Investing in mothers, improving future generations

In Haiti, investing in the health care of women means improving the lives of the next generation.

In Haiti, investing in the health care of women means improving the lives of the next generation.

I was five months pregnant when I left Cross Catholic Outreach’s branch office in Port-au-Prince, hopped on a small, prop plane and flew to a gravel airstrip in Jérémie, a coastal town in southern Haiti. I’d gone there to visit our long-time partners the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF), a ministry providing comprehensive medical care to thousands of people throughout this region.

Once the plane landed, I jumped in a truck and began the three-hour trek to a Cross Catholic-supported health clinic in the rural, mountain village of Guitionniere. When I arrived, the clinic’s work day was already well underway, and hundreds of people were congregating there for vital medical care. A nearby canvas tent immediately caught my eye.  In that simple structure, pregnant women were receiving pre-natal care – something their mothers and grandmothers had never enjoyed.

Just the week prior, I had been in South Florida for my own routine pre-natal check-up. Though the environments couldn’t have been more different, it was edifying to see that the poor Haitian women were receiving a level of information and care very similar to my own.

In this rural, mountaintop village without water or electricity, I listened as nurses taught the pregnant women the importance of proper hygiene, balanced nutrition and taking their supplied vitamins. The patients were also screened for life-threatening conditions, trained in breastfeeding and counseled in how to care for their babies and families post-delivery.

Though I appreciated the help I’d gained in the United States, at that moment I was very thankful to be in this remote Haitian village, learning new and valuable information that has since helped me during my own pregnancy. Even more than that, I was grateful to be a part of a project that is providing life-saving care through the investment and education of mothers. Clearly, offering comprehensive pre-natal care to the rural poor empowers more than the mothers.  It also dramatically improves the lives of the next generation.

-Annie O.

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Improving Lives in Haiti

Gertrude Cene at the Kobonal Haiti Mission school she attended as a teenager.

Gertrude Cene at the Kobonal Haiti Mission school she attended as a teenager.

When Gertrude Cene’s stomach growls during class at nursing school, she recalls the blessings of the Kobonal Haiti Mission with a spirit of gratitude. Though she only attended the mission school for one year during her teens, she fondly remembers the way daily nutritious meals kept her satisfied and alert. Without a meal program, the neediest students have no choice but to work on an empty stomach – a problem that stunts them both physically and mentally. As Gertrude puts it, “You are sitting in the class, but you are out of the class.”

Another fond memory for Gertrude is a teacher the children called “Father Good-Heart.” She recalls how Father Good-Heart treated the students like his own sons and daughters, and how he would play with them and strive to ensure they always understood their lessons.

In 2010, Gertrude was living in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck. Upon her return to the Central province as a displaced survivor, she and her family were blessed by the Mission with a house and a plot of land. More recently, the Mission has also supported Gertrude’s medical studies. Despite her hard life, she is excited about her career prospects. She says, “I praise God my dream will become a reality. If you are a nurse, you can help people who are suffering. Because of all the help I received from the Mission, that is a way I can help people too.”

Gertrude is one example of the human impact of Catholic poverty relief ministries. She says, “There is a lot of difficulty in the world, but with prayer anything is possible.”

May many more lives be touched by the work of our friends at the Kobonal Haiti Mission!

-Tony M.


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A “Founding Father” We Remember and Honor

Msgr. Michael Patrick Aloysius Flanagan

Msgr. Michael Patrick Aloysius Flanagan

Msgr. Michael Patrick Aloysius Flanagan was the first Outreach Priest to join Cross Catholic Outreach in 2002. As one of the “Founding Fathers” in the ministry, he preached with great passion for the poorest of the poor, always making his appeals personal and deeply moving for those who heard him. He was incardinated into the Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica in 1997.

Msgr. Flanagan and I were made Monsignors together by Saint John Paul II in November of 1999. Bishop Paul Boyle of Mandeville presided over the ceremony.  Msgr. Mike had a great sense of humor and often disclosed he was “super priest” – complete with an “S” emblazoned T-shirt – as part of his retreat presentations and guest homilies. He truly enjoyed his priesthood and his ability to make a difference in the lives of the poor through his parish visits. He was also a good “brother priest” and would love to host gatherings for priests in his home.

We were blessed to have Msgr. Michael with us for so many years, and we invite the thousands of donors he brought into the Cross Catholic Outreach family to remember him in their prayers at this time of his passing.



-Msgr. Ted Bertagni
Guest Blogger

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The Story of Little Cristal

Maria with her daughter, Cristal

Maria with her daughter, Cristal

Recently, Cross Catholic Outreach received a report that really touched me. It was about a little 1-year-old child named Cristal who showed up at a small local clinic we partner with in Estelí, Nicaragua. Her mother, Maria, was in a panic. “What can I do?” she asked. She told the clinic’s pediatrician, Dr. Soza, that Cristal had been having breathing problems. In fact, her health had been in decline since she was 4 months old. Antibiotics didn’t seem to help, and little Cristal was having trouble putting on weight.

Dr. Soza could tell immediately that Cristal was extremely ill. And she knew her first order of business was to comfort the mother, Maria. But instead of doing what most doctors do – offering a word or two of reassurance – Dr. Soza did an amazing thing. She actually led Maria in prayer. Then, after carefully examining the child, Dr. Soza determined that asthma was causing Cristal’s chronic respiratory infections. With clinic-provided medications, vitamins and food supplements, Dr. Soza was confident Cristal would soon be able to gain weight and control her asthma.

It is now six months later, and Cristal has improved so dramatically, her mother calls it a miracle. But in my mind, the true miracle is the pediatrician who comforts a desperate mother in prayer.

-Chris M.

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Celebrating The Feast Day of 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 we are able to support with your help.  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?

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Celebrating The Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola

St. Ignatius of Loyola

If you can read this, be thankful.  You have been gifted with an education.

I’m especially thankful for that gift in my own life.  My education is one of my prize possessions. And many of our overseas partners say the students there feel the same way.  They tell us that our programs to educate poor children rank among our most important charitable outreaches.

Food to combat malnutrition is at the top of the list, but providing an education to the illiterate poor is not far behind.  It’s just like that old adage says, “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for life.” This is what economists would call “increasing human capital.” Higher human capital allows a person to be more productive, get better jobs, and consequently, provide better for his or her family.  For all of those reasons, educating the poor is and should remain a priority.

The Bible, our first source for wisdom, validates this point too.  In Proverbs 22:6, we are told to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Job, even in his affliction, said, “Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have erred” (Job 6:24). The matter of education even shows up in Jesus’ last words to his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Today, we celebrate the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. The Jesuits are known for their commitment to education. In the United States alone, there are 28 Jesuit colleges and universities and more than 50 secondary schools. Could there be a better way to honor this saint than to support education around the world? St. Ignatius valued it, we value it, and most importantly, God values it.

On our main website, you will find projects such as the Don Bosco Catholic Technical School Scholarships, which funds the education of Filipino children whose parents or grandparents have leprosy. These children are often stigmatized and cannot get into schools or find employment. This project funds scholarships to a Catholic technical school, which gives students classroom and on-the-job training so students can get good jobs and support their families. To get involved with this project and others like it, check out our “Project” page and click “Education” under “Filter by Categories.” Help someone learn today.

-Lex B.

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The Freedom to Worship

Here’s a question for you: do you feel persecuted for being a Christian?

Admittedly, religious freedom issues are a hot topic for many Americans. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the Lord’s Prayer was recited in school every day and the Ten Commandments stood as a monument on many courthouse lawns. But before your thoughts turn to the “good old days,” let me ask another question: have you ever been arrested for being a Christian?

Now, maybe that level of persecution sounds very “first century” to you – like something experienced by the very first Christians who were systematically rounded up by Roman authorities and thrown to the lions. But the question I pose is a serious one, because the fact is, arrests are a sad reality for many modern Christians in the here and now!

Imagine having to choose between denying your faith or being beaten by authorities simply because you choose to worship the Lord openly. The thought is chilling, but this is the choice some of our partners have to make every single day in certain places where Jesus might be considered an unwanted, corrupting influence. In these dangerous areas of the world, our Cross Catholic partners must follow government guidelines placing restrictions on catechism and worship. Or else!

So the next time you feel persecuted for being a Christian in America, take pause. Say a prayer for those who not only feel persecuted but suffer the kind of aggressive persecution that leads to imprisonment, torture or worse. And add a prayer of thanks that you are able to live out your faith openly every day. Not everyone in the world has that freedom.

-Chris M.

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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 Moslems 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 M.
Guest Blogger

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Will Pope Francis Abdicate?


Is it possible Pope Francis may abdicate one day?

Pope Francis shocked us all again last week, when he said in an interview that he may one day abdicate the papacy just like his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Remember our shock when Pope Benedict announced his abdication in 2013? Turns out, it may have been the start of a trend. In fact, Pope Francis said as much:

“Pope Benedict has made a very significant act. He has opened the door, has created an institution, that of the eventual popes emeritus. 70 years ago, there were no emeritus bishops. Today how many are there? Well, as we live longer, we arrive to an age where we cannot go on with things. I will do the same as him, asking the Lord to enlighten me when the time comes and that he tell me what I have to do, and he will tell me for sure.”

Notice the Holy Father’s use of the plural (“eventual popes emeritus”) could possibly point to the idea of more than one former pope being alive at the same time. As much as I love Pope Francis and never want him to step down without good cause — if our Holy Father ever felt the call to abdicate the papacy, I have to believe it would be good for the Church.

For centuries, the Pope served as a kind of monarch. But Benedict XVI reminded us that the Pope is merely a man, prone to illness and frailty — just like us. And as his successor, Pope Francis, is teaching us that having a humble man as Christ’s representative on Earth is a wonderful thing. It puts the mission of the Church ahead of the role of any individual man. It reminds us that fallen men — not supermen —carry out our Lord’s mission and spread the word of God.

-Chris M.

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The God Who Rescues

St. Pius Girl’s Boarding Home is giving girls like Tania hope for the future!

St. Pius Girl’s Boarding Home is giving girls like Tania hope for the future!

The God Who Rescues
Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. –Psalm 103:2-5

I never grow tired of hearing stories about God rescuing his people from lives of despair and poverty, and when I heard the story of 14-year-old Tania Rui in Mozambique, I knew God had saved her for an incredible purpose.

When Tania was just 6 years old, her father abandoned their family. A few years later, her single-mother became a victim of Africa’s deadly AIDS pandemic. Because she was only a child with no other living relatives, Tania was left to fend for herself. If that wasn’t enough to handle, Tania’s mother had passed AIDS on to her when she was born. She desperately needed someone to care for her medical needs.

Needing help, Tania searched for father and discovered he had remarried. He took her into his home, but her new jealous stepmother tried to poison her! Only by the grace of God was Tania able to escape with her life.

Brokenhearted, alone, rejected and sick, Tania was out of options – that is, until a kind stranger took her to Cross Catholic Outreach’s ministry partner, St. Pius Girl’s Boarding Home. The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary who run the home got Tania the appropriate medical treatment, enrolled her in a local school and provided nutritious meals. Most importantly, the sisters introduced Tania to the God who loves her and wants to heal her broken heart by showering her with his love and compassion.

At first, Tania was resistant because she hadn’t been loved in so long. But slowly, that began to fade as the sisters patiently worked with her day after day. Now, Tania is excelling in school, has her sickness under control and can’t wait to attend Mass each week. She now knows her life has value and her education is preparing her to do great things. God didn’t just rescue her life here on earth, but he rescued it for eternity!

At Cross Catholic, we work with ministry partners like the sisters at St. Pius Girl’s Boarding Home who understand that God not only cares about the physical concerns of the poor and destitute, but their spiritual needs as well. I’m thankful he gives us the opportunity to be part of his plan of redemption for the world!

-Catherine M.

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