Tag Archives: Rick Santorum

Letting God be God

When Bill and Deborah Parker got married, their dream was to have five children. That dream was shaken when they discovered that their first child, Jacob, had Fragile X Syndrome, an inherited disease that causes intellectual and physical disabilities. Fragile X also has features of autism.

Discernment

cover-june16The couple, members of Legatus’ Harrisburg Chapter in Pennsylvania, was faced with the dilemma of what to do with their dream.

“When we found out on Mother’s Day that Jacob had Fragile X, Deborah was already pregnant with our second child,” said Bill Parker.

They went to see a genetic counsellor and found out that Deborah’s chromosomes were affected. Every child they conceived would have a 50-50 chance of being born with Fragile X.

“When we got the diagnosis, we went through grief,” said Deborah. “Then one day we decided this was meant to be. We must move mountains for them, but every year we have a good cry.”

The spiritual impact of having a special needs child can only be described as a journey with an initial period of grief and oftentimes anger, the Parkers said. For those with a strong Catholic faith, the journey is still extremely difficult.

After the diagnosis, the immediate dilemma for the Parkers was whether or not to continue having children. Bill discussed it with his spiritual director.

The Parker family (L-R): Deborah, Jacob, Sophia, Mary, Bill and Liam, Thomas (Christine Chardo Photography)

The Parker family (L-R): Deborah, Jacob, Sophia, Mary,
Bill and Liam, Thomas (Christine Chardo Photography)

“He said to let ‘God be God,’” Bill explained. “We decided after this to continue to have children — and if we had disabled children, then we would just have to love them.”

Challenges

Learning to manage three children with Fragile X took years and is still a work in progress for the Parkers. “We had family members second guess us,” Deborah said. “When we got pregnant with our third child, we named him Thomas for all those who doubted. Three weeks after he was born we discovered he didn’t have Fragile X. Our fourth child, Mary was born on All Saints Day. Our doctor came over personally on Thanksgiving Day, crying, to give us the news that she wasn’t affected by Fragile X.” Jacob, their first child, is non-verbal. Sophia, their second, gets overwhelmed easily and is self-injurious. Liam, their last child, also has Fragile X.

“Last year, when Sophia was having problems, we saw that when God presents us with challenges, He helps us through,” Deborah explained. The Parkers are now working with doctors specializing in self-injurious patients.

When things get hard, the family turns to God for direction. Deborah describes her faith as being more “quiet,” while Bill speaks publicly about his faith. He has come to believe that God wants to use him to help other families facing similar trials.

parkers-billanddeborah“We met a family in Church who have a son just like Jacob,” Deborah said. “His two arms are in a cast because he is self-injurious. But these two boys understand each other and spend time together. It’s one of the only times that the other boy is not self-injurious.”

Support

The Parkers founded the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in Philhaven, Pa., and direct a support group for families with Fragile X. Bill advocates for special needs children at the local, state and national level. Their local hospital now refers families who get adverse diagnoses for their children to Bill and Deborah.

“A couple of years ago, we met Rich,” Bill said. “He’s a 40-year old adult who has Asperger’s. He rode 15 miles on his bicycle and knocked on our door. When we opened, he asked if we were the Parkers and then said that we were supposed to help him. His parents had abandoned him.”

The Parkers ended up “adopting” him by having him over for holidays, giving him gas money and buying him clothes.

Another time, the Parkers got a call at 2 a.m. from the local hospital. A woman had just delivered a baby who was severely ill. The hospital wanted to take the baby off life support, and the father had abandoned the mother and child. Bill drove in and met the mother.

“The first thing we are going to do is pray a rosary,” he told her.

She told him that she hadn’t prayed the rosary since the fifth grade and began to cry. They soon discovered that the baby had a rare condition, and Bill Parker happened to know a top specialist for that condition. They put the specialist in touch with the attending doctor, and the baby was saved. Today, the Parkers are the child’s Godparents.

Mac and Renata Nowakowski with their three children (L-R) Teodor (15), Mac Jr. (19), and Dominik (13) (Nowakowski family photo)

Balance

When Mac and Renata Nowakowski of Legatus’ Vancouver Chapter learned they had a child with autism, they too were devastated.

“Faith helped us through,” said Renata, now the mother of three children — two with autism.

“In the beginning, it was difficult,” she said. “You get mad at God. We felt at first that life had robbed us. But with prayer, you keep on going. Other families prayed for us. Now we are 10 years into this and we know this is what God wanted for us.”

A 2012 study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, which used data from 77,911 kids in the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health, found no evidence to suggest that American autistic children are at an increased risk for living in a household without both parents compared to normally developing children.

In 2010, however, University of Wisconsin at Madison researchers reported that a longitudinal study of 391 families showed that parents of autistic children were almost twice as likely to divorce as couples who had children without disabilities. The differences in divorce rates between the groups did not appear until the kids were adolescents or adults.

“With faith and prayers, we saw what we were made of and what our marriage was made of,” Renata explained. “This has strengthened our marriage. I feel I can trust my husband and vice-versa. When one is down, the other is up.”

Both couples say that finding or creating a supportive community makes a real difference for special needs families. The Nowakowskis didn’t get involved in autism networks in the beginning, but after several years they found themselves mentoring other families.

Passing on the Catholic faith to special needs children is another challenge. Going to Mass as a family can be nearly impossible.

“We went to church separately for nine years,” said Renata. “And then last year, we started to go as a family, but we go to the cry room.”

Rick Santorum reads to his daughter Bella (Santorum family photo)

Rick Santorum reads to his daughter
Bella (Santorum family photo)

Many special needs families eventually come to a place where they can find joy in the simple things about their children. Along with the difficulties, there is also beauty.

“The beautiful thing about Bella is that she is a great teacher,” Sen. Rick Santorum told Legatus magazine about his daughter who has Trisomy 18. “She loves intensely and is aware. She has low cognitive function but is incredibly loving and really responsive to acts of love. All Bella can do is love me. But that’s how the Father loves me. We are all spiritually disabled. The thing that matters most is our responsibility to love God.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

Learn more: LuckiestBlog.com
ChampionsForChildren.us

Legatus Summit: A call to action

Speakers at the annual event asked Legatus members to bring Jesus to a hurting world . . .

Legatus’ 2014 Summit was a rally cry for Catholic business leaders to activate their faith and change the culture for Christ. Both speakers and attendees voiced concern for the way America is slipping further away from the Christian ideals it was founded on.

The three-day annual conference, hosted by Legatus’ Orlando Chapter, drew nearly 500 Legates and guests from across the country to the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando, Fla., from Feb. 6-8.

Faithful citizenship

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum

Speakers from former Sen. Rick Santorum to Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput called on attendees to embrace the Legatus mission statement to live, learn and spread the Catholic faith. In his Feb. 7 homily, Archbishop Chaput exhorted Legates to exercise their rights of faithful citizenship to create a culture for Christ.

“When we do that, the Church will change because the leadership of the Church will be multiplied thousands upon thousands of times,” he said. “Rather than waiting for the bishops to act, you can act on your own — in union with the bishop, of course, and encouraged by him.”

In his Saturday evening address, former presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum challenged Legates to mobilize and save America before it’s too late. He pointed out that the vast majority of Americans are conservative Christians, but the liberal secularists who make up less than 20% of the population are highly organized, passionate and relentless in changing hearts and minds.

“America is broken,” he said. “We have to take responsibility for that. It was [on] our watch. America is broken because we’re afraid to fight. We must be committed, be all in. We must know what is on the line — souls, eternal souls. We don’t live in a time in America when we can afford to stop fighting.”

Archbishops Wenski, Aquila and Chaput

Archbishops Wenski, Aquila and Chaput

Santorum called on Legatus members to repair the damaged culture by activating their faith. “This organization, the people in this organization, can have a profound effect, can move the needle,” he said. “You’ve got to want it. You’ve got to be all in. You can do it. I have no doubt.”

Legates also heard from Football Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz, Bill Donohue from the Catholic League, author Matthew Kelly, pro-life activist John Smeaton, CEO and business author William Thorndike, Canadian author and journalist Michael Coren, fitness pioneer Dr. Kenneth Cooper, and the hosts of EWTN’s The Catholic View for Women. Motivational speaker Ross Shafer served as the master of ceremonies.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gómez celebrated the opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe. Orlando Bishop John Noonan celebrated the closing Mass.

Call to evangelize

David Bereit

David Bereit

Other speakers urged attendees to bring their faith boldly into a culture that has rejected Christian values. Members of a three-bishop panel — Archbishop Thomas Wenski (Miami), Samuel Aquila (Denver) and Chaput (Philadelphia) — said that kind of evangelization can only happen when we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Curtis Martin — a member of Legatus’ Denver Chapter and founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students — told attendees that discovering Jesus and coming into right relationship with him is akin to the parable of the buried treasure (Mt 13:44).

“To have that kind of passion — because we discovered the treasure first — that unleashes a power in the world that will transform the world,” he said. “When we allow God’s grace to transform us through our wounds and brokenness, nothing is impossible.”

Picking up on that theme, 40 Days for Life founder David Bereit assured Legates that abortion will end.

“History books are going to document how it ended,” he said. “I believe they’re going to point back to 2014, the tipping point when people realized it was a spiritual battle and the revival that broke out as a result. They’re going to read about how business people brought their best practices into the fight.”

Stephen Ray

Stephen Ray

Engaging the culture

Summit co-chair Troy King of Legatus’ Orlando Chapter said he was thrilled not only by the speakers, but by Legatus members’ determination to engage the culture as a result of the conference.

“The highlights were seeing the passion for the faith in all the speakers, seeing the new-found fire for the New Evangelization, and seeing how much emphasis they’re placing on putting us all into action,” he said. “I can’t wait to get home and put these things into action.”

Baton Rouge Legate Sam LaVergne, attending his second Summit, said the event far exceeded his expectations.

“Rick Santorum brought the house down, but the speaker that most intrigued me was Stephen Ray,” he said. “He made us think that visiting the Holy Land is something we need to do.”

Bishop John Noonan

Bishop John Noonan

LaVergne said that Legatus has been a blessing to him and his wife Sally.

“The most important thing that Legatus has done for us — even thought my wife and I have been Catholics for a long time — is the amount of education we’ve gotten to defend our faith,” he explained. “Legatus has empowered us with a lot of information to help us live our faith.”

In his Feb. 7 homily, Archbishop Chaput gave Legates all the advice they need to do just that. “Be embraced by the Lord Jesus,” he said. “Put on the Lord Jesus, as St. Paul says. Make him all of your life. When we do that, we will transform the face of the earth.”

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is the editor-in-chief of Legatus magazine. This article contains reporting from LifeSiteNews.com.

2013 Award Winners

Defender of the Faith
Matthew Kelly, Erin Mersino

Ambassador of the Year
Larry Blanford

Officer of the Year
Scott Teepe

Courage in the Marketplace
Paul Barron, Bruce Barron, Rod & Karen Mersino

Bowie Kuhn Award for Evangelization
Curtis Martin

Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award
David Bereit, Reggie Littlejohn, Rita Marker, John Smeaton

Angott Award
Baton Rouge, Cincinnati

Campbell Award
Cleveland, Mobile, Las Vegas, Twin Cities, Wichita