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Archive of October 28, 2012

A weekend in the life helps youth empathize with homeless

Simpsonville, S.C., Oct 28, 2012 (CNA) - Youth at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpson, S.C. recently received a crash course in what it’s like to be homeless.

Twenty-eight middle and high school students and parents from the church spent a weekend outside Sept. 21-23, sleeping in cardboard boxes on the ground and relying only on donated supplies for food and hygiene.

Participants arrived on Friday afternoon to begin the event with only the clothes on their backs. They weren’t allowed to bring sleeping bags, personal hygiene items or anything else. Parents could join the activity or visit with their children, but weren’t allowed to bring them supplies.

The parish youth already participate in an annual 30-hour fast to empathize with the hungry, and this project was meant to give them an idea of what it’s like to be homeless and fending for themselves on the streets, said youth leader Joe Maggio.

They also collected blankets, clothing, shoes, bottled water, non-perishable food and hygiene items for homeless programs, including United Ministries, Safe Harbor and God’s Pantry.

Basic physical needs weren’t the only concern. The youth also had to come up with ways to entertain themselves, a skill that’s not often required in a busy, technology-driven world.

There were a few guest speakers during the weekend, but the rest of the time, they sang, talked with each other, or played games.

“It was a great bonding time, to be quite honest, because one of the things they found out is being homeless can be very boring,” Maggio said. “There was no technology, no diversions. It was a real chance to hang out together and really talk to people and get to know them, because there was none of the rush-rush of normal daily life.”

The daytime hours were sunny and comfortable, but at night temperatures dropped into the 50s. They learned just how cold that can feel without the protection of four walls and a roof.

“At night I felt like I almost froze,” said Abby Frazier, 17. “I had two blankets and a yoga mat to sleep on, and I was freezing. I didn’t think it would get that cold at night. I totally sympathize now with what it must be like for people who have to sleep outside. It really opened my eyes to how they have to live to survive.”

Angel Vigil joined her two sons Isaac, 10, and Weston, 13, for some eye-opening lessons.

“Going without was an interesting experience,” she said. “We only ate if people brought food, drank if they brought water. You didn’t know where you were going to get things or if anyone was going to take care of you.”

Her kids learned what it was like to not brush their teeth or take a shower.

“Homelessness is out there and people don’t really talk about this, and events like this can help start the conversation,” she said.

Posted with permission from The Catholic Miscellany, official newspaper for the Diocese of Charleston, S.C.

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Halloween coincides with feast of missionary bishop St. Wolfgang

Denver, Colo., Oct 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Oct. 31, though best known as the Vigil of the Solemnity of All Saints (All Hallows’ Eve) in the Western church, is also the liturgical feast day of St. Wolfgang of Ratisbon, who was regarded as one of the greatest German saints of his time

The Benedictine monk and bishop, who served as a missionary to pagans and a reformer of the Church in southeastern Germany, was born around 934 in the historic southwestern German region of Swabia.

Wolfgang came from a family of nobility and was privately tutored as a child. Later on, the future monk was educated at the renowned Monastery of Reichenau, and at Wurtzburg. Wolfgang showed intellectual prowess and found companionship during his years of study, but was also dismayed by the petty jealousies and moral lapses he observed in Wurtzburg’s academic environment.

In 956, his school companion Henry was chosen to lead the Archdiocese of Trier. Though Wolfgang had become interested in monastic life, he chose to go with Henry to Trier, where his service to the Church included a teaching position in the cathedral school.

After Archbishop Henry’s death in 964, Wolfgang left Trier, became a monk of the Order of Saint Benedict, and settled at a monastery in the diocese of Augsburg. Its school prospered under his direction, and the local bishop – the future St. Ulrich – ordained him to the priesthood in 968. In his youth, Wolfgang had envisioned a secluded life of contemplation; but things turned out differently, as he was sent east to evangelize the Magyars in 972.

By Christmas of that year, Wolfgang had been chosen as the new Bishop of Ratisbon (present-day Regensburg in Bavaria). But he continued to live out his monastic vocation, retaining his distinctive Benedictine habit and dedicating himself to the same ascetic lifestyle. Amid the work of preaching and reform, Wolfgang remained a man of prayer, silence, and contemplative solitude.

Not surprisingly, the Bishop of Ratisbon made monasticism a focus of his church reforms, reviving religious life in places where it had fallen into disorder. Wolfgang also showed extraordinary care for the poor in his diocese, to such an extent that he was called “the Great Almoner.” On the other hand, he was also involved in affairs of state at a high level, and tutored the children of the Duke of Bavaria, including the future Holy Roman Emperor St. Henry II.

Wolfgang, despite being one of the great bishops and saints of his time, still encountered serious difficulties in his leadership of the Diocese of Ratisbon. On one occasion, a political conflict caused him to withdraw from his diocese to a hermitage for a period of time. Wolfgang is also said to have struggled with the great geographical extent of the diocese, parts of which were eventually entrusted to the Bishop of Prague.

In 994, while traveling in Austria, Wolfgang became sick and died in the village of Pupping. Miracles associated with his tomb, including many healings, led to his canonization of 1052. Several of St. Wolfgang’s devotees experienced relief from stomach ailments, and he remains a patron saint of such troubles today. His intercession is also sought by victims of strokes and paralysis, and by carpenters.

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Nebraska Catholics dedicated to cause of religious freedom

Omaha, Neb., Oct 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A group of Nebraska Catholics has created and donated banners for 147 Catholic churches that bear messages about defending religious liberty, the unborn, and marriage between a man and a woman.

“They are outstanding banners,” Fr. Ryan Lewis, pastor of Omaha’s St. Thomas More Parish, told CNA Oct. 26. “I thought the message was incredible. The people in my parish are all fired up about concerns about attacks on religious liberty as it relates to the current administration and the HHS mandate.”

One of the banners reads: “Religious Liberty: Our Most Cherished Freedom.” The 4-by-12 foot banner also bears the website address of the Archdiocese of Omaha, though the archdiocese is not a financial backer of the project.

The Department of Health and Human Services has mandated that most employers with over 50 employees provide no co-pay insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs. Only some religious employers are exempt under certain narrow conditions.

Many Catholic health care systems, colleges, and charities do not qualify for the exemption, despite Catholic objections to providing the coverage. Violators pay heavy fines, prompting opponents to object that the mandate punishes Catholic employers who want to follow their consciences.

Fr. Lewis’ parish was the first to display the banners.

He said the members of his “very diverse, working-class parish” in a historically Democratic part of town are “very, very excited” about the banners.

In his view, a message distilled down to religious liberty makes Catholics rise above any partisan considerations.

“They’re saying ‘hey this is something we can all get behind. The Catholic Church is being attacked, our religious liberties are in danger, and we need to respond,’” he said.

Knights of Columbus volunteers from 100 councils across the Archdiocese of Omaha will be erecting banners this weekend. Another smaller banner reads “Protect the Unborn, Defend Marriage, Safeguard Liberty.”

Jim Carroll, executive director of Omaha’s Spirit Catholic Radio, helped create the banners as part of an ad hoc group called the Faithful Citizens Coalition.

He said the project idea originated out of reflection on the U.S. bishops’ “Faithful Citizenship” document and its discussion of “intrinsic evils” in political life. The project expanded from his station to the members of the Catholic businessmen’s group Legatus, participants in the men’s program That Man Is You and members of the Knights of Columbus.

Project organizers noticed the “very large” religious freedom rallies in Lincoln and Omaha this year and felt some issues were “ignored by the mainstream media,” Carroll told CNA.

“People are concerned, with this election coming up, that religious liberty is being eroded,” he said. “A lot of what we call intrinsic evils are just being accepted. They’re not really a point of discussion.”

Carroll said the project is not intended to be partisan and the banners could be up around the year.

“We just want people to know what the Catholic Church stands for, and that we feel our religious liberties are being assaulted,” he said.

Fr. Lewis said there have not yet been any complaints about the banners.

“We’re talking about issues that have to do with our Catholic faith, not delving into partisan politics,” he said.

“The signs talk about cherishing and safeguarding religious liberty, defending marriage and protecting the unborn. That’s Catholic dogma, not partisan politics.”

The Faithful Citizens Coalition has produced 2,500 religious liberty yard signs for Catholics and others to place in their yard. It has also funded a full-page ad in today’s Sunday edition of the Omaha World-Herald which echoes the themes of the banner and includes a letter Archbishop George Lucas will send to the 230,000 Catholics of the Omaha archdiocese this weekend.

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