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By Tim Lilley
Hundreds of people from the greater Evansville area defied predictions of rainy – possibly stormy – weather to gather on the ground of the Evansville State Hospital on Sept. 17 for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s annual Walk for the Poor.
Their faith was rewarded when the rain ended about an hour before the walk was scheduled to begin. By the time walker started out from the gathering area in a parking lot on the grounds, patches of blue sky had appeared, and the event went off without rain.
Vicki Eichmiller, the new executive director of St. Vincent de Paul and a member of Holy Cross Parish in Fort Branch, announced to the crowd that the 2016 event set a record for sponsor support. “We raised $26,009 from our sponsors, which is a record. We thank them all,” she said.
“We thank all of you for coming out this morning,” Eichmiller added. “We especially thank our volunteers. This is one of the few events of its kind in the tri-state area that remains totally volunteer-driven. We are grateful for your help and support.”
Bishop Charles C. Thompson welcomed the walkers and volunteers and offered the event's opening prayer before joining hundreds of walkers for a lap around the hospital grounds. Before he led the prayer, the bishop and all in attendance heard about the walk’s tremendous impact.
Money raised from the 2015 Walk for the Poor enabled St. Vincent de Paul to:
“We have 19 conferences (in the diocese; a conference is a St. Vincent de Paul group affiliated with a parish),” Eichmiller said, “and 240 Vincentians across the diocese make home visits regularly to do assessments and determine ways that we can be of assistance to those in need.” She added that assistance varies from helping with prescription medicine costs to assisting with housing and utility costs.
Because of the record sponsorship amount, much of that money and all of the money raised during the Sept. 17 walk will go directly to helping the needy across our diocese. The Message will publish final totals when they are available.
Photo caption: John Payne, left, manager of Evansville's St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, stands next to the Mascot for the annual Walk for the Poor, Phillip D. Foodbank. Photo by Tim Lilley.
By Trisha Hannon Smith
Rivet High School teacher Meghan Quinn and her 11th-grade language arts students were looking for a way to honor National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week, which was held Sept. 5-11. Quinn and her 24 students spent a class period writing positive messages on more than 400 post-it notes - and put them through the entire school.
“The junior class are an especially tenderhearted and thoughtful group of kids,” Quinn said. “They wanted to do something for their school. I was moved to tears watching them write on all of the Post-It notes and taking pride and enjoyment in secretly racing around the halls to place their notes without being noticed.”
Post-its were placed on lockers, windows and doors to surprise students and staff. Messages included statements like “You are enough,” “You mean the world to someone,” and “You are so loved.” Students also included the hashtag #suicidepreventionawareness2016.
The group worked quietly and finished just in time to watch the students’ and teachers’ faces as the bell rang for lunch. When people entered the hallways, some students teared up and others beamed, smiling from ear to ear.
“It changed the entire atmosphere of the school for the day.” Quinn noted. “I thought kids would take them down, but all of the kids left them up. They wanted to see them for the rest of the week. Teaching these kids never ceases to amaze me. I learn more from these kids' beautiful hearts than I ever imagined I could when I became a teacher.”
National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week is an annual campaign in the United States to inform and engage health professionals and the general public about suicide prevention and warning signs of suicide. By drawing attention to the problem of suicide in the United States, the campaign also strives to encourage the pursuit of mental-health assistance and the support of people who have attempted suicide.
Photo caption: Maddy Halter, left, Hannah Greenwood, and Meg Herman place post-its on student lockers, unaware of photobomber Thomas Vieke. Submitted photo.
By Trisha Hannon Smith
Mothers, daughters, sisters … women of all walks of life gathered at St. John the Baptist Parish in Newburgh on Sept. 17 to participate in the Gather in Faith Women’s Conference.
More than 280 women attended the event, which included two keynote speakers, breakout sessions and song. St. John the Baptist parishioner Bethany Logan and her crew of volunteers were present in their pink and gray t-shirts. As keynote speaker Lisa Hendey said, “When the team asks you for your help in making this conference twice as large this year, please consider your yes.”
Hendey displayed her wit and wisdom as she encouraged women to give their yes to generosity, love, humility, and even giving a yes to saying no. Founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the “Chime Travelers” children's fiction series, “The Grace of Yes” and ‘The Handbook for Catholic Moms”, she stressed that saying yes to God can make huge ripples in the world around us.
“It’s those tiny acts of love that make our world a better place,” she said. “In a year filled with election craziness, war and violence in our streets, your yes is critical.”
Hendey spoke of a daily recommitment to God in her address. As much as she deeply desires to live her days in prayer, from the time her feet hit the floor someone needs her. So she shared her simple daily prayer: “God, I give you my yes today. Whatever it is, I want it to be your will today. Make it clear to me that whatever it is I’m here to do it.”
One of the tenets Hendey spoke of in saying yes was the ability to ask for help and graciously accept it. This message was heard throughout the day, and was repeated in the second keynote address by Kelly Craig Schaefer.
Schaefer, author of “Fractured, Not Broken,” told her story of a tragic accident changing her path in life. The former cheerleader from Jasper survived an accident in which she, her brother and a number of friends were hit by a drunk driver in 1999, leaving her a quadriplegic.
Her story, told with tears and laughter, gave a very honest impression of someone who has had her faith tested. “I was very angry,” Schaefer said.”I actually said to God in the ICU, ‘Either I walk out of here, or I die here. I don’t want anything in between.’ In between is what I got.” She learned through encounters with others that life can be beautiful despite its circumstances.
“I saw others owning it...I needed to do that too,” Schaefer said.”My resentment was with God who controls everything. After the accident we received so many letters and cards offering hope through scripture. One verse kept reappearing: Romans 8:28: ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose;’ and through it I realized God causes all of this to work together, the good and the bad, not for my purpose, not for our purpose, but for his purpose…. We have to trust that God’s plan is better than our own plan.”
Schaefer listed how she met goals she had seen as unattainable after the accident. Now a teacher, wife and mother of two children, she is living out her God-altered plan with faith and love.
Photo caption: Popular Catholic author Lisa Hendey, founder of the website CatholicMom.com, chats with attendees of the Sept. 17 Gather in Faith Women's Conference before her presentation.
(For news from the Diocese of Evansville, log on to the website of The Message at www.themessageonline.org)
FORT WAYNE — The University of Saint Francis has designated a portion of the academic day as “Sacred Time” on its campus. Endorsed by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, the university’s founders and its sponsors, the Sacred Time initiative is the first of its kind in U.S. Catholic higher education. It enables students and employees to participate in Mass or to engage in personal spiritual practices in keeping with their respective traditions.
“The institution of the Sacred Time policy at the University of Saint Francis is a strong affirmation of its mission and a very concrete means for members of the university community to cultivate and deepen their spiritual lives,” said Bishop Rhoades. “In the busy and often hectic world of our daily life, we need quiet time and space for prayer and reflection. I am grateful that the University of Saint Francis recognizes this need through this initiative which demonstrates the conviction that the academic life is enriched, not diminished, by openness to the transcendent, a deeper understanding of the Word of God and prayer.”
USF encourages a trustful, prayerful community of learners who integrate faith with life. As a Catholic, Franciscan university, this necessitates providing opportunities to practice the faith through participation in Mass, the sacraments and religious devotions. In recognizing the Eucharist as the most perfect act of community worship, the university provides sacred time to ensure that student and employee participation is practically feasible, given scheduling limitations and available resources.
“We understand how demanding each day can be for our students who are busily moving from class to class and for our staff as they support our students,” said USF President Sister M. Elise Kriss. “Sacred Time gives everyone a chance to slow down, to become more conscious of their spiritual needs and to just see and feel God around them on a daily basis, which can truly help make the rest of the day less stressful and overwhelming.”
Sacred Time occurs for 30 minutes on weekdays and one hour each Sunday, when Mass is celebrated at the USF main campus. During sacred time, regardless of participation, no on-campus university-sponsored activities are scheduled for or by students or employees.
“The Sacred Time policy is one more way USF commits itself to students’ and employees’ spiritual nourishment, and it enhances our Catholic, Franciscan identity,” said USF Campus Ministry Director Scott Opperman. “Sacred Time is innovative and bold. It reveals our priorities. Everything else is scheduled around Mass, not vice-versa, which is the norm.”
Participation at weekday Masses on campus has increased 300-400 percent, depending on the day, since the initiative began.
By Jill A. Boughton
When Peggy Go learned about a retreat in the Fort Wayne area for people with disabilities, she wondered: Why not also have one at the South Bend end of the diocese? She spoke with Allison Sturm of the Secretariat for Evangelization, who explained that such events like these result from passion at the grassroots level rather than top-down sponsorship. Because this area of ministry is a priority, the diocese is happy to offer advice and publicity; but the initiative comes from those who have the call and the passion.
Initially, Go, whose 23-year-old daughter, Veronica, has Down Syndrome, thought this response let her off the hook. After all, Veronica has received all the sacraments of initiation and is an altar server at Holy Cross parish. However, the idea of putting on a retreat for Veronica and her friends would not go away. But, having no outline, how would she structure such a retreat, she wondered.
She thought of the book, “God Is Like” written by her friend, Little Flower parishioner Julie Walters, long before Veronica was born and reissued in 2000. Although written with preschoolers in mind, it also seemed appropriate for those with intellectual disabilities.
Go invited Walters and three other friends to work on the retreat with her: among them, Pam Peterson has experience writing Sunday School curriculums, and Ruth Sanford has not only taught Trinity School students with special needs, but is a technology whiz. Walters and Sanford also once worked with others to develop a preschool curriculum for their Christian community, the People of Praise. As they began to brainstorm, they were very conscious of the presence of the Holy Spirit in every detail.
They experienced God’s leading as they created retreat flyers and issued personal invitations. The nine participants who joined them on Saturday, Sept. 17, were a variety of sizes, ages, religious backgrounds and abilities, but most of them were very comfortable with each other. They were quick to smile, to share what they had, to offer assistance, to comfort and to encourage. Their planning was also enriched when Veronica sat in on one of the planning sessions and let them know what she found boring or confusing.
Early on, Sanford discovered online a remarkable young woman with Down Syndrome who calls herself “Jenny the Jewel.” Through her writing and speaking, the organizers were able to help the retreatants come to see that they are not mistakes: God made them and loves them just the way they are.
By Denise Fedorow
A group of parishioners from St. John the Evangelist parish, Goshen, joined together this summer to bring a bilingual radio station to the city. Radio Horizonte — La Voz de Goshen was the brainchild of Manuel Cortez of Latinos for Education, who said he wanted a radio signal that would reach young people and promote the importance of higher education.
As he spoke to other parishioners and they came on board, the mission grew to include bridging the gap between the Hispanic/Latino community and everyone else. The group also sees it as an opportunity for evangelization.
Jose Pichinte said, on the day the station went live: “This is not just for Hispanics but for everyone — Caucasian, Black, everyone. We want to break the barriers of communication. We want everyone to see there’s a future here for us. We come to the U.S. with a vision for a better future, and we are willing to work hard.”
Giovani Munoz, who is enrolled in the Hispanic diaconate program, said the aim of the radio station is to encourage moral values and advertise social activities and encourage both communities — Spanish-speaking and English-speaking — to attend and learn from each other. At some point the group would like to invite St. John the Evangelist Pastor Tony Steinacker to come in.
Cortez, who’s been involved with adult religious education for the Hispanic ministry for the past six years, said: “When we are involved in the community in different ways, by being a volunteer, we can see what the needs are. We want to use the channel to be a voice for people who don’t have a voice.”
The Spanish speaking community feels the language barrier sometimes makes it hard to open doors to get needed assistance, he added, so they are using the channel for public service announcements and also to ask for help for specific needs. Recently, the station broadcasted that a family man was in need of a job: a day later, he had one.
The radio station is open 24-7. From 8-11 a.m. on weekends, it plays rock n’ roll in both languages, but the volunteers make sure the music they play has good values and does not use bad language. They play at least one Christian reflection each hour. Those involved want to connect with young people through music while also sending a message that they are the future of the community.
Munoz said although the radio station is not 100 percent Catholic, it does promote Catholic values and family values.
“I see the microphone as a great tool. Pope Francis encourages us to live our faith in a different way and to reach all the people where they’re at,” he noted.
Photo caption: Radio Horizonte — La Voz de Goshen can be found at 96.5 WLEG. Anyone wishing to volunteer may contact Giovani Munoz at Giovani1606@hotmail.com or 574-349-1449.
(For news from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, log on to the website of Today’s Catholic at www.todayscatholicnews.org)
By Marlene A. Zloza
EAST CHICAGO – Helping families in crisis is what Catholic Charities is all about, so it’s no surprise that residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex have a friend in the Diocese of Gary agency during their time of need.
In light of federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing that determined 79 acres of land in East Chicago is contaminated by high lead and arsenic levels that requires a Superfund clean-up, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland made the decision just this summer that all 1,100 residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex must move as soon as Nov. 1 to allow the entire complex to be demolished.
The land was apparently poisoned by one or more smelting plants formerly at the site, and the EPA has reportedly been working on a plan to remove the contaminated soil since 2008, finally announcing details in May that would have allowed residents to remain while the soil around their homes was removed.
Copeland disagreed, however, and residents, many qualifying as low-income and some who’ve lived at West Calumet since it was built in 1972, are now scrambling to pack up and move while also facing serious health concerns.
“West Calumet is in Zone 2 of the three zones of contamination that were identified – the most contaminated part,” said LaShawn Jones-Taylor, program manager of emergency services for Catholic Charities. “So everyone in those units must move.
“If they contact us, we can pay up to three months of past-due rent with funds sponsored to us from a grant from Foundations of East Chicago,” Jones-Taylor explained. “These funds are available to any E.C. resident, even those in other housing who are facing eviction. I’m not sure residents outside West Calumet are aware that they are included.”
Photo caption: A warning sign is pictured on Sept. 15, posted in the West Calumet Complex, an East Chicago housing addition that is slated to be razed due to long-known concerns by the Environmental Protection Agency that the area's soil contains harmful levels of lead and arsenic. Catholic Charities has helped a number of effected residents with legal and financial assistance as they seek to relocate. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)
(For news from the Diocese of Gary, log on to the website of the Northwest Indiana Catholic at www.nwicatholic.com)
By Brigid Curtis Ayer (For The Catholic Moment)
CARMEL — “Absolute love.” That’s how Jayne Moore describes her experience of being part of a Basic Christian Community formed in February 1988 by several married couples from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish.
“We are like brothers and sisters,” she said recently. “We’ve celebrated baby and wedding showers, baptisms. You name it and we’ve celebrated it. We’ve prayed together and seen prayers answered.”
Rafik Bishara said the community has followed a basic pattern over the years.
“The evening begins with fellowship, a meal or hors d’oeuvres are served. We have music, an opening prayer, and then a spiritual study/discussion program begins,” he said. “We close with music and a prayer circle where we offer intentions. We also put everyone’s name in a bowl. Each member picks a name of a person to pray for the next two weeks until the group meets again.”
While people are free to leave following the passing of the prayer bowl, Bishara said, oftentimes members linger for more fellowship.
The group meets for about three hours twice a month.
“We were all hungry for something more following Christ Renews His Parish,” community member Tom Steiner recalled. “We were all about the same age, in our 40s, had similarly aged kids, and were at the same point in life. We were both blessed and lucky. The group had chemistry — we clicked, which made it work.”
“Our community became family,” Barb Dykstra said. “Many did not have family in town, so the members of the community became their family. It was a huge support system. You could count on them to be there for you, to pray for you, be it divorce, graduate school, aging parents, death, a wayward child or unemployment, whatever.
“We were much younger when we started, so we have experienced a lot of life together, supporting each other,” she said. “You knew there was always someone praying for you, thinking of you and willing to help you.”
Photo caption: Members of the Basic Christian Community join hands for closing prayer at a recent gathering at the home of Rafik and Patricia Bishara in Carmel. Community members include Jayne and Dick Moore, Janet and Rich Warns, Barb and Bob Dykstra, Judy and Tom Steiner, Ruth and Tom Kueper, Eileen and Kent Champagne, Pat Boynton and the Bisharas. (Photo by Brigid Curtis Ayer)
By Caroline B. Mooney
LAFAYETTE — Terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, changed the nation forever. On the 15th anniversary of the attacks, an Interfaith Service of Peace and Unity brought several Lafayette area faith communities together at Columbian Park.
“The greatest strength that we have in the struggles that we face is our faith,” said Father Patrick Baikauskas, OP, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas, West Lafayette. “After 15 years, we remain resolved to reject extreme ideologies that perversely misuse religion to justify indefensible attacks on innocent civilians, to embrace persons of all religions, including our Muslim neighbors, and to welcome refugees seeking safety.
“We steadfastly refrain from blaming the many for the actions of a few, and insist that security needs can be reconciled with our immigrant heritage without compromising either one,” he said. “Gratefully mindful of the continuing sacrifices of the men and women in the armed forces and their families, we also resolve to bring a responsible end to the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“This anniversary of 9/11 can be a time of renewal,” Father Baikauskas said. “We come together across religious, political, social and ethnic lines to stand as one people, to heal wounds, to defend ourselves against terrorism.
“As we face today’s challenges and the continuing dangers of war and terrorism, let us summon the 9/11 spirit of unity to confront our challenges,” he said. “Let us pray that the lasting legacy of 9/11 is not fear, but rather hope for a world renewed. In remembering the fateful events of Sept. 11, 2001, may we resolve to put aside our differences and join together in the task of renewing our nation in our world. It starts in our communities.”
Faith communities represented at the Lafayette service included: the Baha’i Community of West Lafayette, Bethany Presbyterian Church, Central Presbyterian Church, Congress Street United Methodist Church, First Christian Church, Grace United Methodist Church, Islamic Society of Greater Lafayette, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Purdue Hindu Community, St. John’s Episcopal Church, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Temple Israel, Trinity United Methodist Church, and Unitarian Universalist.
Artist Stacy Bogan stood to the right of the stage and, starting with a blank canvas, created a painting of the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. The painting will be a traveling exhibit at the gathering places of the faith communities that participated in the service.
The event featured musicians and a choir with members from various congregations.
Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said that while Sept. 11, 2001, was certainly one of the darkest days in the history of this country, it brought some of the greatest acts of heroism and humanity.
“We saw mankind at its worst and we saw humankind at its best,” he said. “It is important that we never forget the people who tragically lost their lives that day and the family, friends, policemen, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who lost their lives heroically trying to make rescues.
“We have seen since then thousands and thousands of acts of kindness from people who were involved,” Roswarski said. “We have seen that the United States still is that shining light of liberty, of hope and justice that shines around the world. Even though we are not perfect, we are the best of the best, and we will continue to be. ”
Photo caption: “Let us summon the 9/11 spirit of unity to confront our challenges,” urged Father Patrick Baikauskas, OP, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, West Lafayette. At right in the photo, artist Stacy Bogan creates a painting depicting the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. (Photos by Caroline B. Mooney)
(For news from the Diocese of Lafayette, log on to the website of The Catholic Moment at www.thecatholicmoment.org)