Archive of August 4, 2012

Meet Regis Jesuit's Olympic hopeful Missy Franklin

Denver, Colo., Aug 4, 2012 (CNA) - After record-breaking performances with the Regis Jesuit girls’ swim team last season, junior Missy Franklin now has her eyes on the U.S. Swimming Olympic Team Trials to be held this summer in Omaha.

At 16, Missy Franklin, a junior at Regis Jesuit High School Girls Division in Aurora, is the youngest member of the U.S. National Swim Team.

Ranked first in the world in the 200 freestyle and 200 backstroke, first in the country in the 100 freestyle, and second in the 100 backstroke; she’s almost sure to compete in the 2012 Olympics in London, which open July 27.

Franklin will join swimming heavyweights such as Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin at the U.S. Swimming Olympic Team Trials June 25-July 2 at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.

Shortly after her record-breaking performances at the girls’ 5A state championship swim meet Feb. 10-11 in Fort Collins, the Denver Catholic Register interviewed Franklin about swimming, how she stays grounded, and her spirituality.

Q: When did you start swimming competitively? How did you get started?

A: I started swimming competitively when I was 5 years old. My neighborhood has a summer league team and we competed in the Rocky Mountain Swim League. We had so much fun, practicing and playing every day at the pool. At meets, we set up tents, ate lots of great food, and played games between our events. I started year-round swimming when I was 7 with Colorado Stars. I still swim for Stars with coach Todd Schmitz.

Q: Not only do you represent Regis Jesuit, you also represent the country swimming with the U.S. National Team. How does it feel to consider the prospect of swimming in the Olympics in just a few short weeks?

A: I love swimming with my Regis Jesuit sisters. I’m so proud of each and every one of them. Nick Frasersmith, my high school coach; and Todd Schmitz, my club coach, worked together so I could fit high school swimming into my training.

Right now my focus is on Olympic Trials in Omaha. This is an exciting but very intense meet. All our work comes down to that one week. The top two in each event make the U.S. Olympic Team. Only 26 women and 26 men are selected for the Olympic Team. I love representing the United States and would be thrilled to make the Olympic Team. There is nothing like wearing a cap with my country’s flag on it. I always remember, though, that I’m not just representing the U.S. but also my family, friends, team, school and Colorado!

Q: How do you stay grounded?

A: I have the best friends and family in the whole world. I love being with them and having fun. My friends and I do all the usual high school activities including going to dances, out to see movies, and shopping. At home, we don’t talk about swimming, but enjoy just being together. We (parents Richard and D.A. Franklin, as well as 8-year-old Alaskan Malamute, Ruger) support each other and enjoy great family moments such as cuddling on the couch, in front of the fire, watching “The Sound of Music.” I have the best support system in the world.

Q: How do you like Regis Jesuit?

A: In Colorado we are blessed to have superior high schools. I visited three schools, including Regis Jesuit. All were superb. However, when I walked through the door at Regis Jesuit into Tradition Hall, I immediately knew I was home. Before anyone said one word to me, I knew I belonged. I felt peaceful, happy and safe.

I was not disappointed—there is nothing I would change. I love the sisterhood, the dress code, the classes, teachers and administration. The academics are challenging, but I believe Regis Jesuit is not just preparing me for college, but for life.

Q: I understand your experience at Regis Jesuit has deepened your spiritual life and you are considering converting to Catholicism. What is your faith background? Can you share a bit about how your experiences there have impacted your spirituality?

A: My experiences at Regis Jesuit have absolutely impacted my spiritual life, in so many ways. I am considering converting to Catholicism; I’m currently Protestant.

Going into Regis Jesuit my faith was not a very big aspect of my life. Taking my first theology classes, going to my first Masses, going on my first retreats, I began to realize how important God is in my life and how much I love him and need him. My relationship with (God) grew so much within my first three years at Regis Jesuit and I am very happy with where I am with him right now, although there is a lot of more work to do.

Junior year has really affected me because I have had two of the best experiences of my life. I was on the girls division 26th Kairos (annual retreat for juniors), then we had two weeks of service projects in the beginning of January. Both of these changed my life. I am also hoping to be selected for our winter delegation for the Belize mission trip. I am so thankful for Regis Jesuit, for they have brought God and so much meaning into my life.


Posted with permssion from the Denver Catholic Register. Official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Denver. 

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Christian film aims to curb human trafficking in India

Mumbai, India, Aug 4, 2012 (CNA) - A group of independent film makers is using media to put an end to the epidemic of human trafficking that has plagued India's “untouchables” for centuries.

“We can see ourselves in this story and when we do that we get involved,” Brent Martz, co-producer of “Not Today” told CNA.

He hopes the film, which is set to release sometime next spring, will help make human trafficking in India a reality to film-goers, which will then prompt them to take action to stop it.

“We want people to join us to become part of this story – to become part of this cause to see slavery abolished in India,” he said.

Although the film focuses on the story of one girl named Annika who, under false pretenses, is sold into sex trafficking by her impoverished father named Kiran, Martz said it really is about helping all the Dalit people of India.

Many people, Martz lamented, have not even heard of the Dalit people. If they have, “ it was in a passing comment or news story.”

Dalits comprise close to one quarter of the India's 1.2 billion member population but, according to the caste system, are seen as inherently worthless. As a result, they face discrimination and poverty, making them extremely vulnerable to traffickers.

An estimated 3 million people in India are enslaved in the sex-trade alone, 1.2 million of whom are children, according to the Dalit Freedom Network.

“Not Today,” Martz said, aims to make movie-goers understand “what it really means to be one of the 250 million people who are enslaved in India because they are untouchable, the outcasts, the unwanted.”

Along with Annika's plight, the film includes the story of Caden, a materialistic American college student, who ends up assisting Kiran in the search for his daughter.

“Stories have a way of breaking through those informational walls that we build up,” Martz said, which is why he and his colleagues chose to make a feature film with mainly American actors, even though they made a documentary about the Dalits in the past.

The use of a young American protagonist will allow the audience to understand the plight of human trafficking “through the eyes or experiences of people like them,” Martz hopes.

Martz, who also serves as Pastor of Creative Ministry at Friends Church in Yorba Linda, Calif., was inspired to make the film after he first visited India in 2007.

“We saw so many things and met so many different people, experienced things we had never experienced before to where our hearts were totally changed,” he said.

The movie, starring John Schneider of “October Baby” and television and film star, Cody Longo, was financed by Friends Church, making it possible for film proceeds to support the Dalit people through the various educational and social justice programs in which Friends Church is already heavily involved with in India.

Though it has not yet released in the United States, the film has gained international recognition at the 2012 Monaco Charity Film Festival when Persis Karen, the young Dalit girl who plays the role of  Annika, picked up “Best Breakthrough Performance” despite being just seven years old during filming.

Friends Church is currently largest supporter of the Dalit Freedom Network in their mission to prevent trafficking of Dalit children by building 2,000 schools throughout India. So far, the church has committed $20 million to the project.

“It is a global issue and is going to need global action,” Martz explained.

To learn more about the film or to help end human trafficking in India, visit:

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Cardinal DiNardo prods Congress to address contraception mandate

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2012 (CNA) - Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston urged members of Congress to take swift action against the federal contraception mandate as it goes into effect for many employers around the country.

The cardinal emphasized that the U.S. bishops “continue to advocate for life-affirming health care for all, especially for poor and vulnerable people,” but added that they “do not see this policy as a step in that direction.”

In an August 3 letter to members of Congress, Cardinal DiNardo, who chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke out against a federal mandate that requires employers to provide health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.

The mandate’s initial implementation began on August 1, and the regulation now applies to the majority of U.S. employers as soon as they begin or renew their health insurance plan. Non-profit employers that do not already provide this coverage due to religious convictions are given a “safe harbor” from the mandate until August 1, 2013.

The cardinal lamented that “despite widespread opposition to this coercive policy by religious organizations, lawmakers and the general public, Congress has still taken no action to counter it.”

He noted that the Senate tabled a “corrective proposal” by a mere 51 votes, after false claims arose that it would prevent Americans from receiving the health care protections they have under existing laws.

And while the House has incorporated a similar proposal into its Health and Human Services appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2013, it appears that “this legislation will not be considered until next March, months after the mandate has been imposed on most employers,” he said.

Insisting that Congressional action is “overdue,” Cardinal DiNardo observed that the mandate also requires coverage of “counseling and education” to promote the objectionable products to women and girls of childbearing age.

And this coverage will be “automatically” imposed on employees and their dependent teenage children, despite any religious or moral objections they might have, he said.

Furthermore, with its “grudging and arbitrary” view of religious freedom, the mandate completely lacks an exemption for non-religious businesses operated by “devout individuals and families” whose moral convictions forbid them to offer the required coverage, the cardinal warned.

Even though these employers have been offering health coverage that they find acceptable without any complaint from employees, they will now be penalized with a tax of $100 a day per employee for continuing this practice, he said.

He pointed to four pending lawsuits against the mandate, filed by Catholic business owners in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania, as well as Legatus, an association of approximately 2,000 Catholics who are committed to operating their companies in accordance with their faith.

The administration argues that these businesses are entirely secular and therefore have “no claim on religious freedom,” he said. “In effect, if an organization is ‘for profit,’ it is not allowed to be ‘for’ anything else.”

The cardinal welcomed a July 27 decision by federal district judge John Kane to grant a preliminary injunction blocking the mandate from being enforced against one Catholic-owned company that makes heating and air conditioning units in Colorado.

However, he noted that this injunction is only temporary and does not apply to the dozens of other nonprofit organizations and for-profit employers that have filed lawsuits against the mandate. These plaintiffs will continue to press for the courts to protect their right to religious liberty.

Recognizing that “timely and uniform protection of these rights cannot be expected from the current lengthy judicial process,” Cardinal DiNardo urged lawmakers to address the issue without delay.

“The fundamental importance of the religious freedom issue at stake demands a timely congressional response,” he said.

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