physically or financially.

Tyler is one of those. Moving slowly behind her rolling walker, she sits heavily in a favorite chair. She gestures to the large kitchen table that dominates the room, and the photo of her six children. Scattered around the room are more images — grandchildren and greatgrands. There are also many awards for her Gospel singing and service to her church choir. Tyler has nothing but praise for Home Works and the gifts they’ve given her.

“They’re doin’ a wonderful job — it really needed some work,” she said. “I thank the Lord for what they did.”

Like the people they help, however, Home Works is feeling the impact of a weak global economy.

Since 2007, the number of homes the organization is able to take on has dropped from 191 to 147 in 2011.

Volunteers, ages 13 and up, who take up tools and a positive attitude of help and hope, have also declined.

Bill Shoemaker, the volunteer coordinator in Charleston, said it’s all tied to funds. He noted that churches — his is Stella Maris on Sullivan’s Island — provide much in the way of stewardship by sending church groups around the southeast and to Peru as volunteers with Home Works. But less money means fewer chances for those trips.

Still, they do what they can. Moore directs his small group of teens at Tyler’s house as they apply paint and tease each other.

The students, who have come from various locales around the state, have also closed off the underside of the house to small animals and built solid walls and a roof on the back room, where Tyler stores her refrigerator and hot water heater.

The debris brought into the back yard by construction and flooding — not including mosquitoes and fiddler crabs — will also be cleaned out.

“It’s not professional construction, but it’s a lot better than what it was,” Moore said.

Posted with permission from The Catholic Miscellany. Official newspaper for the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina.

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Catholics providing Syrian refugees with medical treatment

Baltimore, Md., Jul 8, 2012 (CNA) - It was the end of March when the violence in Syria became unbearable for Salwa, a young mother who lived in the besieged city of Homs with her husband and four children.

After more than a year of almost daily bloodshed, she and her family left behind everything they owned, and fled Syria with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing.

They crossed the border into neighboring Jordan, where they finally found safety in the town of Mafraq. There, with the help of Catholic Relief Services, Caritas Jordan is helping families like Salwa’s get through the crisis.

Salwa told Caritas Jordan volunteers that she’s grateful her family is safe, but that her children are still fearful. “Whenever they hear fireworks—often part of local wedding celebrations in Jordan—they fear that the violence has followed them from their home in Syria to Jordan.”
CRS helps thousands of Syrians affected by crisis

The violence that erupted in Syria in March 2011 has spiraled into a tumultuous, terrifying conflict and has led to paralyzing fear for innocent civilians—many of them women, children and the elderly. It’s unclear exactly how many Syrians have been displaced by the fighting, but the United Nations estimated at the end of May that at least 500,000 Syrians had fled their homes for the safety of neighboring countries.

As the crisis worsens and more Syrians are forced to flee their homes because of the violence, CRS is expanding its relief efforts. Longtime partner Caritas Jordan, for example, is working mostly in the northern Jordanian towns of Mafraq and Ramtha to provide basic necessities as well as medical care to thousands of Syrian refugees.

Board member Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has traveled around the world on behalf of CRS, visited northern Jordan in late June to meet with Syrian refugee families and witness firsthand the work  being done.

Dignity and gratitude
“It is a blessing for the tens of thousands of families who are forced to flee from the tragic violence in Syria to find food and medicine, and most of all comfort and solidarity, from CRS and our partners here in Northern Jordan. I am thankful for the generosity of our benefactors who make this possible,” Cardinal McCarrick said.

In addition to the more than 150,000 Syrians who have already made it to across the border, Caritas Jordan volunteers report that hundreds of Syrians continue to arrive daily.

“What we’re seeing now is a very real need for medical assistance,” said Wael Suleiman, executive director of Caritas Jordan.

“We have a staff of about 30 volunteers who have been working tirelessly to assist the refugees with food, water and basic necessities, but now we’re seeing refugee families in need of medical attention. We’ve documented cases of people with chronic physical diseases, and those who’ve been severely traumatized by what they’ve experienced. These people need medicines, medical monitoring, as well basic medical equipment that we hope to be able to provide.”

Kevin Hartigan, incoming regional director for CRS in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, said that the “Syrian refugees we met in Jordan had lost everything, and many spoke of their lost loved ones. But their dignity and warm gratitude for the medical and material support provided through Caritas Jordan was humbling.”

Story reprinted with permission from CRS.
Liz O’Neill is CRS’ communications officer for Asia. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Western monastic patron St. Benedict celebrated July 11

Denver, Colo., Jul 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On July 11, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Saint Benedict of Nursia, the sixth-century abbot who gave Christian monasticism its lasting foundation in Western Europe.

For his historic role as the “Father of Western Monasticism,” St. Benedict was declared a co-patron of Europe (along with Saints Cyril and Methodius). St. Benedict is also the patron saint of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate.

In a 2005 general audience, the Pope said St. Benedict was a “powerful reminder of the indispensable Christian roots” of Europe. He cited the monk's instruction to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ,” and asked his intercession “to help us keep Christ firmly at the heart of our lives.”

Born to upper-class parents in modern-day Italy during the year 480, Benedict was sent to Rome to study the humanities. However, he soon became disgusted with the loose morals that prevailed among the students. Withdrawing from the city, he lived briefly with a group of monks, then as a hermit.

The young man spent three years in solitude, facing and overcoming severe temptations through prayer and asceticism. Only after doing so, did he have the confidence to emerge as an organizer of monastic communities. His first monasteries were established in the Anio valley outside Subiaco.

Benedict's monasteries in Subiaco became centers of education for children, a tradition which would continue in the order during his lifetime and beyond. His monastic movement, like its forebears in the Christian East, attracted large numbers of people who were looking to live their faith more deeply.

During 529, Benedict left Subiaco for Monte Cassino, 80 miles south of Rome. The move was geographically and spiritually significant, marking a more public emergence of the Western monastic movement. Benedict destroyed a pagan temple atop the mountain, and built two oratories in its place.

It was most likely at Monte Cassino that the abbot drew up a rule of life, the famous “Rule of St. Benedict,” which emphasized prayer, work, simplicity, and hospitality. Though known as a rule for monks, it is addressed to all those who seek “to do battle for Christ the Lord, the true King.”

Benedict's life was marked by various intrigues and miraculous incidents, which are described in his biography written by Pope St. Gregory the Great. One of the most remarkable was his meeting in 543 with Totila, King of the Goths, in which the abbot rebuked the king's lifestyle and prophesied his death.

St. Scholastica, Benedict's sister, also embraced religious life as a nun. She most likely died shortly before him, around the year 543. In his final years, the abbot himself had a profound mystical experience, which is said to have involved a supernatural vision of God and the whole of creation.

Around age 63, Benedict suffered his final illness. He was carried into the church by his fellow monks, where he received the Eucharist for the last time. Held up by his disciples, he raised his hands in prayer for the last time, before dying in their arms.

Although his influence was primarily felt in Western Europe, St. Benedict is also celebrated by the Eastern Catholic churches, and by Eastern Orthodox Christians, on March 14.

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An open heart lets God work miracles, Pope teaches

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Jul 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Nazareth’s rejection of Jesus highlights the need for people to have an open and trusting disposition towards God in order to receive miracles, Pope Benedict XVI said on July 8.

“In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that if we live with an open and simple heart, nourished by true faith, we can recognize the presence of God in our lives and follow his holy will,” said the Pope during his Sunday Angelus address.

For the first time this summer, the Pope was addressing pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

He dwelt upon the Gospel passage in which Christ is not accepted by his hometown. The evangelist St. Mark records how Jesus said to them: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” 

Pope Benedict said this reaction was “understandable,” as “familiarity at the human level makes it difficult to go beyond that and to be open to the divine dimension.”

Jesus himself recognized this fact, drawing a parallel with “the example of the prophets of Israel, who had been the object of contempt in their own home.”

Because of the hostile reaction in Nazareth, however, Jesus “could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them,” records St. Mark.

This is because “the miracles of Christ are not a display of power, but signs of the love of God, which is made present where it encounters the faith of man,” Pope Benedict explained.

Rather than resign himself to this rejection, however, Christ is “amazed” at the people’s lack of faith.

“How is it possible that they do not recognize the light of truth?” asked the Pope. “Why are they not open to the goodness of God, who has willed to share our humanity?”

The answer, he said, is that they do not recognize the great miracle of God's incarnation in Jesus Christ, a reality to which modern society can also be blind.

“While we too always seek other signs, other wonders, we do not realize that the he is the real sign, God made flesh; he is the greatest miracle of the universe: all the love of God hidden in a human heart, in a human face.”

The Pope then led the pilgrims in the praying of the Angelus before addressing them in various languages, wishing them all “a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and a blessed Sunday!”

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