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?

06-24-14

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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Haiti in the age of Pope Francis

Fr. Glenn Meaux giving Holy Communion to primary school students at the Kobonal Haiti Mission.

Fr. Glenn Meaux giving Holy Communion to primary school students at the Kobonal Haiti Mission.

I recently met up with Father Glenn Meaux in central Haiti. After a whirlwind tour of the housing, water and education projects we’re supporting this year, I sat down for a final chat with this compassionate priest from Louisiana who has spent the last 25 years running the Kobonal Haiti Mission.

I’d asked Fr. Meaux a lot of questions about himself. Now he wanted to tell me about Pope Francis.

“The whole dimension of the Church is changing,” he said of the Holy Father’s vision. “This will be a freeing atmosphere for the people in poor countries, who’ve been oppressed for so long, to be liberated from their poverty…With the blessing and inspiration of Pope Francis, this Mission will grow in leaps and bounds.”

Pope Francis’ liberating spirit is evident in the sights and sounds of the Mission: Fr. Meaux saying Mass in Creole on a weekday morning. School children singing “Thank you, Jesus” as they walk to their classrooms. Poor farmers gathered to tend the Mission garden so the students can eat fresh vegetables. Local families lining up to fill their buckets with clean water from the Mission well. And the 100-percent Haitian staff running the day-to-day operations of this thriving Catholic community.

Many needs remain, but one thing is certain. The ‘desert’ Fr. Meaux encountered over two decades ago – where children were starving, voodoo superstitions were rampant, and some poor families were desperate enough to perform human sacrifices – is no more. In its place, hope has taken a foothold and the love of Christ reigns.

-Tony M.

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Our Patron Saint

People wonder sometimes about the icon hanging on the wall of our conference room. Its presence can be traced to our beginnings in 2001 when we started the custom of taking the first hour of the day for prayer and Bible study. Soon there were ten of us gathered in the conference room every morning.

One morning after opening prayer I raised the question of whether we should continue the practice or take another approach. We went around the table and each expressed his or her opinion. Every person said much the same thing, “We should continue to give God that first hour of the day. I believe God is blessing us because we do this.”

One of the last to share was Kate. “I agree with what everyone else has said,” she began. “After all, don’t you know the story of St. Isidore?” No, we didn’t; so Kate explained.

St. Isidore was a tenth century farmworker in Spain. His coworkers began to complain that Isidore stopped working every morning and disappeared from the fields for an hour to pray in the village church. The landowner was about to confront Isidore when he noticed that an angel was now plowing alongside Isidore.

When he checked on Isidore on other days he discovered that sometimes there were two angels plowing side by side with Isidore. And sometimes while Isidore was praying in the church there would be an angel plowing his field. From his foreman the landowner learned that Isidore actually accomplished far more work than any other farmworker.

Kate concluded her story of St. Isidore by saying, “I believe that if we give God the first hour of the day, while we pray the angels will plow our fields.” And so they have.

For example, last December we received a large check from an anonymous donor. I held up a copy at devotions the next morning saying, “Looks like the angels have been plowing our fields.” Then there was the time we decided to seek a $100,000 matching grant to inspire giving at a gala. Within minutes a call came in from a foundation we had never heard of looking for a charity who could use a $100,000 grant as a matching challenge at a gala. “Looks like the angels are plowing our fields again,” we said.

Giving that first hour of our day to the Lord is an act of faith that the Lord will make us more productive and achieve even greater things through us.

When a priest gave us a beautiful icon of St. Isidore for Christmas we knew just where to hang it—on the wall of our conference room overlooking the table where we gather every morning to pray and offer our lives to the Lord, beginning with that first hour.

-Jim Cavnar
Cross Catholic President
Guest Blogger

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St. Damien of Molokai

St. Damien of Molokai

Damien was born Jozef de Veuster in Belgium in January, 1840.  He had a devout Catholic family with two sisters and a brother preceding him into Religious communities.  Like his brother, Auguste, he entered the Society of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Possessing a devotion to St. Francis Xavier, and longing to become a missionary, Damien got his wish in 1864.  When Auguste became gravely ill prior to leaving for the Kingdom of Hawaii, it was Damien who volunteered to take his place.  On March 19th of that year he landed by ship at the harbor in Honolulu.  Upon his ordination two months later, he was sent to minister in several parishes in Oahu.  It was an unexpectedly short mission.  Just one year after Damien arrived in Oahu, an outbreak of leprosy among native Hawaiians ravaged the country.  The King, fearing the continued spread of the disease and hoping to contain it, established a separate colony on Molokai for those who had been afflicted.

Damien responded to the bishop’s call for a priest to care for the spiritual needs of the lepers on Molokai, knowing it could be a death sentence.  He arrived on Molokai in 1873 and immediately set out to improve sanitary conditions there, building better houses and teaching the people to help him minister to the sick.  Patiently, he washed and bandaged sores, attended to the dying, dug graves, and became an example of hope to the lepers.  Damien’s arrival was a turning point in the history of Molokai, and within a year the colony was thriving.

The service and successes would have a high price.  Damien contracted leprosy in December of 1884 and opened his sermon at Mass on Christmas Day with the words, “We lepers…”  At that point, the people of the area knew he too would remain with them until his death.  Damien passed into the Lord’s hands on April 15, 1889, and his reputation spread both in Europe and the United States.

Cross Catholic Outreach is dedicated to helping modern-day saints who – like St. Damien of Molokai – serve outcasts of society, particularly the poorest of the poor.  Damien’s dedication is an inspiration to Cross Catholic Outreach in helping extend the Gospel message to those in greatest need, and those who contribute to our mission which allows this work to continue.  Their generosity, like St. Damien of Molokai’s life of service, makes a profound difference in the world!

-Guest Blogger
Fr. Ron Mrozinski
Outreach Priest

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Popes of Charity: The Canonization of Pope John XXII and Pope John Paul II

Cross Catholic Outreach President Jim Cavnar, meeting with St. Pope John Paul II in 2004

Cross Catholic Outreach President Jim Cavnar, meeting with St. Pope John Paul II in 2004

Yesterday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were canonized as saints by Pope Francis, with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also attending this historic event in the life of the Church.

“They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them,” Pope Francis said at the canonization. “For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful — faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history.”

Both of these saints accomplished many great things during their papal reigns, but they also distinguished themselves by their care and concern for “the least of these” in society. This is a characteristic we strive to emulate at Cross Catholic Outreach.

Known as the “Good Pope” by those closest to him, Pope John XXIII is probably best known for convening the Second Vatican Council in 1961. With a heart for his flock, Pope John was the first pope to leave the Vatican’s walls to visit local parishes, the sick in hospitals and inmates in their prison cells.

On his famous visit to a Roman prison the day after Christmas in 1958, he told the inmates, “You cannot come to me, so I come to you. … I set my gaze in your eyes; I put my heart close to yours.”

Pope John Paul II was well-known as a champion for the poor, and an advocate for the last, the least and the lost. He was instrumental in the fall of the iron curtain during the Cold War; and traveled to 130 countries during his pontificate—making him an ambassador of Christ’s love to all people.

In his famous address at Yankee Stadium in 1979, he told the American crowd, “You must never be content to leave them just the crumbs of the feast. You must take of your substance, and not just of your abundance, in order to help them. And you must treat them like guests at your family table.”

At Cross Catholic Outreach, we believe in following the example of the saints who have gone before us, like Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. We want to give the poor more than just the crumbs from our feast, and want to encourage faithful Catholics in the U.S. to do the same.
As followers of Christ, we are grateful for the legacies to these influential popes who always sought to serve and build up the Kingdom of God and serve “the least of these.”

In the words of Pope Francis, “May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves.”

-Catherine M.

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God Bless our Good Samaritans!

I was able to capture their joy as Cross Catholic staff distributed new wheelchairs, donated by one of our generous supporters.

I was able to capture their joy as Cross Catholic staff distributed new wheelchairs, donated by one of our generous supporters.

In February I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting the 40 residents of Bon Samaritan (Good Samaritan) Elderly Care Home in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. After sharing a hot lunch together, I was able to capture their joy as Cross Catholic staff distributed new wheelchairs, donated by one of our generous supporters. Though their smiles say it all, they asked me to pass along their expressions of gratitude, which ranged from countless hugs to offerings of personally-crafted gifts to spontaneous songs of blessings for their “Good Samaritans”.

-Annie O.

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Project Spotlight: St. Jean Evangeliste Anti-Trafficking

In Ouanaminthe, Haiti, the majority of families live below the poverty line.

In Ouanaminthe, Haiti, the majority of families live below the poverty line.

“Sometimes we find children in bushes and sometimes these children are even abandoned at birth. They come to us crying and in shock,” Gracieuse Toussaint told me on my recent visit to the border town of Ouanaminthe in northeast Haiti.

Gracieuse is a social worker and is confronted daily with the youngest and most vulnerable victims helped by the St. Jean Evangeliste Anti-Trafficking program.

“We hear so many stories of abuse. Just recently there was one girl who was very ill. She was sexually assaulted by a trafficker who was supposed to bring her across the border where she could receive medical help. These situations are dire.”

In Ouanaminthe, Haiti, the majority of families live below the poverty line. HIV/AIDS and malnutrition are highly prevalent and many families suffer from lack of resources, education and the opportunity to advance. As a result, they pay a trafficker to bring them across the border in hopes they will find a better life in the Dominican Republic. Sadly, this “better life” often turns out to be a trap for unpaid or underpaid labor, or in extreme cases, organ donations or prostitution.

“It is so sad because these children and their families are under the impression that they will have a better future this way,” says Sister Alexandra Leonel, a Juanista Sister who runs the St. Jean Evangeliste Anti-Trafficking program, a safe transition home that offers protection and social services to these young victims.

The sisters provide spiritual, emotional and psychological support to every child who comes to the shelter while they work on finding their families or placing them in a loving orphanage.

Many of the details about their ministry are confidential in order to protect the children in their care, but what was clearly evident on my visit is the sisters’ immense desire to share the love of Christ with each child and teach them about their value in God’s eyes.

Sr. Alexandra says: “It is very difficult for these children. They already come from difficult life situations and are then thrown into an even harsher one. When they come to us, I want these children to feel safe, but also know Jesus. I want them to know that trafficking is not a part of God’s plan. God is their protector.”

-Annie O.

Categories: children, human rights | Tags: | Leave a comment