How Venerable Fulton Sheen touched my family and left a legacy for future generations

GenerationsPope Francis said, “In baptism we all have an inheritance, which is the ability to become saints.”
From the Bible to modern day stories the spirit and influence of great people surround us. Each of the four Gospel’s give an account of the baptism of Jesus as an example for us to follow. “As soon as Jesus was baptized he went up out of the water” (Mt 3:16). The first Luminous Mystery of the rosary is a meditation on just that, the Baptism in the Jordan, “going under water as a burial of your old life, and coming up out of it, resurrection” (Col. 2:12).
Part of being a well-rounded Catholic includes appreciation for the good, the true, and the beautiful. By virtue of our baptism we are called to do the will of God. Fr. Fulton Sheen baptized my grandma at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in New York City. Afterward, my grandfather bequeathed an altar, the brain child of Fr. Fulton Sheen (1975), to commemorate the first American Saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton. The altar is a legacy of love and labor, exemplifying what it truly means to be a follower of Christ.
Beyond any doubt, God uses ordinary circumstance to do extraordinary things. Providentially, after Pope John Paul II visited St. Patricks Cathedral (1979), he commissioned the very same artist that my grandfather did, to design a similar bronze sculpture, of Our Lady of Fatima (1982). When I was in Rome, I went to see the sculpture. I learned it is the place where Pope John Paul II prayed regularly in the Vatican Gardens. To date, Frederick C. Shrady, from New York is the only American artist’s work ever to be displayed in the Vatican Gardens.
My maternal-grandma was a prophetic witness of faith. After raising seven children of her own Catholic, her conversion to Catholicism set an ‘example’ for the next generation. She enriched the lives of many people by her holy and enthusiastic presence in 100 years of life, despite many trials. As a result, my eighty year old mother, the youngest of seven children exudes ineffable joy, personified by the day that she walked as god-mother and baptismal sponsor next to her mom. My mom is a living witness to the holiness of Venerable Fulton Sheen.
As the fourth of eight children, I spent a great deal of time caring for my brother and sisters, yet nothing could have prepared me for the depth of love when God blessed my husband and I with two children. Their baptisms have a special place in my heart, our son was baptized on Father’s Day and our daughter, on my birthday, the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. As I recall from a young age, sacraments became the focal point of family gatherings, by bringing together many generations. Growing up, the old adage was ‘it wasn’t a party until a priest showed up.’
While raising two young children, I attended graduate school and found spiritual sustenance in capturing the sacredness of life through writing. Many families have a family heirloom symbolically tied to the faith, albeit a rosary, a crucifix or a baptismal gown, etc., all visual reminders of God’s everlasting love. Fr. Fulton Sheen blessed the rosary beads that my grandmother carried on the day she converted to Catholicism. Many years after her death, her daughters, divided each rosary decade into a bracelet, to carry on her memory. The gold rosary crucifix was tucked safely in my Aunt Patricia’s jewelry box. Much to my surprise, the crucifix resurfaced after I discerned my grandmothers name as my confirmation name. I wear the crucifix, a treasure I hold dearly and value greatly.
Reflecting on scripture, “One generation shall commend your works to another…” (Psalm 145:4), I surmised that my family is no exception to the rule, passing the baton of faith from one generation to the next. My paternal grandparents received a baptismal gown as a gift for their first born, my dad, in 1938. My father, the oldest of two-sets of twins was baptized at birth in Manhattan, New York. Dad’s sisters, also baptized in the gown, later received the sacrament of holy matrimony, and the gown inherently was adorned by their children.
The color white is a prominent liturgical color that represents light, innocence, purity, joy, triumph and glory not only in baptism, but in the full circle of life including holy matrimony and the fabric of a funeral pall. My paternal grandmother passed the heirloom baptismal gown to my mom when my sister, the oldest of eight children was born. Mom keeps the tiny buttons and lace embellished hem in tact as any seamstress extraordinaire. I am convinced that God choose the matriarch of our family to savor the baptismal gown as a sign of sacred life.
Mom’s life was spared when she fell from a second story window as a child. God’s dynamic healing, and intimate presence accompanied her then and again after a terrifying, brutal home invasion in 2010. While she and my family members struggled to make sense of the attack, prosecutors worked endlessly to locate the intruder, an illegal citizen, now in prison. It was as if God sent an angel to mom’s side when she was robbed, beaten, strangled and left to die, in our family home. Mom was intubated and unrecognizable for many days, that turned into weeks and months. The good Lord gave her an apotheosis of strength and kindness, to treat others with dignity and respect.
“From infancy…human life is surrounded by angels watchful care and intercession.” (CCC 336). In 2000, it was divine providence when four of my siblings revealed the expectation of new babies. In unison, each sibling inadvertently displayed an ultra sound photo on a table, to bear witness to their expected due dates that spanned a three month time frame. The irony is how the good Lord blesses us in unexpected and unimaginable ways. God responded to the prayers of my family simultaneously and individually when the lives of five miraculous millennium babies entered into the world, in three different cities on January 16, 2001.
The baby boom began when my brother, Bill (and his wife, Margarete) O’Rourke delivered the birth of their first child, Katherine on January 13, 2001 in Dallas, Texas. Three days later, local television stations from San Francisco to Maryland coined the terminology and reported “a trifecta of babies born on one day in one family.” Starting in San Francisco, CA., my sister, Maureen Greene (and her husband, Eric) delivered a boy named Rourke; then the phone rang and my sister, Kelly (and her husband, Mark) Donovan in Ellicott City, MD had a girl named Shea; and my sister, Michelle (and Peter) Morris delivered triplets, Catherine, Colin and Megan in Chicago, IL.
Our family baptismal gown has stood the test of time. To date, over fifty family members have worn and torn the timeless heirloom that travels with Mom from coast to coast and handled with special care. Each baptism, celebrated separately allowed for many of the twenty-seven grandchildren to attend, ages ranging from 21 to 4 years old. The five cousins born on one day are now in their sophomore year of college. Three of the five followed in the footsteps of their parents attending the University of Dayton, and the others are strewn throughout the country at the University of Illinois, Fairfield University in Connecticut and the University of Arizona.
I wonder how the lives of millennials will be impacted by the Servant of God, Venerable Fulton Sheen. Recently elevated to be beatified, the next step is the Catholic church’s highest honor, canonization as a saint. “It’s up to us to form the next generation, and for that to happen, we have to know our faith, we have to fall in love with Christ.” Pope Francis
Prayer: Good and faithful Lord, through the intercession of Venerable Fulton Sheen and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, may we be exemplary role models of the faith by loving Jesus so the next generation will know and love Him, too. Amen.

Advertisements

“Be like Bill” cultivates the virtue to love

Bill Schlies of Carmel, IN doesn’t see himself as a Good Samaritan nor does he see his actions as heroic or unlike anyone else. The character trait of a Good Samaritan is personified by the conscious choices that we make daily to do the right thing to live a loving life. Are you a Good Samaritan or someone who doesn’t care about yourself or others?
Have you ever thought about what Jesus is trying to say in Luke’s gospel? The name of the parable of the Good Samaritan is never mentioned by Jesus. Bible scholars and translators attached the name because they saw man as the Good Samaritan, one who goes above and beyond where most people would go.
The words in Luke’s gospel are worth noting, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
There are four unique forms of love in the Bible that are characterized by ancient Greek words that express romantic love, family love, brotherly love and God’s divine love. Philia or brotherly love in scripture cultivates love for fellow humans, care, respect or compassion for someone in need.
On June 20, 2017, Jeff Utzinger went outside to run in his neighborhood. Jeff was physically, emotionally and spiritually stable, or so he thought. Married for twenty years and blessed with three children, a lacrosse coach for the Catholic Youth Organization and an active parishioner and liturgical minister at Saint Louis de Montfort Parish, Jeff exercised regularly to reduce stress and to avoid health issues.
That same morning Bill Schlies was in his car heading to work. On the drive out of his neighborhood Bill saw what appeared to be a man laying on the sidewalk. Bill stopped his car immediately and get out. As he got closer, he realized the man he saw was not breathing so he called 911. What would you have done?
The dispatcher quickly determined there was no time to lose and talked Bill through administering CPR to the unconscious man, something Bill had never done. After giving about 100 chest compressions and stopping after every 30 compressions to check for a pulse that never came, a local police officer showed up with an AED which started Jeff’s heart.
What is an AED?
An AED is a portable Automated External Defibrillator used to restart someone’s heart in the event of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). You could think of it as your car with a dead battery that needs a jump start.
What is SCA?
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is caused by a structural or electrical issue in the heart, often from an undetected heart condition, and in other instances, from an infection or a severe blow to the chest. In 95% of SCA instances, lives of the victim are lost.
To survive SCA, the victim must receive life-saving defibrillation from an AED within the first four to six minutes of the attack. Every minute that passes without a shock from an AED decreases the chance of survival by 10%. Administering hands-only CPR can be a bridge to life until an AED arrives. 95% of those who suffer from SCA die because CPR and defibrillation usually occur too late, if at all. If CPR and an AED are applied within 5 minutes, at least 40,000 more lives per year could be saved.
According to the American Heart Association, “anyone can experience SCA, including infants, children, teens, young adults and people in their 30s and 40s who have no sign of heart disease, as well as more mature adultAlthough the reported incidence in youth is less than adults, SCA is not a rare occurrence. In fact, SCA affects about 16 people under the age of 18 every day. An AED can mean the difference between life and death. SCA is not a heart attack.”
After Jeff was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, Bill was left in the grass by himself with tears rolling down his face. So many questions ran through Bill’s mind. The hardest part was trying to make sense out of what just happened.
The beauty in every journey is to witness God at work. By weaving the life of Jeff into the arms of a Good Samaritan named Bill, two neighbors, two complete strangers are drawn together in trial unequivocally. What happened simultaneously is not only miraculous but one of the greatest virtues that only God can give, philia or brotherly love.
For Jeff, the days in a hospital bed turned into weeks of pleading with God for answers. “When I learned of the 6% survival rate, I completely surrendered with an attitude of gratitude. God spoke to me in a way that no one else could have. My faith and trust in Him heightened and I know now that it was His way of proving that He is in control,” Jeff added.
Jeff’s journey can be marked by raw numbers provided by the American Heart Association:
1. Only 1 in 10 victims survive Sudden Cardiac Arrest
2. More people could survive SCA if bystanders gave CPR and had access to AED’s immediately
3. SCA strikes 356,000 seemingly healthy people a year including 7,000 children and teens
Unlike SCA, a heart attack is caused by impeded blood flow through the heart. As noted by the Institute of Medicine, the SCA survival rate has remained stagnant for the last three decades because we aren’t as prepared as we should be to save a life.
‘Be Like Bill’ is a campaign about a Good Samaritan as well as a mission to help spread the critical use of AED’s used for SCA. Jeff affirmed, “in an undeniable moment God called me to educate people about prevention strategies and how to take immediate action in the case of a cardiac emergency. Ordinary people like you and me, police officers, schools, sports complexes and business organizations are thankfully helping to increase the survival statistics.” The campaign ‘Be Like Bill’ is led by Jeff and his growing team that has one goal in mind, to equip more organizations with AED’s.
You are invited to be an integral part of ‘Be Like Bill’ at the 8th Annual, 2019 ‘Bolt for the Heart’ 5K Run/ Walk that takes place on Thanksgiving day in Carmel, Indiana.
You can register at:

new home


Last year statistics speak to the critical need:
• 3,300 people participated – 22% year over year growth
• $200,000 raised to save lives  and 134 AED’s donated to Indiana State Police
• 100% of the proceeds purchased AED’s
Giving back is part of Jeff’s ethos. A big believer in supporting ‘Bolt for the Heart’ Jeff serves on the Board of Director’s where his heart shines most. The 2019 ‘Bolt for the Heart’ objective is to provide AED’s for patrol car’s in 92 counties throughout the state of Indiana.
Does your church, school or organization need an AED?
October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest awareness month. If you would like to schedule an event at your school, church or organization please contact Jeff Utzinger at JeffU@HeartReachMedical.com or call 317-698-2225
Jeff said, “I’ll never be able to repay this debt, but I am blessed to be a small part of something much greater than myself… Be Like Bill.”

 

 

Ordinary man, extraordinary minister and “blessed to serve as coach”

545CDCD8-A310-42D4-8113-93D7ECCB5AC6To Chase A Dream (Meyer & Meyer Sport, 2014), by co-authors, Paul Kapsalis and Ted Gregory, is above all a testimony for parents to believe in the power and presence of God’s will in their children. The impetus of the book is an unlikely hero named Paul, who in his youth beckoned the staunch message of sports in faith.
If you haven’t read the book To Chase A Dream, the platform is soccer, yet the lesson can be applied to any category beyond sports specific. Because we are all blessed with God given talents and abilities, we have different platforms in which our talents and abilities are displayed. The beauty is finding your God given talent or ability and making the sacrifice needed to achieve a result. Most people have seen professional athletes thank and praise Jesus on the only platform they know. Pope Pius XII said, “Sport…must be subservient, the service and praise of his Creator.”
Fast forward to the ordinary man. Paul answered God’s call in his own quiet way to serve as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. Paul said, “My friend, Mike Bigelow was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer” and he said, “I had never heard of the terminology, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, let alone considered the proper training to assist the priest in administering the sacrament of Holy Communion to the sick and homebound.” “It changed the trajectory of my life, and the importance of serving others in my role as head coach of the boys soccer team at Cathedral High School, in Indianapolis, Indiana.” He went on to say, “my prayer is that God will use us to build a better team for Him, an authentic brotherhood, as much as individuals.”
Websters dictionary defines sacrifice as ‘an offering of a human life or material possession.’ The paradox lies somewhere in between the sacrificial life of Christ in the Eucharist; and, the reward that God provides when we seek Him to reveal His will, His purpose, His plan for our lives albeit as player, parent and coach.
Through the Scriptures, we receive teaching and training in righteousness (2 Tm 3:16) and we are guided and instructed in faith on how to live in right relationship with God, others, ourselves, and creation. Paul shared, “it never once occurred to me that I would be at Mike’s side when he entered into a new life with Christ.” “It was extremely emotional” and he said, “I never felt so close to Jesus.” “I am convinced that God wanted me to experience that moment for a greater purpose.”
“Whenever I brought Mike the Eucharist, Paul said, “I received so much more, in the deepest sense of the word brotherhood, it was holy and sacred fellowship.” The Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC 1324). At Cathedral High School “we pray as a team after every practice and every game.” Paul went on to say, “going to Mass on Friday’s during the season is special,” at Cathedral high school. “The goal is always to take what we receive in the Holy Eucharist and to serve others in our daily lives.” “The miracle of food doesn’t come from a grocery store,” he said, “it is a gift from God.”
In the Eucharist, we “unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy,” and with one another. Together transformed, we are then sent forth to fulfill God’s will in our daily lives, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC 1326, 1332).
Born and raised in the Greek Orthodox tradition, Paul is a convert to Catholicism, “I was greatly influenced by my wife, Sheri, thirty years ago, before we ever started a family,” he said. Paul and Sheri are active parishioners at St. Louis de Montfort Parish in Fishers, IN, the same place where their three children graduated from the parish school.
Perhaps sacrifice can best be described by the saints. Namely, the American saints who practiced great personal devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, St. John Neumann, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Katharine Drexel, and St. Damien of Molokai. Or, the iconic Rule of St. Benedict that teaches labor and prayer benefit the soul. Either way, we can and we should befriend the saints who intercede for us to Jesus.
As Christians, we have one thing in common. We believe in Jesus Christ as somebody special who has changed our life. If you are a believer, do you convince others of God’s love? Scripture says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters…to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1).
The Eucharist first impacted Paul during the Rite of Christian Initiation as an adult, so much so that he described his faith journey as “the best gift I ever gave myself.” Twenty eight years ago when the Perpetual Adoration Chapel opened at St. Louis de Montfort, Paul made a commitment with Jesus for one hour, every week. “My morning obligation fit perfectly in between tending to my kids in the car pool drop-off line and starting my day at the office,” he said.
The adoration chapel is an incredibly profound and powerful place with a revolving door of people, outnumbered only by the prayers circulating at the feet of Jesus. The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops states, “Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament flows from the sacrifice of the Mass and serves to deepen our hunger for Communion with Christ and the rest of the Church.”
Coach Paul’s way of seeing the world is deeply sacramental. Aside from giving to the next generation of youth in the same manner that his coaches demonstrated for him, Paul serves on the Bigelow-Brand Charity Advisory Board as Chairman of the Pancreatic Cyst & Cancer Early Detection Center. Paul said, “I’m blessed to serve as a coach, coaching isn’t a job or building a resume for me, I just want to see the kids succeed, according to God’s will.”
“Any suffering that we experience on earth pales in comparison to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, yet we only recognize that when we go deeper in relationship with Him,” said Paul. “No follower of Jesus that has experienced suffering can remain indifferent or unmoved,” he said. “The awareness has the capability of transforming us into disciples of Christ, to go out and demonstrate our love for God, who loves us like a mother.”
I can’t help but mention the book, True Devotion to Mary, by St. Louis de Montfort. Both the book and the author had a tremendous impact on countless saints who have gone before us. The historic 2nd largest catholic church in France, St. Sulpice is the place where de Montfort attended seminary and where he celebrated his first mass as a priest in 1700. The church undeniably echoes the words of St. Louis de Montfort and his childlike love of our blessed Mother. The zeal of de Montfort’s writing on the rosary describes “Marian devotion as the foundation of the Catholic faith.”
“The Lord, having loved those who were his own, loved them to the end…In order to leave them a pledge of this love…he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return…(CCC 1337).”
Pope John Paul II initiated the Luminous mysteries of the rosary in the encyclical, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (2002). The Luminous mysteries highlight Christ’s public ministry from his Baptism through his Passion. “When we strive to attain our God given talent, the virtue of sacrifice undeniably stands out,” Paul said, “That is exactly what the 5th Luminous mystery, the institution of the Eucharist, is all about.” On that same note, Coach Paul cautions his players to “Make sacrifices. Find balance. Let go of attachments that don’t serve God. Be a Christ centered friend. Whatever your talent or ability is, do it in the name of Jesus.”
Coach Paul models leadership and is an enthusiastic advocate for Christ, shown from the high school hallways to speaking engagements and beyond. “The challenge is to live a Christian life and that isn’t found in a chapel or on a field, it’s by serving others,” he said, “It’s the sacrifices that go far beyond the 40 days of Lent, it’s growing closer to Jesus in brotherhood and sisterhood each and every day.”
Prayer: Lord, help us to remember that our talents are pure gift to be used for the glory of God. Remind me to focus on Jesus and His eternal love that radiates in my heart and deep within my soul.
May our devotion to the Eucharist increase through the intercession of St. John Neumann, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Katharine Drexel and St. Damien of Molokai. Amen.
Coach Paul Kapsalis is available for corporate, parish events, school assemblies or a keynote address. He is particularly dedicated to topics on sports, faith and leadership, that can be tailored to scripture. You can email Coach Paul Kapsalis at WhiteyIU14@gamil.com

 

 

The ritual to ‘bury the dead’ is more than a parish ministry it is a way of life

Published in The Catholic Moment July 2019

The Catholic Moment
In our death-avoidant culture, it’s understandable that attending funerals is something many prefer to avoid.

B5964D7D-27B9-4044-A29F-F107C6BEC9A6
Eric, Kerin, Grant and Shannon Buntin at Ascension cemetery (2011).

However, if you have buried a loved one, can you think of anything more merciful than helping to ritualize the end of a life?

In 2016, when Pope Francis described caring for our common home as a new work of mercy, a Vatican news release noted, “Since biblical times, Christians have been called to carry out six acts of mercy listed in St. Matthew’s Gospel …with a seventh one, burying the dead – added in medieval times.”

Even though burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy, the ritual isn’t strictly about burying a dead person. It’s more about praying for the deceased (maybe listed in your parish bulletin) and developing prayerful habits as a way of life, such as praying the “Eternal Rest” prayer or if you don’t know that prayer off the top of your head, praying a “Hail Mary” is suitable when passing a cemetery.

My prayers have become more intimate, less rote and seeking counsel or insight. Praying reminds us of our eternal destiny and increases charity towards others. We should help bury not only our own deceased friends and family members, but others as well. This could include attending or participating in funerals in our community, those of whom we did not know well in life, or assisting financially or practically with a meal or providing a future mass intention.

My parents practiced this work of mercy for years without ever recognizing it. I remember as a young girl going to the cemetery to pray with my mom, dad and seven of us kids. We visited my oldest sister, Catherine Leigh on her birthday, the anniversary of her death and many other days. My sister was ten years old in 1971 when she died and she was buried in the children’s section of the cemetery. There are stipulations for children buried at Ascension Cemetery in Libertyville, Illinois. The headstones of children must be flat and decorations are not allowed in that section. In February, it is hard to find her headstone under the snow so we bring a shovel when we visit the cemetery with our own children.

The one thing I remember as a child was that there was a lady holding a cross with flowers on Cathy’s headstone. In all my years as a child up until I was in graduate school as an adult, I thought it was Mary, the mother of God on my sister’s headstone until I was assigned to be in a group to read about St. Therese of Lisieux, then I recognized a holy card of St Therese of Lisieux as the same etching of the lady on my sisters headstone! Needless to say, I delve right into the life of St Therese of Lisieux.

After attending the recent funeral of a dear friend and faithful mother of six children, 14 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren, the work of the Little Sisters of the Poor who care for the elderly poor in the spirit of humble service they received from their founder, Saint Jeanne Jugan stood out. They welcome the elderly as they would Jesus Christ himself and they serve with love and respect until God calls the residents home. The Little Sisters of the Poor way of life is an austere example of the seven corporal works of mercy.

Patricia Sullivan Behan was 82 years old and blessed to spend the last eleven years of her life at St. Augustine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis. It was fitting that her funeral celebration of life took place in the chapel where she prayed daily at St. Augustine’s home. Together with a diverse network of collaborators, the Little Sisters serve the elderly poor in over 30 countries around the world.

Julia Behan Mattei, daughter of Pat said, “mom was a professor of Theology at Loyola University in Chicago and was very knowledgeable on the history of the Catholic Church. When she moved to St Augustine home for the aged, she was angry at God for suffering a stroke and for living a very limited life. Each day she had time to think about her relationship with God, and her faith grew stronger. She found ways to minister to other residents by praying at the bed side of those who were dying. She found she had an amazing talent of painting, made many friends, and grew close to the Sisters and the staff.”
Pat’s favorite saint was St. Theresa of Calcutta.

A2A01B7A-0E04-49CD-A3FC-A8990C8395DA

Providentially, one of Pat’s friends attended the canonization of Mother Theresa and a display was orchestrated to honor Pat at the funeral that included a holy card and blessed medals from the canonization, one for each of Pat’s children.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states “The Christian meaning of death is revealed in the light of the Paschal Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ in whom resides our only hope. The Christian who dies in Christ Jesus is ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Cor 5:8).” (1681)

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states: funerals give us the opportunity to grieve and show others support during difficult times. Through our prayers and actions we show our respect for life, which is always a gift from God, and comfort for those who mourn. Some examples of how we can live the seventh corporal work of mercy include:
• Attend a funeral at your church as a community
• Send a card to someone who has recently lost a loved one
• Visit the cemetery and pray for those you have lost
• Have a mass intention for the deceased
• Spend time planning your own funeral mass, read through the Order of Christian Funerals and find our hope in the Resurrection

Prayer: Lord, help us to be humble servants to bury the dead and pray for the poor souls in purgatory. St. Augustine, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Jean Jugan, St. Theresa of Calcutta, all ye holy saints pray for us!

Kerin Buntin, MA is the founder of Peace Love Pilgrimage and above all devoted wife and twice blessed mom. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and FaceBook.

Art legacy continues ‘Creating Hope’ for Cancer patients

For The Catholic Moment published June 9, 2019

Fishers. When Tina and John Gianfagna met in Brooklyn, New York, they were aspiring art students studying Fine Arts and Industrial Design respectively at Pratt Institute. At that time, it never occurred to them the way that art could significantly impact others. After college graduation, Tina and John married, had two daughters and eventually grandchildren. Prior to their move to Indiana in 2001, they lived in Texas, Germany and were owners of a marketing and design firm, in Ohio.

In 1999, Tina and John’s daughter, Jeanette, a 36-year-old wife and mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Jeanette earned an MBA and worked as an Information Technology Manager for a global financial company. In an instant, Jeanette’s life changed entirely, she conquered a mastectomy, 16 weeks of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, and eight weeks of daily radiation, only to learn of a reoccurrence and a metastatic spread. For Jeanette, the darkness had indeed been fierce, but it did not overcome her.

Far from an artist, Jeanette received a watercolor paint set from her sister, Diane, and she surmised the creativity of painting that took her mind to a whole new level of consciousness from “darkness into a great light”(Is. 9:2).

“Because life is rarely a black and white proposition, most people are under stress. Stress from work, stress from life in general and sometimes stress due to illness – our own or that of a loved one,” exclaimed Janette’s mom, Tina Gianfagna.

Creating Hope, a 501(C)3 not-for-profit organization was founded by Jeanette Gianfagna Shamblen to help others cope with cancer through self-expression and creativity, inspiring them to find a way through each day toward survival.

Tina said, “daily expression through color became essential for Jeanette to cope with her cancer treatment and isolation from her husband and children, then 5 and 6 years old. When Jeanette made creative expression part of her daily healing regimen, she found those days were her best days.”

Jeanette entered into eternal life in 2003, and her parents keep her memory alive by continuing the legacy of giving cancer patients hope. Tina is the Executive Director of the organization that her daughter founded, working alongside many of Jeanette’s friends and doctors who serve on the Board of Directors.

The Gianfagna’s offer HOPE Kits, workshops and demonstrations at hospitals, churches and parties in peoples homes to bring cancer patients the many benefits of creativity. It is through private donations, volunteers and an annual fund-raiser that the mission continues to be possible. Since it’s inception, Creating Hope has given thousands of Hope kits to cancer patients at Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, in Indianapolis. Creating Hope volunteers invite patients and their care-givers to try a HOPE kit while undergoing treatment.

Jeanette’s dad, John exclaimed, “studies have found that creative expression is not only necessary in the healing process, but actually enriches the lives of women, men and children during one of the most stressful experiences of their life.”

“Research suggests that even one hour of art therapy can positively impact a broad spectrum of symptoms related to pain and anxiety in cancer patients, such as improving depression and reducing fatigue,” said Tina.

Creating Hope believes HOPE kits will enhance the ability of patients to cope with cancer treatment, and provide them with an important emotional outlet during their treatment journey,” John added.

Many parishioners at Holy Spirit at Geist Church in Fishers have been the recipients of the mission of Creating Hope through workshops that the Gianfagna’s offer monthly. “Many people come to the workshops with stress or fear and they leave changed,” said John. Tina and John share what so many others have experienced while coloring their drawings. They learned from medical professionals and patients that a relaxed mind allows the body to produce endorphins as their own natural pain and stress relief. They encourage participants to think about a prayer, favorite quote or a scripture and write it on the paper, if they feel so inclined.

There is no competition or contest in art creativity, it is simply an invitation to relax the mind and alleviate stress with non-denominational designs that were created to bring out the child in everyone. “We noticed that when people’s minds relax, the body produces natural healing compounds called endorphins. Endorphins are natural stress and pain relievers,” said John Gianfagna.

The Gianfagna’s encourage soothing music and a cup of tea with their drawings. If you would like to “give” or “receive” a Hope kit, volunteer or support the mission financially, you can find more information and various kinds of Hope kits available for purchase on the website at: CreatingHope.us

Tina exclaimed, “Each week we feel blessed to meet amazing people by listening to their cancer story. We share our legacy of Jeanette because it is a privilege to serve others and it reinforces God’s amazing grace.” And, she said “we always pray for miracles.”

The annual Creating Hope fundraiser is an invitation that is open to the public on Friday, August 16, 2019 at Daniel’s Vineyard, in McCordsville.

935A608B-C6A6-420B-B07D-B8577685F9EE.jpeg

07753357-CE0A-4919-9882-4EFD3D83CEF0
Kerin Buntin earned a Masters degree in Pastoral Theology from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College; she is the author of an on-line blog titled Embrace Your Faith Journey; and is the founder of Peace Love Pilgrimage; above all, wife and twice blessed mom.

 

 

Vacation vs Pilgrimage: ‘I didn’t chose Faith travel, God did’

Published in The Catholic Moment newspaper for the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana on June 20, 2019

EAFEC2E1-90F1-44E8-8A46-AE18F41379FB

8B0F1BBB-0A07-4121-9F66-2F0D7ABB311F9A3D80B9-6F04-4C06-9EA0-7C26FCED5205

Pope Francis is very clear on the role of pilgrimage in Misericordiae Vultus as he states, “life itself is a pilgrimage, we are pilgrims on a journey from this world to the next, our souls pave the way to heaven.”

I liken a pilgrimage to that of a time-out, similar to a child being disciplined over and over again, maturity delights in permission when we grant ourselves a self proclaimed time-out albeit an hour, a day, a week or whatever it takes to gain clarity in life. If you have never been on a pilgrimage or have a hard time thinking of daily life as a pilgrimage, think of it as any sports fan would, by going to a significant place that honors your favorite athlete or the number they once wore, only better! Some athletes are saints in the making!

Pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven and are traditionally very special occasions for renewal in prayer. For pilgrims seeking living water, shrines are special places for living the forms of Christian prayer “in Church,” as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2691).

Both vacation and pilgrimage have a unique set of attributes, yet they differ in more ways than similarity. Historically, people saved up for a long time to visit holy and sacred sites in search for a deeper meaning in life. A pilgrimage has physical, and spiritual significance as well as biblical significance. The emphasis on community and togetherness foster pilgrimage in Psalm 133.

Pilgrimage is a deliberate encounter with the presence of God. The primary purpose is the opportunity for frequent reception of the sacraments, breaking the chains of sin. The sacraments create a shift toward a more prayerful purpose in life often attributed to the recognition of an answered prayer through the powerful intercession of a saint.

Pilgrimages highlight:

• Intentional yearning for God’s forgiveness and healing
• Aspiration for an atmosphere of prayer and reflection
• Thirsting for a new beginning
• Longing to let go of control to let Jesus lead the way

Returning from vacation or a pilgrimage each present their own set of challenges but the latter presents a new life with Christ in incomprehensible ways. All too often a change in action and conversation brings about a different response. Why? It is only by the grace of God that we are changed.

When I was in graduate school, the Doctor of the Masters program encouraged her budding theologian students to indulge in a never ending book case of knowledge. One tiny book in particular grasped my attention, Catholic Shrines and Places of Pilgrimage in the United States published by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (2000). The book was nothing more than a welcome addition on family road trips but what it became was a practical guide that would eventually speak volumes through its worn and torn pages.

Catholic shrines are holy and sacred sites dedicated to a particular saint that contain remains or a relic (body part or bone kept as reverence), votives for a candle offering, and a devotional altar for which a saint is venerated. There aren’t any stipulations on the size of a dedicated chapel or the grounds surrounding the shrine. I have witnessed very simple to vast museum shrines like that of Saint John Paul II, in Washington, D.C.

Several decades ago I learned that my dad and mom became engaged to be married at the Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, MD. Years later, one of eight children, I was born on the feast day of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. As if that wasn’t enough, I learned of the following in my adult years; that my maternal grandfather commissioned an artist to design the Seton altar at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City; my niece was born on the feast day of Seton; and, some thirty years later that same niece discerned Seton’s confirmation name with me by her side as god-mother and sponsor. While I don’t believe in coincidences, I am completely smitten with God’s glorious ways.

My family can attest to attending feast day celebrations, like that of Saint Anne Shrine in Scranton, Pennsylvania, when we were traveling through the town only to find every street closed so that the whole community could celebrate the feast day of Saint Anne for twenty-four hours to give reverence to Saint Ann as the mother of Mary and the patron saint of grandmothers.

My husband and our two children aided in a visible reality long before the opening of two mid-west based shrines in 2013-14 respectively:

1. Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Des Plaines, Illinois

Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine was founded by a priest; the same priest who presided over the marriage of my husband and I, the marriages of my six siblings and the burial of our dad.

I vividly recall as a high school teen when a traveling statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe needed a home. Reverend John P. Smyth (1934-2019) said ‘yes’ by providing a permanent resting place for the Guadalupe statue in 1986 because it was the right thing to do.

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame in 1965, Smyth was All-American captain of the basketball team and a third round NBA draft pick. Instead he chose to enter the priesthood and was ordained in 1962. Throughout my childhood Father Smyth was a fixture playing basketball in our backyard.

Father Smyth’s first and only assignment was the place he called home for over sixty years, Maryville Academy, a Roman Catholic institution for the treatment of physically, sexually and emotionally abused children located in Des Plaines, Illinois. Smyth dedicated his life to giving a safe home to children living in the most difficult situations in the city of Chicago often by entering troubled neighborhoods and household wearing a bullet proof vest to remove the abused kids.

In 2013, the late Chicago Cardinal Francis George O.M.I. formally established the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the grounds of Maryville Academy. Chicago Cardinal Blaze Cupich celebrated the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, 2016 at the shrine with over a half million people in attendance on a freezing cold day at an outdoor mass.

2. Saint Theodore Guerin Shrine, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana

After the canonization of Saint Theodore Guerin in 2006, Guerin was recognized as the patron saint of Indiana and the co-patron of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana amongst other notable recognitions.

During the beatification process, the tomb of Mother Theodore Guerin was relocated to the sanctuary at the Church of the Immaculate Conception until enough money was raised to build a shrine in 2014 on the campus of St. Mary of the Woods College.

As a graduate student at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, it was providential for me to kneel and pray at the tomb before the shrine came to fruition at the same time our son was enrolled as a freshman at Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville, IN. The interactive shrine display is as informative as any course on history or religion, all wrapped up in a day.

Looking back, it was clear that God was using me as an impetus to drive people to shrines for a meaningful and progressive movement. Perhaps looking into the eyes of a fellow traveler revealed a mission with stunning clarity. Maybe the desire to invite people to shrines stems from my parents as primary role models of the faith. Either way, my first inclination was to put the shrine book back where I found it. I didn’t choose faith travel, God did.

What started as a journey grew into Peace Love Pilgrimage, established in 2015. Grounded on the foundation to lead others to holy and sacred sites; the name imbues the virtues of peace and love that only God can give. It is an invitation as well as a story about receiving and giving the faith to the next generation.

From the first inaugural trip to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, PA in which fifty-six passengers traveled from Indiana to attend mass with Pope Francis; to Marian shrines in Italy, Ireland and France; and, the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal; God’s plans continue to unfold with three powerful pillars intricately woven into the mission of Peace Love Pilgrimage that include the saints, sacraments and SoulCore exercise.

Peace Love Pilgrimage takes those called to sacred sites and shrines located where the saints once lived because it is good and holy to find a saint as a companion that speaks to your current life situation. As your individual situation unfolds, prayer and recognition of the communion of saints naturally expands. The real beauty is the honor and glory given to the saints in conversation.

The shrine of Saint Catherine of Siena in Siena, Italy evokes the words “the more you see, the more you will love.” Saint Catherine of Siena loved God, the Church and the world and she lived a life of countless acts of suffering. An incredibly admirable example for every generation to follow.

Saint Catherine of Siena, pray for us and help us to see more clearly!

Kerin Buntin, M.A., holds a Masters degree in pastoral theology; is the author of an on-line blog Embrace Your Faith Journey; founder of Peace Love Pilgrimage; and above all, wife and twice blessed mom.

Saint’s devotion to Mary reflected in anniversary celebration

6EF56E4F-9714-4D7C-BB66-C3914689026CPublished in The Catholic Moment newspaper of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana. May 5, 2019

Fishers. Some St. Louis de Montfort parishioners might say the 40th anniversary of the founding of the parish was an opportunity to focus on Mary’s role in the Mystery of Christ. Many were eager to learn about “Marian Spirituality,” and still others yearn for more.

Why Mary? St. Louis de Montfort is known as one of the earliest writers about Mary, the Mother of God. Several popes like Pope St. John Paul II were influenced so much by the example of de Montfort that according to his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (most holy rosary), therein he credits de Montfort’s eighteenth century book ‘True Devotion to Mary’ as a turning point in his life.

‘Totus Tuus’ (totally thine) the motto of Pope St. John Paul II’s pontificate is taken from de Montfort’s prayer, the complete text of the prayer is “I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart.”

In 2018, a stained glass fleur-de-lis window in the church was used as the 40th anniversary logo for the year-long celebration of the founding of the parish by the Montfort Missionaries. The fleur-de-lis symbol is widely used in French saint iconography, representing the Holy Trinity. The meaning of ‘fleur’ is flower in French, and the lily flower depicts the virtue of purity in the Virgin Mary.

A quote from de Montfort “to Jesus through Mary” on the logo generated a more personal and impactful message.

“One of the many highlights of the celebration was the unveiling of a new processional cross on the feast day,” said Fr. Pat Click, Pastor of St. Louis de Montfort Parish.The processional cross made possible through the generosity of Bob and Joan Smith. portrays a French prayer written by de Montfort in 1700, that translates to ‘carry your cross, desire crosses.’ It is a replica of the prayer engraved on the back of the original cross that de Montfort carried while preaching missions throughout France.

The staff that holds the crucifix exhibits the same symbolism as the original cross including the Auspice Maria symbol, ‘A’ intertwined with ‘M’ the Latin meaning “under the protection of Mary” representing the deep devotion to Mary that de Montfort permeated in 43 years of life, 16 years as a priest.

An overwhelming number of people responded favorably to the anniversary celebration including:
• Seeking Mary in candle altars, statues, icons and stained glass windows
• Submitting photos of Mary to be featured on the weekly bulletin cover from various holy sites throughout the country including Europe and the sister parish of St. Louis de Montfort in San Jose, Brazil
• Inspiring grade school, high school and adult artists alike to share their creative talents by depicting one-of-a-kind images of Mary
• Committing to Marian Consecration on an annual feast day

“The visuals were a great way to focus on Mary’s spiritual motherhood and a way to get to know her better, after all she is our mother and the mother of all Christians,” said Fr. Travis Stephens, Associate Pastor of St. Louis de Montfort Parish.

(Picture) – Mary bulletin covers from the 40th anniversary year

Parishioner, Rosie Zatkulak and her husband Jon submitted a photo of the Mary altar at the sister parish in San Jose, Brazil when they were attending the ordination Mass to the priesthood in 2018. Parishioner, Christopher Kennedy submitted two hand-painted Icon’s of Mary, one for each of his two married daughters.

The author of 33 Days to Morning Glory, Fr. Michael Gaitley, a priest and Director of Formation at the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, highlights four notable Marian saints that include St. Louis de Montfort amongst others, to help consecrate your life to Mary.

During the anniversary year, Gaitley’s 33 Days… book was distributed to parishioners resulting in a large number of small group discussions centered on Mary that permeated a deeper faith by getting to know the Mother of God better as an intercessor to her Son, “do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5)

The saints are meant to take us further on our faith journey. It is good and holy to find a saint that speaks to you. St. Louis de Montfort, patron saint of schools, spiritual writing and Marian pilgrimages, pray for us!

Kerin Buntin earned a Masters degree in Pastoral Theology from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College; she is the author of an on-line blog titled Embrace Your Faith Journey; the founder of Peace Love Pilgrimage; and above all, wife and twice blessed mom.

2C972009-1830-43CF-9C34-6F109FA02A70