Tag Archives: faith

California Missions Still Advancing The ‘Great Commission’

In 1769, Spanish Franciscan St. Junipero Serra crossed from Mexico into what is today California and founded the first of 21 in a chain of missions that would run up the length of the state. The purpose of Franciscan missions was to teach California ’s Indian tribes the Catholic faith, improve their standard of living, and make them citizens of the Spanish state. The missions prospered in their early years, winning Indian converts and often thriving economically.

But after Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the missions were taken from the Church and their lands sold off to private parties. After California became a U.S. state in 1850, many of the mission buildings were returned to the Catholic Church, but they had passed from being a center of Catholic life in the state to decaying remnants of an earlier era.

 Yet by the latter half of the 19th century and into the 20th century, preservationists began to take the initiative to restore many of the mission sites, preserving disintegrating adobe buildings, repairing or replacing rotting wooden window frames and doors, and going in search of mission artifacts that were held in private hands. Throughout the state today, the missions are often popular tourist attractions, their original structures preserved to varying degrees. They contain some common elements, such as mission-style architecture, adobe buildings, arches, fountains and winding pathways, gardens, and Spanish colonial-era art. But each has its own unique characteristics and history. Here is a glimpse at three.

 Mission San Juan Capistrano – best preserved, bells still ring

The seventh of nine missions founded by St. Junipero Serra, California’s most famous missionary, Mission San Juan Capistrano is the “best preserved” of any mission in the state, according to docent Bob Spidell. Legatus’ San Juan Capistrano Chapter holds its meetings at the Mission every month, and hosted the 2019 Summit’s opening evening there.

Established in 1776, its 9-acre site includes Serra chapel, an adobe structure that is one of California’s oldest buildings. The long, narrow chapel is still used for daily Mass, and includes ornate Spanish art that predates the mission itself.

Another of the Capistrano mission’s unique features include its Great Stone Church, an impressive stone structure completed in 1806, but which collapsed in a massive earthquake during morning Mass on December 8, 1812. More than 40 worshippers were killed in the disaster.

 Among the Capistrano mission’s most notable features are its historic bells, rung annually on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19, during the mission’s most famous celebration, the Return of the Swallows.

Other structures on the grounds include 18th-century soldiers’ barracks, a kitchen, storage house, and dining room. There are also remnants of the mission work areas, such as its winery and metal smelting area.

The Capistrano mission calendar shows many impressive annual events, such as its Music Under the Stars summer concert series. The historic mission site is located alongside a new parish mission church and the parish school; take a stroll into the new church and see its magnificent Golden Retablo (altarpiece) installed in 2007.

Mission Santa Barbara – CA’s first Catholic Cathedral

The tenth of California’s missions, this is the first not founded by Fr. Serra himself. Fr. Fermin Lasuen, a protégé of Serra’s, established the Santa Barbara mission in 1786 after the saint had died. It served the Chumash Indians; during the period 1786-1846, over 4,700 Chumash were received into the Catholic faith.

 Popular features include the Sacred Garden with its tall palms and fountain; the oldest quadrangle of the mission that was originally a work area, but was transformed into a garden in the 19th century. The 1820 mission church with its neoclassical façade is another noteworthy feature. It is actually the third adobe church built on the site, and it replaced a previous church which collapsed in an 1812 earthquake (a few weeks after the one that destroyed the Capistrano church).

 Other original buildings include a convento wing where the mission’s museum is housed, with a second story added later in the 19th century. The museum depicts the role of baptized Chumash as artists, musicians, singers, and artisans, said Mónica Orozco, the mission’s executive director, and it houses a recording of the acts of faith, hope, and charity recited in Barbareño Chumash by Ernestine Ygnacio-De Soto, whose mother was the last fluent speaker of Barbareño Chumash.

The mission’s 15-acre site also includes a cemetery and historic mausoleum. Look for the large Ficus tree dating back to the 19th century, and the plaque marking the site where the famous Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island was buried (she lived alone on an island off California’s coast for nearly 20 years before coming to the mission; the children’s novel The Island of the Blue Dolphins is based on her story). Also enjoy an olive grove with Stations of the Cross, and La Huerta, a historical garden.

A recreated 17th-century kitchen gives visitors the chance to see the original building materials of adobe and sandstone, and a treasures room includes the mission’s original tabernacle and altar constructed by Chumash artisans in 1789.

The mission is home to 23 Franciscan friars and the order’s Franciscan Novitiate Program. It also served as the state’s first Catholic cathedral, and was the residence of its first bishop, Bishop García Diego. He is buried behind the altar in the church.

Mission San Miguel – founded for Salinan Indians

Located about halfway between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area along the 101 freeway is Mission San Miguel, another mission founded by Fr. Lasuen, this one in 1797. Founded by Franciscans to serve the Salinan Indians, it was administered by diocesan priests for a time, but since 1928 has again been given to the care of the Franciscans.

Its old adobe church was built from 1816-21, and is notable for its interior frescoes created by artist Esteban Munras. There is an adobe kitchen, dining room, reception area, and large open courtyard. Exhibits tell the story of the Salinan people and life in the early mission era.

Mission San Miguel’s history includes the most appalling mass murder ever committed on the grounds of a California mission. In 1848, the mission was the residence of William Reed and his family. It was the start of the Gold Rush, and Reed bragged he had struck it rich. Six men came to the mission to steal his gold. An orgy of killing began when one of the killers struck Reed from behind with an axe (you can still see the fireplace in front of which he was murdered). They went on to kill the rest of Reed’s family and his servants, including an Indian boy who begged for his life. A total of 11 died. No gold was discovered. A posse caught up with five of the killers; two were killed in a shootout and three captured and later executed. The sixth was never found.

Also part of the San Miguel mission’s story is the 2003 earthquake that severely damaged its buildings and led to its temporary closure. The diocese raised $15 million for repairs, and the mission has since reopened to the public. But, as with all the missions, repair and restoration is ongoing.

When visiting California, make time to visit one or more of the missions. They are a rich part of the state’s history, and the birthplace of the Catholic faith in California. Check websites for hours, costs, and tour information. Most are functioning parishes, so look for Mass and Confession times. It will be a greatly treasured experience.

JIM GRAVES is a Catholic writer living in Newport Beach, California.

Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph over the Darkness of the Age

Bishop Athanasius Schneider
Angelico Press, 321 pages

 

Interviews, even lengthy ones, can be riveting when the interviewee is fascinating to hear. That’sthe case with Bishop Athanasius Schneider, an auxiliary bishop in Kazakhstan, who expounds on a range of controversial topics affecting the Catholic faith and the Church. In this lengthy Q&A with U.S. journalist Diane Montagna, he offers articulate analysis of such topics as secularism, papal authority, Vatican II, the liturgy, doctrinal issues, interfaith relations, the third secret of Fatima, the state of the faith in the former Soviet republics, and the recent Synod of Bishops for the PanAmazon Region.

 

Order: Amazon

Unstoppable gift of faith spawns bold witness

The theme for this month’s magazine, “Studying and Living the Faith,” comes straight from our mission statement: “To study, live, and spread the Catholic faith in our business, professional, and personal lives.” Studying and living the Faith is at the very heart of who we are as Legatus members. How we practically implement this can be explored in a variety of ways, but I think it is safe to say that the most applicable scenario now is not one that anyone imagined just a few short months ago.

Stephen Henley

The coronavirus pandemic feels like it has taken over the world, affecting every single person in one way or another. It has shut down our cities, halted the public celebration of Mass, and even taken lives, but it cannot take away our Faith. As St. Paul says, “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us” (Rom 8:35,37). No doubt bolstered by this truth, I have watched Legatus members redouble their commitment to studying and living the Faith amid this crisis rather than shrink back.

One great example of members studying the Faith has been our popular Catholic Leadership Through Crisis webinar series that began this spring. We have listened to bishops and priests, doctors, and presidents, absorbing each one’s perspective on what it means to be Catholic right here, right now. Truly understanding our Faith is a prerequisite to living it. The fact that these webinars have been so well attended by presidents and CEOs during a time when “business as usual” has been turned on its head is a testament to the true depth of faith among our members.

Though none of us would have chosen this situation, it has also afforded us a unique opportunity to move from simply knowing to living our Faith in an even more prominent way. As the world continues to grapple with this new and dangerous situation, it looks evermore toward its leaders for direction and example. So many idols have been demolished by the coronavirus – wealth, sports, freedom, and above all, the illusion that we are in control. People are shaken, afraid, confused. How can anyone be at peace? How can anyone have hope? We know the answer – and even more than that, we know the Person who is the answer. When Legatus members face, with a supernatural peace and a supernatural hope, all of the tough choices now thrust upon business leaders, their witness will shine like a bright light in the darkness. This is what living the Faith is all about. So we thank God who, in His omnipotence, can bring wonderful opportunity out of such a devastating situation, and we ask for the grace to embrace it, to embrace our mission as Legatus.

STEPHEN M. HENLEY is Legatus’ executive director.

WHAT TO SEE: Faith can remain, even through nonsensical pain

I Still Believe
K.J. Apa, Britt Robertson, Nathan Dean Parsons, Gary Sinise, Shania Twain, Reuben Jack Dodd
117 min. • Rated: PG

Tragedy can test our faith. The question of why bad things happen to good people has haunted humanity from the start. When misfortune befalls people we perceive as evil, it’s easy to suppose it’s a matter of divine justice. But what about the virtuous and the innocent? Why do they sometimes suffer just as much, and why does God seem deaf to prayers on their behalf?

Jeremy Camp is an accomplished Christian performing artist whose journey to success traveled along the roads of tragedy. I Still Believe tells the story of how he found both stardom and love, but lost the latter. More importantly, it relates how faith brought Jeremy and his wife Melissa together, led them to the altar, and sustained them through pain and grief. Turning to God in prayer as Melissa battled an illness that knew no mercy, Jeremy found a healing unlike what he had hoped for or expected. Emerging from the long dark tunnel, he still believed, and lived to sing the praises of God.

This faith-based film is a tearjerker by design, and succeeds at that even though some of its conflicts seem insufficiently explored — the early rivalry for Melissa’s affections between Jeremy and another Christian singer who helped get him his first demo recording, the relationship between the young lovers and their respective families, and the too-sudden discovery of Melissa’s illness. But the acting is solid, and both Gary Sinise and Shania Twain give the film a bit of star power despite their relatively small roles.

A lesson of I Still Believe is that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45) and loves us through it all. It is not ours to understand this mystery of suffering, but to embrace it — and continue to love, trust, and believe in Him in return.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

 

Catholic employers must lead with their faith

At the end of Mass, Catholics are sent forth: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” That is the duty of the laity because they “live in the midst of the world and its concerns, to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ” (Second Vatican Council, Apostolicam Actuositatem, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 2). This instruction also applies to Catholic employers — whether they engage in ministry, health care, education, or business — as they navigate hostile cultural waters.

The most distinctive thing about the American founding was its protection of religious freedom. This protection was embodied in the Constitution and, subsequently, in hundreds of statutes and ordinances that accommodated or exempted religiously conscientious individuals and organizations. As late as 1993, a unanimous House and 97 senators enacted, and President Clinton signed, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Since then, the cultural consensus reflected in those laws has been under attack by sexual and secular activists. Statutes, regulations, and court decisions related to life issues and redefining acceptable sexual norms often omit religious exemptions that once were commonplace.

A few examples: — Catholic schools require teachers to model Catholic values. Teachers with live-in partners of the same or opposite sex model something else. When terminated, these teachers claim legal protection under offpremises conduct and civil rights statutes. — Affordable Care Act regulations require employer health plans to provide “contraceptives” (defined to include abortifacients and sterilization). While many legal challenges, including two that my organization brought, have resolved favorably, these mandates remain in effect and attempts by the current administration to provide religious exemption are mired in court. Meanwhile, 28 states impose their own contraceptive coverage mandates. Four — California, New York, Maine, Oregon — even require that health plans cover surgical abortion. — Most Catholic employers are unaware that their health insurers may have added a gender dysphoria rider to their plans. The rider covers not only hormone treatments for insured “transitioning” employees and their family members, but also a host of mutilating surgeries including vaginectomy, metoidioplasty, and orchiectomy. — The ACA mandates that employers cover federally approved clinical trials. At least 36 approved trials are based on use of human embryonic stem cells or tissue harvested from aborted fetuses — each destroying innocent human life.

For conscientious Catholic employers, these rules require direct cooperation with what their faith forbids. Compliance in their employment practices and benefits programs results in scandal and undermines the employer’s credibility. Failure to comply risks crushing fines and possible liability. What should a conscientious Catholic employer do?

Catholics are blessed with several organizations ready to assist in this effort. While their strategies require a longer discussion, two critical aspects of their success are becoming informed and maintaining consistent and comprehensive Catholic identity.

Becoming informed means, at the least, asking the organization’s insurance agent or third-party administrator (TPA) specific questions: Does my policy or plan cover contraceptives? Does it cover abortion-inducing drugs and devices or surgical abortion? Does it cover transgender services? Does it cover all FDA-approved clinical trials? If the answer is yes, direct the agent or TPA to cease all such coverage and confirm in writing that this has been done.

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the Supreme Court held that for-profit employers have religious liberty rights when they operate in sync with their religious values. For Catholic employers, maintaining Catholic identity requires that their organizing documents, mission statement, human resources materials, and business practices thoughtfully reflect Catholic values. If litigation is required, a comprehensively defined and practiced Catholic identity significantly helps secure religious liberty protection. It’s also how Catholic employers become leaven in the world. 

DOUG WILSON, a member of the Colorado Springs Chapter, is CEO of the Catholic Benefits Association, which assists member Catholic employers of all types in the legal defense of their religious rights and in providing employee benefits consistent with Catholic values.

God rewards faithfulness, Mary helps us keep it

In southern Poland, as World War II was beginning in early September 1939, a man named Franciszek brought his wife and two little daughters to the town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska near Krakow where the Franciscans ran a Marian shrine. While there, he disappeared briefly behind the shrine walls. Only after the war in 1945 did he reveal what he did at the shrine: he had begged the Blessed Virgin Mary for protection during the war, promising in return to bring a group of parishioners there for the Solemnity of the Assumption each year. He kept this promise, and even after Franciszek’s death in 1992 his family and co-parishioners maintain that pledge every August.

His oldest daughter, Weronika, learned from her father’s example. When the youngest of her three children was almost 12, Weronika, then nearly 39, learned she was pregnant again. Her “best” friends urged her to abort, which she thought about – “You don’t need another problem,” they said – but she wanted the baby. She went to her parish priest for counsel, and decided to keep the child. After nine months, on May 28, 1975, Weronika delivered a beautiful boy named Rafal. Weronika and her husband, Edward, would later have a fifth child, a daughter named Monica.

During the pregnancy with Rafal, Weronika did like her father Franciszek: she asked Our Lady for help and protection. In return, she offered the child to the service of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her son Jesus. Rafal, the same Father Rafal who writes these words, is now 45.

To not have been aborted is a wonderful gift from my mom in cooperation with God. Every gift is a sign of love and proof that someone thinks about us. It is the same in my life.

I have lived my life in a close relationship with God and His mother Mary. Growing up, the parish church was my second home. In Poland, August, like May, is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. During that month you see many groups of people walking to the Shrine of Black Madonna in Czestochowa, the fourth-largest Marian shrine in the world. It is a “Walking Pilgrimage,” and it takes some people 21 days. It is a very old way of penance and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pilgrims carry on their shoulders not only backpacks with food and water, but also many prayer intentions.

Walking Pilgrimage was part of my annual summer vacation. In 1996, after reaching the shrine, my group of 5,000 pilgrims from the Diocese of Bielsko-Zywiec celebrated the Eucharist. We then watched as pilgrims from Krakow arrived. A thought came to my mind, like an offer to God and to Mary: “It would be so nice to serve all those pilgrims here at the shrine.” Two years later, I entered religious life in the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit.

Back to the gifts. The second most precious and important gift I have ever received was the one I received on May 28, 2005, my 30th birthday, from God Himself. At the Shrine of the Black Madonna, the same place I had offered myself to God to serve the pilgrims, I and eight other young men gathered around the altar of Our Lady and were ordained to the priesthood.

This reflection is not about gifts we receive from people, but about God, who is faithful. Saint Paul says, “But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one” (2 Thess. 3:3). This is exactly what happens to my family: God guards us “from the evil one.” Therefore, I want to sing with Mary, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

FATHER RAFAL WALCZYK, O.S.P.P.E. was ordained a priest in 2005 and is a member of the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit. A native of Poland, he currently serves at The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA.

2019 President of the Year had life-changing reversion to his faith

HANK CHRIST OF THE HARRISBURG CHAPTER CREDITS BIBLE STUDY FOR ENLIVING HIS LOVE FOR THE LORD

Legatus’ 2019 National President of the Year is Hank Christ, who in December completed a two-year term as president of the Harrisburg Chapter.

Christ, 69, lives in Wrightsville, Pa., with his wife, Edna. Together they have three grown children, one who lives nearby and two who reside in Chicago. Christ enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife to the Windy City to see their grandchildren.

Christ is also chairman emeritus of McConkey Insurance and Benefits, a company he joined in 1976. He is an active volunteer in his community and in the Harrisburg diocese, for which he helps organize a ministry for young adults. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How does it feel to be named the 2019 National President of the Year?

I’m a team guy. So to me, this is an award for the chapter. We put together a strong board and basically paid attention to things. We set goals, monitored those goals, and had a plan for recruiting new members. When you pay attention to things, good things happen. We have a good team and everybody did a great job.

Our chaplain is Bishop Ronald Gainer. He is an incredibly dynamic man, and we all love him. It’s a big part of our success. We’ve been awarded for growth each year.

How did you get acquainted with Legatus?

I got a letter from the bishop back when they wanted to start the Chapter about four years ago. He asked me to come up for a dinner and a meeting, and when the bishop asks you to come, you come. Afterward he asked me if I would like to belong to Legatus, and I said, “Yes, I would.” 

Has the Catholic faith always been an important part of your life?

I never faded away from the Church, but my relationship with the Church and the Lord changed in the early 1990s. I had a conversion experience. I started studying the Bible, and it had an impact on me. A friend of mine encouraged me to study The Bible Timeline by Jeff Cavins, which is a 24-week program on the story of salvation history. Basically, you learn the story of salvation through reading 14 books of the Bible. If you take it seriously, it’s life-changing. It’s quite a commitment, but it’s worth it.

How did that program change your life?

I used to go to Mass on Sunday to get my ticket punched. That program made me want to go and have a relationship with the Lord. So it started getting me into things like cultivating more of a prayer life, going to daily Mass several times a week, and going to adoration at least once a week. 

How has your deepening faith impacted your professional life?

 Our company has about 100 employees. Everyone knows I’m a Catholic. Every one of my customers knows I’m a Catholic because I talk about the faith. I let them take from those conversations what they want.

What you like to do in your free time?

We’re involved in the Harrisburg diocese’s Theology on Tap program, which is for young adults in their 20s and 30s. We get together, have dinner and a speaker. I work out the details with the restaurants. I book the speakers. I get the marketing data together and advertise the program through Facebook. We basically try to stay behind the scenes when the meeting occurs. The young adults who go to it have started their own Bible study programs, are going to Mass together, and are forming good Catholic relationships. We’re privileged to be involved in that.

Bending back the sword of fear

With the long-held American tenet of separation of church and state, it would seem that wearing one’s faith on his sleeve in business might be ‘imprudent.’ After all, by the late 19th century, non-Catholic governments became the norm in Europe and in the Americas – and certain principles were instilled to keep Catholics ‘in line’ with dictates of civil authority. Catholicism and its unique teachings were to be granted no special treatment. And so an intolerable intimidation has trickled down to this day.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

It is the sword of fear pointed particularly at Catholics – in business, in government, in education, in everything.

The virtue of fortitude lets an executive act unapologetically and with confidence that God has his back. It’s the grit that lets him follow Divine instinct. It’s what prompts the CEO, judge, university professor, or administrative assistant to state plainly what he or she personifies as a Catholic – whether derided for it or not. High-octane guts trump human respect, and make some of the greatest leaders what they are.

But fear is the great underminer of fortitude, and there are reasons why.

Living in a continual state of moral compromise gives rise to fear – leading to heightened anxiety about others’ opinions or of being exposed. It’s been said the more one runs from God, the greater his unrest.

Next, the Church today is less likely to have her princes and shepherds draw clear boundaries clarifying longstanding right and wrong. Rather, many clerics pursue affirmation of the culture. The perception of losing centuries-old Church support makes Catholics more fearful, and more lax.

Third, among man’s deepest instincts is self-preservation, which kicks into high gear amid fear of loss – of business, income, stature, loved ones, health – even death. It takes supernatural muscle to go beyond the limitations of self-preservation and forge ahead for the selfless purposes of God.

Fourth, many contemporary Catholics recoil from living sacrificially or embracing hardship – errantly perceiving it as a lack of self-sufficiency. This exacerbates their fear of pain or even mild discomfort – making them ‘soft,’ less able to stand immovably firm on the tougher aspects of faith.

Finally, a close ‘relative’ of fear is uncertainty – which makes people queasy about circumstances and imagined outcomes. It keeps them inert, unable to take bold steps. The early 20th-century communists and Nazis exploited uncertainty, and kept people in constant suspicion of each other so they’d remain fearful and easily controlled.

Years ago when I was a legal writer, the attorney who owned the firm hosted Christmas parties at his spectacular country estate. He was devout Greek Orthodox, and one year gave us a special house tour. Matter-of-factly, he led us into a glorious room with a large spotlighted Bible on an ornate brass bookstand, flanked with candles in gilded holders, fresh poinsettias, and a spectacular gold-carved cross. Illuminated paintings of Christ and saints’ icons lined the walls. His wife led us in religious Christmas carols around their piano.

A godly leader, he made his faith evident in every setting. Many of us are still affirmed by his example.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Caterer for Christ cooks for most needy

2019 Ambassador of the Year serves with palatable faith

Craig Henry, a founding member of Legatus’ Lafayette-Acadiana Chapter, was honored as the 2019 Ambassador of the Year at the Legatus Summit East in January.

Henry, 51, runs Holy Trinity Catering, a ministry that serves meals for church groups, civic organizations, the poor, and those who find themselves in need during a disaster.

A married father of three, Henry is also the managing owner of Bradford Food Group, a U.S.-based food distribution company that co-owns multiple bakeries in Mexico. He sits on Legatus’ Board of Governors. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How does it feel to be the 2019 Ambassador of the Year?

It’s a fantastic feeling. I think I’m receiving the award because I’m trying to truly live out the mission statement of Legatus. I’m just trying to be an ambassador for Christ in all areas of my life, especially in the aspect of helping the poor and helping kids stay Catholic, especially high school and college kids. A lot of the work I do with Holy Trinity is tied to keeping folks connected and involved with the Catholic faith.

How did you get into the food business?

I went to work for several national chains right out of high school. I started out with Sonic Drive-In and ended my career with a company called Old Country Buffet.

When did you venture on your own?

I always did a lot of cooking for different charity things, but I was kind of piece-mealing it from the back of my truck. In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas, Acadiana [in Louisiana] was home to many of those who were evacuated or displaced. I was approached by Catholic Charities to help coordinate and feed some of those evacuees. I rounded up a bunch of volunteer help, and we ended up serving 600 to 700 people. The love and appreciation we were shown brought me pure joy. That’s when I realized I needed to be more organized.

What is the mission of Holy Trinity Catering?

To keep people focused on what Christ has called us to be and do. Cajun people are known for their culture and their food, and it’s a good way to bridge the gap and brings folks together. I cook traditional Cajun food. Many are dishes my grandmother cooked for our family. I even came up with a little slogan: “Made with faith and seasoned with love.”

Where does your strong Catholic faith come from?

I attribute it to my late grandmother, my dad’s mom. She and my grandfather were the epitome of the Catholic faith. I grew up in a very small town. They were the keepers of the little mission church in town. It wasn’t uncommon for me to walk into her house to see her sitting at the table praying the rosary. I didn’t understand her dedication to the rosary as a younger guy. Once I joined Legatus, I was on a Men’s Enclave with Tom Monaghan and others. Tom challenged me to say a rosary every day for the rest of my life. I made that commitment, and now I understand why my grandmother was so faithful to it.

How has Legatus impacted your spiritual life?

We attended the Legatus Summit in 2014, where I had a life-changing moment in Confession. It reignited my faith like nothing else. Legatus does so much in helping you be secure with what your faith is and how to live it. It gives you so many tools and opportunities to grow. Our circle of friends is all tied back to the Church because of our commitment to Legatus.

Craig Henry truly personifies the mission of Legatus through all aspects of his life and example. He is exemplary of the role the New Evangelization plays in the Church, as evidenced through his Legatus experience and transformation that resulted in his embrace of the faith. He has become the Ambassador of Christ in the marketplace that we all strive to be.

Forgiveness And Faith

Legate’s friendship helped traumatized man find healing

Y.G. Nyghtstorm had experienced a difficult life: poverty, an abusive and broken home, sexual abuse, homelessness, suicide attempts, employment struggles, failed marriages, and a child’s death.

As a result, he struggled deeply with depression, anger, and lack of forgiveness for those who had wounded him.

But a chance meeting with North Georgia legate Mike Drapeau developed into a bond of friendship that led Y.G. on a path toward healing and full embrace of the Catholic Church.

And it all began with a cup of lemonade.

A TROUBLED JOURNEY

Y.G. – for Yahanseh George, but Y.G. “is easier for people to remember” – grew up in the Atlanta area as an only child of bickering parents. His father left while he was very young, only to return periodically for another violent fight. His mother grew increasingly hostile to Y.G. because he resembled his father.

In 1985, Y.G. attended a summer camp. There a counselor befriended the socially awkward 11-year-old, made sure he got involved in camp activities, and spoke with him about God and Catholicism. On the camp’s final day, he took Y.G. into a cabin and raped him, quoting Scripture as he did and telling Y.G. God would kill him if he ever told anyone.

Y.G. came away from the abuse hating himself. His relationships deteriorated. And he kept silent. Above all, he hated Christianity and especially the Catholic Church for what that “wicked man” had done to him.

At 18, Y.G.’s mother kicked him out of the house. He lived on the streets, surviving hunger, beatings, and muggings. He attempted suicide more than once. One day, a wealthy and elderly Good Samaritan stopped, took off his own argyle socks, put them on Y.G.’s bare feet, and told him: “As sure as these socks are covering your feet, young man, God will cover your life. Embrace God and go make a difference.”

That single act of kindness “ignited my soul for God,” Y.G. said. But sustaining faith was much more challenging.

Y.G. got off the streets, “got saved” in a Pentecostal church, and married a pastor’s daughter. That marriage dissolved after a few years and a couple of kids, and so did his faith. Depression made it difficult to keep a job. He married again, had more kids, and together he and his wife raised a blended family of seven children.

After his oldest stepson was killed in a workplace accident in 2008, his faith began to return. “I felt powerless and needed strength to support my family during this very difficult time,” Y.G. recalled. “My children needed their dad to be strong, and leading my family back to Christ helped us so much.”

Over the next several years, Y.G. and his wife, Toby, established a foundation in their late son’s name, opened a business, and became motivational speakers and radio co-hosts on life management, marriage, and parenting. But the issues of his past still haunted him. He knew he had to forgive those who had hurt him but could not bring himself do so.

Yet a small, still voice was speaking to him. “God was planting seeds in me about becoming Catholic,” Y.G. said. One night as he slept, he heard the voice of Christ tell him plainly: “I want you to become Catholic and help others who have been hurt in my Church.”

The experience startled him. “I jumped out of the bed drenched in sweat, and I was angry,” said Y.G. “I was livid that Christ would tell me to go to the very place that nearly destroyed me as a child. I literally cussed at God and said that he was lucky I didn’t burn down Catholic churches.”

LEMONADE DIPLOMACY

Several months later, in 2015, Y.G. was driving through a subdivision in Cumming, GA, when two little girls stepped into the street and flagged him down to sell him some lemonade.

Y.G. couldn’t resist the hard sell. He produced a quarter and drank a cup. Impressed by the girls’ entrepreneurship, he asked to meet the father who taught them such skills.

That’s when he met Mike Drapeau.

“He invited me into his home,” Y.G. recalled. “I am a large, 330-pound black man driving in a prestigious neighborhood, a little white girl beautifully smiles at me while selling me lemonade, and her dad invites me into his home while our country is still bickering over race relations. I am an open and inviting person, and it impressed me that Mike was the same way…. And he just happened to be Catholic.”

The two men talked about lemonade, work, life, and faith. At some point, Drapeau invited Y.G. to a meeting of his Regnum Christi prayer group. Y.G. graciously accepted.

Mike’s friendship “allowed me to open up to the possibility of learning more about Catholics, whom I had been hating for decades,” Y.G. said.

Y.G. returned home, prayed, and apologized to God for the bitterness he had felt. “I was still adamant about not becoming Catholic, but I agreed to be open-minded,” he said.

Within that Catholic prayer group, he found compassion, acceptance, and healing. He also began drawing closer to the Church.

“Mike and the other good men of the faith showed a lot of love to me,” he said. “Their families embraced my family while Christ was ministering to me and comforting me the entire time. I had to finally put down my ego, let go of my pain, trust God, and forgive the Church.”

Drapeau said that although the group was “a pretty stable group of guys” that had been meeting for more than 15 years, they welcomed Y.G. with open arms. “He was definitely a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Drapeau marveled at Y.G.’s progress through the group.

“Part of the methodology is to not only break open the Gospels but also to study aspects of Catholic history, spirituality, theology, and apologetics,” he explained. “So week by week he encountered that. Sometimes he listened. Sometimes he reacted. Sometimes he was stupefied. But always he came back. And, little did we know, he was systematically knocking down his prejudices and misperceptions about the Catholic Church as he interacted with us.”

RESTORATION

Ultimately, Y.G. did more than just forgive the Catholic Church: in January 2018, he was received into the faith at St. Brendan’s Church in Cumming.

“It was an amazing Mass,” recalled Drapeau, who was Y.G.’s confirmation sponsor. “The entire parish appeared to know him, and they all clapped. It was a powerful moment for those in attendance.”

Drapeau said he and Y.G. have a “close personal relationship” and have participated together in charitable endeavors, mission trips, and the National March for Life.

Y.G. said that with his Catholic friends’ encouragement, he has reached out to his mother in reconciliation. He has even forgiven the “wicked man” and what he came to represent.

“I carried around unforgiveness in my heart against the Catholic Church for over 30 years,” he said. “What started with one wicked Catholic man snatching away my self-worth and power when I was a child has transcended into a life of unimaginable power as I am loved by a group of Catholics that helped me in more ways than I can count.”

Gerald Korson is a Legatus magazine staff writer.