Archive of August 12, 2012

Youth donate time and talents to aid poor

Trenton, N.J., Aug 12, 2012 (CNA) - Growing in Faith - Teens, including youth group members from St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, assisted Lancaster, Pa., residents to spruce up their homes and yards during a workcamp June 17 to 22. 

The teens painted interiors, weeded gardens, and performed acts of charity for area seniors as a mission project.

Teens from the St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, high school youth ministry put their faith into action during a week-long mission trip to aid the economically disadvantaged this June.   The nine teens and their four adult chaperones participated in the June 17 to 22 Catholic Heart Workcamp session in Lancaster, P.A., performing acts of charity and elbow grease for the economically depressed area.   The New Jersey based teens joined with over 1800 other youth from around the country to perform service projects for the area’s senior citizens.   The youth formed work teams with teens from Minnesota, North Carolina and West Virginia to paint home interiors, chop trees, weed gardens, and wash windows for seniors; another group built a duck pond at a local cloisters.   “It was a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun, too,” recalled Jeanne Easton, coordinator of Youth Ministry for St. Pius X Parish, as she described the camaraderie that formed between the new friends as they toiled side by side.   The long day of physical labor was supplemented by daily Mass, Rosary recitation and other faith-centered activities.   After the work day was done, the teens assembled in the Catholic high school for communal meals and to dance and sing with Christian musicians, perform skits and give testimony to their faith before lights out for an evening spent on an air mattress in a classroom.   “The last night, the seniors they helped came,” Easton remembered. “They came in crying; they gave [the teens] all hugs.”   The Catholic Heart Workcamp program was founded in 1993 by youth ministers from Winter Park, Fla. as an alternative to secular youth work camps.   Easton declared, “It was wonderful. All the events were geared towards our faith. The teens really formed a bond with the other teens and the people they served.”   The St. Pius X teen team consisted of Meghan Easton, Jade Gunshefski, Gabe Knipp, Dan McAvoy, Brenna Nelson, Jared Phillips, Jackie Rice, Barry Timony and Regan Traxinger.   Despite the hard work in 95-degree temperatures, they were enthusiastic about the week’s labors. “They were transformed in that one six-day experience,” said Jeanne Easton.   “On the way home, they all asked when they could go back.”   Posted with permission from The Monitor. Official newspaper for the diocese of Trenton, New Jersey.

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Teen's pillowcase project inspires many to action

Vinton, Iowa, Aug 12, 2012 (CNA) - Megan Ternus, a teenager leading a huge effort to provide handmade clothes to less fortunate children in Haiti, knows what it’s like to walk in their shoes.

“I’m adopted from the Ukraine,” said the 18-year-old student at Vinton-Shellsburg High School in Vinton. “I had no clothing when I was their age.”

Ternus and her brother Mitchell, now 16, lived at the same Ukrainian orphanage before becoming part of a family in Vinton, Iowa.

The young woman was seven years old when brought to the United States. She doesn’t know much about her biological parents and only recently discovered while examining adoption records that she has a twin sister who she’s never met.

Memories of the poverty and hardship orphans face inspired her to take Jesus’ teaching, “clothe the naked” (Matthew 25:35), to a whole new level.

On July 22, after Mass at St. Mary’s Parish in Vinton, Ternus and her parish’s Haiti committee will presented over 500 dresses to Father Marc Magloire, pastor of Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish in Belle Fontaine, Haiti.

“I don’t want to take full credit for this because there are so many people involved,” said Ternus, humbly.

The energetic member of St. Mary’s Parish got the idea for the project while attending the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis last November. She saw a brochure there about a program that uses pillowcases to make dresses for Haitian girls.

Using sewing skills she honed during many years participating in the 4-H Club, Ternus created her own designs. 

“There are two patterns,” explained Ternus as she pulled a dress from a rack of colorful garments hanging in St. Mary’s basement. “I use one for pillowcases and one for fabrics.”

Why pillowcases? “It’s simple and inexpensive; it’s light cotton,” explained the seamstress. “In Haiti, they wash everything in the river.”

Ternus’ parish has teamed up with All Saints Parish in Cedar Rapids. Both churches help support Notre Dame de Lourdes. Several groups have visited the Haitian parish, bringing supplies, financial support and other assistance.

In 2010, earthquakes devastated Haiti, generally regarded as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Out of a total population of about 10 million, about 3 million Haitians are age 14 or younger. There are estimated 500,000 orphaned children.

“These kids need someone to look up to and I feel like it can be me,” said Ternus.

Leo Wobeter, a member of St. Mary’s Haiti committee delivered four of Ternus’ dresses on a recent trip. He said he is impressed by the Ternus family, including Megan’s parents Martin and Connie and her other siblings Molly, Matt and Mitchell.

“We’ve watched these kids grow up,” said Wobeter. “They’ve done such a wonderful job.”

After the initial delivery, Ternus set the goal of creating 250 more dresses.

“I thought 250 was going to be impossible,” said Ternus, who was surprised at the community response that allowed her to more than double that figure.

Ternus enlisted the help of many from her hometown of about 6,000 and beyond. Since December 2011, the effort has expanded to include other area churches, local businesses, such as the Viking Sewing Center in Vinton, and hundreds of individuals from seven states.

Ternus and her mother have been holding sewing workshops at St. Mary’s on a regular basis, teaching participants how to make the dresses. Some people donate materials.

Although a majority of the dresses are made out of pillowcases that have been modified and decorated, some are crafted from the diverse array of fabric donations.

Most feature intricate designs, including embroidering or graphics.

The dresses vary in size for girls up to 18. The volunteers also recently began making male and female school uniforms, created from solid kelly green fabric. Haitian students must have uniforms to attend school, but many cannot afford them, so they cannot attend classes.

Ternus says she hopes there will be a second batch sent in September and a third next spring. Father Magloire, who is pastor of many other Haitian parishes besides Notre Dame, will help distribute the clothes.

“They’re all hand-delivered,” said Ternus. “We don’t want them ending up on the black market.”

Anyone interested in sewing or donating materials to the project can contact St. Mary’s Parish in Vinton at 319-472-3368 or Viking Sewing Center at 319-472-2660.

Posted with permission from The Witness, official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa.

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Son of 'two moms' defends Regnerus study on same-sex parenting

Northridge, Calif., Aug 12, 2012 (CNA) - A professor raised by two women has defended sociologist Mark Regnerus, who is under investigation for academic “misconduct” following an activist's complaint about his work on same-sex parenting.

“The children of same-sex couples have a tough road ahead of them – I know, because I have been there,” wrote Robert Oscar Lopez, who teaches English at California State University--Northridge, in his Aug. 6 Public Discourse essay “Growing Up With Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View.”

The essay was published by the Witherspoon Institute, which was involved in funding the Regnerus study. In it, Lopez describes his “very difficult” upbringing, and thanks Regnerus for highlighting the experiences of others like himself.

Published in the Social Science Research journal, Regnerus' June 2012 findings showed that adult children of same-sex households tend to have lower incomes, more physical and mental problems, less stable relationships and higher crime rates.

Blogger Scott Rose, who advocates homosexual “marriage” on the New Civil Rights Movement site, wrote a complaint to Regnerus' university which resulted in the professor being investigated for alleged scholarly “misconduct.”

Lopez, a married man with a complex personal history, said in his essay that Regnerus is under attack for highlighting “what the gay activist movement has sought laboriously to erase, or at least ignore.”

“Whether homosexuality is chosen or inbred, whether gay marriage gets legalized or not, being strange is hard,” wrote Lopez, who identifies as bisexual “because it would take several novels to explain how I ended up 'straight' after almost thirty years as a gay man.”

“When your home life is so drastically different from everyone around you, in a fundamental way striking at basic physical relations, you grow up weird,” the California State University professor reflected.

“I have no mental health disorders or biological conditions. I just grew up in a house so unusual that I was destined to exist as a social outcast.”

The effect of such an upbringing “takes a mental toll, makes it harder to find friends, interferes with professional growth, and sometimes leads one down a sodden path to self-medication in the form of alcoholism, drugs, gambling, antisocial behavior, and irresponsible sex,” he attested.

Raised by his mother and her “female romantic partner” between 1973 and 1990, Lopez was his mother's youngest child and the only member of the family whose childhood did not include his father.

“In other words, I was the only child who experienced life under 'gay parenting' as that term is understood today,” he noted.

Lopez expressed love for his mother, but said that “growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors.” He had “no male figure at all to follow,” while his mother and her partner “were both unlike traditional fathers or traditional mothers.”

“As a result, I had very few recognizable social cues to offer potential male or female friends, since I was neither confident nor sensitive to others,” he observed. “Thus I befriended people rarely and alienated others easily.”

The English professor pointed out that most adults who identify as homosexuals had the advantage of being “reared in a traditional home.” Lopez, lacking traditional role models of either sex, “suffered because of it, in ways that are difficult for sociologists to index.”

Lopez came to identify as bisexual in college, before dropping out of school and becoming involved “in with what can only be called the gay underworld. Terrible things happened to me there,” he said.

Later, he was surprised to become romantically involved with a woman. He married and became a father, choosing to “put aside my own homosexual past” and vowing “never to divorce my wife or take up with another person, male or female, before I died.”

“I chose that commitment in order to protect my children from dealing with harmful drama, even as they grow up to be adults,” he wrote. “When you are a parent, ethical questions revolve around your children and you put away your self-interest – forever.”

Lopez did not participate in Regnerus' study on the children of same-sex couples, but began corresponding with him after the work was published. In his essay, he thanked the sociologist for highlighting life experiences he believes some homosexual activists might prefer to overlook.

Part of the controversy surrounding the Regnerus study stems from its funding by the Witherspoon Institute, known for its social conservatism. Lopez also describes himself as a conservative, and anticipated activists' response to his defense of the University of Texas at Austin professor.

“Many have dismissed my story with four simple words: 'But you are conservative.' Yes, I am. How did I get that way? I moved to the right wing because I lived in precisely the kind of anti-normative, marginalized, and oppressed identity environment that the left celebrates,” he wrote.

“I am a bisexual Latino intellectual, raised by a lesbian, who experienced poverty in the Bronx as a young adult. I’m perceptive enough to notice that liberal social policies don’t actually help people in those conditions. Especially damning is the liberal attitude that we shouldn’t be judgmental about sex.”

“So yes, I am conservative and support Regnerus’s findings,” Lopez wrote. “Or is it that Regnerus’s findings revisit the things that made me conservative in the first place?”

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Church commemorates Hungarian king St. Stephen Aug. 16

Denver, Colo., Aug 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Aug. 16, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of King Saint Stephen of Hungary, the monarch who led his country to embrace the Christian faith during the 11th century.

Before the future saint's birth in 975, his mother, the duchess Sarolt, is said to have received a vision in which the original Saint Stephen – the Church's first martyr – appeared telling her she would bear a son who would evangelize their land.

Together with her husband, the Hungarian duke Geza, Sarolt is believed to have been converted and baptized by the bishop Saint Adalbert of Prague. The same saint baptized their son Vaik in 985, giving him the name of Stephen.

Geza had desired to convert the Hungarians to the Catholic faith, a passion shared by Stephen once he reached adulthood and succeeded him in power. After conclusively defeating an alliance of rival pagan nobility, he used their acquired wealth to build a monastery, and invited clergy to convert the people.

Stephen established laws favoring Christianity over paganism, and sent an emissary to Rome with a request for the Pope to proclaim him as king. Pope Sylvester II accepted the request, sending him a crown and a gold processional cross, while also giving Stephen certain religious privileges.

He showed great diligence as king, while devoting the rest of his time to his religious duties – including charity toward the poor and sick, as well as the worship of God – and to his household. Gisela, Stephen's wife, was the sister of the ruler later canonized as the Holy Roman Emperor Saint Henry II.

Greatly devoted to the Virgin Mary, Stephen had several churches built in her honor both in Hungary and outside the kingdom. Her intercession is credited with preventing a war between Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire under Conrad II, and stopping an assassination plot against Stephen himself.

The Hungarian king also established a monastery in Jerusalem, and set up institutions to aid pilgrims in other major cities. Stephen counted saints among his friends and correspondents, and fulfilled the Pope's charge to use his royal authority for the good of the Church.

Suffering came to the king, however, when only one of his children survived to adulthood. Stephen's only living son Emeric received a strong Catholic upbringing, and was expected to succeed his father. But Emeric died before Stephen, after a hunting accident in 1031.

Emeric was later canonized as a saint in his own right, and Stephen eventually came to rejoice that his son had been permitted to enter God's presence before him. The king's final years, however, were marked by illness as well as a succession dispute among his relatives.

In 1038, on the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Stephen delivered his final words to leaders of the Church and state, telling them to protect and spread the Catholic faith.

To the Virgin Mary, the king directed one of his final prayers: “To thee, O Queen of heaven, and to thy guardianship, I commend the holy Church, all the bishops and the clergy, the whole kingdom, its rulers and inhabitants; but before all, I commend my soul to thy care.”

St. Stephen of Hungary died on  Aug. 15, 1038. He was buried alongside his son St. Emeric, and the two were canonized together in 1083.

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Pope asks Christians to hunger for Jesus' love

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI says that all Christians should reflect on how “hungry” they are to know and love Jesus Christ.

“We too must ask ourselves if we really feel this hunger, hunger for the word of God, hunger to know the real meaning of life,” he said in his Sunday Angelus remarks Aug. 12. 

“Only those who are attracted by God the Father, who listen and allow themselves to be instructed by him can believe in Jesus, encounter him and nourish themselves of him and thus find true life, the path of life, justice, truth and love.”

The Pope addressed pilgrims gathered within the courtyard of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, 20 miles to the south of Rome. He based his reflections upon the Gospel of the day in which Jesus revealed himself to the Jewish crowds as “the true bread which came down from heaven.”

Pope Benedict explained that in Jewish thought it was clear that “the true bread from heaven that nourished Israel was the Law, the word of God,” as given to Moses in the Torah. It was this that distinguished them from their neighbors because through this “true bread” they knew God’s will “and therefore the right path of life.”

“Now Jesus, in revealing himself as the bread of heaven, testifies that he is the Word of God in person, the word incarnate, through which man can make God’s will his food which guides and supports our existence,” the Pope explained.

Despite this revelation, however, the crowds “do not go beyond his earthly origins, and therefore refuse to welcome him as the Word of God made flesh.”

In the Gospel, the skeptical multitude asked “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother?”

However, the Pope said that to doubt the divinity of Christ means “opposing God’s work.”

Pope Benedict concluded by asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to “guide us to the encounter with Jesus so that our friendship with him be always more intense.” He also asked her to “introduce us into the full communion of love with her son, the living bread which came down from heaven, so as to be renewed by him in our innermost selves.”

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