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There is Magic in Selfless Giving

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Amid the destruction and devastation of Hurricane Dorian, were bright spots of human acts of kindness:

– neighbors helping neighbors shutter homes;

— people donating food and clothing;

— people and organizations providing shelter;

— an anonymous donor who bought generators;

—  and Jermaine Bell, who emptied his piggy bank of the money he had been saving for more than a year for his birthday trip to Walt Disney World Resort and used the money to buy food for evacuees.

Jermaine, who has since turned seven years old, explained to the news media that his motto, “Live to Give,” was the reason for his actions.

As the hurricane approached the South Carolina coast, Jermaine used the money form his piggy bank to buy hundreds of hot dogs, bags of chips, and bottled water to serve (free of charge) to evacuees who passed through the South Carolina town where he was visiting his grandmother.

As I thought about Jermaine’s motto, I was reminded of the power of unconditional giving that comes from the heart – giving without expecting something in return.

I was reminded that you don’t have to move very far from where you are to make a difference or have a positive impact – people in need are all around us.

I was reminded that everyone has something to offer to others.

From my vantage point, selfless giving is the basis for living a meaningful life. It seems to me that when we find meaning in the lives of those in need and do something about it, we also find meaning in our own lives.

Jermaine models for us how to live life with purpose by making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. His motto encourages us to live by our beliefs and values. He is another one of my young heroes.

(Note: Officials at the Walt Disney Company gifted Jermaine, on his seventh birthday, with a trip to Disney World).

Posted in Associate Blog, News

SOCIAL MEDIA – GOOD OR BAD?

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Is social media a good thing or a bad thing?

I’m pretty sure that there are as many answers to that question – on both sides – as the number of people you ask to answer it.

I think that social media, like many things in life, is what you make of it.

For me, social media is a way to connect with people. Those connections often lead to positive outcomes for me.

That actually happened yesterday. I was feeling a little discouraged and with the little energy that I had, I opened Facebook on my phone (hoping to find some “good” news being shared).

The first thing that I saw was a quote posted by a friend. Those words gave me relief and hope:

God always has something for you,
a key for every problem
a light for every shadow
a relief for every sorrow
and a plan for every tomorrow.

Those words reminded me that the joy of the Lord is my strength!

As human beings, we experience ups and downs as we journey through life. During those “down” times, we can often find encouragement in places we may not expect – like on social media.

Just like a smile can brighten someone’s day, a positive message shared on social media can lift someone’s spirits.

How do you use social media? Whether you use it or not, do you think that it is a good thing or a bad thing?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Whistle While You Work

Blog by Associate Frank Bevvino

Hanging on the walls of the basement office in my home are two fairly large poster prints. One is a photo of Grand Central Station in New York City taken in 1939 and the other is a picture of steelworkers who were building the Empire State Building in 1930 sitting on a steel girder enjoying lunch high above the Manhattan skyline.

At a time when we celebrate the great accomplishments in technology that have given us iPhones, Facebook and the convenience of ordering online anything and receiving it at our doorsteps in minutes or hours, little attention is made of the major works of art that stands as a tribute to the American worker such as Grand Central Station and the magnificent presence of the Empire State Building on 34th Street in NYC.

Every day, more than 750,000 people pass through Grand Central Station. Most of these people are going to and from their jobs coming from the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Many of the people who use Grand Central Station are the 15,000 people who work in the Empire State Building alone.

My point is that while we celebrate the titans of business and industry in the press, in movies and documentaries, we seem to have lost the gratitude and appreciation of the workers who built these great structures decades ago. We need to be conscious of the people today who maintain these buildings daily, year after year. They are black-skinned, brown-skinned, yellow-skinned and white-skinned. They speak many languages and worship God in different ways or not at all; but in their need to sustain themselves and their families, they allow you and me to be able to work and perform our services to sustain our lives and to help others.

Grand Central and the Empire State Building are just two of the thousands of buildings throughout the United States which stands as a monument to the American worker — workers who were our mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts and uncles. Workers who migrated from all parts of the world to build and maintain these great structures that still function to make America work.

As we paused from our work on Labor Day, I hope we took time to celebrate the ordinary everyday workers who make this country run. They may not make great scientific or technological discoveries or invent the efficiencies which get us our goods and services quickly; but they clean our houses and buildings, they make sure they get us to and from our jobs daily. They clean our restrooms, prepare our food, pick up our trash and make sure our baggage gets to the same destination we travel to.

The workers of America make it possible for you and I to work every day. They keep our sick healthy and safe, they assist our seniors in getting through their daily lives, they get our children to school safely and teach them how to read and write.

If there ever is an example of sisters and brothers in Christ functioning daily as a family it is those who work every day to benefit others.

God created us to love Him with all our heart, and with all our strength. We do this daily just by completing tasks that ultimately help others.

We should celebrate the common workers that we encounter each day because without them you and I could not do what God calls us to do. Billionaires and millionaires are the visible signs of American success; however, it is the worker that we encounter daily that we need to thank. Without them there would be no billionaires or millionaires.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

WIELDING PEACE, NOT GUNS

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

The first time that I saw Cameron Boyce, he was about 12 years old.

Little did I know that he – the little freckle-faced youngster portraying Luke Ross in the Disney Channel comedy series Jessie — would grow up to be one of my heroes.

Cameron – who died unexpectedly in his home at age 20 on July 6, after having an epileptic seizure – left behind a legacy of caring for others and of making a positive change in the world. His humanitarian and philanthropic efforts included helping bring clean water to underdeveloped countries; working to end homelessness in the United States; raising awareness and fighting against sexual assault on college campuses; spreading kindness, and fighting to end gun violence.

(Sidebar:  For those “adults” who still believe that young people are not committed to social justice or that young people need “adults” to lead the way, I offer Cameron as an example of the many young people who are leading the way and making a difference in the world. Therefore, I reiterate one of my favorite sayings: DON’T WRITE OFF YOUNG PEOPLE. THEY CARE DEEPLY ABOUT A BETTER WORLD.)

In the wake of Cameron’s death, the Cameron Boyce Foundation (a nonprofit organization founded in Los Angeles to provide young people with artistic and creative outlets as alternatives to violence and negativity) teamed up with Refinery29 to continue Cameron’s final project, Wielding Peace, by launching a social media campaign.

The project includes a collection of images of people from all walks of life (in Cameron’s own words) “wielding anything that might inspire someone creatively as well as make a strong statement with the sentiment that we need to choose a different weapon” (other than a gun).

What do you think would happen, if we could get everyone to yield peace and not guns?

Last year on social media, Cameron wrote: “It’s so important to think selflessly. To acknowledge that problems exist even if they don’t apply to you. To understand how lucky we are to even be here and how nothing in your life will ever be more fulfilling than helping others.”

(You might want to go back, read that quote again and let it penetrate deeply into your heart and mind)

In my opinion, Cameron was wise beyond his years. He will always be one of my heroes because he gave of himself for the greater good of others.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Young People and the Future of the Church

Blog by Associate Frank Bevvino

In the Baptism Rite, one of the Gospel options the celebrant can choose from is Matthew 19:14 “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

What a beautiful passage. It is Jesus showing a sensitivity to and a unique understanding of the mind of young people which is unparalleled.

In October 2016, Pope Francis said “Children, who have no problem in understanding God, have much to teach us: they tell us that He accomplishes great things in those who put up no resistance to Him, who are simple and sincere, without duplicity. The Gospel shows us how great wonders are accomplished with small things.”

Adults have squandered the greatest of all resources in the Church: our youth! We have a problem when we subordinate the young to obedience because we feel that the young have little or nothing to teach us and their only role is to follow our lead.

The fancy word used to describe this is “adultism”. Adultism is a bias that adults and institutions have against young people. As parents, we assume the role of teacher and person of authority. It is ingrained in us from our own upbringing. This attitude carries over to our institutions. It is evident in homes, schools and churches.

Conversely, young people assume the role of a person always being tested and evaluated by the adult(s) present.  Remember what we were told as a young person: “children are to be seen and not heard?”

At a recent parish meeting, to discuss the closing of one of our churches, questions arose about low church attendance and the lack of young people coming to church. Many parishioners in attendance (primarily gray-haired) agreed that even in their own families their now adult children were not regular churchgoers and in some cases, their grandchildren were unbaptized and  unchurched.

There have been 16 world youth conferences since 1984. Host cities around the world have welcomed youth from all nations for prayer and festive activities. A look at the agenda of these conferences shows that there are plenty of opportunities for prayer, Eucharistic Celebrations, parties and dances. Each host city establishes the details of the activities and arranges for the venues and the appearance of speakers and celebrities. What I see missing on the agenda is any opportunity for the youth to speak and the Church to listen.

Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa of Blantyre, Malawi, said at a recent press briefing: “If we ignore the call of our young people today and continue with business as usual without recognizing them, without empowering them, it means that the [church] of tomorrow will not be very powerful.”

This year, following the Youth Synod, Pope Francis wrote in Christus Vivit: “Those of us who are no longer young need to find ways to stay close to the voices and concerns of young people. Drawing together creates the conditions for the Church to become a place of dialogue and a witness to life-giving fraternity. We need to make more room for the voices of young people to be heard: listening makes possible an exchange of gifts in a context of empathy… At the same time, it sets the conditions for a preaching of the Gospel that can touch the heart truly, decisively and fruitfully.”

Many dioceses around the country annually hold youth celebrations which bring together their youth for prayer, the Sacred Liturgy and fellowship. How many of these celebrations set time aside to listen to what the young people have to say; to listen to their thoughts and to their concerns?

Perhaps one suggestion might be that every parish in a diocese organize parish youth conferences to discuss with the youth their concerns and select from the group some of the young to gather at a diocesan youth conference.

We need to start a regular dialogue with our youth. We cannot continue to let the clergy and adults guess at what the problems are. We need to talk to the young people to engage them in meaningful and ongoing dialogue. These should not be a once a year event but an ongoing, interactive conversation, where thoughts and ideas can be voiced, developed and exchanged so that we can arrive at solutions where young people see a reason to become engaged in shaping the Church of the future.

Posted in Associate Blog, News