• FORT WAYNE — While some schools and businesses take a day off to pay tribute to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, the University of Saint Francis (USF) will take the opposite approach — a day “on.”

    USF will recognize national Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 17, with “Acting on the Dream: A Day On, Not a Day Off,” which gives students, faculty and staff a chance to lead children’s activities and participate in service projects across campus and Fort Wayne.

    The university will suspend classes so students can participate in the faculty organized and led projects. Other on-campus commemorative activities and displays open to the public will take place Jan. 17 through Feb 4.

    Service projects Jan. 17
    From 9 -11:30 a.m., students and faculty will play games and read to children at Charis House, which cares for homeless women and children, providing shelter, food, education and life skills. While the children are entertained, their mothers will receive hand care in the form of massages and paraffin dips by USF Physical Therapy Studies Club, and hair styling, makeup and nail care by Masters of Cosmetology of Fort Wayne students.

    From 9 a.m. to noon, students and faculty will organize merchandise, clean a back room and perform light maintenance for Fort Wayne Rescue Mission’s Bargains Galore Thrift Shop at 2203 S. Lafayette St.

    From 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 12:30-4 p.m., f/8 Photo Club will provide professional-quality on-site family portraits for residents of Vincent House and Vincent Village, which serves homeless families, at 2827 Houlton Ave.

    From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., USF students will serve as docents at the African American History Museum at 436 E. Douglas Ave.

    From noon to 4 p.m., the women’s soccer team will be reading, playing games and interacting with patients in the children’s wing at Lutheran Hospital at 7950 W. Jefferson Blvd.

    Service projects from 1-4 p.m. include: USF groups will dust and vacuum rooms, clean toys and bake cookies for families staying at Children’s Hope House at 7922 W. Jefferson Blvd., which provides a temporary, low-cost home-away-from-home for families whose children are being treated for serious illness, injuries or birth defects at area hospitals. 

    At St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store at 1600 S. Calhoun St., volunteers will tidy up and sort clothing for the store, which serves the needy.
    Another group will be storing inventory at Friends of the Third World, 611 W. Wayne St., which sells items produced by fair trade — in which the artisans receive education and a fair price for their goods.

    Volunteers will also organize donations for Vincent Village, which serves the homeless, at 2827 Holton Ave., while others will help elderly or needy Fort Wayne residents with cleaning, painting, yard work and other tasks as organized by NeighborLink Fort Wayne.

    Students and faculty will also sort and organize household items and clean the warehouse at Mustard Seed Furniture Bank at 3636 Illinois Rd., move, sort and organize items at Love Community Center at 1331 E. Berry St. and participate in art projects with children at Boys and Girls Club, a safe, after-school learning place, at 2609 Fairfield Ave.

    From 1:30-3:30 p.m., USF volunteers will sort food and perform general cleaning for the Associated Churches, 802 E. Wayne St., which supports the local food banks.

    Activities open to the public on Jan 17
    At 11 a.m. on Jan. 17, a prayer service will be conducted in Gunderson Auditorium, Achatz Hall.

    From 1-4 p.m. Celebrate the Dream: We Can All Play Together, will be an interactive activity with University of Saint Francis sports teams and education majors. A football toss, softball throw, basketball free-throw, peace bingo and bracelet-making are planned for kids of all ages in the North Campus gymnasium. As part of the event, Explore Your Dreams through Art will allow kids to express ideas with air-dry clay to take home and dry. Additional materials will also be available to combine with clay and work with creatively. Parents are required to stay with their children during the events. For more information, contact Dr. Ann Hernandez in the School of Professional Studies at ahernandez@sf.edu or (260) 399-7700, ext. 8413.

    Volunteers will make fleece, no-sew blankets as part of Project Linus, an effort to provide blankets for children in northeast Indiana who are seriously ill or traumatized. The blanket-making will be in room 141 at the USF North Campus on Jan. 17 from 1-4 p.m. 

    From Jan. 17 through Feb. 4, collections will take place campus-wide for the following charities: eyeglasses for the Lions Club; clothing for St. Vincent de Paul; food for Associated Churches; and food boxtops for education at Precious Blood School. Collection boxes will be in all USF buildings.

    On Tuesday, Jan. 18 a reading of poetry by African American writers will take place in the atrium of Achatz Hall at 7 p.m. Jazz music and a slideshow of art by African Americans will accompany the poetry reading. A discussion of the poetry and artwork will follow. Seating is limited.

    On Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. in Gunderson Auditorium in Achatz Hall, an interdisciplinary panel of USF professors will discuss topics relevant to “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: The Man, the Times, the Ideas.” Rubin Brown, a member of the board of trustees for the African American Historical Museum, will speak.

    On Jan. 27, the USF Student Nurses Association will assist Red Cross workers with registration and donor courtesies at a public blood drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the North Campus gymnasium. Community members can sign up for a time to give blood by contacting rdepew@sf.edu.

    A reproduction of a document from Martin Luther King Jr. and hand-written speech notes by King, all on loan from the Karpeles Manuscript Library, which houses a rotating collection of unique documents and artifacts, are on display in the Lee and Jim Vann Library on the second floor of the Pope John Paul II Center.

    Posted on January 12, 2011, to:

  • By Christopher Stefanick

    It’s hard to imagine the confusion of a teenager who is convinced that he’s gay. More unimaginable is the pain he must experience if he’s bullied for having effeminate characteristics. Since July, at least four teens and one college student who considered themselves gay ended their lives after being repeatedly bullied. It’s safe to assume that there were more factors that led to these suicides, but bullying certainly played a key role, and it highlights the sad reality that many schools aren’t doing enough to protect kids — and that includes kids with same-sex attraction.

    The Church agrees with gay-rights activist groups in that people with same-sex attraction, “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity (and that) every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” — Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2358. In the words of Pope Paul VI on tolerance, “The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life or religion.” — Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, 5. But when it comes to school bullying, most gay-rights groups go beyond protecting teens to promoting homosexual behavior. Such groups are more active in schools than parents might imagine.

    Groups like GLSEN (Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network) have done extensive work to protect teens with same-sex attraction from bullying. They provide training and resources to more than 4,000 gay-straight alliance (GSA) student clubs in high schools and colleges across North America. And the recent bully suicides have been turned into talking points to encourage the proliferation of GSAs. The Canadian government has even recently taken aggressive steps to ensure that such clubs find a home in Catholic high schools, though some school districts have stood with their bishops in rejecting this proposed solution to the gay bullying problem.

    The good news is that GSAs have been shown to help decrease bullying. The bad news is that, enmeshed in their efforts, there are “dogmas” of the gay-rights movement that are arguably as harmful as bullying, albeit in more subtle ways.

    To sum up a few of these dogmas:

    Sexual desire is equated with personal identity.
    Since desire is identity, teens need support “coming out” and announcing their sexual preference to the world in order to fully embrace their “true selves.”

    Schools, and society at large, need aggressive policies to stop “heterosexism,” that is, traditional Judeo-Christian ethics that would identify heterosexuality as the norm in sexual behavior and desire.

    How are these harmful?

    Regarding the belief that sexual desire is identity: If the goal of these clubs is to help people with same-sex attraction feel less isolated, making them feel inherently “different” from everyone else isn’t the way to do it. Mother Teresa, who started New York’s first AIDS hospice, refrained from calling people “homosexual,” instead she called them “friends of Jesus.” It’s helpful to remember that “the orientation of an act is homosexual or heterosexual but the person is not.” — Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops. In other words, homosexual desires and even activity do not define a human being.

    The identity dogma can also end up being a gay recruitment tool. Many well-balanced adolescents experience a passing phase of same-sex attraction. And some teens who have experienced sexual abuse or who have a deep “father wound” might be temporarily repulsed by the opposite sex until they address their wounds. I’m not saying that same-sex attraction is always passing or curable. But if adolescents make the mistake of identifying self with desire, homosexual activity might seem inevitable to them — and they’ll be at a higher risk for giving in to their desires. If they do, what could have been a passing phase for some might end up being a life choice. (I am not implying that all those who teach this dogma are intentionally recruiting teens.)

    Equating sexual desire with identity makes homosexual activity seem natural. You can’t help but do what you are. This belief, coupled with the dogma that “coming out” is healthy and necessary, and the “safe sex” education provided in GSAs, sets the stage for sexual promiscuity, which only exacerbates the problems these clubs are trying to battle: teen depression and suicide. Studies show that sexually active boys are two times more likely to be depressed, and girls are three times more likely to be depressed, with 12- to 16-year-olds being six times more likely to attempt suicide. It’s safe to assume that homosexual activity carries the same risks to a teen’s fragile emotional state.

    Finally, the dogma that natural law and Judeo-Christian ethics is “heterosexism” or “homophobia” can isolate teens from anyone who disagrees with them: “You are different and they are bigots.” And, of course, one doesn’t even consider a bigot’s viewpoint. A challenge from parents or pastors to live in sexual integrity and virtue might be dubbed “hate speech.” Remember, the Church calls ALL people to live chastely. No doubt, the Church’s challenge for people with persistent same-sex attraction to live a chaste life is no easy path, but it’s certainly not “hate speech.” As difficult as a chaste life is for people with persistent same-sex attraction, it’s easier than the host of emotional and physical problems that active homosexuals are at a disproportionate risk for enduring. (Studies show these risks are the same in places that are fully open to homosexuality. See www.narth.com for research.)

    Parents, pastors and counselors need to respond with compassion and support when a teen trusts them enough to tell them they have same-sex attraction. (Your local “Courage” chaplain can give you advice in how to do so. See www.couragerc.net for more info.) That response needs to include protection from bullying, but it does not need to include the encouragement of a homosexual lifestyle. There are plenty of highly effective programs available to help schools prevent bullying that are not also saddled with an agenda. Such programs, rather than GSAs, are a good way to ensure that teens with same-sex attraction receive an education with safety and dignity.

    Christopher Stefanick is director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver. To read more columns by Chris, click here. His personal website can be found at www.chris-stefanick.com.

    Posted on January 12, 2011, to:

  • For photos from Midnight Mass at the cathedral click here.

    Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception altar server Audrey Bond carries the infant statue of the Christ child during the processional of the Christmas Midnight Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. The statue, placed in the Nativity scene, was blessed by Bishop Rhoades.

    Bishop Rhoades celebrates Midnight Mass

    FORT WAYNE — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades began his Midnight Mass homily with a reflection on the first Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

    He said, “To truly enter into the mystery of love which is Christmas, to experience deeply the joy and peace of the Nativity of Our Lord, one must be poor in spirit.

    “One who is poor in spirit is aware of his or her need for God’s mercy, of the need for a Savior,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Such a person has faith and humility, two virtues that enable one to receive the great light shining forth from the manger of Bethlehem. The poor in spirit are blessed indeed for they are prepared to receive the kingdom of heaven which has come to earth in the person of the infant Jesus.”

    Bishop Rhoades, celebrating Mass at the filled-to-capacity Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, said the first Beatitude was exemplified in those who welcomed Jesus that holy night in Bethlehem.

    Music for the Midnight Mass was provided by the Cathedral Choir, the brass quartet and strings under the direction of Michael Dulac, music director. The choir and musical accompaniment included a 30-minute prelude.

    Earlier in the evening, Bishop Rhoades celebrated the Christmas Vigil Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend. He celebrated the TV Mass for shut-ins on Christmas morning on WISE-TV in Fort Wayne.

    In the Midnight Mass homily, Bishop Rhoades first contemplated the Virgin Mary, “who believed with all her heart the word of the Lord spoken to her by the angel. Mary was the first to bend low over the manger to adore the fruit of her womb. She is Our Lady of Humility. No human being who ever lived was more poor in spirit than the Virgin who gave birth to the Son of God.”

    Bishop Rhoades reflected on St. Joseph, who was also poor in spirit. “We have no recorded words in any of the Gospels spoken by the humble carpenter of Nazareth,” he said, “but we know of his faith and goodness. The Scriptures teach us that he was a just man. He had the courage of faith and preferred to obey God rather than to protect his own reputation when Mary was found to be with child.

    “What must have been in his heart as he gazed upon the child in the manger!” Bishop Rhoades exclaimed. “Poor in spirit, he too bowed low over the manger to adore his foster son whom he would protect and teach, love and cherish.”

    Of the shepherds, Bishop Rhoades said, “We do not know their names: They were anonymous. They were poor and looked down upon because of their occupation. But they were the ones chosen by God to receive the proclamation of the birth of Christ from the heavenly messenger. What did they do? Motivated by faith, they went with haste to the manger. There they found the newborn child and humbly worshipped him. They then glorified and praised God for all that they had heard and seen.”

    Mary, Joseph and the shepherds — the little ones — are the key figures of Christmas, he said. They teach the meaning of the first Beatitude and the way to the kingdom of heaven — faith, humility and love.

    “We worship the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger,” Bishop Rhoades said. “We contemplate the mystery of Christmas. We welcome the Savior of the world. We can only do so authentically if we are poor in spirit, that is, with faith in God, with humility, and with love. Christ cannot enter our lives if we do not open our minds and hearts to Him and to the salvation He offers us.”

    He said, “We recognize and profess that the child born of the Blessed Virgin Mary 2,000 years ago is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. His divine glory was hidden in that holy manger of Bethlehem. But humbly we believe and we adore because in that manger we have discovered the Truth that sets us and all humanity free. And we continue to discover in the infant Jesus the Love that transforms our lives.”

    Bishop Rhoades spoke of the writings of St. Peter: “Should anyone ask us as Christ’s disciples the reason for our hope, we should be ever ready to reply. But what is the reason for our hope as Christ’s disciples, as Catholic Christians? The reason is not a what — it’s a who! Our faith is not so much about a book or a list of teachings or an ethical system. It is about a person!

    “Christmas is the great feast of hope, for today the Savior of humanity is born,” Bishop Rhoades said. “The joyful news of our Savior’s birth resounds throughout the world on this holy night. The Son of God came into the world, and He still comes, to give us hope in the midst of doubt, uncertainty, suffering and even in the face of death. If Jesus were not born on earth, we could not be born unto heaven. But because Christ was born, we can be reborn.”

    Bishop Rhoades encouraged, “Let us live this (first) Beatitude as we contemplate with the eyes of faith and with humility the holy birth of Jesus. With Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, we celebrate the great mystery of love which never ceases to amaze us: God became the Son of Man so that we might become sons and daughters of God! On this holy night, we rejoice in the birth of our Savior. Venite, adoremus! O come, let us adore Him!”

    Posted on January 4, 2011, to:

  • By Fred Everett

    FORT WAYNE — The Office of Family Life will be hosting a daylong Diocesan Marriage Conference in Fort Wayne on March 12. The conference will begin with a 9 a.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and include four sessions with Greg and Julie Alexander of EWTN and the Alexander House Apostolate. It will conclude with a panel discussion featuring the Alexanders and Lisa Everett of the Office of Family Life. The conference will end at 4 p.m.

    The Alexanders will be presenting their Enjoy Marriage Seminar on the north campus of the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne. This seminar has proved to be an effective catalyst for inspiring couples across the country to initiate positive change in their marriages.
    According to Greg Alexander, this seminar is for any couple: “Whether you are engaged, have a great marriage or experiencing trouble in your marriage, you will leave with a renewed sense of hope and encouragement.”

    Greg and Julie Alexander are co-founders of the Alexander House Apostolate — a Catholic, lay apostolate dedicated to proclaiming the beauty, goodness and truth of marriage. The Alexanders have presented numerous workshops, seminars and talks to thousands of participants across the country. They have appeared on various productions aired on EWTN, including as guests on “Life on the Rock” and as co-hosts of their own show, “Marriage Works in Christ.” 

    The Alexanders are frequent guests on talk radio programs including Relevant Radio and various Catholic radio stations. Their breakthrough work in marriage and their story have been profiled in Patrick Madrid’s “Surprised by Truth 3,” One More Soul’s — “Sterilization Reversal Book — A Generous Act of Love,” Envoy Magazine and the Family Research Council. They have been married for 23 years, have seven children and are currently writing their first book for Servant publications.

    Seminar sessions will include topics such as:
    • Why it makes sense to turn to God, the Author of marriage, to rediscover His plan for a joy-filled, life-long marriage.
    • The importance of forgiveness in marriage and learning a practical exercise to let go of past hurts and pains.
    • Understanding your top emotional needs in a relationship and learning practical steps for meeting the needs of your spouse.
    • Learning how to communicate effectively and avoiding those areas which cause additional strife in a marriage.  
    • The beauty and goodness of God’s plan for sex.

    For more information or to register, go to Office of Family Life at www.diocesefwsb.org or call (574) 234-0687. The early registration fee (postmarked up to Feb. 21) is $25 per person, after which it will be $30. The registration deadline is March 7. The conference fee includes all materials, continental breakfast and a boxed lunch. 

    Posted on January 4, 2011, to:

  • Franciscan Sisters Minor Sister Stella Francis, Sister Mary Clare and Sister Tina Audrey pray before the Blessed Sacrament in the Our Lady of the Angels Convent chapel at Providence House in Fort Wayne. The nine-member community serves the St. John the Baptist community through door-to-door evangelization and volunteer service where needed.

    By Kay Cozad

    FORT WAYNE — A light shines every morning at 4:20 a.m. in Providence House behind St. John the Baptist Church in Fort Wayne. That’s when the nine members of the Franciscan Sisters Minor, who live in the austerely furnished Our Lady of the Angels Convent, rise to begin their day of prayer and service.

    The Franciscan Sisters Minor is a community of religious women, ranging in age from 20 to 70-ish who are in various stages of religious formation. Each member professes vows to live a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. 

    The sisters live a spartan lifestyle, according to the 1536 Capuchin Constitution, known as the primitive observances of St. Francis, with no modern conveniences such as phones, computers, refrigerators or cars. They rely, says Boston native Sister Mary Clement Turcotte, the foundress and mother superior of the decade-old community, on Divine Providence. 

    The community was formed in 2000 by Sister Mary Clement, who after 38 years of serving as a sister of the Daughters of St. Paul in Rhode Island, saw a need to evangelize in a more personal way. They moved to Fort Wayne in support of the Franciscan Brothers Minor in August of 2010. 

    Sister Mary Clement says, “The need I saw was to deepen and encourage the interpersonal relationship between the Church and the person.” The centerpiece of the mission of the Franciscan Sisters Minor, she adds, is door-to-door evangelization. 

    “The persons we meet are the agenda. The media is conversation,” says Sister Mary Clement. “The visits are casual, laid back and friendly. But these are not social visits. The people convey their spiritual concerns that the sisters can address.”

    With evangelization as the centerpiece, prayer is the foundation of all their work. Upon rising in the early hours of the morning, the sisters gather for several hours of prayer in their in-house chapel, from Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Office of Readings to Morning Prayer and Mass. Afternoons are filled with duties such as laundry, cooking and assorted chores, class work and the evangelical apostolate. The sisters pray again in the evening as well, completing eight hours of devotion to God each day. 

    Each sister has a compelling background that inspires a true sense of God’s call on her life. Sister Mary Clare Smith, a native of Rhode Island, has been a Franciscan Sister for 10 years and is vicar within the community. After 32 years of marriage, during which she raised six children, and seven years of widowhood, Sister Mary Clare felt a powerful call to religious life. In her search for her vocation, she met Sister Mary Clement, who had recently received permission to form the new community. The Franciscan Sisters Minor seemed a perfect fit and in January of 2001 Sister Mary Clare joined as one of the foundational members.

    Her children are happy that she has found fulfillment in Christ. Her youngest daughter said though she was concerned she would not be nearby for her grandchildren, “She needed the witness of my life,” says Sister Mary Clare. “They can all see the grace of a vocation.” 

    Of the lifestyle she says, “Poverty is very freeing. I feel I’ve been a servant all my life. Marriage and parenthood have prepared me for this life.”
    The sisters dress in simple handmade woolen habits tied at the waist with a cord. They veil their heads and typically walk in bare feet unless the weather calls for sandals or boots. Laundry is all done by hand. Referring to their attire, Sister Mary Clare says, “This is a penitential life. We came here to do penance for ourselves and for the world.”

    Massachusetts native Sister Stella Francis Belonger entered the community three days after her high school graduation, six years ago. She is considered a junior after three and a half years of temporary profession and is the director of the apostolate under the direction of Sister Mary Clement.

    “It is a beautiful life. We get in touch with our spiritual motherhood. People open their hearts to us and talk about the most important things to them. It’s such a gift to us — and the people,” she says of the door-to-door evangelization she directs. 

    Others in the community include Sister Tina Audrey Bloomer, laundress, Sister Celeste Marie Carey, vocations director and cook, Sister Margaret Rose Cronin, sacristan and business manager, Sister Karolyn Grace Wertner, housekeeper, Sister Marie Veronica Goins, assistant laundress, and Sister John Marie Flood, sacristan.

    Sister Stella says, “We’re family. There’s a lot of love in this house because there’s a lot of forgiveness.”

    The sisters do not run any programs but are open to assisting anyone that requests their help, particularly those at St. John the Baptist Parish.
    “We can’t do a lot for people, but we can do everything we can do,” says Sister Mary Clement. The sisters have been known to cook a meal for a hungry visitor, fold 3,000 brochures for a church event and assist the parish in their religious education program, as altar server trainers, cleaning church linens and anything else that is needed. 

    The Franciscan Sisters Minor community acquires new members by word of mouth. “We don’t recruit,” says Sister Mary Clement, adding that they assist each interested woman in discerning where best to serve God. After a woman visits, the sisters leave a return visit as her choice. Anyone may visit and spend the day shadowing the sisters at any time.

    “Every vocation is a miracle of God’s mercy,” says Sister Mary Clare, adding, “There’s nothing more exciting than religious life. It’s definitely not boring!”

    Final words for anyone interested in religious life. “Come for a visit,” says Sister Mary Clement, who adds, “It’s a beautiful life and freeing! It’s rewarding to know you are doing the will of God.” 

    For more information on the Franciscan Sisters Minor contact St. John the Baptist Parish at (260) 744-4393.

    Posted on January 4, 2011, to: