Tag Archives: Catholic families

Touching The Nurturing Heart Of A Mother

Before Legate Bobby Williams set out to open a new pro-life Women’s Care Center in Indianapolis, he did what he always does: he asked the local bishop for permission – and for help.

The help came in the form of names of three key people in the Indianapolis Archdiocese who might aid in kick-starting the project. As it happened, they turned out to be fellow Legates — the late Tom Spencer, and Joan and Bob Smith. With their assistance and that of countless others, the Indianapolis center opened in 2014 next to the nation’s fifth-largest Planned Parenthood facility and since has become the fastest-growing pro-life pregnancy-resource center in the country.

It also is the largest of the 32 centers in Women’s Care Centers’ rapidly expanding network spanning 11 states. The 6,000-square-foot facility provides more than 3,000 3D/4D ultrasounds annually and now serves one in seven babies born in Marion County. In just three years, it has saved more than 6,000 babies from abortion.

Each Women’s Care Center offers free pregnancy tests, ultrasound imaging, counseling, and parenting and child development classes in a homey, accessible setting with eye-catching signage and full- time hours.

Williams, who serves as director of the WCC Foundation, credits the involvement of Legatus members with the success of the Indianapolis facility as well as the care center network’s remarkable growth over the last few years. Although the first Women’s Care Center dates to 1984, much of the network’s development has come more recently, thanks in large part to the prayers, volunteer service, and financial support of Legates, who have caught the vision of Women’s Care Centers and in some cases, have worked to bring them to their communities.

“There is no question that Legatus members have been the prime movers behind Women’s Care Centers’ national success,” Williams said. Last year alone, he added, the centers performed 21,365 ultrasounds and saved 15,052 babies with 94 percent of the pregnant women served choosing life for their babies. “It is no overstatement to say that one of the biggest factors in this success is the quiet, effective, behind-the-scenes support and counsel of Legatus members.”

For example, before he died unexpectedly Feb. 23 at the age of 64, Spencer served on the Indianapolis center’s board and had been among the first to support the project when it was proposed. He also was effective in attracting other supporters, making him someone who will be remembered as one of the center’s “founding fathers,” Williams said.

Likewise, the Smiths were early supporters, contributing a major gift that was instrumental in moving the project forward. “Their boundless generosity gave us the momentum we needed to purchase the property and get the construction well underway,” Williams said. “We were honored to name our main reception room in their honor.”

Bob Smith, who prays daily for the work of WCC, said he and his wife were impelled to help the center primarily through their daughter, Meg Ryder, who serves on the Indianapolis center’s board.

“They’re not only saving babies, they’re also saving mothers, and I think that’s a very crucial difference,” said Smith. Before becoming involved with Women’s Care Centers, he said he and his wife had marched outside a Planned Parenthood facility. “That was quite an experience, but it didn’t do anything to change minds or hearts. What this does is it changes hearts.”

Unlike other organizations seeking to stop abortions, Smith said, Women’s Care Centers go directly to the source – the mother – persuading her with the help of ultrasound technology. “Once a mother can see what’s living inside her – that it’s actually a human being, not just a blob of flesh – she is going to be very much committed to maintaining that life and nurturing it.”

Legate Marianne Price, a WCC supporter whose husband, Frank, is on the board of the Indianapolis center, agreed. “Once women see their baby, it really helps them form a bond.” She said what she and her husband found exciting about the Women’s Care Center approach is that it offers women an attractive and affirming option that can help them make a good choice. “So much of the debate about abortion is vitriolic. People are saying a lot of negative things about both sides. Women’s Care Center is very positive and tries to provide an appealing alternative.”

That the approach works is evident from statistics showing every community with a Women’s Care Center has seen exceptional abortion declines, Williams said. Where centers are more established, abortions have declined an average of 65 percent and abortion clinics have closed. But even communities where centers have opened more recently are seeing decreases.

For instance, in Milwaukee, where the Women’s Care Center was founded in 2010, abortions have already declined 36 percent.

Although there is no shortage of cities that could benefit from having a Women’s Care Center, the organization does not choose where to locate new facilities without an invitation. “There needs to be a committed and passionate person leading the effort for it to be successful,” Williams said.

In South Bend, Ind., where the first Women’s Care Center opened more than 30 years ago, that person was Dr. Janet Smith, then a young professor at the University of Notre Dame. From her efforts and humble beginnings in a little blue house has emerged a nationwide network that includes three new centers opened this year in Berea, Ky.; York, Pa., and Chicago. In just two months, the Chicago center has saved more than 100 babies, indicating there may be a need for additional centers in that city to meet the demand. An existing pregnancy center with three locations in North Dakota also is working to convert its sites into Women’s Care Centers. Future expansion plans include centers in the states of Texas, Virginia, Connecticut, and Florida.

Once an individual or group invites Women’s Care Centers to a community, an assessment is conducted to determine the need for services that would be provided. Next, the local bishop’s permission is sought and, if granted, a location, preferably one next to an abortion provider, is identified. Currently, 22 Women’s Care Centers are near or adjacent to abortion clinics.

“We don’t locate next to abortion clinics to picket or protest, to provide confusion to young women, or to somehow trick them or deceive them into coming into our place by mistake,” Williams said, “but rather, we choose to be there because that’s where the women are.” Generally, he added, if a pro-life facility and an abortion clinic are near each other, pregnant women will go to both facilities. “More than 9 of 10 times, when they go to both, they stay at our facility and choose life . . . All we do is provide choice – life-affirming choice – and it works.”

 

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

For the Love of Gracie

Gracie Ann, not quite two years old, was not well.

Seizures had become more frequent for little Gracie, but she had suffered particularly severe seizures on two consecutive nights and was spiking another fever. She had been home just four days after another hospital stay as she recovered from a stubborn respiratory infection. Her mother, Kerry, administered her emergency medications and gave her a cooling bath.

By morning, the fever had returned, and Gracie was lethargic and acting strangely. Alarmed, Kerry phoned her husband, Jeremy, to come home from work. When he saw Gracie’s labored breathing, they called 911.

“I sat in the ambulance with her as the medics tried to get a line in her,” Kerry recalled. “They had to leave fast, so I gave her the last kiss I would ever give her. That was the last time I saw my sweet angel alive.” Kerry, immune-compromised since her double-lung transplant, could not accompany her daughter to the hospital.

Jeremy rode the ambulance as the EMTs stopped by a fire station and then an emergency room seeking help in getting Gracie’s IV started. Then there was a long, stressful transfer via ambulance to a children’s hospital. Jeremy kept Kerry updated by phone and text message as both prayed fervently.

En route, the situation turned grave, and CPR was initiated. After 24 minutes of chest compressions in the hospital, Gracie Ann was declared dead.

Unable to phone Kerry, Jeremy sent a brief text: “Heaven just acquired an angel.”

Gracie Ann’s death on February 9 of this year was part of a long journey of faith and perseverance for Jeremy and Kerry Lustig of Keller, Texas, Legates of the Fort Worth Chapter. Their story dates to Kerry’s childhood.

Kerry was born with cystic fibrosis, a terminal lung disease, and was not expected to live long. “My parents were told to simply take me home and love me,” she recalled. But her devoutly Catholic mother and father were determined she would survive.

“My parents knew I was fragile, so they prayed a lot and raised me like any other child, staying on top of my appointments, daily meds, and daily therapies,” Kerry explained.

After Kerry and Jeremy fell in love during college and began talking about marriage, Kerry told him about her condition. “I knew that my CF would be a cross that both he and I would have to bear,” she said. It was no obstacle for Jeremy; he soon proposed marriage, and they were wed after graduation in 1997.

Since CF affects fertility, the Lustigs started having children while Jeremy was in dental school. Madison, Savannah and Nicholas were born uneventfully in two-year intervals, but nine years passed before Isaac came along in early 2014.

Because CF is a progressive disease, Kerry had grown sicker over the years. A month after Isaac’s birth, her health took a turn for the worse. She suffered respiratory arrest, was hospitalized, and was placed on a ventilator. Returning home, she struggled to stay well.

In February 2016, in her 30th week of a very difficult pregnancy, Kerry was in the hospital for outpatient lung treatments when she coughed and broke a major vessel in her lung — a life-threatening condition — and was admitted. The next morning, Gracie Ann was delivered via emergency C-section. But Gracie had been deprived of oxygen for several minutes and sustained brain damage, triggering the seizures that would later plague her. Given the situation, Jeremy baptized Gracie in the NICU.

Neither Kerry nor Gracie was expected to survive.

The Lustig family was in full crisis mode. Jeremy’s orthodontics partner managed the practice so he could devote full attention to his wife and infant daughter, dividing his time between the ICU and NICU. Jeremy’s mother moved from Utah to Texas to care for the other four children.

“My father came and went while having to work, but my mom was here indefinitely or until we were self-sufficient,” Jeremy said. During those first three months, Jeremy never left the hospital. “The kids came to the hospital a couple times a week so we could see them,” he said. “They would bring me clean clothes and take dirty ones home. It was very hard on them.”

Many supported the family in faith. “We had so many prayer warriors storming heaven for both Gracie Ann and me,” Kerry said. A prayer network developed out of text messages Jeremy began sending to family and close friends. “As word got out, there was a large influx of people texting me — asking for updates, expressing concern, and offering prayer for Kerry, Gracie, and our family,” Jeremy said. “The list of people in this text thread grew to a few hundred in almost no time.”

Gracie Ann, just 3-1/2 pounds at birth, was touch-and-go at first but “surpassed all reasonable expectations,” Jeremy said. Her survival turned into a roller coaster ride as she suffered bleeding on the brain and fought repeated infections. Kerry also had a rough time: under heavy sedation, she required breathing support for her damaged lungs, had internal bleeding, and required multiple surgeries. Thrice she had to be resuscitated.

Three months later, mother and child were released to go home. Kerry’s lungs were in such bad shape that she was placed on a waiting list for a transplant. “I was really physically struggling,” Kerry remembered. “Before the lung call, I was unable to walk and was on oxygen 24/7. I couldn’t be a mom physically and couldn’t do anything for myself.”

In October 2016, a donor was found and Kerry underwent a double-lung transplant. She faced a long recovery and a lifelong regimen of anti-rejection drugs. By that time, however, Gracie was having seizures. Around her first birthday, she required a feeding tube. During one ER visit, Gracie went into cardiac arrest and was revived. Her seizures became more frequent and severe.

Throughout all these challenges, the Lustigs’ Catholic faith remained strong.

“Jeremy and I have always known and still continue to believe that all our crosses are intended to glorify God, and they have,” Kerry said. “I never lost my faith but held onto it as tightly as I could, for God revealed to me that he alone was the reason I was alive.”

Gracie’s health declined with time. “As the seizures took a toll on her little brain, she began to lose functionality that she had gained against all odds,” Jeremy said. A respiratory infection stretching into early 2018 landed her in the hospital again. Four days after her discharge, Gracie was gone.

“When Gracie Ann passed away, a part of me died. I will always feel an emptiness,” said Kerry. “But Jesus is a gentle Father, and He carries me through my sorrows each day…. We praised Him in the most painful hour when she died, and we continue to praise Him as we must live our lives without her.”

Difficult and painful as Gracie’s death was, the Lustigs believe it drew their family closer together.

“We are stronger in faith today and more in love than ever,” Kerry affirmed. “Our family has benefitted so greatly from this cross.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Catholic-College Authenticity

“Truth, beauty, and goodness have their being together,” said the late spiritual writer Father Thomas Dubay, S.M. “By truth we are put in touch with reality, which we find is good for us and beautiful to behold.”

The vision of the university in the classical Catholic intellectual tradition is to encourage students to seek truth, goodness, and beauty. Attention to these three elements, or transcendentals, ultimately will direct students toward a deeper knowledge of God, because what is true, good, and beautiful in creation “reflects the infinite perfection of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 41).

Franciscan University of Steubenville, Wyoming Catholic College, and John Paul the Great Catholic University are among the institutes of Catholic higher education that understand this vision. It’s a philosophy that shapes their Catholic identity and permeates their curricula, campus life, and mission.

Here’s how they do it.

Character counts

“A Catholic university presents itself as separate and distinct from other universities,” said Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville. A key difference “is its Catholic identity, which should pervade every aspect of the University’s operations.

“ Catholic character must be evident in more than name. Visitors to Franciscan University often comment there is something “special” about the campus that goes beyond its physical beauty, said Fr. Sheridan.

The entire Franciscan University family, he explained, “is well aware of the presence of Christ and, as a result, lives the joy of the Gospel in their daily lives through the manner in which they engage each other, embrace the truth of our faith, proclaim the Good News of the Gospel, and value the beauty of living lives focused on developing their relationship with Christ.”

Those transcendentals are incorporated into the core curriculum, particularly in Franciscan’s fine arts offerings and Austrian program. Through these, “our students come to a deeper appreciation of the beautiful along with the true and the good,” he said.

The campus itself reflects beauty. At the heart of campus adjacent to Christ the King Chapel is the Rosary Circle, which envelops the cross.

“Our Catholic identity is not merely etched in our flowers or our architecture. It is at the heart of our mission,” said Fr. Sheridan, “which in turn is the basis for the decisions we make here, including hiring decisions and curriculum choices that are made consistent with the mission of the University.”

Theology, philosophy, and sacred music faculty publicly take the profession of faith and oath of fidelity to magisterial teaching. “People who witness this event each year have told me that it brings tears to their eyes to know that they or their child are part of a university that is truly Catholic,” he said.

The university’s rich sacramental life includes daily Mass, Confessions, and Eucharistic adoration. The student body is overwhelmingly Catholic, and there’s an evangelistic spirit, too: more than 450 students annually volunteer on mission trips to impoverished areas, often where the faith is not fully embraced.

“The witness of the lives of our students and their zeal for living the Gospel life, however, very frequently have a profound impact” on those they serve, Fr. Sheridan said.

Creativity and innovation

“At John Paul the Great Catholic University, we believe in the power of truth, goodness and beauty to transform culture,” said Derry Connolly, president and founder of the institution located in Escondido, Calif. “Students are formed in an environment that cultivates creativity and inspires innovation, values academic excellence and applied learning, and fosters an encounter with the transforming love and truth of Jesus Christ in an authentic Catholic community.”

At JPCatholic, as the university is also known, “Our confidence comes from our identity in Christ, our fidelity to his Church, and our unwavering commitment to one another,” Connolly said.

Great art comes “from the heart,” he said, and so the college forms students by connecting their deep intellectual knowledge of Christ with the creative process inspired by the great works of art.

All students take rigorous Catholic core classes to obtain an in-depth understanding of Scripture. They study theology and philosophy, including the Church’s social, moral, and ethical teachings. A Humanities focus includes the renowned works of literature, art, and music.

John Paul the Great welcomes students of all faith traditions or none, but “Catholic identity is paramount. It is our raison d’etre,” Connolly said.

JPCatholic offers a Catholic learning environment where students can grow both professionally and spiritually. “Outside of the classroom, our unique community of artists and innovators live lives largely centered on their Catholic faith,” Connolly affirmed. Daily Mass and rosary are offered, and there are frequent opportunities for Confession, adoration, retreats, service projects, and spiritual growth.

That’s the true and the good. As for the beautiful, Escondido lies just northeast of San Diego, so students are surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, mountains, and wide-open spaces for recreation.

The beautiful is reflected also in the creative emphasis. “The culture of creating art on-campus is pervasive,” Connolly said. “Students are constantly filming, drawing, editing, acting, and ideating. The ongoing productions contribute greatly to large-scale collaboration among the student body and provide major opportunities for developing deep and lasting friendships with like-minded creative students, who are brought together by their shared values based on their deep love for and knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

High plains Catholicism

Glenn Arbery, a Denver Chapter Legate, presides over Wyoming Catholic College, among the newest and smallest entries to Catholic higher education. Having opened in 2007, its enrollment last year of 175 set an all-time high.

“Unique” describes WCC well. In keeping with its rural Wyoming environment, all students learn horsemanship. They study the likes of Aquinas and Aristotle, lyric poetry, Latin, Euclidean mathematics, Western literature, and field science. A Catholic Outdoor Renewal program goes beyond horsemanship to include kayaking, rock climbing, and a 21-day mountain backpacking expedition.

Also unusual is that students cannot keep cell phones on campus, “a deprivation that soon turns into the rare contemporary phenomenon of actually being present to others,” Arbery said.

That all adds up to a powerful way for students to appreciate truth, goodness, and beauty.

“We are very much a college of the Mountain West, but also of the Great Books tradition and the central current of orthodox Catholicism faithful to the Magisterium,” Arbery explained. “All of our students begin to experience the good, first of all, in their experience of their leaders and of each other, and they come to know the beautiful both in the majesty of the Rocky Mountains and in the sublimity of what they study. And everywhere, every day, they seek out what is true, knowing that the wrong path is a matter of life and death, just as it is in the wilderness.”

Rather than offer multiple majors, WCC has every student take the same courses all four years. There is a sequence of 12 courses each in theology and humanities, along with studies in

subjects including philosophy, fine arts, and experiential leadership. “Our Catholic identity takes shape through the very way the curriculum unfolds,” said Arbery.

Every Catholic professor takes the oath of fidelity, and nonCatholic professors pledge not to undermine the Faith. “But even an oath would not ensure a strong Catholic identity if every course did not support it,” he said.

WCC offers daily Mass and Confession, and many opportunities for spiritual direction and prayer. The Mass is celebrated in the Extraordinary Form “about half the time,” said Arbery.

The student body is predominantly Catholic, but other faiths are welcome.

“We are not what the great English poet John Milton calls ‘forcers of conscience,’” he noted. “At WCC, we trust that truth, goodness, and beauty have their own appeal.

“Besides,” he added, “the real work is always God’s.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Hybrid homeschooling

When homeschooling emerged in the ‘60s and ‘70s among a largely conservative counterculture, it was actually outlawed in some states. By the early 1990s, however, every state had legalized it and participation now reaches into every sector of the population.

Many Catholics began to take up homeschooling in response to some parochial schools becoming more secular, unaffordable, or unavailable. In turn, options grew with online and correspondence Catholic schools and cooperative classes (co-ops) where groups come together for resources and specialized teaching expertise for a few classes.

The movement continues to grow among Catholics for a number of reasons including: growing disparity with the culture, the influence of Catholics in the public eye who homeschool, and positive reports such as the 2017 survey by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University finding homeschoolers are four times more likely to enter seminaries than those educated in Catholic institutions.

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that from 1999 to 2012, the number of homeschooled children more than doubled, from 850,000 to 1.8 million. According to EdChoice’s 2017 Schooling in America survey, about three percent of students are homeschooled, but some seven percent of families say that they would if they could.

Burgeoning options

As resources multiply it is becoming easier for families to make the commitment. A growing trend that lightens the burden for parents and increases opportunities for students is to take a hybrid approach, mixing homeschool with outside classes. Many public and Catholic schools that once shunned homeschoolers now allow part-time enrollment and participation in extracurricular activities for homeschoolers. It has also become popular for high schoolers to take college classes that also satisfy high school graduation requirements.

Actual hybrid schools — both secular and religious, which alternate school days between home and school — have also come onto the scene. For instance, the Regina Caeli Catholic schools — centered around the great-books and classic-texts approach — operate in 12 cities and 11 states, with an enrollment of about 1,100 children. Children learn at home three days a week and attend class wearing uniforms on the other two.

Adapting to children’s needs

“We homeschool because it’s the opportunity for a daily infusion of our cultural Catholicity that is important to us,” says Carolyn Smith, mother of nine children ages 23 to 5 in her 13th year of homeschooling. Her husband, Michael, is a senior network engineer who works on contracts for the federal government. They live a couple of miles outside of Mason, New Hampshire, a small rural community.

“We keep them home to school them but don’t hide them,” Carolyn said. “They are part of the community.” Their children use correspondence studies before high school and have participated in co-op classes. Thus far, the three older boys have chosen to attend Catholic high school full-time, but the two oldest girls stayed home, taking college classes during their junior and senior year, enabling them to enter Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia as sophomores.

There are four more still at home including one daughter with special needs. “Mary is just doing readiness with her Downs Syndrome,” Carolyn said. “She is non-verbal, but our lifestyle is tailored to help her; that’s why we have a horse and animals. Homeschooling affords us the ability to help her thrive in this environment.”

Daughter Sarah, finished her first year at Christendom and is returning as a junior this fall. Her sister Racheal graduated there last spring and is now enrolled in an accelerated nursing program. “I liked being with friends and socializing at co-op classes like music theory and Gregorian chant choir,” Sarah explained. “I took an algebra co-op class because it was a subject I needed more help in.” She also played softball at a local public school from seventh through eleventh grade.

Shannon Marie Federoff and her husband Matt are in their 22nd year of homeschooling “with 13 more to go,” according to her. They have 11 children ages 26 to 5 and also live on a hobby farm in Vail, Arizona. The family actually built their own 2,100-square-foot “straw bale” house with 14-foot ceilings and lofts for sleeping. Both Shannon and Matt were once public-school teachers and Matt now works as the chief information officer for the school district.

Shannon explained that they wanted a classical Catholic education for their children and to create a strong family culture. In addition to co-op classes, Shannon said that since they live in a conservative area and know who the good teachers are, once the children reach sophomore year, they supplement home education with math, science, and Spanish classes at the public high school. The children have also been involved in a number of outside activities such as ballet, 4-H, sports, drama, Trail Life, youth group, and altar servers.

Shannon’s daughter Isabel, 18, is heading off to Franciscan University as a sophomore this fall after mixing homeschool, public school, and college classes. “I really enjoyed going to school —I’m pretty social — but I was glad I didn’t have to go for the whole day,” she said. “I liked leaving early and the freedom of doing things at my own pace.” Isabel explained that she has dyslexia so that using audio books at home made English literature classes easier for her.

A family tradition

Deacon Mike and Gina McKeown of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota have homeschooled for 23 years. Their six children range in age from 34 to 17, and two married daughters are now homeschooling their own families. Another daughter, Sr. Mary Elia, is a Carmelite cloistered nun, and the fourth is starting her second year in college.

Once their children became juniors in high school, they enrolled with the Minnesota Department of Education Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), a program that allows 11th and 12th graders to earn college credit online or on campus at no cost whatsoever. Three of them took full-time classes at the college while two took classes online.

Cole, who just received his doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, said he took classes online to make time to play sports with the public school. He and his wife Teresa, who homeschooled through eighth grade then attended Catholic school, became new parents last February and plan to continue the family tradition of homeschooling.

Kyle, the youngest McKeown, took religion and music classes at the Catholic high school last year and will do so again this year. He is also enrolled in shop classes with the public school since he plans to go into construction.

“A lot of times parents have apprehensions about being able to handle teaching their children,” Mike said. “There are a lot of resources out there. We did research, talked with people, and took a hodge-podge approach, not using just one particular program.”

Changing Dynamics

Schooling typically evolves within families, tailored to individual needs and interests and changing family life. When James and Noreen Peliska moved from Naples, Florida to Bismarck where James took a job at the University of Mary as professor of biology and director of the pre-med program, four of their six children were already out of the home.

“Every year we set priorities for each child,” Noreen said. “Every kid is different, and dynamics change. I loved it when everyone was home and there were so many options to focus on the things they loved.” For instance, homeschooling enabled one son to dedicate many hours to music and get accepted at a prestigious music school, while another son who excelled at running in high school and college enrolled full-time there.

When they moved to Bismarck, Rose during her senior year chose to take full-time college classes that also satisfied high school requirements. Their youngest son, Edmund, took two classes at the Catholic high school and enjoyed it so much he is enrolled full time as a sophomore this year.

After 17 years, however, Noreen is still not quite done with schooling. She just started her studies in the radiologic technician program at the University of Mary.

 

PATTI MAGUIRE ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

Drawing Kids to the Glow of Catholicism

When Bishop Kevin Rhoades challenged teachers in Indiana’s Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese to think of ways to keep young people from leaving the Catholic faith, Legate Betsy Williams took it to heart – and prayer.

In the quiet of her adoration hours before the Blessed Sacrament, an idea began to take shape: Immerse students in the beauty of the Catholic faith, giving them an emotional connection to the truths they learn.

New program emphasizes Catholic beauty

Last month when classes began, Williams’ idea debuted as the Light for the World program at St. Anthony de Padua School in South Bend. The program consists of houses, or small faith communities, within the school, and monthly retreats that focus on a saint and a virtue he or she exemplified.

The houses, which will be named for various saints, will have activities throughout the year to foster a sense of community. During the monthly retreat, each house will rotate among four stations, spending 30 minutes at a time in adoration, listening to a talk by a priest, working on a service project, and singing and learning about the Mass.

“Catholic schools do an amazing job of teaching the truth and this is so very important,” said Williams, who previously taught preschool and first and second grades at St. Anthony. “. . . That doesn’t need to change, but what needs to be added is leading [students] to the truth through beauty.”

Legate John Tippmann, Sr., who is helping Light for the World get started through a grant from his Mary Cross Tippmann Foundation, agreed. “I have seen what the problem is and it is that we know we’re losing children, Catholic children, at an alarming rate. They just lose interest in their faith.”

Keeping the faith – through love for Christ

Tippmann said when he grew up, it was far more likely that students attending Catholic schools would graduate with a love for their faith that sustained them the rest of their lives. Today, he said, according to a recent Gallup poll, only 25 percent of young people between the ages of 21 and 29 attend Mass weekly. And, according to a talk given in March at the University of Notre Dame by Katherine Angulo, associate director for youth ministry in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, 6 in 10 young Catholics celebrate their First Communion, but only a third go on to receive Confirmation. Angulo also said the median age people stop identifying as Catholic is 13 and one of the main reasons youth are leaving the Church is that they have no emotional connection to the faith.

“We want to teach them to love the faith instead of just learning the rules and regulations of it,” Tippmann said. When Williams presented Light for the World to several members of his foundation’s board, Tippmann said it resonated with his own experience of the faith handed down to him by his mother, for whom the foundation is named. “It seemed like this would help teachers to do a better job of teaching the Catholic faith and love for it.”

The foundation agreed to fund the first two years of the program at St. Anthony at a cost of $23,000 a year, which covers expenses and part of the salary for an additional teacher. If the program takes off, the foundation may continue to fund it or possibly support expanding it to other schools.

Kids ask to go to church

Williams, who will be the teacher directing the program as the school’s Catholic identity representative, drew on her classroom experiences to develop Light for the World. More than two years ago, she began taking her firstgraders into the parish church on Fridays to pray a rosary for their pastor, Fr. Robert Garrow, and for Bishop Rhoades. “They absolutely loved this time in church and in the silence,” she said. “They would beg to go during the week.” In talking with the students, Williams learned that they felt happy and peaceful during the Friday visits. “‘That’s the peace of Jesus,’ I told them. They were hooked and couldn’t get enough.” Next, Williams formed an adoration club so that all students in the school could have the same experience of being alone with Jesus in the quiet of the church. Twice a month for an hour after school, students in the club would meet to pray the rosary, sing and sit quietly.

Adoration will be a key element of the monthly retreats because, Williams said, she wants students to have an opportunity to unplug and listen to what God may be calling them to do with the gifts they have been given and to develop a lifelong habit of taking their concerns to Him.

Williams hopes through Light for the World to show students and their families the treasure they have in their faith – a treasure often left behind by putting travel, sports, and other distractions ahead of attending Mass. “So many kids and families are dropping away and abandoning our greatest gift for the pull of the world.”

As a means of reaching out to families, all the talks given by priests during the monthly retreats will be recorded and available to view online. Family members of students also will be invited to attend the retreats.

Service to others – mitigates focus on self

Williams developed the service aspect of the program to counteract the culture’s focus on self and to show students the beauty of loving, serving, and sacrificing for others. Each house will establish a relationship with a charity during the year and spend part of each retreat day doing something for that charity. For example, a house that has chosen a homeless shelter might make lunches for shelter residents.

The singing element of the retreats is designed to teach students that they are joining with all the angels and saints in bringing glory to God every time they go to Mass. Williams’ hope is that by teaching the students to sing beautiful songs for school and Sunday Masses, families who have been away from church or don’t attend will hear something that makes them want to return.

Strong family support is key

Although she has a background in education, Williams said the best preparation she received for creating Light for the World came from her parents, who gave her a strong, positive example of living the faith. Her father, Brian Miller, has been a deacon at St. Anthony de Padua for the last 45 years and helped her form the adoration club. “He’s given his whole life to our faith.”

Light for the World is not a curriculum, but will complement religious instruction in the classroom, Williams said. In addition to offering experiences that will convey the beauty of the faith, the program will provide suggested activities students can do with their families.

Bishop Rhoades, who approved the program, said its strength is the movement from beauty to goodness and then to truth it provides through exposing the children to the lives of the saints, prayer and retreat days, and priests and religious sisters. “It will be a very purposeful program, seeking to give the children a rich and joyful experience of learning to live the Gospel.”

He added that in visiting Williams’ first-grade classroom, he has already observed the effectiveness of her approach. The bishop said he also has seen how it involves parents who are often moved by the religious observance of their children. “I know of one parent who even became Catholic because the devotion of her daughter led her to learn about the Catholic faith. Parent involvement in this program is a real strength and necessity for the Catholic mission of the school.”

Narrow road’ to Christ is countercultural

Williams said she was confirmed in her discernment of the program by hearing Bishop Rhoades talk during his Chrism Mass homily during Holy Week this year about spreading the aroma of Christ in a world where there is so much stench, an idea he said he took from Pope Francis.

“It really hit home,” Williams said. “. . . It immediately made me think of what I was working on – to teach little ones and their families that everything the world is showing them, that they see in media, the Internet, on Facebook, is so countercultural to what we know as Catholics. I kept thinking of St. John Paul II and how he said don’t be afraid to be a saint, don’t be afraid to go against what the world is showing you . . . It’s scary to go against what everyone else is telling you is right, but if you do that, you’ll be a light for the world.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Heroes in Uniform

Anyone who raises his right hand, vows to defend the U.S. Constitution, and wears the country’s uniform knows in the back of his mind he may be called to make the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation.

The unique nature of military service fosters a special camaraderie among brothers and sisters in arms that can never be replicated in civilian life.

Many Legates have served in their nation’s military with distinguished careers and have completed several combat tours. A few recently shared their military experiences with Legatus Magazine.

Sudden call to duty

Larry Merington remembers being in a business meeting in early 1991 when his secretary, her face pale-white, knocked on the door and told him he needed to take a phone call.

Merington, then a young fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, picked up the Pentagon official’s call who notified him that he was being summoned to active duty, and would report to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield (later called Desert Storm).

A few weeks later, Merington was dropping bombs on Iraqi military targets.

“It’s a very serious thing to know that you control life and death,” said Merington, 63, the president of Legatus’ New Orleans Chapter.

Merington retired as a colonel from the Air Force Reserve in 2007 following a 30-year career in which he spent about five years in active duty for combat tours in the Middle East and the Balkans.

Today, Merington is a CEO and a married father of one child.

He has been a member of Legatus for 10 years, and is part of a tight-knit fraternity of fighter pilots who have served their country in some very dangerous settings.

“There is no such individual as a warfighter who thinks war is the solution,” said Merington, who embodies the reluctant warrior ethos of the U.S. military.

Merington completed 50 combat missions over Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, where he flew the A-10 Thunderbolt, affectionately known among ground troops as the tank-killing “Warthog.” He was tasked with destroying Iraqi armor and scud missiles.

A few days after the war ended, Merington and some of his comrades drove into Kuwait City to survey the bombing damage when a Kuwaiti man drove up, got out, walked over to Merington and fell to his knees in tears. Through his sobs, the man said, “Thank you.”

“I told him, ‘This is what we do. We are a liberator, not an occupier. We’re not a conquering force. We’re happy to give your country back to you,’” Merington said.

Merington later flew combat air patrols over Bosnia in the 1990s and served as a wing commander in Afghanistan and the Middle East after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He helped to destroy Taliban forces and was part of the early hunt for Osama bin Laden.

About 10 years ago, he was offered a promotion to brigadier general but turned it down to spend time with family. He is now dedicated full-time to his civilian career, but every now and then, Merington will encounter something that brings his military memories rushing back.

“I wish I could take that feeling, bottle it in some kind of elixer, and inject it into those in my company so they could fully understand what it’s like to really trust someone with your life,” Merington said.

Civilian law to war combat

Walter Zink was the rare Army general who knew firsthand what it was like to be an enlisted private in an infantry line company.

Zink, a member of Legatus’ Lincoln Chapter, was about 21 when he enlisted in the Nebraska Army National Guard. He became an infantry rifleman, a “grunt” in a mechanized infantry brigade.

“My uncle was in the Army. My parents didn’t have military experience, but were always involved in community service,” Zink said. “I guess I always felt that service was part and parcel of our family ethic, and part of the responsibility that goes with citizenship.”

Zink, 70, subsequently became an officer. He retired in 2008 as a two-star major general after almost 40 years in the military. Toward the end of his career, Zink spent considerable time on active duty — about 40 weeks a year — as a commanding general in charge of training combat units that were deploying to Iraq.

In 2004, Zink was also mobilized to Iraq, where he was stationed in Baghdad and oversaw training and the preparation of combat units for their tours in the country.

Deploying to a war zone is stressful for active duty personnel, but being called up to war creates significant upheaval for citizen-soldiers who have full-time civilian careers and families they see every day.

“I was fortunate in that I was practicing in a civilian law firm where we had 30 lawyers and they could take up the slack on matters I was handling,” said Zink, who retired from his legal career in 2011.

“It was a stressful time. You have to wind some things down, and coordinate your civilian employment activities while taking care of your military responsibilities,” said Zink, who added that his wife of 47 years, Carol, was his “hero” in how she managed the homefront.

Zink said his Catholic faith “grounded” him in the basic principles of right and wrong, and helped him to have a moral center as he discharged his duties toward his military superiors and subordinates. His faith also provided comfort in difficult circumstances.

“When you’re in a combat zone, you never know what’s going to happen,” Zink said. “Having my faith assured me that if something happened to me, there was a life hereafter, and as long as I was trying to follow God’s course, that was the best that I could do.”

There is never a convenient time to be mobilized, and deployment to an overseas combat zone is nerve-wracking, but Zink emphasized that he is proud and has no regret of his active-duty time.

“It was one of the great opportunities of my life to be able to serve with our men and women in uniform,” Zink said. “To see us all participate in a cause bigger than ourselves, in that sense, I very much value my military service and the service of others.”

Dream of the Marines

U.S. Marine Col. James Herrera wanted to join what he calls the world’s finest fighting force back when he was in grammar school.

“It was a calling,” said Herrera, 52, a member of Legatus’ San Juan Capistrano Chapter in Orange County, California.

Herrera’s 35-year career in the Marines has recently reached its end. Readying for retirement this past June, he’d been looking forward to post-military life.

“It’s always bittersweet, but I’ve been preparing for this for a couple of years,” said Herrera, who is chairman of a local independent Catholic school and volunteers in several ministries.

Herrera was about five when he immigrated with his parents to the United States from Ecuador. Because he was 17 when he enlisted, his parents had to sign off on the paperwork. They agreed, on the condition that he would get his college degree and become an officer.

“I loved the Marines. I loved what I was doing, and I figured the better way of serving was to become an officer,” said Herrera, who was a sergeant when he received his commission. Having been an enlisted man helped the troops better relate to and trust him.

“Marines accept you a little bit quicker. They see that you’ve walked in their shoes, so there’s that initial rapport that’s already embedded,” Herrera said. “Having gone through boot camp, I was a machine gunner in the infantry, and I shared a lot of the same hardships, which helps out a bit.”

Herrera served in Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom as a company and brigade commander, leading the I Marine Expeditionary Force from 2012 to 2015. He was involved in counterterrorism operations, was a military trainer and instructor at the National Intelligence School, and served in several high-level national defense and intelligence roles.

A devout Catholic, Herrera sees the Marines’ ethos as being similar to the virtues of the spiritual life — mainly fortitude, humility, integrity, work, detachment, and compassion.

“As Marines, we have a lot of pride, which can be a double-edged sword. You need humility,” Herrera said. “My faith tells me that yes, you can be proud of what you do, but make sure you do it for the right reason, for the greater glory of God and for His people.”

As he transitions to civilian life, Herrera eagerly anticipates future opportunities, including the possibility of joining another local board of directors.

“I’ll see what else the Lord puts in front of me.”

Former Air Force Chaplain tends dupage ‘soldiers’

Monsignor James Burnett wore two hats as a Catholic priest and an active-duty U.S. Air Force chaplain.

“Sometimes they’re in conflict, like when you have to go out into the field rather than stay behind and hear confessions,” said Monsignor Burnett, 72, who retired as a U.S. Air Force major in 2000.

During his 20-year Air Force career, Monsignor Burnett counseled and provided moral support for military personnel and their families. He celebrated Mass in the field, heard confessions from fighter pilots, and helped military couples re-adjust to each other after long separations from deployments.

“You’re ministering at all times, trying to address the needs of those on base, whether they were there as dependents or whether they were flying off to God-knows-where for God-knows-how-long,” said Monsignor Burnett, current chaplain of Legatus’ DuPage County Chapter in Illinois.

A priest of the Diocese of Davenport in Iowa, he was a young priest in a rural parish in the late 1970s when he met an Air Force airman at a friend’s house. The next morning, the airman gave him a tour of a nearby Air Force installation, and showed him the base chapel.

Monsignor Burnett said he had a desire “to see the world,” and after “a lot of thought and prayer,” he asked his bishop for permission to be a full-time military chaplain. His bishop agreed, and Monsignor Burnett was on his way to receiving an officer’s commission and his first assignment at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia.

After a year of asking God whether he had done the right thing, Monsignor Burnett said he found his calling as an Air Force chaplain.

“I was there to help people, those in uniform and their families,” he said.

Legates who have served in the armed forces speak of how crucial military chaplains are there.

“The men and women are looking for guidance on right and wrong. They’re often wondering if they’re doing the right thing and asking if they’re violating their conscience or God’s laws when they’re called to go into combat,” said Walter Zink, a retired Nebraska Army National Guard major general and member of Legatus’ Lincoln Chapter.

“The role of the chaplain in combat is phenomenal. Masses in combat are some of the most touching and moving liturgies you’ll see,” said Larry Merington, a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve fighter pilot and president of Legatus’ New Orleans Chapter.

Monsignor Burnett was stationed stateside and in Europe. He was deployed to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for a four-month joint task force mission, and for a year-long remote tour in Greenland, where he said “you had to look south to see the Northern Lights.”

“It was literally on top of the world,” he said. After he retired from the Air Force, Monsignor Burnett became the chief of the chaplaincy service at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Chicago for 16 years, where he oversaw 10 chaplains, and realized that attention to detail and the organizational skills he honed in the military were quite important.

Today, Monsignor Burnett is retired from that role as well. He now lives in Darien, Illinois, and helps out in four parishes by celebrating Mass, presiding over funerals, and doing marriage counseling.

“Every day is different,” he said. “Ministering in the moment is what it comes down to.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Balm of Faith

The Czachorowskis: “Christ’s face is visible throughout our day”

“We feel like Legatus helps us support 35 families,” David Czachorowski said of his membership in the Wilmington, Delaware Chapter. “It’s not just for us but it’s also for the people we work with.”

The inspiration he receives through Legatus is about more than business, according to him, but about family too — both his and those of his employees. “At times, we’ve had to make the right choice as opposed to the best business decision for making the most money,” he said. “That is how we want to run our business, to make decisions for them as well as everyone around us.”

David is partner with his father Bill, who began Zack Excavating Inc., a heavy excavation company. He and his wife Aimee, an attorney, joined Legatus in 2016 and his dad and mom, Mary Ann, a pharmacist, followed last year.

Bill and Mary Ann also have a hobby farm that includes 22 Angus cattle. Mary Ann raises chickens and donates eggs for their parish’s twicemonthly breakfast and also to a homeless shelter.

They have many obligations to keep them busy but said that Legatus adds to their lives. Bill said that he and Mary Ann often avoid socializing through business but Legatus is different. “I am glad to have the connection of faith on this level,” Bill said. “Legatus reminds me that I have a responsibility to carry God’s message into the work place.”

David and Aimee just welcomed their fourth child on Easter Sunday and their eldest is only nine. “Legatus forces us to get a babysitter to go out,” David said. “It’s a good way to step back and reflect on all that we’ve been blessed with.” He said that the main theme he and Aimee have taken from Legatus is that their daily work is not separate from the Church. “The Holy Spirit does not just speak to us on Sundays,” he said. “Christ’s face is visible throughout our day.”

The Michalaks: “Don’t get too busy for spiritual things”

Penny and Mike Michalak were charter members when the Louisville, Kentucky Chapter chartered last year. During 31 years of marriage, they founded a family business named MiPenico, in which they own 15 Little Caesar’s Pizza restaurants with approximately 400 employees. They are the parents of 16 children, 10 of them adopted. Four of the children have Down syndrome which inspired them to start a private accredited, Catholic school: Immaculata Classical Academy, which has an enrollment of 200 and was granted Catholic status by their bishop in 2016.

Mike and Penny also began the charity, AngelsInDisguise.net which celebrates the gift of Down syndrome and has helped with adoptions of 70 children. And, they just became grandparents to identical twins. Yet, Mike and Penny make time for Legatus.

“God has been involved in our business from the beginning,” Penny explained. “Legatus was a natural connection.” She said she was especially moved by Tom Monaghan’s message not to get too busy for the spiritual things and to say ‘yes’ to whatever God is calling one to do.

Legatus’ passionate pro-life stance is especially close to Mike and Penny’s heart, given the high rate of abortion for babies with Down syndrome. When Mike’s Uncle Ray was born, one of 14 children, his parents were told to put him in an institution. Instead, he stayed home and was a beloved member of the family. The family considered him so special that when Mike and Penny’s sixth biological child Elena (child #9) was born with Down syndrome in 2008, their 10-year-old son Simon (child #3) considered the 1 in 100 odds for his 41-year old mother and announced: “So we hit the jackpot!” Their other three children with Down syndrome were adopted from Poland.

Mike said he was impressed when Tom Monaghan visited their chapter and was asked what he wanted them to do. “He said he wasn’t going to tell us what to do, except to live our life in grace and stay close to the sacraments, then God would let us know.”

The Browns: “We have to transmit our Catholic faith …a gift to us and to the world”

Jacqueline Brown and her husband Daniel, the parents of two boys from China, joined the Jacksonville, Florida Chapter last year. Daniel is owner and COO of Miller Electric Company based in Jacksonville with offices throughout the country. Jacqueline, a psychologist, has also been a featured speaker for the Portland Chapter. From 2010 to 2017 she worked with Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center serving women and girls who have experienced trauma and entanglement with the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

According to her, Legate families have many blessings and advantages missing in families she once served. It was Legatus’s call to integrate the Catholic faith into the secular world that attracted her and Daniel.

“There is so much darkness in the world,” she explained. “The numbers are staggering; 1 in 3 girls suffer sexual abuse before adulthood and 1 in 6 of boys.” Although she’s seen the depth of darkness, Jaqueline said that we have a faith that gives us hope. “Jesus conquered death, but we have to accept that evil exists,” she said. “If we transmit nothing else, we have to transmit our Catholic faith because it is such a gift to us and to the world.”

Jacqueline could not push religion on clients, so she would let them lead. If they mentioned God or prayer, she used that to ask their beliefs and help them identify good values. Jacqueline felt called to leave that work last year and is now working on the fourth book in her The Light series – dramatic fiction with Catholic values. The audio books are being produced by the daughter of Ann Fitzgibbon, a Legate in Portland Oregon.

The Greens: “Even our children want to hear about the [Legatus] speaker when we get home”

Paul and Sherry Green were founding members in 2014 of the DuPage County, Illinois Chapter where Paul is the chapter treasurer and a senior partner at Ernst & Young. They have five children, having just adopted a three-year old boy with Down syndrome from China this past March.

Among their other four children, three are in high school, and one is a college freshman. The entire family traveled to China to experience the adoption process together, documenting it in a blog at HowieGoesGreen.weebly.com.

“My wife initially went on a trip to China with our adoption agency as an advocacy trip,” Paul explained. “While she as at the orphanage, she heard about a little guy who was left at a church in Shanghai. Sherry wanted to meet the boy. ‘That’s him you are playing with,’ she was told.”

It was clear from the start, according to Paul, that Howie was meant for them. “He is the most loving, happy little guy,” Paul said. “Last night, we had work colleagues over for dinner. My daughter brought him to meet everyone and he just opened his arms to them.”

Sherry credits Legatus with helping her and Paul schedule quality time together. “We’ve never been good about having date nights,” she said. “At the meetings, we always have good conversations and even our children want to hear about the speaker when we get home.”

Sherry also noted that she and Paul appreciate spending time with like-minded people. “It’s a safe place,” she said. “We have so much in common and can talk about things like our faith and abortion. Even in my family and among Catholics we can’t always do that.”

“Legatus has emboldened me to bring my faith to work,” Paul said. For example, a young lady at work had shared with him that she was considering living with her boyfriend even though she was Catholic. Paul sent up a prayer and then expressed his own views on the beauty and importance of marriage. Three weeks later the women thanked Paul and let him know she wasn’t going to move in. Three months later they were engaged and got married in the Church.

“I would not have done that before I belonged to Legatus,” Paul said. “We went to the national conference and there was a focus on being ambassadors. The speakers were so amazing and inspiring, sharing what they have done with their faith.” He said it gave him the confidence to engage with people about his faith.

“Legatus means ‘ambassador’ and the name is appropriate for what we are called to do,” he said. “We are to step back and think about bringing our faith into the world which needs it so much. The Lord gives us those opportunities and when we take advantage of them, it builds on itself and we are inspired to share our faith even more.”

PATTI MAGUIRE ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.