St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

The life of Francis of Assisi reminds us that people of holiness and greatness are not born that way. They become holy and great because they choose to act when God asks them to change the world, making his “kingdom come” on earth as it is in heaven.

Francis began life as a spoiled rich kid lacking nothing. We know very little about those early days of his life except that one day he heard the voice of God call to him to change his vision of the world and the people in it.

Francis became a different man because he made a conscious decision to look at the world through the eyes of God – and, as a result, became God’s instrument of love. For the first time in his life, Francis truly saw the face of Christ in the faces of sisters and brothers in need. He began his path to holiness by responding to those needs wherever and whenever he could. He gave his cloak to those who had none. He brought healing with words of understanding and compassion. He encouraged those suffering from bodily illness, nursing even those afflicted with dangerous leprosy. He shared the little food he had begged for with others who had even less.

Francis of Assisi died at sunset on October 3, 1226. His death and burial were witnessed by hundreds of people from the order he founded as well as by the citizens from the towns he had touched with his compassion. They knew he was a special man –truly a saint in their midst! Within two years of his death, Francis was officially declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

At Cross Catholic Outreach, we seek to make the gospel of Jesus Christ real in the lives of the poorest of the poor, just as Francis taught. We seek to transform the world into a place of holiness and peace by recognizing the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor and by addressing their material, emotional, physical and spiritual needs as Francis did almost 800 years ago.

-Fr. Bernard Olszewski
Guest Blogger
Outreach Priest

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St. Vincent de Paul – Patron of Charitable Societies

St. Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent was born of poor parents in the village of Pouy in Gascony, France, about 1580. He enjoyed his first schooling under the Franciscan Fathers at Acqs.  In 1596, he went to the University of Toulouse for theological studies, and there he was ordained priest in 1600.

In 1605, on a voyage by sea from Marseilles to Narbonne, he fell into the hands of African pirates and was carried as a slave to Tunis. His captivity lasted about two years, until Divine Providence enabled him to effect his escape.  In 1617, he began to preach missions, and in 1625, he lay the foundations of a congregation which afterward became the Congregation of the Mission or Lazarists, so named on account of the Priory of St. Lazarus, which the Fathers began to occupy in 1633.

It would be impossible to enumerate all the works of this servant of God. Charity was his predominant virtue. It extended to all classes of persons, from forsaken childhood to old age. The Sisters of Charity congregation was also founded by St. Vincent. In the midst of the most distracting occupations his soul was always intimately united with God. His call to service to the poor is continued today through the charitable works of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which has chapters in most dioceses. Cross Catholic Outreach partners with many missionaries to do the charitable work that St. Vincent gave his life to do. In the many countries where there is the greatest need and the most abject poverty, Cross Catholic Outreach brings hope and love to the suffering Christ in our world.

St. Vincent is a model of charity, much like St. Francis of Assisi before him. Cross shares in that same Catholic charism to love our neighbor as our self through our ministry. For more information about our work, visit our web site at:

-Fr. Ron Mrozinski
Guest Blogger
Outreach Priest

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Reflections on a Nicaraguan School

At Fabretto, the students create their own teaching aids using found materials.

At Fabretto, the students create their own teaching aids using found materials.

A couple of weeks ago, as I attended my fourth-grade son’s open house, I marveled at how much technology even young children have at their disposal. Each classroom was wired, linked, looped and interfaced in every way possible. And this was at an elementary school! I compared this to my experiences traveling in the developing world, visiting classrooms that were lucky to have electricity, much less have access to the internet.

In particular, my thoughts returned to a little school I visited last year in the Nicaraguan highlands that had very little in the way of technology. Still, they were achieving amazing results through their creative approach to education, employing a combination of techniques including Montessori and Open Teaching concepts.

Father Fabretto Children’s Foundation is an afterschool program located in the town of Estellí. There more than 450 at-risk children show up every day, excited and eager to learn. Most of these kids literally hated their regular classes until they started attending the Fabretto program. Now, they love school! And they love their teachers and the Lord who made it all possible!

What’s the reason for this turnaround in their attitudes? It isn’t because they have a fancy air-conditioned facility with a state-of-the-art computer lab. In fact, at Fabretto the students have little more than desks and chairs. They even create their own education toys and teaching aids.

I believe it is because the teachers at Fabretto have talent and an uncanny dedication to God that have inspired their young students to want to learn. And that is something we surely wish upon all children!

-Chris M.

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An Astonishing Thing to Behold

Fr. Juan is now training a young seminarian, Hector, to take over the parish.

Fr. Juan is now training a young seminarian, Hector, to take over the parish.

It was one of those images you never forget – a lone priest riding a donkey, traveling from house to house to carry out the Lord’s work.

I was in the Dominican Republic, helping our Goods-In-Kind partner, Fundación Ciento Por Uno, deliver food to the poor in the remote Azua province – a long 3-hour drive from Santo Domingo way up in the mountains along winding dirt roads. That’s when I met this simple parish priest, Father Juan Cardenas, who felt the presence of God from the moment he started serving the poor.

“I never imagined myself working in the mountains; riding a donkey,” said Fr. Juan. “I was a scholar, studying in Rome, Portugal and Brazil. But God decided he needed me to serve the poor here in the remotest of places in the DR. That is what I do now and I know God is with me.”

He leaned forward, put his hand on my arm and his face erupted into a huge smile. He said, “You know how I know? Because God was with me even when I was robbed by bandits. They kidnapped me and tied me up. And even though I was frightened and weak, I somehow convinced the bandits to let me go. That wasn’t me,” he said. “That was God!”

Fr. Juan is such a humble man. I didn’t find it at all surprising that his favorite scripture was the Gospel of John. “It touches my heart,” he said. “He seems to be writing about his personal relationship with Jesus.” And as he spoke, I couldn’t help recalling the personal accounts that Fr. Juan was speaking of – how Mary anoints Jesus with her perfume, how Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, among others.

In the months to come, when the poor parishioners of the Azua province see this humble priest approach on the back of his donkey, they will notice he is training a young seminarian, Hector, to take over the parish. My heart is filled with hope that the same spirit of simple generosity will be passed on to a new generation.

-Chris M.

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When the Poor Help the Poor

Alina with her husband outside their Cross Catholic-funded house.

Alina with her husband outside their Cross Catholic-funded house.

It’s a great feeling to be able to give back to someone who is always giving to others.

An example I’d like to spotlight is Alina Previlda.

The 50-year-old Haitian woman lives in a rural community where we support a Catholic mission led by Father Glenn Meaux. Alina and her husband are humble farmers leading a hand-to-mouth existence, but their poverty doesn’t stop them from being generous to others. In fact, the local children call Alina “Grandma” because she is always so kind to them.

Whenever the Mission gives Alina food, this sweet woman gathers additional ingredients, prepares a meal and invites the neighbor children to eat with her, because she knows how hungry they are. She is a woman of faith who strives to be a light, and it shows. She told us, “I keep the Word in my heart and share it with my neighbors.”

Sometimes, Alina has more than 10 children in her house at once for meals…all the more reason why we needed to replace her dilapidated home with a sturdy new concrete house. And that’s exactly what we did! Alina loves her new “palace” with a beautiful hilltop view, and she looks forward to filling her plot of land with fruit-bearing trees.

May this Haitian woman’s “widow’s mite” of generosity be an example to us all.

-Tony M.

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The Feast Day of St. John Vianney

St. John Vianney

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John Vianney, also known as the Cure’ of Ars. His era was not unlike our own.  There was much confusion about life, greed, and a seeming lack of caring for truth and justice.

Ordained a diocesan priest, John Vianney looked forward with hope to better days for the world and the church.  He had a strong penchant for reform and saw that the formation of candidates for the priesthood was very weak.  He worked diligently on preparing a curriculum which was both rigorous academically and challenging spiritually.  He succeeded and his model is the model still used in Catholic seminary education today.

He showed by example how to minister to others, so that he preached not only by word but more strongly by example.  It was St. Francis of Assisi who said to his followers, “Preach always.  When necessary use words”.  John Vianney epitomizes that axiom of St. Francis.

Look on our website and you find many education projects which Cross Catholic Outreach helps sponsor.  Young people educated in these programs are the future priests and religious of the church in the developing world.  They receive a strong Christian based education and learn the elements of their faith.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit many will answer the call to serve the Lord as a priest or religious, thus giving hope and comfort to many.  The work of St. John Vianney continues.  Will you join us in supporting the work of Catholic education in the developing world so that there will be ministers of the Gospel in the generations to come?

-Fr. Ron Mrozinski
Guest Blogger

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The Feast Day of St. Ignatius Loyola

Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491, one of thirteen children in a family of minor nobility in northern Spain. He grew up at a time of great adventurers like Christopher Columbus and dreamed of gaining fame in battle, so he joined the army of Spain to do just that. When Ignatius was severely wounded in a battle with the French, his days of knighthood ended – and his spiritual adventures began.

While recuperating from his injuries he found himself in a hospital where the only books available to him were the Bible and the histories of the saints. Inspired by the courage of the saints, Ignatius felt God was calling him to a greater purpose and he turned his life over to the will of God. He ultimately turned his attention to study, the priesthood, and the foundation of a new religious order, the Society of Jesus. Ignatius felt the Society had the potential to change the hearts of people to serve God and the world. To achieve this, he rooted his heart and those of his followers in the knowledge and love of Jesus.

We at Cross Catholic Outreach also believe our ministry must be rooted in the knowledge and love of Jesus, and that such devotion is the source of all true transformation. We seek to accomplish this by meeting the physical needs of people with food, water, and shelter, as well as through the lastingly impact of education. Education, we have found, allows our poor sisters and brothers to break the cycle of poverty enslaving them, giving them new opportunities and a greater hope for the future.

On this feast of Ignatius of Loyola we can all recommit ourselves to carrying out our own part in transforming the world as we pray Ignatius’ prayer:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

-Fr. Bernard Olszewski
Guest Blogger

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Am I Listening?

Carlos & Jose

Carlos & Jose

Majestic mountains lined our views on the bumpy trek back to the mission grounds after a long day in the field. The sky created a peach-blue haze around the peaks, like a watercolor painting hanging over the isolated villages in Zacapa.

I suppose there’s a juxtaposition there. I was taken aback by the beauty of the landscape after hours in the dense Guatemalan heat rescuing malnourished babies, transporting them to Esperanza de Vida’s nutrition center for care and saving them from the ill fate that awaited them had we not made it in time.

God’s creation had a restored significance under the emotional burden of child rescues. Suddenly, overlooked scenery became art to be appreciated — and the mountains against the sun were breathtaking. They were the backdrop while listening to Carlos Vargas, Director of Esperanza de Vida, recount his first rescue 25 years ago. The rescue that launched this life-changing ministry.

“I was looking for an old man when I heard a baby crying and we went to see,” Carlos said. “The mother had killed her oldest son and left Jose to die. She had mental problems. Jose was a year and a half old, eating rotten beans from a bowl and sitting on the floor. The beans had a layer of foam over them and smelled horrible,” Carlos described. “He cried all the way to the hospital, and in his eyes, God spoke to me. I’m not an emotional fanatic, but I believe that is how God speaks to me – through children. Little babies. I believe that’s the way God talks to me.”

Carlos has a very matter-of-fact personality. He tells it like it is and stands by his convictions, “I can’t tell you I’ve had a dream and God told me this and that. No. I’ve always had my feet on the ground. I think it would scare me to death to hear a voice from heaven.” Yet, Carlos had the faith to recognize Christ’s voice in Jose’s cries.

Carlos adopted Jose. Now, at 25, Jose the first rescue in Zacapa is a rescuer alongside his father, saving starving children from the same mountains he was pulled out of. A full-circle miracle.

I was so moved by this story for various reasons. Mainly, the detail in Christ’s call. We serve a God that not only knows who we are enough to tailor his voice to the ways in which we would hear him, but a God who knows what we can be and addresses us accordingly.

God’s unique call sprung Carlos into action and into a commitment to serve the poor in his country. It was a checkpoint for my personal walk with Christ and my purpose as a believer. What is he saying? How is he saying it? And am I listening?

I make sure to look for him, to listen for him, in the small things. In the lyrics of a song, the fog right before the rain, the gentle smile on a stranger’s face or the open opportunities to be a light in the darkness of someone’s life. The details are so important that I find myself in awe of his presence everywhere.

I’m still new to South Florida, and the ocean is my favorite poem authored by him. Grandeur and simplicity wrapped in one element; he’s so creative. My amazement turns into praise and it continually shapes and molds my faithfulness.

I guess it’s easy to feel compelled after facing the life or death of an innocent infant in a poverty-stricken, forgotten society in the mountains of a developing country. But purpose can get lost in the shuffle when we come back to the office, back to our routines and the return to first world problems.

“I believe many times we get to a place where we can’t find or see a solution. We need someone to take us by the hand and help us,” Carlos said. “That’s how we hear God’s voice, through people saying ‘help me’.”

I remember this and know that God is always talking; I just have to keep listening.

-Carla S.

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St. Thomas the Apostle – Patron Saint of India

St. Thomas the Apostle

St. Thomas the Apostle

Early Patristic literature and Christian tradition speak of St. Thomas the Apostle bringing the Christian faith to India.  According to these writers, he landed at the port of Mylapore and baptized several Jewish converts there.  Kerala, the most Christian part of India, claims him as the Apostle who first preached the good news to the ancient people there.

Not much is known historically about St. Thomas the Apostle, but he is revered by the Christian church all over India and by Hindus and Muslims as well. Tradition claims that St. Thomas the Apostle began his working life as a merchant and that he took care of the material needs of the people while preaching the gospel.  This combination of word and action gave credibility to his preaching.  People not only heard the good news, but they also saw powerful evidence of its life-transforming power.  In St. Thomas, they encountered a faith filled man committed to God and willing to serve selflessly and compassionately for the benefit of others.

At Cross Catholic Outreach, our goal is to create the same impact in the developing countries where we serve.  Like St. Thomas, we know that the gospel becomes more real in peoples’ lives when they see the heartfelt compassion believers have for them.  Donors who contribute to Cross Catholic Outreach empower this work of love and mercy.  Their gifts for the poor help fulfill the church’s mission to preach the good news and make known God’s love for all people in Christ.

Please join this vital mission by supporting Cross Catholic Outreach with a gift to serve the poor.  Help make the gospel become vibrant and visible to those who need to experience the love of God in Christ in a tangible and concrete way.

-Father Ron Mrozinski
Guest Blogger

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All Things Through Christ

Because of a scholarship to Pallotti High School through Cross Catholic Outreach, Keili is working towards her dreams of becoming a pediatrician.

Because of a scholarship to Pallotti High School through Cross Catholic Outreach, Keili is working towards her dreams of becoming a pediatrician.

One rainy day in Belize, I found myself in the front seat of a pickup truck driving down a creek that had once been a road. The driver assured me the engine wouldn’t stall, but I wasn’t convinced. As we slowly made our way through three feet of water, I prayed I wouldn’t need to climb through the window and push the truck to our destination.

When we finally arrived, I saw an old house on stilts – a typical Belizean home design because of the country’s tropical climate – where Pallotti Catholic High School student Keili Mejia lives. At that moment it hit me. Keili and her family face these flooded roads regularly. How does she get to school each morning? How often does she have to ford through three feet of water just to get out of the neighborhood?

As I walked up the steps to the front door, I was greeted warmly by 13-year-old Keili and her family. She told me she is extremely grateful to have received a scholarship through Cross Catholic Outreach, and is thrilled for the opportunity to get an education and improve her life.

“I need the scholarship because it is only my dad who works,” she told me. She explained that her father is a security guard, and her mother stays at home to raise her little brother.

This bright-eyed 13-year-old has big plans for the education she’s receiving; she wants to be a pediatric doctor!

Even though Keili faces challenges, like the frequent flooding, she knows she can achieve her dreams with the Lord by her side. Her favorite verse is, “Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.’

“You can do anything with God,” she says. “When I want to do something hard, I remember that verse and I know I can do it.”

My concerns about how the family coped with the flooding had been answered: Keili faces her difficulties with confidence with the Lord by her side. Nothing – not the flooded road or her family’s poverty – will stop her from following God’s plan for her life.

When we got back in the car to leave, the road didn’t seem as treacherous as it had before. Keili reminded me of an important truth: what seems hard to me is not hard for God. I can trust him no matter what circumstances I face.

-Catherine M.

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