May Your Light Shine Before All: What Families Can Learn From the Heroic Witness of a 9/11 Family

Cardinal  Robert Sarah  gives a talk about "heroic witness" Sept. 23 at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Cardinal Robert Sarah gives a keynote address about “heroic witness” Sept. 23 at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Imagine being the mother of 10 children – ages 1 to 15 – and losing your firefighter husband during the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11. What good, you might ask, could possibly come from that?

During his September 23 keynote address at the World Meeting of Families, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, answered that question with a touching and memorable story about the “heroic witness” of one “very Catholic” family who brought “light to the greatest darkness.”

Here we share that story and what the Cardinal said we might learn from this in an address titled “The Light of the Family in a Dark World.”

The morning of 9/11, Jean Palombo, the mother of this large family, woke up worried that she might be pregnant yet again. “It can’t be happening so soon,” she thought. “I’ll go crazy.”

When she confided her worry to her husband Frank, he said, “Don’t worry about that – but what will we call him?”

“I started to laugh,” Jean said. “He always knew how to make me laugh.”

Jean’s laughter was temporarily quelled that day when her brave firefighter husband lost his life along with almost 3,000 other victims of the worst terror attack ever perpetrated on U.S. soil.

In an interview about two months after the tragedy, the Cardinal said this woman talked about her life’s journey to date. As a young woman, Jean said she had left the Church and decided she did not want any children.

However, after experiencing a missionary outreach, something changed. Jean witnessed Christ in a couple expecting their fourth child. After experiencing God’s love through this couple, Jean changed in a radical way, going on to have 10 children.

Of her husband’s death, the woman said, “I miss him terribly and I cry a lot, but I know he will continue to bless us in heaven. I think God works for the good of those who love Him. The children often console me with a word.” (Thank God for those children!)

When asked what she thought of the terrorists, she said, “I can only say, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they have done.’”

During the interview, the Cardinal said that Jean acknowledged her fear, but said she was clinging to the Church and trying to do God’s Will.

Said the Cardinal: “Five years ago, Jean, already a young widow with 10 children, was diagnosed with cancer. She died two years ago. Her eight sons carried her coffin into the Basilica of the Sacred Heart where there were 200 people and 30 priests.”

At the funeral, a neighbor was struck by the demeanor of the woman’s youngest daughter, Maggie, who was now 15. Why, she asked her, are you so peaceful?

The daughter said, “Because my Mom is in heaven. I know she has complete joy. What more could I want for her?”

The daughter, who was only a teenager, was not thinking about herself, but about her mother. God, however, was also thinking of Maggie.

“Maggie’s many brothers and sisters are taking care of her today,” said the Cardinal. “Thank God for large families!”

This family’s eldest son is now 29. In the coming year the Cardinal revealed, to the delight of the crowd at the World Meeting of Families, that this young man will become a priest.

Said Cardinal Sarah: “Evil does not have the last word! God brings good from evil. This is how God has worked from the beginning of creation. God is not overcoming evil with evil; he overcomes evil with good.

“A young married husband and wife in the U.S. were granted the grace to love selflessly to the end; first, by repenting, then by receiving and believing in the Good News. The Faith with which they lived instills hope in us that we too can bring the light of the Gospel to the world.”

May all of us learn to repent, to believe, and to follow God’s will for us so that we too may follow the Cardinal’s call to be “heroic witnesses” who bring light and hope to a darkened world.

God bless you Family!

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Watch ‘You’re Amazing’ on EWTN – And Join the Amazing Nation Today!

“Inside EWTN” has invited Justin Fatica, star of “You’re Amazing”, to join us as a guest blogger. Below is Justin’s first blog, which will follow the theme of each week’s show!

Episode 1 Reflection – Prayer!

Catholic Evangelist Justin Fatica wows a crowd!

Catholic Evangelist Justin Fatica wows a crowd!

It’s show time!  You’re Amazing – the new TV show featuring Hard as Nails – is here.  (Check out www.youtube.com/ewtn for an advanced look at episode 1 or tune into EWTN television at 10 p.m. ET on Thursday, Sept. 3!) Over the course of the next several weeks, I’ll be blogging about one of the themes covered in each week’s episode.

In episode 1, the theme I want to highlight is prayer! And prayer is all about building a relationship.  A relationship with the God of the universe and our Father in heaven. I still am in awe of the fact that He cares so much about me — and you — and that He wants to spend time with us.

He wants to hear about our dreams, complaints, worries, fears, and successes.  He also wants us to ask Him for help when we — or people we care about, or don’t care about — need it.

Through prayer, the strength and grace we need to make it through each day are available to us!

Justin Fatica gets a blessing before addressing teens in a packed auditorium.

Justin Fatica gets a blessing before addressing teens in a packed auditorium.

I can’t go a day without spending quality, quiet time with God.  Just listening and talking to Him.

At Hard as Nails, our relationship with God is the most important thing to us.  Jesus is our Lord and model.  Jesus needed to pray!  Jesus constantly went off to quiet places to spend time with His Father in prayer. (See Mark 1:35, Matthew 14:23, Luke 6:12.)

We also pray together as a team.  Jesus said, “If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19-20).

The Hard as Nails team prayer is this: “Lord Jesus, I give you my life, through pain, through suffering and through joy.”  We have a sign with this prayer at the entrance to our office, and each Hard as Nails team member touches this sign and prays this prayer when they come in for work.

Justin Fatica helps teens find answers to their toughest challenges.

Justin Fatica helps teens find answers to their toughest challenges.

There are so many different ways to pray.  In the back of my book, “Win it All”, that you can get at amazingnation.org, there is a prayer that was inspired by a lesson that Fr. Larry Richards gave to me. Do you have 5 minutes to spend with God?  Try this. Spend one minute on each of the following five things.  1) Tell God what you’re sorry for.  2) Tell God what you’re thankful for.  3) Ask God for help – for you or others.  4)  Tell God all of your troubles and worries and then leave them in His hands. 5) Listen to God in silence.

My prayer is that each of you would spend time in prayer with God each day.  You will become alive by building a relationship with your Father in heaven whose love for you is endless!  He will give you the power you need to make a difference!

Posted in Hard As Nails, Justin Fatica, Prayer, Religious, Uncategorized, Youth | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘You’re Amazing With Justin Fatica’ – EWTN’s Newest Series for Youth and Families – To Premiere On YouTube

 

Catholic Evangelist Justin Fatica wows a crowd!

Catholic Evangelist Justin Fatica wows a crowd!

He was the consummate bad boy, always doing his best to get into as much trouble as he possibly could. Junior year was the worst. While he had always made life miserable for his poor teachers, he especially loved disrupting the morality classes taught by Fr. Larry Richards, now host of EWTN’s “Be a Man.” Unfortunately, his disruptions in class weren’t the half of it. He also caused trouble outside of the classroom. At age 17, he had a life-changing moment, when he thought he got a girl pregnant.

“On the outside, I looked like a jerk,” he said. “Inside, I felt bad. I wanted to change.”

How does the worst kid in school end up giving his heart to Christ and starting an apostolate  devoted to helping young people like himself discover how to deal with the hard issues that often are the root cause of such behavior? Discover how Justin now uses his deep understanding of youth to bring them to Christ in EWTN’s new series, “You’re Amazing With Justin Fatica.” Go on the road as Fatica journeys to venues across the country touching lives.

Justin Fatica prays with a teen.

Justin Fatica prays with a teen.

EWTN will air a 90-minute live show with Fatica and Producer Jeremy Rivera at 7 p.m. ET, Thursday, Aug. 27 that can only be seen online at www.youtube.com/ewtn and www.ewtn.com/amazing. Viewers are invited to send questions to Fatica at amazing@ewtn.com. The preview will be followed by Episode 1 of the new series at 8:30 p.m. ET on these same online sites.

The show will then settle into its regular time slot at 10 p.m. ET, Thursdays, beginning Sept. 3, on EWTN television.

What finally changed this former bad boy’s heart? As Justin was grappling with his shame over having premarital sex and the fear of getting a girl pregnant (it turned out the girl did not become pregnant), Fr. Larry Richards was having his own battle with the Lord.

Says Justin: “When he tells his side of the story, Father always says he was doing his holy hour when God told him to ask me to attend a Eucharistic retreat he was leading. He says he took a newspaper into adoration. Every time God told him to ask me to attend the retreat, he’d start reading the newspaper. Finally, he said to God, ‘I can’t spend 40 minutes with him, let alone a whole weekend!’”

Justin Fatica helps teens find answers to their toughest challenges.

Justin Fatica helps teens find answers to their toughest challenges.

Fortunately, Fr. Richards eventually gave in and did as the Lord commanded. That changed the course of Fatica’s life and led to lifelong friendship with his former nemesis. It was during that retreat that Fatica confessed all of his sins for the first time. (“In the past, priests would say, ‘Is that everything?’ But there were always a few sins I wasn’t ready to confess.”) In addition to making his first good confession, this retreat marked the first time that the young boy really prayed.

“I was at adoration one night. A few people were sleeping, but others were really engaged in worshiping. For the first time ever, I prayed from my heart. I looked at Jesus and said, ‘I’ll give you everything.’ My dad always said, don’t say it if you’re not going to do it..’ So I knew what this commitment meant.”

Fatica went back to high school a changed teen. Instead of working against Fr. Larry, he began to help him. He started attending daily Mass and bringing as many of his peers with him as possible. Some days, he packed the chapel. He and Father Larry also started a Wednesday night prayer group. Fatica would ask attendees: “What do you thank God for? What do you want to pray for?” The group would then go out for pizza afterwards.

Justin Fatica gets a blessing before addressing teens in a packed auditorium.

Justin Fatica gets a blessing before addressing teens in a packed auditorium.

After graduation, Fatica went on to get both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from New Jersey’s Seton Hall University. He also started a ministry with a few friends called the 12 Apostles Program, which not only helped young people understand how to have a relationship with Jesus, but how to explain their faith to others.

At age 22, Fatica launched the apostolate he leads today: “’Hard as Nails’ is all about living for Christ,” he says.

Fatica’s messages, which you will hear in his new EWTN series, are empowering:

Fatica wants his audience to know that “being broken isn’t some type of disease. We all need healing daily from Christ. I know I need it every day, not just once when I was a 17-year-old kid and first experienced the healing power of Jesus.” He wants people to know that bringing the Gospel to others isn’t complicated; that there is an urgency to this mission of saving souls; and that all of us have the authority we need to evangelize. “The authority is not in MY message, but in Christ’s message and the Church’s message. I hope they’ll see that there is power in being a witness.”

"You're Amazing With Justin Fatica" premieres 8:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, Aug. 27 online at www.youtube.com/ewtn. It will be preceded by a 90 minute pre-show, also online.

“You’re Amazing With Justin Fatica” premieres 8:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, Aug. 27 online at http://www.youtube.com/ewtn. It will be preceded by a 90 minute pre-show, also online.

Fatica especially likes to tell people whose lives are a mess: “Make your mess your message! A lot of people think their mess is the worst thing that ever happened to them, but it can be transformed into a powerful message to change the world. Jesus’ death was a tragedy but that led to the resurrection.”

Because of Jesus Christ, this man is now amazing – and Fatica’s hope and prayer is that we will all come to know how amazing we are in Christ. Don’t miss his powerful series, “You’re Amazing With Justin Fatica” both online and in its regular spot on EWTN television at 10 p.m. ET, Thursdays beginning Sept. 3 on EWTN, www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.)

Posted in Catholic, Catholic Evangelist, Christian, EWTN, Father Larry Richards, Gospel, Hard As Nails, high school, Jesus Christ, Justin Fatica, Michelle Laque Johnson, Religious, teen, teenagers, teens, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EWTN Takes You Behind the Scenes of the Christian Genocide in Iraq

As details of genocide of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutu leaked out of Rwanda, the secular media and Hollywood jumped on story and dozens of films were made, including the award-winning “Hotel Rwanda.” But who is making a film documenting the “religious cleansing” of hundreds of thousands of Christians in the Middle East? Who is courageous enough to brave the possibility of being beheaded, burned alive or crucified, to bring the world the voices of those Christians whom Muslim extremists have been hunting off the face of the earth?

Investigative Reporter and Filmmaker Elisabetta Valgiusti traveled to Erbil in Kurdistan to bring the world details of life for persecuted Christians who fled ISIS in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Watch "Voices of the Persecuted: Nineveh's Christians in Exile" at 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 1 on EWTN, www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.

Investigative Reporter and Filmmaker Elisabetta Valgiusti traveled to Erbil in Kurdistan to bring the world a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of Christians who fled ISIS in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Watch “Voices of the Persecuted: Nineveh’s Christians in Exile” at 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 1 on EWTN, http://www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.

Enter intrepid Italian filmmaker Elisabetta Valgiusti who traveled to Erbil in Kurdistan, site of U.S. bombing against ISIS, in late 2014 to film an EWTN Original Documentary, “Voices of the Persecuted: Nineveh’s Christians in Exile.” The extraordinary program airs 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 1. If you want to know what is happening with Christians in the Middle East, you absolutely must watch this film.

“[Muslim extremists] are not just displacing, but uprooting the existence of Christianity in the Middle East,” said Bishop Yousif Habash of Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese in the U.S. and Canada. The Bishop’s appearance on “EWTN Live,” at 8 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 1, will precede the documentary.  “They want to exterminate Christians, and nobody is saying anything – not the U.N., organizations, universities.”

Iraqi Bishop Yousif Habash of Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese in the U.S. and Canada will guest on "EWTN Live" with Host Father Mitch Pacwa at 8 p.m. ET, April 1 on EWTN. He has much to say about  his fellow countrymen who have been uprooted from their homes because of their Christian faith and now live in refugee camps in Erbil, Kurdistan.

Iraqi Bishop Yousif Habash of Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese in the U.S. and Canada will guest on “EWTN Live” with Host Father Mitch Pacwa at 8 p.m. ET, April 1 on EWTN. He has much to say about his fellow countrymen who have been uprooted from their homes because of their Christian faith and now live in refugee camps in Erbil, Kurdistan.

In the EWTN documentary “Voices of the Persecuted,” you will have the opportunity to see and hear about the plight of the quarter million Christians in Nineveh who miraculously escaped the invading ISIS terrorists on the night of August 6, 2014, with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Bishop Habash believes that the slaughter has left no more than 300,000 to 350,000 Christians in the entire Middle East. As Valgiusti discovered, most of them are, like her friends, living in terrible conditions in Erbil.

“There are no jobs for them,” the Bishop said. “They don’t speak the language. There are no visas for the Christians. Many organizations provide food only. But thousands of kids are without school. There are no universities. There are many engineers with nothing to do. Their morality, conscience, their belief, their hope, their joy – everything is dying inside. It’s good to have food, but [they ask], ‘Why am I here?’”

Hear from Christian children like these who are now living in the refugee camps in Erbil.  Watch "Voices of the Persecuted: Nineveh's Christians in Exile" at 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 1 on EWTN, www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.

Hear from Christian children like these – Syriac Catholics and Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians – who are now living in refugee camps in Erbil. Watch “Voices of the Persecuted: Nineveh’s Christians in Exile” at 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 1 on EWTN, http://www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.

Filmmaker Valguisti was shocked to discover a family she had befriended in Nineveh — a couple with good jobs, a nice home, and five children aged 15 to 21 – packed into a schoolroom with 40 other people. She tried to have a somewhat normal conversation with her friends, but quickly realized that she was shaking. “They said to me, “Can you help us get out?’ She pauses, and then says in an anguished voice, “I don’t know how. How do I help them?”

It’s the same question every Christian is asking themselves. Bishop Habash has answers, but they come with a chilling warning and demonstrate both the challenge and the necessity of the world – especially fellow Christians – doing more than just donating money for food.

“Today, I am very clear with you: we have the same destiny. Don’t cry for me, cry for yourself. Pray for the conversion, the evangelization of this wonderful country of America. And not just America, but France and other countries. If you help us work for justice, you will have peace. When there is peace, everybody will enjoy the peace.”

Bishop Habash calls politics an “illusion” and says he and others are afraid of politicians and “political America.” However, they have great confidence in the American people. That’s why Bishop Habash says he is pushing U.S. bishops to speak to everyday Americans in the pews, who are always ready to donate to those less fortunate.

Italian Filmmaker Elisabetta Valgiusti traveled to Erbil, Kurdistan to film an  EWTN Original Documentary on the plight of persecuted Christians. View the heartbreaking results    of "Voices of the Persecuted: Nineveh's Christians in Exile" at 10 p.m. ET, April 1, on EWTN, www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.

Italian Filmmaker Elisabetta Valgiusti traveled to Erbil, Kurdistan to film an EWTN Original Documentary on the plight of persecuted Christians. View the heartbreaking results of “Voices of the Persecuted: Nineveh’s Christians in Exile” at 10 p.m. ET, April 1, on EWTN, http://www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.

But he takes things a step further: “Companies,” he notes, “go to the edge of the world to bring someone in to make a difference in their production. Why do our churches not go in [to Erbil and the Middle East] to save these Christians for their [witness to the] faith and their heritage?”

Like the Early Christians, Nineveh’s Christians have given up their homes, their jobs, their clothes, their schools, and often, most horribly, their children, their spouses, and their own lives. Yet, remarkably, like Christians in the lions’ den, they have not apostatized.

“We will never deny our faith,” the Bishop said. “Our pride is to be Christians. Many could have converted to Islam very easily. But we are truly ready to even sacrifice our lives.”

What, wonders the Bishop, are the rest of us willing to sacrifice?

Note: For information on helping with the relief efforts on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, please visit: www.caritas.org and Aid to the Church in Need, http://www.churchinneed.org. To purchase your copy of “Voices of the Persecuted” to show to your friends, family, and Church groups, please go to http://bit.ly/1HsDCmS.

Posted in Blessed Mother, Blog, EWTN, genocide, Jesus, Mother Angelica, Muslim extremists, refugees, religious persecution, Voices of the Persecuted | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Talk a Walk Through Little-Known Catholic London With EWTN’s Joanna Bogle

vlcsnap-2014-11-12-15h44m47s122You probably learned the song “London Bridge is falling down” as a child. But did you know that the phrase “my fair lady” may refer to the Blessed Mother, to whom the victory for the battle between the very pagan Vikings and the Christians on and under London Bridge was attributed?

Did you know that Catherine of Aragon, a staunch Catholic, stayed in a tiny house on the banks of the Thames when she first came to London to marry the King, and that some 150 years later, the famous Architect Christopher Wren, who redesigned most of London’s churches after the Great Fire in 1666, would live in that same house?

vlcsnap-2014-11-12-15h41m17s79Did you know that there is a famous shrine to Our Lady of Walsingham in a tiny English village or the faith-filled reasons that many English martyrs were beheaded outside the Tower of London?

“That’s the kind of thing I want to tell people,” said Joanna Bogle, host of “Walking Through Time: Catholic London,” a new five-part series on EWTN. (Airs 6:30 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, Nov. 17 through Nov. 21 on EWTN.) “I realized that a lot of people visit London, but they don’t stitch the history together. It’s a magnificent history. Catholics in particular need to know that this is Church history, Christian history. Everyone will tell people about Big Ben, but they won’t tell them about this!”

vlcsnap-2014-11-12-15h42m51s251vlcsnap-2014-11-12-15h43m44s11Bogle invites you to walk with her along the banks of the Thames as she relates Christian highlights of some 2,000 years of history, and visits sites from Chelsea to Kingston and from London Bridge through Westminster.

You’ll learn the stories of Saxons and Vikings, kings and heroes, saints and martyrs. You’ll also meet the people Joanna encounters along her journey, join in prayer in the churches, and soak up a lot of rich English history.

For example, did you know that “Westminster Cathedral is our Catholic cathedral. Westminster Abbey, where the Queen was crowned, is our great national shrine, and, of course, is Anglican. There is a good friendship between the two, with joint services on special occasions, and that’s as it should be.”

Bogle is especially enthusiastic about the great film work of the series director, Tadeusz Smiarowski, who she met in Poland while filming a walk through John Paul II’s early history for EWTN. “Tadeusz captured the mood of London: the huge crowds, the bustle of modern life, the huge mix of races and languages, and he combined it with 2,000 years of history, which can get lost. He did the hustle bustle, but he did it with sensitivity. It’s a rich mix really.”

vlcsnap-2014-11-12-15h46m38s216Bogle says she would love it if American schools and youth groups would consider using this series as a teaching tool. “If they find my voice funny, [Bogle’s accent is decidedly British!], that’s all part of it! This is shaping the world you and I inherited. Why do they speak English in India? Teenagers don’t know. They might know about the exploitation of children, but they don’t know about great sacrifices made to intervene. They know about slavery, but they don’t know about William Wilberforce who eliminated slavery from the oceans of the world and liberated their ancestors.”

So take a walk through London with Joanna Bogle – you won’t be disappointed!

 

Posted in Catherine of Aragon, Christopher Wren, English history, Joanna Bogle, London, London Bridge, martyrs, Uncategorized, Vikings, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Along the Border” Showcases Life-Changing Testimonies from Missionaries & Volunteers in Diocese of Arlington’s Bánica Mission

Miriam is a 13-year-old girl from the town of Bánica in the Dominican Republic, who was sold as a “wife” to a 40-year-old man by her own father. The reason? Her father couldn’t afford to feed his family.

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Fr. Keith O’Hare , a missionary from the Diocese of Arlington, visits a poor family in Bánica. The Dominican Republic is mostly Catholic and the people have great respect for priests. Photo credit: Shana Siler

Andrea is an extremely devout 15-year-old girl, who was hours away from being put on a bus to Santo Domingo, where her father told her she would work as a domestic – a situation that puts young girls at risk for abuse and mistreatment.

Fortunately, for both of these girls, whose names have been changed, there is a mission in Bánica that is staffed by two Catholic priests from the Diocese of Arlington. Father Keith O’Hare, 42, volunteered to work at the mission six years ago. Fr. Jason Weber, 32, arrived this summer. After hearing of the plight of these girls, Father O’Hare took immediate action.

In Andrea’s case, Father sat down with the father, and say, “Let’s deal with this another way. I will get you a sponsor.” Unbelievably, the basic needs of this family of 10 can be covered for $100 a month – about $3.57 a day!

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“This photo gives an idea of the travel involved to reach all of the 60 different communities of the Bánica MIssion (total population 10,000),” says Father Keith O’Hare. Photo credit: Shana Siler

In the case of the girl sold as a wife, Father O’Hare and a driver leaped into their car after hearing about the situation from another child and drove into the mountains. It was the morning after the sale. After giving a little money to the government-sponsored deputy guarding the camp, Father was able to recover the girl and restore her to the family after they too were promised a sponsor. Fortunately, the man who had purchased the girl was out farming so the recovery happened without a lot of drama.

Find out more about Bánica Mission, which is located along the border of Haiti, and the work of its priests and volunteers, by tuning in to two terrific programs, which will air this Friday, November 7 on EWTN. (Find EWTN at http://www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.) Hear Father O’Hare discuss stories like the above as well as the work the mission is doing today at 8 p.m. ET on “Life on the Rock.” Then, at 10 p.m. ET, don’t miss “Along the Border,” which showcases the work of college students from the Arlington Diocese who volunteered to work at the mission, an experience that changed their lives.

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“Hunger is a real issue, especially in the mountain villages.,” says Father Keith O’Hare. “Notice here the distended stomachs as well as the runny noses (kids get sick here more often because they are malnourished). We currently have a dried soup distribution program (in collaboration with USAID), as well as various projects to build greenhouses (through Food for the Poor), to increase local food production. ” Photo credit: Shana Siler

The American college volunteer program, which was in place for 15 years, has now been replaced by a college scholarship program for Bánica Mission teens, who give back by volunteering at the mission.

Father O’Hare says that the American college volunteers provided an example to the children at the mission. “They taught and lived the faith. The kids I selected for the college scholarship program grew up seeing that. When it was their turn to be apostles, those kids were able to step right in and be an example. It wasn’t the ending of one program; it was the fulfillment. A beautiful grace that came from one to the other.”

Father O’Hare said he is often asked how he deals with the poverty which frequently results in such dire consequences for the children, particularly the girls, who populate his mission. He says there are three stages to loving the poor.

"ESCAPE stands for 'Educating Students Charitably, an Anti-Poverty Effort.'" said Father Keith. "This is the photo of a family who lives on the edge of the town of Bánica and was recently enrolled in the ESCAPE program at $100/month so that their daughters will not be put at risk for being sent off to work as domestic laborers."

“ESCAPE stands for ‘Educating Students Charitably, an Anti-Poverty Effort.'” said Father Keith. “This is the photo of a family who lives on the edge of the town of Bánica and was recently enrolled in the ESCAPE program at $100/month so that their daughters will not be put at risk for being sent off to work as domestic laborers.”

“First, there is a sentimental love of the poor, where you hand out chocolate and give them hugs,” he said. “Second, instead of the cute part of this, you start looking into why they are poor. They need an education. You try to make structural changes in their lives. You make a more concerted effort to change things.

“Third, you come to a stage where you realize it’s a lot bigger than you. [For example,] the government is corrupt; the education system is corrupt. But you don’t let despair enter into that.

“If you despair, you turn to liberation theology [condemned by Pope John Paul II] and want to overthrow the government, etc. Instead, you focus on the good. What would Bánica be like if the mission had never started? There wouldn’t be a parish school; there wouldn’t be priests baptizing and giving the sacraments; there wouldn’t be the witness of American youth groups, housing, or water projects. The poor know how different their lives would be if the Diocese of Arlington wasn’t there. They are happy because, overall, life is getting better step by step. It’s a tremendous thing.”

"Madelin (front right) is from the mountain village of Billiguín, about 2 1/2 hours from the town of Bánica;," says Father Keith. "She is a college freshman and is studying to be an elementary school teacher; she is pictured here with her parents and two of her five siblings. It costs $300/month to sponsor a student."

“Madelin (front right) is from the mountain village of Billiguín, about 2 1/2 hours from the town of Bánica;,” says Father Keith. “She is a college freshman and is studying to be an elementary school teacher; she is pictured here with her parents and two of her five siblings. It costs $300/month to sponsor a student.”

"These are two of the 17 youth in the Bánica college scholarship program," says Father Keith. "These two devout young ladies 'give back' by leading youth ministry activities both in the town of Bánica and in the surrounding villages." Photo credit: Shana Silar

“These are two of the 17 youth in the Bánica college scholarship program,” says Father Keith. “These two devout young ladies ‘give back’ by leading youth ministry activities both in the town of Bánica and in the surrounding villages.” Photo credit: Shana Silar

Before becoming a missionary, Father O’Hare said his image of a missionary “was probably that it required heroic, amazing, extraordinary kinds of people.” Instead, he’s found that “once you get to know the people you are serving, it just requires an ordinary love of God and neighbor.”

The young high school and college students who come to Bánica on week-long mission trips, which are still in place, are always changed, Father said.

“This is an intense seven-day experience of detachment from material comforts for the sake of attaching oneself more intensely to God and one’s neighbor. … A young person goes home much less attached to the materialistic concerns that he or she previously entertained.”

For the Diocese of Arlington, and indeed anyone who contributes to this mission, the rewards are great.

“For me, on a spiritual level, it’s the parable of the rich man and Lazarus,” Father O’Hare said. “For the Diocese of Arlington, Bánica is Lazarus, the poor man on our doorstep. The parable can end differently this time. We’re not trying to save the whole world. Our diocese is doing our part to take care of Lazarus on our doorstep. We are fortunate enough to have priests to loan” and to provide funding through the bishop’s appeal as well as through donations.

You can help by volunteering to pray for the mission every Monday and/or by donating much needed funds to the mission. Find out more at www.Bánicamission.com/ – and don’t forget to tune in to EWTN at 8 p.m. ET, Friday, Nov. 7 for “Life on the Rock,” and 10 pm. ET for “Along the Border.”

 

 

Posted in Blog, Broadcast, Catholic, Diocese of Arlington, Dominican Republic, EWTN, Jesus, Missionaries, Missionary, Missions, Religion, Religious, TV, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EWTN Is On The Ground With Persecuted Christians In Kurdistan, Site of U.S. Bombings Against ISIS

How many journalists do you know who would travel to Kurdistan, the target of U.S. bombing, to bring the world the inside story of Christian persecution in Iraq? As this article was being written, Italian Journalist Elisabetta Valgiusti was there filming an EWTN original documentary. The program is scheduled to run on EWTN in late 2014 or early 2015.

Erbil_childrenThe intrepid filmmaker is no stranger to the Middle East or to Christian persecution, having filmed in Iraq, Egypt, Nineveh, Syria, Turkey, Armenia and many other countries, including Russia and India. She has documented Christian persecution in numerous documentaries for EWTN including “Christian Witness in the Middle East,” “Nineveh’s Christians,” and “Iraq’s Christian Refugees.”

But in an interview conducted with her by phone from Kurdistan, you can hear that this assignment is different. Her anguish is palpable. She sounds exhausted, dismayed and more than a little overwhelmed by the human suffering she is witnessing in Kurdistan. Although she traipses through the countryside with a camera in hand, her exhaustion is clearly more than physical. Valgiusti is emotionally drained because everywhere she looks she sees nothing but traumatized refugees.

She estimates there are about 150,000 Christian refugees in Kurdistan; they are mainly Syriac Catholics and Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians. All are Iraqis who were forced to flee their homes in the middle of the night with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs. These families have no money, no food, and no shelter. Worst of all, they don’t speak Kurdish, so they cannot hope to go to school or secure a job. Valgiusti calls the situation “a disaster.”

Erbil older womanPeople who are terrified and who don’t know where to turn sometimes behave badly. But Valgiusti says that is not the case with Christians in Kurdistan. “They are very courageous. I would be hysterical, but they behave very decently. These Nineveh Christians were used to living like Westerners. Their society was a balanced one. There were no poor people. Now, they are all in misery.”

From the outside, it seems surprising that Kurdistan would allow so many people to cross their border. However, it turns out that these refugees are mostly from Nineveh. The Kurdish army has protected this area for about a decade, Valgiusti says. However, when the normally fierce Kurdish army suffered a humiliating defeat in August by the Muslim terrorist group known as ISIS, Christians – who had been warned they had to convert to Islam or die — had no choice but to flee for their lives.

Valgiusti was especially upset after meeting some of the families she had befriended while filming other EWTN documentaries on Iraq, such as 2006’s “Nineveh’s Christians.” The parents of one of these families were a couple with good jobs, a nice home, and five children aged 15 to 21. She found these friends of hers packed into a schoolroom with 40 other people.

The story has become personal.

Valgiusti a Raban Hurmizd copy (2)“Can you imagine?” she asks. “They had jobs and lived in nice homes like you and me.” She tried to have a somewhat normal conversation with the family, but discovered that she was shaking. “They said to me, “Can you help us get out?’ She pauses, and then says in an anguished voice, “I don’t know how. How do I help them?”

Many would say Valgiusti is helping the refugees by getting out the word about their plight. But clearly, she sees they need much more.

So who is helping these Christians? How are they surviving?

“The local priests are doing everything,” Valgiusti said. “They give them shelter — they find buildings or centers to get them out of tents – regular daily meals and clothing.”

Few people can remain impartial in the face of such suffering and Valgiusti makes no apologies for her outrage on behalf of the refugees. She remembers Nineveh as a very special place. For over 2,000 years, Christians have populated the city. Now, it is empty.

“I have seen very bad things,” says Valgiusti, who sounds as if she is struggling to hold back her tears. “I think of the look on the faces of the refugees. They are physically beautiful people. Their attitudes are beautiful. They are so special. They want to get out. It is very unsafe, very uncertain. Everything is a tragedy – [and] only the Church is helping.”

Note: Help persecuted Christians! Consider donating to Catholic Relief Services at http://emergencies.crs.org/human-kindness-at-the-forefront-of-iraq-humanitarian-crisis/, and/or Aid to the Church in Need at http://www.aidtochurch.org/. See trailers of Valgiusti’s work at https://www.youtube.com/user/Savethemonasteries, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Savethemonasteries.

And please check EWTN’s website, www.ewtn.com, in late 2014 or early 2015, for dates and times of Valgiusti’s documentary on these persecuted Christians from Iraq.

Posted in Catholic, Christian, Christian persecution, EWTN, ISIS, Islam, Jesus, Michelle Laque Johnson, Muslim, Persecuted Christians, sex slaves, TV, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment