Tag Archives: Judy Roberts

Going for the gold

Former Olympian and NBA star Bill Hanzlik teaches children life skills through sports

As a young man growing up in a family of five, Bill Hanzlik saw his skill on the basketball court largely as a ticket to college. Having a 6-foot-7-inch frame didn’t hurt either.

Bill Hanzlik

Bill Hanzlik

After landing a scholarship at the University of Notre Dame, the Denver legate expected to graduate and get a job in mechanical engineering.

“But lo and behold,” he said, “I made the 1980 olympic team and was drafted in the first round by Seattle.”

Path to success

A career in the National Basketball Association (NBA) followed, and with it came the beginnings of the Gold Crown Foundation — a nonprofit organization that annually reaches 18,000 youths in elementary school through high school.

Hanzlik was playing for the Denver Nuggets when his business partner, Ray Baker, asked him to help put on some girls’ basketball camps. “OK, I’m game on,” Hanzlik responded, and together the two men founded Gold Crown.

Nearly 30 years later, the foundation teaches young people life skills through basketball, volleyball, golf, lacrosse and educational enrichment programs — including daytime art and technology classes and an after-school Intel Computer Clubhouse.

Gold Crown also provides about $100,000 in scholarships each year and operates a sports complex with a field house and ballpark in Lakewood, Colo., and a junior golf learning center in Broomfield, Colo.

“It’s not about creating NBA or even college players,” said Hanzlik, whose NBA career included coaching assignments with the Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks and Denver Nuggets. “We really stress teamwork, character, commitment, responsibility, respect — the kinds of things kids can carry into their lives. We’re big believers that you can learn through sports in a good way.”

Legates Randy and Kaye Hammond have seen Gold Crown at work through their 11-year-old daughter Lauren’s participation in the foundation’s sports camps. “Lauren always takes away from [the camps] the team-building exercises,” Kaye said. “Bill makes it about your team and your group.”

hanzlik-hammonds

Lauren Hammond (far left) with her parents, Randy and Kaye Hammond, and Archbishop Samuel Aquila

Randy agreed. “Kids come to these camps with an emphasis on self. Bill takes it off self and places it on the team. It’s really an incredible testament to Bill’s love of children and the core values associated with Gold Crown.”

Mark Strawbridge, director of the Catholic Schools Athletic League in Denver and principal of Good Shepherd Catholic School, said Hanzlik sees sports as a thoroughfare to a job. “Not every kid is going to go to the NBA, but he wants every kid to be able to succeed.”

Filling the void

Hanzlik said his involvement in the foundation is rooted in his Catholic faith and in what he learned at Notre Dame — to give back and help other people.

“I’m a doer,” he explained. “I’m an action guy, so I try to live my faith through actions. I don’t know how to put it, but it excites me to help others that need help.”

It is in that spirit that Gold Crown and Hanzlik have sought to help Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Denver — particularly those in the inner city, Strawbridge said.

Not only has Gold Crown offered clinics and other opportunities for Catholic school coaches and athletes, but Hanzlik has worked with the Catholic Schools Athletic League to organize a Catholic Families Night with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets to benefit inner-city Catholic school athletic programs.

“Bill is very involved with Catholic schools and Catholic education, as is his wife,” Strawbridge said. “They preach it, they live it, and they absolutely love the idea of what Catholic education can do for all kids. They will do anything they can to help families who want it, but can’t afford it.”

Hanzlik’s wife, Maribeth, is on the board of directors of the Seeds of Hope Charitable Trust, which seeks to make Catholic education available to economically disadvantaged students in Denver’s inner city. Hanzlik, who serves on the Seeds of Hope general board, said his wife’s passion is Catholic education.

Gold Crown programs, however, are open to students from all schools — including, public, private, charter and home. More than 5,000 of them, for example, participate in the foundation’s competitive basketball league for youths in grades 5-8, which was started at a time when middle school sports were being cut from school budgets. The league has since grown into the largest youth basketball league in the state.

“What we try to do is fill voids,” Hanzlik explained.

Gold Crown has also reached out to the Native American community by organizing a spring basketball tournament for players from 13 states, 26 tribes and 24 reservations. “Basketball is the driver, but we talk about how to better yourself through education,” Hanzlik said.

At one of these events two years ago, a young player from the Arapaho tribe and Wind River Reservation in Wyoming captured Hanzlik’s attention.

“I knew he had some talent and I asked him, ‘Are you interested in doing a little more with your basketball?’” When he responded that he was, Hanzlik told him to email him after the tournament, promising to help him if he could.

Hanzlik arranged for the boy to move to Denver to play on a team there, leading to a scholarship offer from Phillips Exeter Academy, a prestigious prep school in New Hampshire.

“This is going to change his life,” Hanzlik said. “He wants to get off the reservation, but he also wants to make a difference.”

Beyond success

hanzlik-1

Bill Hanzlik (42) attempts a jump shot for Notre Dame in 1978

Gold Crown’s successes are not just in its sports programs, however. Hanzlik told of an autistic boy who went to one of the foundation’s after-school enrichment programs after having tried four different high schools.

“When he first started, he couldn’t communicate face-to-face,” Hanzlik said. The program art director would sit by his side and “talk” to him via text message. Eventually, the boy started going to the foundation’s Intel Computer Clubhouse and since has become an expert in cartoon caricatures.

Having started Gold Crown while he was still involved in professional basketball, Hanzlik said he never envisioned going full-time with the foundation. He is now its CEO, although he retains his ties to the Nuggets by serving as a TV analyst.

Before signing with Seattle in 1980, Hanzlik recalled, he had a few job offers in his field of mechanical engineering and still retains the letter from a company that offered him a salary of $19,200 — a sum he considered “really good” at the time.

“I guess the good Lord put me on this path to go a different route,” Hanzlik said with a grin.

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Learn more:

goldcrownfoundation.com

The war for women

Texas Legates Tim and Pat Von Dohlen have established the ethical answer to abortion giant Planned Parenthood

Tim and Pat Von Dohlen, members of Legatus’ Austin Chapter, founded the St. John Paul II Life Center and Vitae Clinic five years ago (Arlen Nydam photo)

In a city often called “a blueberry in the tomato soup of Texas,” Legates Tim and Pat Von Dohlen are pro-life pioneers, blazing new trails in the effort to save lives.

Five years ago, they helped establish the St. John Paul II Life Center and Vitae Clinic in Austin — a city ranked as the most liberal in the bright red state of Texas and as America’s 14th most liberal, according to an American Political Science Review study.

Undaunted by that distinction, the Von Dohlens and other Austin pro-life advocates opened a cutting-edge facility in 2010 that offers a Catholic obstetrics and gynecology practice, help for women with unexpected pregnancies, plus classes in breastfeeding, birthing, newborn care, infant safety, chastity and abstinence, and Natural Family Planning.

Inspired and Catholic

Since opening its doors five years ago in a seven-story medical office building, the Vitae Clinic has treated nearly 3,000 patients with more than 500 deliveries. Among clients with unexpected pregnancies, fewer than 5% have chosen abortion.

Right next door, the St. John Paul II Life Center has seen more than 300 clients with unexpected pregnancies this year alone.

The idea for the center and clinic started with Pat Von Dohlen years ago. It emerged again in 2005 as her husband Tim was reflecting on John Paul’s life and death earlier that year. He was reflecting on a statement the Pope had made in Detroit in 1987: “America, you are beautiful … and blessed. The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless.”

vandohlan-1

Dr. Jeremy Kalmarides attends to a patient at the Vitae Center in Austin

“I felt challenged,” Tim said. “I had to do something.”

A year after meeting with a group of pro-life leaders who agreed to take on the challenge, the Von Dohlens began working with their friends, Chris and Sheri Danze, on what would become the St. John Paul II Life Center.

From the start, they envisioned a place that went beyond pregnancy testing and support for women with unexpected pregnancies to offer a full-service obstetrics-gynecology practice with a doctor onsite, plus educational programs.

They also wanted to incorporate NaPro (Natural Procreative) Technology, a science that monitors a woman’s reproductive and gynecological health, into the center so that women with infertility issues could get help consistent with Catholic teaching. Developed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, NaPro uses methods that cooperate with a woman’s reproductive system.

Woman-focused mission

The Von Dohlens and Danzes initially hoped to offer services at a Catholic hospital, but later decided to form a separate nonprofit health care corporation, which would allow them to hire a doctor.

With the help of Hilgers, founder of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, and the group One More Soul, they were able to hire Dr. Jeremy Kalamarides, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist, as medical director.

Kimberly Speirs

Kimberly Speirs

“Our mission, in a positive way, kind of parallels Planned Parenthood,” said Kimberly Guidry Speirs, the St. John Paul II Life Center’s executive director. Although both organizations offer education and assist women facing unexpected pregnancies, the JPII Center does not do abortions or sterilizations, nor does it prescribe contraception.

Furthermore, Speirs said, the Center, through the Vitae Clinic and NaPro Technology, helps women achieve pregnancy, deliver babies and receive gynecological care.

“The medical science of NaPro Technology is truly the answer to women’s health,” said Pat Von Dohlen, a convert to Catholicism. “It’s natural and it’s the way our bodies were made.”

Through NaPro treatment at the Vitae Clinic, Laura Blahuta of Hallettsville, Texas, was able to give birth to a son last year. Blahuta had been advised by a priest to find a doctor trained in NaPro Technology after another physician had recommended artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, both of which conflict with Church teaching.

Following hormonal testing, charting of her cycles, and a surgical procedure at Vitae, she and her husband Carl were able to conceive. The Blahutas have since referred five other couples to the clinic.

“You never feel rushed at Vitae, and no question is ever a dumb question,” Blahuta said. “They just truly care.”

Pro-life journey

Carl and Laura Blahuta struggled with infertility, but were able to achieve natural pregnancy thanks to the Vitae Clinic. Their son Peyton is now 18 months old.

Carl and Laura Blahuta struggled with infertility, but were able to achieve natural pregnancy thanks to the Vitae Clinic. Their son Peyton is now 18 months old.

Father Albert Laforet, chaplain of Legatus’ Austin Chapter and rector of St. Mary Cathedral, frequently refers people to the Vitae Clinic for fertility concerns or pregnancy care. He makes literature about the Life Center available at the cathedral, and often recommends its natural family planning classes.

John Paul II is an appropriate patron for the center because of his advocacy for life and marriage, Fr. Laforet said.

“At his general audiences, he would always bless the newly married couples individually,” he said. “It was a huge gesture because you just don’t get a one-on-one with the Holy Father, but he made painstakingly clear that this was what he wanted.”

For the Von Dohlens, involvement with the center is a natural extension of a longtime commitment to the pro-life movement, which grew out of Pat’s desire to help pregnant women. Tim, too, as a state legislator in the 1970s, fought for passage of a bill that would have limited the adverse impact of Roe v. Wade, the devastating 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

“That started me on my journey of pro-life activities and I’ve been involved ever since,” he said.

When he and Pat married almost 10 years ago after losing their former spouses, they agreed that, to sustain their marriage, whatever activities they pursued would be shared.

Their hope is to see their model — both the Life Center and Vitae Clinic — replicated in other places. So far, groups in Michigan, Colorado, Texas and New York have expressed an interest in their model.

Research on pregnancy help centers, which began more than 45 years ago by offering free pregnancy testing and diapers, indicates the time may be right for a new approach like the one employed at the St. John Paul II Life Center.

A recent Charlotte Lozier Institute report on the centers found that they could increase their effectiveness in reaching women at risk for abortion by providing free medical exams, medical advice and free diagnostics such as ultrasound. According to the report, “the free pregnancy test is not central to the appeal of PHCs today; more variety and value of free services are needed.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Learn more:
jpiilifecenter.org and VitaeAustin.com

A new captain at the helm

Ave Maria School of Law emerges from turbulent waters

Kevin Cieply

Kevin Cieply

When Kevin Cieply became dean and president of Ave Maria School of Law a little more than a year ago, he knew he was assuming the helm of a ship that had passed through some rough waters.

But today, the retired U.S. Army Colonel and former Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) Officer is convinced the school has emerged from the turbulence that followed its move from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Naples, FLA. Cieply believes it’s on the way to becoming an influential, significant law school in southwest Florida as well as the nation.

Growing success

Despite a successful start following its founding by Tom Monaghan in 1999, Ave Maria Law lost students and faculty with its 2009 move to Naples, and it slipped to the bottom of state bar exam passage rankings.

As a newcomer to the law school, Cieply said he brings “a fresh look at the school and a look that is not necessarily tethered to that experience.”

Indeed, a string of successes followed the new dean’s arrival in Naples, although he credits many others for their work preceding his appointment.

In October, for example, the school won a favorable federal court ruling in its challenge to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate. Cieply said the case was underway before he arrived and that his predecessor did a great deal of work on it.

“I came in at the end — right before the decision,” he said, adding that the school is now awaiting a ruling in a case involving EWTN. “Whatever is decided in the 11th Circuit in that case will dictate how our case eventually goes.”

Another indication that things are going well for Ave Maria School of Law is its move in February from the bottom to the top (83%) of Florida’s rankings for first-time passage of the state bar exam. Also, in March, the Diocese of Venice officially recognized the school as a Catholic institute of higher learning. Then, in April, Ave Maria Law announced a $1 million gift and purchase of the North Naples campus it had been renting from Ave Maria University.

A member of Legatus’ Naples Chapter, Cieply said these successes represent work by many people. “There’s no way I would say they’re my accomplishment, but the school’s. You just don’t accomplish those things by yourself.”

Mission-focused

Undergirding the school’s success is clarity about its mission, Cieply said.

“We know what our purpose is,” he explained. “We aren’t struggling to find our niche or our relevance. We know we’ve got a clearly defined mission, and I see us as the manifestation of Tom Monaghan’s dream to make Catholic education relevant and a change agent for society.”

Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, which promotes and defends faithful Catholic education, said Ave Maria stands apart from other Catholic law schools with its strong emphasis on Catholic identity.

Reilly said he’s been encouraged by Cieply’s confident approach in recruiting students based on that identity. “Even some faithful Catholic institutions tend to downplay their character and he has made it a strong marketing point for the law school.”

Thomas Flickinger, a member of Legatus’ Grand Rapids Chapter, was in the law school’s first graduating class. Flickinger said he thinks the school’s greatest strength is its loyalty to the Church and its ability to train future lawyers to think not only of what can be accomplished legally, but what is ethical and morally permitted.

“Many people today figure ‘if it’s legal, it must be moral,’ but we were also trained to consider the ethics of the situation,” he explained.

Every class he took, Flickinger said, tied into the Catholic faith — whether it was reading encyclicals in property class or studying Thomistic philosopher Germain Grisez in professional liability class.

Besides infusing Church teachings into the curriculum, the school expresses its Catholic identity by opening classes with prayer and providing two Masses a day, a crucifix in every classroom, and a chaplain on campus.

To bolster its Catholic identity, Ave Maria Law has made an effort to recruit students from colleges and universities listed in the Cardinal Newman Society’s Newman Guide, which recommends schools committed to a faithful Catholic education.

Newman Guide schools, Reilly said, not only provide an outstanding liberal arts education that lends itself to a law degree, but have a strong mission fit with Ave Maria.

Last year, he said, with funding from Monaghan, the law school instituted a program offering full scholarships for students graduating from Newman Guide colleges and universities.

Twenty new students are entering the law school this fall on those scholarships. They, along with other students recruited from Newman Guide schools, will boost the Catholic student body, which last year was at 63%.

The school accepts students from all faiths without shying away from the fact that it’s Catholic, Cieply said.

“We pride ourselves on having a special fidelity to the Catholic Church and its teachings as well as the natural law,” he explained.

“We welcome anybody and everybody that will respect our mission.”

Challenges and priorities

In 2014, Ave Maria School of Law was named the best Catholic law school in the U.S. for the devout by National Jurist’s PreLaw Magazine.

To sustain and build on its high bar passage rate, Cieply said the school has hired a director of bar passage and made curriculum changes related to bar exam performance —including the addition of a one-credit course, Legal Case Analysis and Skills Enrichment. The new course, which will be offered for the first time during orientation week this fall, covers critical thinking and reading, how to brief cases, and how to structure answers for law school exams.

Cieply said his greatest challenge at this juncture is to improve the school’s financial position. The purchase of the North Naples campus was a step in that direction — in part because it will provide naming opportunities for buildings, attracting more substantial benefactors.

Among his top priorities is getting Ave Maria Law off a U.S. Department of Education financial watch list, where it has been for the last 11 years. Its presence on the list is unrelated to management of money, he said, but indicates that the school is tuition-dependent and without significant assets, endowments or equity. The school is slowly building a sound financial base, he said, adding he is hopeful that with some additional gifts, it can move off the list.

As Ave Maria approaches its 15th anniversary, Flickinger said he sees the biggest challenge as continuing to build its reputation in the legal community.

“Too many people still don’t know about the school and the many successful attorneys it has trained,” he said. “But the focus cannot simply be on the worldly view of success. The school was inspired by the encyclical Fides et Ratio; both faith and reason must flourish at AMSL for it to be truly successful.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Learn more: avemarialaw.edu

Service and sacrifice

Meet four Legates who heroically served their country in the U.S. Army

Anthony DeToto

Anthony DeToto

The best job ever, a chance to work with a rare breed of people, and an opportunity to serve as well as cultivate qualities needed to succeed in the business world.

That’s how four Legates who served in the U.S. Army describe their military experience. All returned home to build successful civilian careers in business and law, although one — Manny Montanez of the Orange Coast Chapter — did so with the added challenge of combat wounds that left him unable to walk for a year.

Still, Montanez and his fellow legate veterans speak positively today of what they learned in the Army, and they want others to know the benefits of military service.

God and country

For Anthony DeToto, a member of Legatus’ Houston Chapter, the decision to accept a scholarship to West Point landed him “the greatest job ever — besides being a dad.” Having served from 1991 to 1997 as a platoon leader and company commander, DeToto said he sees “the profession of arms” as a calling and considered it a privilege to be entrusted with American lives.

Retired Major General Walter Zink of the Lincoln Chapter — and a member of Legatus’ board of governors —served in the Army National Guard. Although many people view a military career as inconvenient, disruptive, or without value, Zink said his experience was the opposite. “I got to serve with great people and developed attributes that have helped me with everyday life and my business life.”

Walter Zink

Walter Zink

John Roth, a member of Legatus’ Savannah Chapter, who retired as a major general after 40 years of service, fell in love with the Army after growing up as the son of a colonel.

“The people who served with me and who I went to college with at West Point are, in my opinion, a breed above. They are dedicated, committed and willing to sacrifice. I was impressed by that and still am today, so I stayed in and made it a career.”

Montanez, a Purple Heart recipient, enlisted in the Army during the Vietnam War in response to President John F. Kennedy’s moving words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” In 1967, he and two buddies marched down to the recruiter’s office and said they wanted to serve their country.

And serve they did. One never made it back. Montanez was wounded in combat on Jan. 8, 1969, and nearly lost his right leg. He underwent multiple surgeries and rehabilitation before regaining the ability to walk, receiving a medical discharge in 1971.

Grace under fire

John Roth

John Roth

Montanez’s story is the most dramatic of the four Legates, but these men all share a devotion to the Catholic faith they said sustained them during their time of service.

As he lay wounded and bleeding on that fateful day in 1969 with a rosary in his possession, Montanez remembered how, as a seventh grader, he had asked his teacher why they went to Mass on the first Friday of each month and why they prayed the rosary so often. She told him, “Mr. Montanez, you will never die without a priest around.”

“I reached deep down and leaned on Our Lord and said, ‘You promised me through Sr. Rose that I would not die without a priest to administer my Last Rites,’” recalled Montanez, who was hired in June as director of Legatus’ West Region.

Montanez suffered injuries to both legs when a rocket-propelled grenade struck him. He was inside a tank when he was hit, but earlier, in the midst of enemy fire, had left the vehicle so he could signal the operator to get a thrown track back onto its sprocket. In addition to the Purple Heart, he was later awarded the Bronze Star for Valor.

Montanez believes he survived combat and his wounds so he could share his experience and evangelize others throughout his life.

Today, Montanez is able to walk five miles every morning, but not without pain and a limp. After his right leg was mangled, he lost about eight inches of the fibula. The injuries to his left leg required insertion of a plastic artery.

“The pain reminds me of the fact that I still have my legs and some non-evident scars,” Montanez said. “Some of those things are just part of life’s experiences.”

Faith and focus

Manny Montanez, third from the left, poses members of his platoon in September 1968 at their base camp in Cu Chi, South Vietnam.

Manny Montanez, third from the left, poses members of his platoon in September 1968 at their base camp in Cu Chi, South Vietnam.

Although DeToto wasn’t injured in combat, he said he also relied on his faith — particularly in 1993 when he was in charge of 500 Bangladeshis and Pakistanis who were clearing minefields along Kuwait’s northern border. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, he said, “there are no atheists in the minefields.

“Whenever you’re going through something more stressful,” he continued, “I think you turn to other sources for strength. And [faith] was the healthiest source to turn to.” DeToto said he found himself going to Mass more often and making sure he made time to pray and to carry a scapular or a rosary.

“Once you’re out in the field and you know you’re going to go in a minefield every day, it makes you step back and contemplate your faith differently,” he said.

Roth served on the ground in the Vietnam War and commanded more than 16,000 soldiers during the Gulf War.

“In the military, you have to make a lot of rough decisions, and to make them you sometimes put a lot of other people’s lives in danger,” he explained. “It’s part of the job and part of the task. It was my strong belief in God that gave me the strength to do that, but in a manner that gave the people under my command the best chance of success.

“It made me focused on making sure all the pieces fit and we picked the best option to get as many home free without injury as best we could. Faith focuses me in not only doing the job, but living the gospel at the same time.”

For Zink, who was called up for four deployments to Iraq during his 38 years in the National Guard, faith also was a factor.

“It gave me a sense of values — not just civilian military values, but moral values, what is right and wrong. There’s an expression in the military: ‘It’s easy to do the right thing when people are looking; it’s hard to do the right thing when nobody’s around.’ I think faith and the values that came from Catholic principles and foundations were very helpful in that respect.”

Zink said it’s important for soldiers to see that their leaders have faith-based principles. “In a lot of respects, younger soldiers are hungering for a direction in life and to see leaders who say it’s OK to have faith and still do the things we have to do.”

Religious liberty

Sadly, the U.S. military is less friendly to people of faith today than when the Legates interviewed for this article served. Several said that military personnel with whom they are in contact have indicated that they’re under greater constraints when it comes to expressing their faith openly.

DeToto said he worries that there is a secular push to restrict Catholicism to the 90 minutes soldiers are in chapel on Sunday. Others spoke of a trend toward diminished religious activity through cuts in resources and funding.

Zink said Legates could help the troops by praying for them and by encouraging elected representatives to allow the free exercise of religion in the armed forces.

Civilians could also help discharged and reserve military by encouraging employers to hire them. Veterans, Zink added, bring discipline, motivation, punctuality, focus on mission and an understanding of teamwork to the workplace.

DeToto recommended giving “a hand-up instead of a handout” by mentoring veterans through groups like The Mission Continues, Commit Foundation, and NextOp.

His volunteer efforts include showing veterans how to “demilitarize” their resumes and mentoring them through the “green to gray” transition by preparing them for job interviews and assisting them with educational applications.

Montanez, who does similar work through Hire a Patriot, said it’s important to remember that, just as soldiers in the Vietnam era struggled because they were in the jungle one day and on the streets the next, so those coming home today need help transitioning back into society.

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

Learn more:

missioncontinues.org

commitfoundation.org

nextopvets.org

hireapatriot.org

Awaiting Francis

Will the Holy Father tackle the tough issues when he visits the United States? . . . 

by Judy Roberts

As excitement builds for Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States in September, many Catholics are hoping the Holy Father will seize the opportunity to speak out on the issues that most concern them.

During his six-day trip, Pope Francis will address Congress and the United Nations, meet with President Obama, and preside over the first World Meeting of Families to take place in North America. Each venue would seem to offer him a platform for concerns like the plight of persecuted Christians, threats to religious freedom and the family, and the dangers inherent in embracing contraception and abortion.

Meeting with Obama

Leonard Leo

Leonard Leo

What the Holy Father will say remains to be seen. According to a White House statement, the Pope’s Sept. 23 meeting with President Obama will cover such issues as “caring for the marginalized and the poor, advancing economic opportunity for all, serving as good stewards of the environment, protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities.”

However, parts of the Pope’s conversation with President Obama are likely to be private, giving the Holy Father an opportunity to discuss concerns that are not necessarily on the agenda.

Leonard Leo, a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter, said the Pope and the President obviously share some similar perspectives on economic and immigration issues. However, Leo said he hopes the meeting will focus on areas where there is not agreement, such as the sanctity of human life, the natural moral order in relation to marriage, and freedom of conscience.

“We’re having a crisis in our country on the issue of conscience,” Leo said. “I think that the Holy Father having a dialogue with the President on that issue would be very useful. It may or may not have an impact, but I think it’s important.”

Leo, who is executive vice president of the Federalist Society and co-founder of the Catholic Association and the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, said he also thinks the Holy Father will be in a good position to articulate the underpinnings of the Church’s teachings on life and traditional marriage, which are not widely understood.

Leo said he also hopes that Pope Francis will be able to discuss religious freedom with President Obama.

“The President’s vision is freedom of worship,” he said. “He’s perfectly happy to have us say our prayers in the pews. He’s not particularly happy with seeing religion in the public square, and America has a long history of embracing freedom of religion, which pertains to freedom of conscience.”

Religious freedom and the U.N.

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, said he expects that the Holy Father will challenge President Obama on a broader understanding of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

“Religious freedom is certainly ripe for conversation,” he said, both in the context of Christian businesses that want the right to refuse participation in same-sex weddings and those that object to providing abortifacient contraceptives in their health plans.

Ruse, whose group monitors and seeks to affect social policy debate at the United Nations, said when Pope Francis visits the U.N. on Sept. 25, he would not anticipate him talking about abortion, population control and contraception — concerns that are known to roil the international body. At the same time, he said, he will be disappointed if the Pope doesn’t mention them.

“He already says that we shouldn’t obsess on these types of issues, so I suspect that he will follow his own advice, which will be unfortunate because the African countries in particular are most upset at the imposition of this radical sexual ideology on their countries by U.N. agencies and western non-governmental organizations.”

Ruse said Pope Francis will likely talk about the environment, poverty, global inequality, human rights, and perhaps the plight of Christians in Africa and the Middle East — issues of concern to the U.N. on which the Holy Father has spoken.

“All these are very good things,” Ruse explained. “Tucked in among them I would love to hear him talk about what he himself has referred to as the gender ideology, which is being imposed on the developing world by western elites.”

On his return flight from the Philippines earlier this year, the Pope warned wealthy western nations against forcing this ideology — which holds that gender is not biological, but cultural — on developing nations by tying it to foreign aid and education.

Leo said the most important issue the Pope can address at the U.N. concerns what the international community is going to do about the persecution of Christians around the world. Neither the U.N. Council on Human Rights nor the General Assembly is doing enough about it, he said. “That’s what the Church can bring to bear at a meeting of the U.N. because we can speak with persuasive force and expertise.”

World Meeting of Families

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia — where the Pope will take part in the World Meeting of Families from Sept. 26-27 — told Legatus magazine it’s obvious that family life is a signature concern of Francis’ pontificate.

In light of that, he said, “I think the Pope will press Catholics to take their faith more seriously and to conform their hearts and their behaviors to the truth of Catholic teaching about the family. That’s the only guarantee of a healthy family, and healthy families are the only guarantee of a healthy and humane society.”

Added Ruse: “I think it’s going to be a remarkable moment for him to speak to American Catholics about the importance of family and religious belief.” Ruse said he hopes the Pope is in a “rally-the-troops” mood because it’s a time when the American people are in need of leaders who will lead, particularly in the wake of court actions that have overturned the will of the people expressed in votes to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Archbishop Chaput said he thinks Francis’ popularity means his U.S. visit will have a positive effect on Catholics who have drifted from the faith.

“Our work will begin after the Pope returns to Rome,” he said. “We need to live the kind of Christian witness that will draw alienated people more deeply back into the Church.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

Learn more:

WorldMeeting2015.org

PopeFrancisVisit.com

The rise of the new anti-Semitism

Catholics respond to growing anti-Jewish sentiments in Europe and here in the USA . . .

by Judy Roberts

Seventy years after the holocaust killed millions of Jews, some believe anti-Semitism is a relic of the past that will never be repeated.

But there are disturbing signs that hatred for Jews is increasingly rearing its ugly head around the world, including in the United States where tolerance is supposedly valued and religious liberty is enshrined in the constitution.

Attacks and intimidation

Protesters hold signs with pictures of victims during the Jan. 13, 2015, funeral of the four Jews killed in Paris. The sign says, ‘I died because I am Jewish’

Protesters hold signs with pictures of victims during the Jan. 13, 2015, funeral of the four Jews killed in Paris. The sign says, ‘I died because I am Jewish’

Two recent studies — one by the Pew Research Center and another by the Louis B. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. — report an uptick in anti- Semitic attacks on Jews.

The Pew study found harassment of Jews in 2013 occurring in 77 countries — a seven-year high. The problem is particularly acute in Europe, where such incidents were reported in 34 of the region’s 45 countries, causing many Jews to leave.

Already this year an attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris left four dead, a Jewish guard was killed outside a Copenhagen synagogue, Jewish graves were desecrated in a cemetery near Strasbourg, France, and a London synagogue was attacked by a mob shouting, “Kill the Jews.”

In the Brandeis-Trinity 2014 National Demographic Survey of American Jewish college students, 54% reported that they had either experienced or seen anti-Semitic attacks on campus.

Steve Ray

Steve Ray

Since the period covered by the survey, there have been reports of swastikas painted on Jewish fraternity houses at Emory, Vanderbilt, and the University of California-Davis. Last month vandals painted swastikas in Northeastern University’s International Village, and students found graffiti reading “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” in a campus restroom at the University of California-Berkeley.

Catholics should be concerned about these incidents, not only because anti-Semitism is an offense against the dignity of human beings, but because of the special relationship the Church has with the Jewish people, said author and evangelist Steve Ray, who leads tours to Israel.

“The Catholic Church’s root and trunk is Judaism and Israel,” he said.

Stephen Colecchi, director of the Office of International Justice and Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, agreed. The Jews “are our forebears in the faith, and we believe they are chosen by God, and that choice was not revoked when Jesus came and established a new covenant.”

Stephen Colecchi

Stephen Colecchi

Furthermore, Colecchi said, the Jewish community in many ways is the “canary in the coal mine. They’re a smaller community and therefore more vulnerable. When you target any minority within a society, the health of the whole society is weakened and other groups will be next. It never stops there.”

Catholic reaction

The Church’s response to renewed attacks on Jews has come straight from the top with Pope Francis vigorously condemning anti-Semitism and calling for vigilance in combating it.

“It’s a contradiction that a Christian is anti-Semitic: His roots are Jewish,” the Pope said in a 2013 meeting with representatives of the Jewish community marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Rome under Nazi occupation. According to a Catholic News Agency report on the meeting, the Holy Father continued, “A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic! Let anti-Semitism be banished from the heart and life of every man and woman!”

Several months earlier, in a Vatican audience with members of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, Vatican Radio said Pope Francis alluded to the common roots shared by Christians and Jews. Quoting from Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s document on non-Christian religions, he said that St. Paul “firmly condemned hatred, persecution and all forms of anti-Semitism.”

John Rothmann, a Jewish author, lecturer and radio talk show host who has written about Pope St. John XXIII and the Jews for Inside the Vatican, said Pope Francis’ attitude toward Jews and condemnation of anti-Semitism is in the tradition of John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II.

John Rothmann

John Rothmann

Rothmann said John XXIII is known for having issued thousands of baptismal certificates to save Jewish lives from the Nazis during World War II when he was apostolic nuncio in Turkey. In doing so, he made clear that this did not make Jews Catholics, but was done to save their lives.

Likewise, John Paul was a friend and supporter of the Jewish people and called them “our elder brothers.” According to Rabbi David Dalin, writing in the journal First Things, John Paul saw the Catholic and Jewish communities as closely related and considered Jewish-Catholic dialogue as a religious obligation for Catholics.

Will it get worse?

Although anti-Semitism has increased in the last seven years, Colecchi said his understanding, based on a U.S. Senate Human Rights Caucus briefing he attended recently, is that it doesn’t suggest an imminent period of severe persecution such as the Holocaust.

The Pew study, for example, showed that Jews were more likely to be harassed by individuals or social groups than by governments.

Colecchi said the briefing indicated much of the persecution is related to attacks by extremists within Muslim communities, but it is also being perpetrated by extremists who target Muslims as well as Jews.

The good news, he said, is that the Church is equipped to deal with anti-Semitism through the teaching found in Nostra Aetate.

Catholics can seek to counter hatred against Jews, Colecchi said, by indicating their disapproval of anti-Semitic comments and by talking about their respect for the Jewish people and how the Church holds Jews in special regard.

Ray also recommended showing support for Israel, although he said this does not preclude Catholics from criticizing the country when warranted and expressing concern about the plight of Palestinian Christians.

Rothmann agreed, but he said it’s important to remember that Palestinian rights cannot come at the expense of Israel’s right to exist. Furthermore, he said, he is concerned that some of the criticism of Israel on American college campuses through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is tinged with anti-Semitism.

Rothmann’s father Hans was a Jew who fled Germany after being expelled from Halle-Wittenberg University in 1933.

“I am a Jew who, when he sees what is happening, is not afraid to speak out,” he said. “I am not afraid to identify precisely what the issues are. That’s what Catholics must do. The time to fear is when you can’t speak out anymore.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

To the bitter end

cover-april15Ever since founding Triune Health Group in 1990, Legates Chris and Mary Anne Yep have worked to make sure their company and its insurance plan reflect their Catholic faith and values.

Extended legal battle

The Yeps ran into a roadblock in 2007, however, when they learned that the state of Illinois, where their business is located, was mandating contraceptive coverage in all insurance plans. By 2011, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had issued a similar mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Yeps were primed and ready to file a lawsuit.

“We had been looking at this and asking, ‘How did they have the right to force this into our policy?” Mary Anne said. “Of course we would fight.”

In 2012, with the help of the Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm, the Yeps filed suit in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois, alleging both the state and federal mandates violated their right to religious freedom. Soon after, they filed a separate challenge to the state mandate in Illinois’ DuPage County Circuit Court.

At press time, the Yeps were moving toward resolution of their cases, thanks largely to last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case. But the fight against mandated contraceptive coverage is far from over.

According to the Becket Fund, which is representing EWTN and the Little Sisters of the Poor in their challenges to the federal mandate, more than 100 similar suits have been filed.

Among the legal challenges from 56 non-profit organizations, 31 injunctions have been granted and nine denied. However, on March 9, the Supreme Court vacated one of those denials involving the University of Notre Dame and sent the case back to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration in light of the Hobby Lobby ruling.

The Hobby Lobby decision, which applied the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to regulations governing private companies, is considered a victory for the 49 businesses that filed suit.

Kevin White

Kevin White

“Hobby Lobby was a great win for all of us,” said Kevin White, the attorney who introduced the Yeps to the Thomas More Society and later took over their case, “but it didn’t immediately solve our problem under the Illinois mandate.”

Initially, White said, Illinois had not been willing to acknowledge Hobby Lobby’s impact on the Affordable Care Act, preventing the Yeps from obtaining a conscience-compliant insurance policy. “We think it still does,” White explained, “but under the Hobby Lobby decision, the ACA has a conscience exemption, which Illinois must also recognize.”

Challenges ahead

After the Hobby Lobby ruling, the federal government offered to settle the other cases of businesses challenging the contraceptive mandate by agreeing not to enforce the directive. Many plaintiffs, White said, have accepted the settlements, but the Yeps had been unable to do so until now because the Illinois mandate question remained unresolved. The Yeps have since begun taking the necessary steps to have their case dismissed, and they now believe they will soon be able to obtain a conscience-compliant policy for their employees.

Still another complication, he said, is that as soon as the Hobby Lobby decision came out, the government began circulating new regulations that supposedly comply with the ruling and govern how for-profit companies can opt out of the mandated coverage.

“As far as we are concerned, they are as offensive as the old ones,” White explained. The new regulations, he added, are more similar to what had been in place previously for religious organizations, requiring them to fill out a form that triggers an obligation on the part of the insurance carrier to provide the objectionable coverage. “That’s the new issue and I strongly suspect it will go to court again.”

White said he would like to paint a positive picture for businesses that oppose the mandate. “But at this point, I probably want to sound the alarm.”

“This is why we need to continue to be vigilant and continue to fight,” said Chris Yep, president and CEO of the family’s Oakbrook, Ill.-based health care management company.

White said many business owners don’t even realize that contraceptive coverage is in their policies. “It’s absolutely certain today that many good Catholic business owners haven’t thought to look into their policies to see what’s in there. Even if they look, they have to know how to look.”

What also remains unresolved in the fight against the federal mandate are the cases involving non-profit organizations, including religious charities, dioceses and universities.

Tom Brejcha

Tom Brejcha

Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, said it’s ironic that non-profit groups are still having trouble securing an exemption when the Hobby Lobby case granted one to for-profit companies.

“You would think if for-profit businesses were entitled to an exemption, the Little Sisters and other non-profits would be in an even stronger position. But those cases are still developing and there are still sharp differences among some of the courts that have addressed those issues.”

Still, he said, barring some change in the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court, he thinks the Little Sisters, whose case is working its way to the high court, will be as successful as Hobby Lobby.

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is proving to be a very effective weapon,” he explained. “It’s a pretty bedrock protection for our people of faith, absent of which we live in a totalitarian state where religion counts for nothing, even though [freedom of religion] is in our Constitution.”

Courage and conviction

Meanwhile, the Yeps, who received Legatus’ 2012 Courage in the Marketplace Award, say they are in the fight for the long haul.

“I don’t think we went into this fight with any expectations that it was going to be a short-run battle,” Chris said. “If it’s not this court case, there will be another. We’re fighting for the Culture of Life.”

His wife of 41 years, who is Triune Health’s vice president and chief personnel officer, concurred.

“If we’re willing to be used by God to represent this cause,” she said, “then we have to correspond, whether or not we have the strength or ability, to do whatever it takes and just say yes.”

Legatus founder Tom Monaghan presents Chris and Mary Anne Yep with Legatus’ Courage in the Marketplace award

Legatus founder Tom Monaghan presents Chris and Mary Anne Yep with Legatus’ Courage in the Marketplace award

For the Yeps, that has gone beyond filing lawsuits. It’s meant engaging legislators and store clerks in conversations, informing their employees where they stand and speaking at rallies and conferences. “We won’t change the culture unless we’re willing to talk about it,” Mary Anne explained.

The couple’s commitment has taken them to the Supreme Court in Washington, where Chris joined White in listening to arguments in the Hobby Lobby case and where Mary Anne spoke at a rally after the decision was announced.

In citing Triune Health’s designation in 2012 by Crain’s Chicago Business as the Best Place to Work for Women in greater Chicago, she said, “I can tell you it wasn’t because we have contraceptives available in our coffee room. It was because we treat our women authentically with dignity, with respect.”

In their fight against mandated contraceptive coverage, the Yeps said they have received an outpouring of support from business leaders, including fellow Legates. But they would like to see more Catholics involved.

“There are an awful lot of us who have received the gift of Baptism who, for whatever reason, are not fully living out what God has called us to do,” Chris said. “It’s really up to us. We can change the culture if we band together and do what we’re called to do.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

Learn more:

Triune Health
Thomas More Society

On the air in the City of Angels

LEGATE DOUG SHERMAN brings Catholic radio to Los Angeles for the first time 14 years . . .

cover-feb15Scott Turicchi confesses he was a little skeptical when he was asked to meet a fellow Legate named Doug Sherman who wanted to bring Catholic  radio to Los Angeles.

Past efforts to start Catholic stations in the City of Angels had not panned out, and Turicchi, a member of Legatus’ Ventura/LA North and Hollywood chapters, wasn’t sure another could compete with the myriad of choices vying for Angelenos’ attention.

“But I said, ‘Sure, I’ll meet this guy,’” he explained. “I was pretty convinced that we’d have a nice lunch and I’d have some questions, figuring there’s no way he’s going to have really good answers.”

Towering presence

However, Sherman surprised Turicchi. The At-Large Legatus member and custom home builder from Tahoma, Calif., had started more than 25 Catholic radio stations in 16 years. He had a proven business model and knew how to generate a donor base.

Turicchi was intrigued. Following a series of meetings and conversations, Turicchi’s family foundation invested in what became the 33rd station in the Immaculate Heart Radio network. In addition, Turicchi pointed Sherman toward other interested parties, including Legatus members who responded with monetary and other donations.

KHJ 930-AM, a former top-40 station purchased for $9.75 million, went on the air Nov. 17 with a reach of 15 million listeners, making it the biggest Catholic station in the network — and in the country. It was the first time in 14 years that English-speaking Catholic radio had been heard in the LA market.

Sherman said the network decided to establish a Catholic station in Los Angeles because the area represented a huge void. “It’s the largest market by some metrics in the country and when you looked at our map,” he explained, “it stood out like a sore thumb. We had stations everywhere but LA, and we would hear from people that we needed to be there.”

Immaculate Heart Radio also had been challenged in 2010 by Chuck Haas, a member of Legatus’ Napa Valley Chapter, to expand its reach to all of California. Haas had been personally touched by Catholic radio several years earlier when he tuned in to an Immaculate Heart Radio station after seeing a billboard while driving on I-80.

“It turned a kind of nominal, lukewarm Catholic to where he is today — now Catholicism is the center of my life,” said Haas. When he started supporting the network, he was asked to take over a stalled Immaculate Heart Radio campaign for the San Francisco Bay area during an economic downturn.

Haas, now the network’s chief financial officer and member of Legatus’ Board of Governors, said said he would agree to direct the campaign if the network would commit to covering the entire state. At the time, Sherman thought just finishing the capital campaign in San Francisco would be overwhelming. “And trying to tie that into a campaign to cover the rest of California was beyond overwhelming.” Still, he continued, “Four years later, we’ve done it and Chuck has been a huge part of it.”

Besides Los Angeles, Immaculate Heart Radio in the last four-and-a-half years has added California stations in Monterey/Carmel, San Luis Obispo, San Diego, Orange County, Modesto and the Central Valley. Additional stations went live in Las Vegas and Maui. The network also provides access to its programming online, MP3 streaming, and smartphone apps. More recently, it has added streaming channels that play contemporary Christian music and sacred music.

Healing touch

Legate Doug Sherman

Legate Doug Sherman

The network started in 1997 with KIHM, named for the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area, where Sherman lived and ran Sherman Homes. At the time, the station was the seventh full-time Catholic radio station in the country — compared to 1,600 run by evangelical Protestants. The number of Catholic stations and translators has since grown to more than 300.

Sherman, a convert to Catholicism who was raised “Presbyterian with a Southern Baptist twist,” was impressed during World Youth Day in 1993 by St. John Paul II’s message about the New Evangelization. Even before that, however, he had come to a new appreciation of the Church as a gold mine of truth that needed to be shared.

Then, while driving across the country to take a car to one of his children, he reached into a grocery bag full of Catholic cassette tapes that a fellow parishioner had given him. While listening to them, he thought, “This needs to be on the radio.”

When the idea to start a Catholic radio station began to take shape, Sherman said he never thought it would involve more than one station for Lake Tahoe. Expansion came quickly, however, beginning with a request from Sherman’s bishop to start a station in Sacramento. Other opportunities soon followed and within a decade eight stations had been added in California and New Mexico.

As the network grew, Sherman was spurred on by the stories he heard about lives being changed through Catholic radio.

More than 40 listeners have contacted the network to say they had been considering suicide, but changed their minds because of what they heard on Immaculate Heart Radio. Others credit the network’s messages opposing contraception and abortion with their decisions to bear children.

A recently widowed woman told how she had been overwhelmed with grief and unable to get out of bed each morning when she happened to hear the rosary on her clock-radio. Soon, Sherman said, she was praying it every morning. “She called to thank us for bringing her back to life.”

Another woman was driving to a drug store to buy pills to end her life when, while listening to a rock music station, her car hit a bump and the radio changed to Immaculate Heart Radio, which was airing the rosary.

Doug Sherman, Rev. Ed Benioff and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gómez

Doug Sherman, Rev. Ed Benioff and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gómez

“She hadn’t heard the rosary since she was a little girl sitting on her grandmother’s lap,” Sherman explained, “and it brought her such a sense of peace that all she could do was pull over to the side of road and listen.” The next morning, she drove to the nearest Catholic parish, met with a priest and began the process of returning to the Church.

In addition to starting radio stations, Sherman’s interest in Catholic radio led to the formation of the Catholic Radio Association, a trade group that provides support for fledgling and established stations.

About the time he began Immaculate Heart Radio, Sherman learned about stations that were being started by a mortgage banker in St. Louis and a dentist in Florida. “The three of us got together along the way because our combined knowledge about radio couldn’t fill a thimble.” Their monthly phone calls grew into the association.

Immaculate Heart Radio sees its mission as helping Catholics better understand the truth and beauty of their faith and bringing non-Catholics and lapsed Catholics to a greater understanding of Christ and the Church. Toward that end, the network produces much of its own programming, including The Patrick Madrid Show and Right Here, Right Now.

Turicchi, president and CFO of j2 Global and member of Legatus’ Board of Governors,  said that despite the number of distractions people in Los Angeles experience, he thinks Catholic radio will reach people there because, amid the “cacophony of sound, half truth and partial truth,” there is a legitimate hunger for the truth.

“When people find the truth, if they listen for 10 minutes, I think they will want to consume more. If they consume more, they will understand the Church better.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

Learn more: IHRadio.com

The ultimate call-back

Legate Tom Peterson’s Catholics Come Home ministry is rebuilding the flock . . .

Tom Peterson

Tom Peterson

Mary Bane left the Catholic Church 10 years ago, but all it took was a 30-second television commercial to call her home.

The invitation came from former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz. The ad was produced by the Catholics Come Home apostolate founded by Atlanta Legate and former advertising executive Tom Peterson.

In the commercial, Holtz talks about staying focused on the goal, fumbling due to sin, and getting back on the field through the sacrament of Reconciliation. “So, if you haven’t been going to Mass lately,” he said, “get back in the game. We’re saving your seat on the starting bench this Sunday.”

Television series

A wife and mother of three sons, Bane said she felt Holtz was speaking directly to her in the Catholics Come Home “evangomercial.” When she saw it a second time, she called her husband to watch.

“He thought it was really neat that you can ‘come home’ because we thought once you left, you left, and there was no coming back,” she explained.

Thanks to that 30-second message, which reached 100 million people, and the material Bane later found on the Catholics Come Home website, she and her family are now back in the Catholic Church as members of St. Agnes Parish in Atlantic Highlands, N.J. After years in four different Protestant churches — and despite the good experiences they had in them — Bane said something always seemed to be missing.

The Banes tell their homecoming story in one of 13 episodes of EWTN’s new Catholics Come Home television series. In the 30-minute episodes filmed in various locations in the U.S. and Canada, viewers get to meet such returnees as a linguistics professor who was an atheist for 52 years, a former drug addict and dealer who now works at a Catholic hospice for homeless men, and a 27-year-old law student who attended Ave Maria University as a Protestant before converting to the Catholic faith.

Their stories are interspersed with “evangomercials” and other segments, including one hosted by Peterson’s 26-year-old daughter, Katie Warner, explaining how to share the faith.

The series, which debuted in October, airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m. Eastern. Shows are also available on DVD and online on EWTN.com.

Besides the EWTN series, Catholics Come Home’s upcoming projects include a “Keep Christ in Christmas” ad to be shown during Advent and a Confession ad called “Heavy Burdens” set to air during Lent.

Calling Catholics home

The Catholics Come Home apostolate grew out of what Peterson calls his spiritual awakening at a 1997 parish retreat in Gilbert, Ariz. Although he went to Mass on Sundays and never disagreed with Church teaching, Peterson admits he was a lukewarm Catholic. As his retreat group was gathered in front of the Eucharist, however, God became real to him.

“He invited me to downsize and simplify my life and to have a relationship with him,” he explained. “His love was so apparent in my heart I couldn’t say no. It was like a light switch turned on and the adventure began.”

Peterson started attending daily Mass and reading the Bible. In the process, he asked God what he should do with his life and how he might use his talents in advertising to serve him.

At first, Peterson continued working in his own agency, Peterson Advertising Corp., while he started Virtue Media to produce pro-life messages. He also helped the Diocese of Phoenix with a campaign to invite people back to the Church.

Eventually, he went full-time with Catholics Come Home, giving up a lucrative income and selling both his homes to move to a smaller one. The apostolate, which includes Virtue Media, operates out of a donated office condo in Roswell, Ga., with one full-time staff member besides Peterson and a host of vendors, volunteers and part-time employees.

Since the startup — in addition to running four national campaigns — Peterson has helped 37 dioceses with Catholics Come Home efforts, and he is currently working with three more. In the 12 dioceses that have measured results, more than half a million people have returned to the faith.

The gold standard

Patrick Madrid

Patrick Madrid

Author, radio host and Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid said that to his knowledge no one has pitched a message asking Catholics and others to “come home” the way Peterson has.

Madrid said he has also been struck by the high quality of Peterson’s media work — so much so that when he first saw a presentation of Virtue Media’s pro-life commercials at a Phoenix parish several years ago, he immediately offered his support. Peterson later contacted Madrid, who now serves on the Catholics Come Home advisory board.

“He’s been able to catapult the level of quality so far forward that I would say Catholics Come Home has become the gold standard for outreach for Catholic causes,” Madrid said.

Through his speaking events and radio program, Madrid estimates he has met more than 100 people who have told him they returned to the Church after seeing a Catholics Come Home “evangomercial.”

“They say things like, ‘I can’t believe I saw this on a secular TV station. I was just watching sports and — wham! — here’s this Catholic commercial. I wasn’t looking for it, but it found me!’”

In the foreword to Peterson’s 2013 book, Catholics Come Home: God’s Extraordinary Plan for Your Life (Image Books), author and theologian Scott Hahn said he believes all Catholics are being asked to take up the work that Catholics Come Home is doing.

Peterson said that although not everyone is called to leave a secular career to work for the Church, he believes Legates especially can assist the New Evangelization right where they are by opening doors in their dioceses for Catholics Come Home to be invited — or by organizing book studies or viewings of the Catholics Come Home TV series in their parishes.

He attributes the apostolate’s success to the Holy Spirit, rather than to his own abilities.

“The ingenuity of men only goes so far, but when an apostolate is obedient to the Holy Spirit, things happen above and beyond what any smart person could do.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

Learn more:

CatholicsComeHome.org

VirtueMedia.org

Birth of a mission

David Bereit left a lucrative sales position to save babies and co-found 40 Days for Life . . .

David Bereit

David Bereit

David Bereit was a successful pharmaceutical sales rep with a company car, expense account, and substantial paycheck when he got a phone call that led him to give it all up for the pro-life cause.

“I will never forget,” Bereit explained. “It was June 26, 2001, and I was calling on doctors in Hearne, Texas, when my cell phone rang.” It was Lauren Gulde, executive director of the Coalition for Life, who told him that Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, had aborted 10 more children that day.

Bereit was crushed. Just three years earlier, he had joined the coalition formed to oppose the opening of the Planned Parenthood facility, eventually becoming board chairman. Once the clinic opened, the coalition put together a plan to close it, but within a month, nothing had been done.

“I knew we had things we could be doing and weren’t doing,” Bereit said. “Maybe,” he told Gulde, “I need to quit my job and do this — make it happen.”

He talked to his wife, Margaret, thinking she would object. But to his surprise, she signaled her support, saying, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

Changing hearts

Little did Bereit know that his decision to become executive director of the coalition would lead three years later to 40 Days for Life — a prayer and fasting campaign outside abortion clinics that since has gone global, reaching 539 cities in every U.S. state and 24 other nations. With 625,000 volunteers and 3,039 campaigns, the effort has seen at least 8,973 lives saved, 56 clinics closed, and 101 clinic workers leave the abortion industry.

Bishop Michael Sis

Bishop Michael Sis

Bishop Michael Sis, who got to know the Bereits while they were students and he was pastor of St. Mary’s Parish at Texas A&M University in College Station, said he could not have predicted that Bereit would take the route he did.

“David always came across as very professional and competent, but the career path I thought he was going to follow had to do with sales, marketing and corporate America,” said Bishop Sis, who heads the Diocese of San Angelo, Texas.

As he helped Bereit discern leaving his sales position, Bishop Sis said he could see that the young husband and father trusted in God’s providential care for his family and was guided by a sense of mission to defend the unborn.

Bishop Sis said he believes the 40 Days campaign that grew from Bereit’s decision has worked because it’s prayerful and peaceful.

“Sometimes you have protesters who kind of presume ill will in the hearts of those they’re opposing. This movement trusts in the power of God to change hearts through a loving, peaceful presence.”

That’s precisely what Abby Johnson, who left her job in 2009 as Planned Parenthood director in Bryan, Texas, noticed when 40 Days for Life began outside her clinic in 2004.

When she started working there, she said, pro-life advocates stationed outside tended to be more hostile toward the clients and the clinic workers. With the onset of 40 Days, she said, “It was as if they had reclaimed the sidewalk for peace. The people who were shouting and condemning were gone, along with their huge, graphic signs. What was left was a group of people who were prayerful, kind and peaceful.”

Those keeping vigil knew her name, told her they were praying for her, and offered her help if she ever wanted to leave. When she did decide to quit, she said, “I knew that I had a safe place to land.”

Praying for the vulnerable

David Bereit and Lila Rose speak at late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s office in Washington, D.C.

David Bereit and Lila Rose speak at late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s office in Washington, D.C.

The idea to fast and pray for 40 days outside abortion clinics was born when Bereit and several other Coalition for Life leaders gathered around a conference table in 2004 to pray for direction. Over the previous three years, they had maintained a presence outside Bryan’s Planned Parenthood and sought to educate the community, but their efforts had slowed while the number of abortions increased.

As they prayed, Bereit said, “There wasn’t some booming voice from on high, but we started having ideas pop into our heads.”

The first was to do something for 40 days because God had used that number in the Bible for periods of transformation. Next came a plan to maintain a 24-hour-a-day prayer vigil in the right-of-way outside the clinic. Finally, they knew they needed community outreach. One of their members, Shawn Carney, devised a plan to reach 35,000 households with a team of college students.

The coalition kicked off the campaign on Sept. 1 with more than 1,000 participants. At the end of 40 days, the number of abortions had decreased 28% in Bryan.

Over the next three years, the concept spread to Dallas, Houston, Green Bay, and Kitsap County, Washington. But when the coalition learned that a group in Charlotte, N.C., had organized a 40 Days for Life without any help from the Texas coalition, Bereit said, “That’s when we knew we’ve got something bigger than just three, four or five cities.”

Abby Johnson

Abby Johnson

By 2007, Bereit started organizing a nationwide 40 Days for Life while working for the American Life League. As the effort took off, ALL released him to set up a separate organization.

Catholic connection

In devoting himself to pro-life work and developing 40 Days, Bereit, the son of a Presbyterian minister, has kept his

Christian faith at the center. A winner of Legatus’ 2013 Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award, Bereit isn’t Catholic. His wife and two children are.

As he has learned more about Catholicism, Bereit said, he has come to admire the Church and to respect its commitment to human life. He continues to discern whether God may be calling him into the Church. “I always pray, ‘God, don’t let me stand in the way of where you want me to be.’”

Bereit said his wife has never pressured him to convert, but his daughter Claire is more aggressive.

A 16-year-old high school junior, Claire confesses she would like to see her father enter the Church. She said it’s been difficult knowing that he doesn’t share all her beliefs, especially when the family goes to Mass together and he cannot join them in receiving Communion.

“It makes me really sad sometimes, but I know he has a really strong faith and he is already an amazing man.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

 

David and Margaret Bereit pose with their children at Easter 2014

David and Margaret Bereit pose with their children at Easter 2014

Legates for Life

Just as he was able to take what he learned in sales and transfer it to the pro-life movement, David Bereit said he believes Legatus members could employ their abilities to benefit ministries like 40 Days for Life.

Legates, he said, may not even recognize the skills they possess as valuable to the pro-life movement and other ministries, but most people doing such work don’t have high-level business skills.

“If Legates are willing to tithe some of their experiences, insights and incredible gifts to ministries promoting a Culture of Life, I think they could revolutionize the pro-life movement.”

Bereit said he also has been strongly influenced by the franchising model described in Legatus founder Tom Monaghan’s book, Pizza Tiger, and his idea of taking a concept and replicating it to build an effective organization.

—ROBERTS

 

Learn more:

40DaysForLife.com

 

Cardinal John O’Connor Pro-Life Award

2013
David Bereit

David Bereit receives the 2013 Cardinal John J. O'Connor Pro-Life Award from Tom Monaghan and Joe Faricy

David Bereit receives the 2013 Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award from Tom Monaghan and Joe Faricy

Reggie Littlejohn
Rita Marker
John Smeaton

2012
Richard Doerflinger
Chuck Donovan
Michael Schwartz

2011
Cardinal Raymond L. Burke
Steve & Vivian Koob
Thomas S. Monaghan
Dan Zeidler

2010
Alveda King
Sam & Gloria Lee
Monsignor Philip Reilly

2009
George W. Bush
Kathleen Eaton
Cardinal Francis George
Johnny Hunter
Dinah Monahan

2008
John Haas
Molly Kelly
Janet Morana

2007
Chris & Joan Bell
Denise Cocciolone
Sisters of Life
Sr. Paula Vandegaer

2006
Joan Byrum
Peggy Hartshorn
Thomas W. Hilgers
Jerry Horn
James Hughes
Bernard Nathanson

2005
James Bopp Jr.
Fr. Tom Euteneuer
Karen Garnett
Magaly Llaguno
Barbara Lyons
Germaine Wensley

2004
Theresa Burke
Mark Crutcher
Nellie Gray
Fr. Frank Pavone
Austin Ruse

2003
Sal Bando
Bishop Victor Galeone
Sen. Rick Santorum
Joseph Scheidler
Phyllis Schlafly
John & Barbara Willke

2002
Judie Brown
Sam Brownback
Greg Cunningham
Fr. Paul Marx
Colleen Parro
Deby Schlapprizzi

2001
Rep. Henry Hyde