Tag Archives: kids

New children’s books enliven evergreen lessons for life

Children are both a gift from God and our future, so writing for them is no small undertaking. It takes a special talent to translate the world into a simpler, more innocent place full of possibilities. For two Legates, Chuck Ormsby and Anthony DeStefano, writing children’s books is a labor of love in which they impart character-building, evergreen lessons.

Godly insights for everyone

Anthony DeStefano and his wife Jordon are members of the Jersey Shore Legatus Chapter. He has worked successfully in politics and business, and is a member of the board of directors of Priests for Life and Rachel’s Vineyard. He has also been an EWTN television host and appeared on many national television and radio programs.

And through it all, he writes.

Stefano is an award-winning, best-selling author of 20 books for adults and children. His first book, A Travel Guide to Heaven, (2003) has been published in 15 languages and in 20 countries. Another book for adults, Hell: A Guide, will be out in June.

DeStefano’s latest children’s book released in October, The Seed Who Was Afraid to be Planted, is the retelling of Jesus’ parable of the seed in verse, beautifully illustrated by Erwin Madrid, an animator on the Shrek franchise. The story is about a seed wanting to stay in a cozy drawer rather than get buried in the ground. Faced with his biggest fear, the seed undergoes a transformation into a beautiful tree that nurtures the creation around it. It imparts the lesson that no matter how small or scared we may be, God has plans for us more wonderful than we can imagine.

Speaking specially to Catholics

This new book is his first with a Catholic publisher. “Now is the time to start writing Catholic books with the Church,” he explained. “I’ve had the sense over the last three years—and I think all Catholics have had this sense—that the Church is going through troubled waters. I’ve had a conviction that instead of focusing on the general market where I’ve had a lot of success, I should write for a Catholic-specific audience.” It also helped that DeStefano had met the publisher of Sophia Institute Press, Charlie McKinney, and was very impressed. Sophia will also publish his next two children’s books: Our Lady’s Wardrobe in April and The Grumpy Old Ox next Christmas.

DeStefano’s stories, which reflect Godly values and insights, have attracted readers across denominational lines and even no denominations. The Seed Who Was Afraid to be Planted, he explained, is also a message that applies to everyone.

Facing the universal phobia – fear

“I believe the biggest problem that people face—not just children—is fear,” DeStefano said. “People are afraid about their money, and job, and families, and health, and most of all they are afraid they don’t have what it takes to overcome their problems.” Unless we help children deal with their fears, he said, it can manifest into much bigger problems that could last a lifetime.

The idea for the book came to DeStefano during adoration while reading the parable of the grain of wheat that fell to the ground and had to die in order to grow. “It hit me like a bolt of lightning; Why not retell the parable of the seed from the perspective of the seed?” he explained. “The message is about trusting God and allowing him to transform your fear into something wonderful.”

Taking the worst, pulling out the best

It is a message that relates to Christ himself, according to DeStefano. “Jesus is the best example of the seed who was planted,” he said. “He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He died and was buried in the earth. It was the worst evil that ever took place in the world: the murder of God by His own creatures. But three days later, the Resurrection represents the greatest good that could ever happen. The gates of heaven were thrown open and all of us can receive everlasting life. If God can take the worst thing and pull out the best thing, He can pull good out of our life.”

Imparting such a vision can transform a child’s whole life, DeStefano said. “It can help prepare children to understand other deeper truths— including the love God has for us, the beauty of creation, the temporary nature of bodily death, the meaning of resurrection, and the joy of heaven.”

Far-reaching love for kids

Attorney Chuck Ormsby, member of Pennsylvania’s Bucks County Chapter, also has deeper messages in his whimsical children’s books. They reflect his own commitment to God and children alongside his full-time work at his law firm, Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. He has specialized in corporate law for over 30 years alongside raising three children with his wife, Linda, and building schools in Uganda.

“I went on my thirteenth trip there this past Halloween,” he said. “Previously we built a school in the jungle where a genocide took place,” Ormsby said. It all began in 2007 when Ormsby accepted an offer from visiting priest, Father Joseph Sserugo, to visit Uganda. He came to build a primary school on a one-square-mile piece of land that had been a place of genocide, thereby turning it into a blessing. Pope John Paul II high school was later built and is currently educating 600 students.

There is also a vocational school begun by Ormsby with another 150 students. Students can be sponsored at the Pope John Paul II High School, to defray yearly tuition. And there are also opportunities for covering their room and board at the local university (go to bridgetouganda.org to learn more).

Out of the mouths of babes

Ormsby’s foray into writing children’s books as a hobby has a humbler beginning. “We were driving in the car and one of the kids asked, ‘Why is Dad’s head ‘shaped like that’ —round and bald,” he explained. “My wife said, ‘So water runs off. If it had a dent in it, water would well up and he’d have a problem; puddles would form, birds would come drink and trees would grow.’” Thus was born Mr. Puddlehead, published in 2016 by Archway Publishing.

The brightly animated story in verse is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. The moral behind the silly story is: accept the way God made you, and see the puddles in your life as a blessing.

Life lesson from grandma

On another day, Linda came home from pushing a grandchild in the stroller with a sticky mess on the wheel that had picked up a napkin and a cigarette. From that came the story of Mrs. Sticky Wheel. She is in too much of a hurry to clean off the mess so ends up coming home with a dog, a cat, a duck and a pig stuck to the stroller.

On the first page of the second book, Mrs. Sticky Wheel marries Mr. Puddlehead. On the last page is the moral:

“She learned a lot from this haul
Address your issues when they’re small
Or better yet so not to stall
Avoid your problem after all.”

A third book is in the works. When his oldest of five grandchildren, Tiernan, recently explained that his superhero power is never getting tired, Ormsby envisioned his next book – a story where the villains are such a pest, while the superhero needs no rest.

Stay tuned.

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

Drawing Kids to the Glow of Catholicism

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

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

New program emphasizes Catholic beauty

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

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

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

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

Keeping the faith – through love for Christ

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

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

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

Kids ask to go to church

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

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

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

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

Service to others – mitigates focus on self

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

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

Strong family support is key

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

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

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

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

Narrow road’ to Christ is countercultural

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

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

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer

“No-fun-parenting” wins in ADHD treatment

Some 11 percent of U.S. children have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by a healthcare professional, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About two-thirds of them take a medication to treat their ADHD. Medications are effective for treatment of it, but any ADHD treatment plan has to include “behavioral interventions,” in other words, no-fun-parenting. Yes, we have to teach our kids to pay attention. How?

Kathleen M. Berchelmann, M.D.

Make time for parenting. ADHD kids need a full-time secretary—someone to give constant gentle reminders. When you are the parent of an ADHD kid, that’s your job. All these reminders take time. Double the time you think you need to ready for school or do chores. It’s usually easier and faster to pack your child’s backpack for him, rather than remind him six times to do it. But keep reminding him until you sound like a broken record. Yes, this takes twice as long as it should. But when we teach kids to pay attention, we teach self-control, a virtue that will last them a lifetime.

Tame your own anger. ADHD kids need a secretary, not a policeman. It seems reasonable to raise your voice when they drop their coat on the floor for the two hundredth time. But it’s your job to ask them nicely for the 201st time.

Get an electronic secretary. Adults with ADHD typically use smartphones as a secretary and caffeine as a stimulant. Kids with ADHD use parents for reminders and prescription stimulants. Why not let your smartphone be your child’s secretary, too? Set the smartphone alarm every day, even for things like getting ready for bed. Of note—your child does not need his own cell phone—set alarms on your cell phone or on an electronic home assistant such as Amazon Echo or Google Home.

Get a chore chart and use a reward system. Put all your kid’s daily tasks on the chart, not just chores. Include things like “hang up coat,” “brush hair,” and “stay in chair at dinner.” Chore charts won’t work without reward systems to motivate kids to actually check things off themselves. For rewards, use computer time, time with friends, or privileges like picking the family dinner.

Routine, routine, routine. Try to do as much as possible the same way each day. Talk about the schedule every morning and evening.

Don’t be afraid of medications. Most parents wouldn’t give a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) a caffeinated drink, for fear that their hyperactivity would only worsen. So why do doctors give stimulants to kids with ADHD? It seems so counterintuitive. Here’s another way of thinking about it:

Kids with ADHD are constantly self-stimulating. They wiggle, talk out of turn, and their mind doesn’t seem to turn off. Their thought processes are nonlinear. They talk while brushing their teeth and wiggling their foot at the same time. They seem to do everything except follow directions. When you give a stimulant to such a child, they no longer have such an urgent need to self-stimulate. ADHD kids usually have no problem paying attention to video games, which provide constant visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation. Reading books and following directions, however, are not stimulating activities — ADHD kids will try to get through these experiences by self-stimulating through wiggling, talking, etc.

If you give them a stimulant medication, they won’t need to self-stimulate. Stimulants are a tried-and-true treatment for ADHD. Ritalin has been used to treat ADHD since the 1960s and is still in use. Many brand-name ADHD medications such as Concerta are just long-acting/slow release formulations of Ritalin. Stimulants increase both fine- and gross-motor control as well as cognitive performance and executive function. In other words, stimulants can improve handwriting and sports performance as well as behavior and attention.

KATHLEEN M. BERCHELMANN, M.D., is a pediatrician at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, a member of the Catholic Medical Association, and a mother of six children ages one to 13.