Tag Archives: Sabrina Arena Ferrisi

Learning to fly again

Legatus members have learned to cope after their children have left the nest . . . 

Bob & Andrea Chisholm of Legatus’ Toronto Chapter

Bob & Andrea Chisholm of Legatus’ Toronto Chapter

When children grow up and leave home, the emptiness left behind can be daunting.

The so-called Empty Nest Syndrome, though not a clinical diagnosis, is widely considered to be a phase in life that can bring intense grief for parents. It can also be a time of growth.

“You always have choices in life,” said Andrea Chisholm, a member of Legatus’ Toronto Chapter. “You have choices about your health, finances, whatever. This is especially true with the empty nest.”

Time to grow

Dr. Ray Guarendi, a clinical psychologist, author and Catholic radio host, noted that Empty Nest Syndrome seems to hit women the hardest, particularly those who were traditional stay-at- home moms.

“Now her vocation seems to be over,” he said. “Lots of this is intertwined with her worry as a mother. These moms feel they can no longer give their influence like before.”

However, an empty nest does not necessarily mean an empty life.

“We are physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually created, so we must address all of these components of our lives,” said Dr. Lisa Klewicki, a clinical psychologist with the Virginia-based Fountain of Life Ministries. “The empty nest phase is a beautiful opportunity to grow in all these areas. It should not be a time to think, ‘My whole purpose is gone.’”

Klewicki suggests that couples get more physical exercise after their children leave home.

“Get involved in team sports to work out and interact with others,” she said. “Eat right and take the time to cook and plan healthier meals. Now is your time to be creative. Take a cooking class.  Buy a new grill.”

In terms of feeding the intellect, Klewicki suggests enrolling in classes. “And for the emotional part, build up your friendships and your social network,” she said.

Both Guarendi and Klewicki strongly recommend reconnecting with your spouse.

“Re-engage with your spouse,” Guarendi said. “Get to know each other again. Establish rituals. My wife and I have coffee together every morning. We have been married 30 years. Treat your spouse with more attention than you do your kids. If you have a reasonable basis for your marriage, your marriage should get better after the kids leave.”

Klewicki suggests that older couples establish weekly date nights.

“Sometimes I hear the complaint that, ‘My spouse isn’t the same person as when we got married.’ Well who is? Get to know each other in a new way,” she said. “Invest emotionally in each other. You can volunteer together. Give of your time and talent. It’s crucial for Catholics to look at the empty nest as a time to grow.”

Spiritual renewal

Legates Bob & Andrea Chisholm their family at Disney World

Legates Bob & Andrea Chisholm their family at Disney World

For the spiritual life, Klewicki recommends going to Mass together and reading the same spiritual book, then discussing it.

“If your spouse is not as religious as you, meet them where they are and gradually bring them along,” she said. “The idea is, ‘I am so in love with Christ that I want you, the love of my life, to know Him as well. I don’t want to be alone in this.’ Pray for each other, pray for the relationship and make sacrifices for each other.”

Andrea Chisholm says that when she hit the empty nest phase, her husband Bob had to travel to Mexico City from Toronto three days a week. Not only was her house missing her two children, but for half the week, her husband as well.

“Women need something to do,” Andrea said. “They can volunteer or work. I began to teach piano part time. I spent a lot of time doing Church music, getting involved in the choir.”

However, work cannot be the only thing to fill the empty nest. For Andrea, the spiritual life became more important.

“It was my faith that got me through,” she said.

Andrea became an extraordinary Eucharistic minister and went to daily Mass. When her father had to move into a nursing home, she brought a priest to the home. She visited the sick once a week for 13 years and brought the Eucharist to them.

“God will always lead you in the direction He wants you to go,” she explained. “You have to learn to follow that gentle pulling. Besides the other activities, I felt pulled to work with FertilityCare Toronto, a Natural Family Planning organization associated with the Creighton Model. I have just recently joined the board.”

The rosary was another support for Andrea as she entered the empty nest phase.

“I really believe that God gives ideas during the rosary,” she said. “Little things pop into your mind. I once heard that Haydn used to get ideas for music during the rosary.”

Bob and Andrea Chisholm set up a charitable foundation after his retirement to help Catholic causes in Canada. Between their work, charities and spending time with their children and grandchildren, the empty nest is always there but the empty feelings have faded.

Faith and work

Tom & Glory Sullivan of the Jacksonville Chapter with their family

Tom & Glory Sullivan of the Jacksonville Chapter with their family

When Glory Sullivan’s youngest child moved out of the house, it hit the Jacksonville Legate hard.

“I thought I had died,” she said.

The Sullivans’ three children were married in a span of two-and-a- half years.

Although Glory and her husband Tom were working together in their own Maryland-based company at the time, they still felt the emptiness. But their faith, their marriage and their work got them through.

“Our theory was ‘work like crazy’ and ‘let’s build a house,’” she said. “We eventually decided to build a house in Ponte Vedra, Fla., in 1995. The idea was, ‘If we build this, they will come.’ And they come all the time. We absolutely adore it!”

Their three children and seven grandchildren visit their home in Florida throughout the year.

The Sullivans sold their company in 1998 and created a foundation with a focus on evangelization. “We still work,” Glory explained. “It’s important for empty nesters.”

One of their most recent projects is to bring chastity speaker Pam Stenzel to schools in the Washington, D.C., area and their diocese of St. Augustine, Fla.

As a couple, the Sullivans take their faith seriously.

“We have always gone to Mass every day in the morning,” said Glory.”We are overachievers. At 74 and 79, we make our own kids tired.”

Empty Nest Syndrome can cause sadness, but if Legatus members’ experience is any indication, drawing upon the spiritual life and exercising God-given talents can help couples get through … and even thrive.

“Another piece of advice,” said Glory, “is that when one of your children says, ‘I’m pregnant,’ you have a new vocation!”

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

Face-to-face with a saint

Legates recount meeting with Saint John Paul II and how he touched their lives . . .

As the world’s attention turned toward Rome for the April 27 canonization of Pope John Paul II, Legatus members reminisced on the profound effect the new saint had on Legatus’ founding and growth.

John Paul’s prophetic call for the New Evangelization — one of the hallmarks of his 26-year papacy — has led Legates to think of creative ways to live out this call in the workplace, as well as in their families and communities. Often a meeting with the late pontiff confirmed a Legate’s Catholic faith or inspired a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ.

Holy Spirit moment

Legatus founder Tom Monaghan looks on while  St. John Paul II greets his wife Marjorie on May 7, 1987

Legatus founder Tom Monaghan looks on while St. John Paul II greets his wife Marjorie on May 7, 1987

In the case of Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, his first meeting with St. John Paul II inspired him to create Legatus. Monaghan had always been a great admirer of the Holy Father because of his Polish background.

“I was brought up in an orphanage with Polish nuns and lots of Polish kids,” he explained. “Because of this, I always felt an affinity for all things Polish.”

Monaghan met the new saint for the first time on May 7, 1987. At the time, Monaghan was in Venice, Italy, for an international meeting of YPO — the Young Presidents’ Organization.

Cardinal Edmund Szoka, then-archbishop of Detroit, asked Monaghan if he wanted to attend a private Mass with the Pope, so he made the hop from Venice to Rome.

“During Mass, I received the Host directly on my tongue from Pope John Paul II, and he stood 12 inches away from me,” Monaghan said. “His eyes looked into my eyes. I will never forget that moment.”

After Mass, the 30 people who had attended Mass went to the papal library. The Pope greeted each person, spoke to them and gave them a rosary. About 45 minutes later, Monaghan got the inspiration to create Legatus based on the YPO model.

Holy encounters

Nancy Gunderson (in white, beside the Pope) places her hand on St. John Paul II’s hand, while Lynn and Michael Joseph (directly behind the Pope’s chair) look on.

Nancy Gunderson (in white, beside the Pope) places her hand on St. John Paul II’s hand, while Lynn and Michael Joseph (directly behind the Pope’s chair) look on.

Bob and Nancy Gunderson, members of Legatus’ Milwaukee Chapter, went on a Legatus pilgrimage in 1999. During a Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 6, the Legatus group was brought forward for a photo with the Pope. Nancy was placed right next to the Holy Father.

“I knelt down to be at his level,” she said. “His arm was on the arm rest and I grabbed his arm.”

When he looked up at Nancy, she told him that everyone in Milwaukee was praying for him and that they all loved him. He smiled at her.

“It was such a thrill to be in the presence of someone you knew to be a saint,” she said.

Mike and Lynne Joseph, members of the Orange County Chapter, were standing right behind John Paul that day. Lynne reached out and put her hand on the Pope’s shoulder.

“It was a thrill just getting close enough to him to be able to pat him on the shoulder as he sat in his chair under a canopy looking out at the throngs of worshippers who filled St. Peter’s Square,” Mike said. “John Paul’s health was definitely in decline at this point. He didn’t say very much, but being in his presence was a very moving experience.”

Fr. Joseph Cocucci holds hands with St. John Paul II in 1983

Fr. Joseph Cocucci holds hands with St. John Paul II in 1983

Father Joe Cocucci, assistant chaplain for Legatus’ Wilmington Chapter, met John Paul as a young priest in 1983 during a general audience in St. Peter’s Square. When the Holy Father came down to shake hands, security called the young priest forward.

“I grabbed my friend Dr. Henry Bender, and we moved to the front row,” Fr. Cocucci explained. “When the Pope got to me, I got nervous and began to speak in Italian.”

His friend Henry and his wife had foster children back in the U.S., including a little girl with developmental problems named Sara. Doctors were having a hard time helping her.

“When the Pope got to Henry, he asked him to please pray for ‘my daughter Sara.’ The Pope replied slowly, ‘I will pray for Sara,’” Fr. Cocucci said.

Over the next year, Sara’s condition inexplicably improved — astounding all doctors. “We attributed her improvement to Pope John Paul II’s prayers,” said Fr. Cocucci.

The name of Jesus

Prominent author and speaker Ralph Martin, president of Renewal Ministries and a member of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter, met John Paul half a dozen times. In the late 1970s, Martin spent an evening with the Holy Father at the invitation of Brussels Cardinal Leo Suenens. The conversation revolved around renewal in the Church, Martin explained. The Pope asked each of those present to share their testimony.

St. John Paul II embraces Legate Ralph Martin in May 1981

St. John Paul II embraces Legate Ralph Martin in May 1981

“Then, at the end, he gave his testimony, saying that when he was a little boy, his father asked him to pray to the Holy Spirit every single day and ask God for guidance,” Martin explained. “He said he had been praying to the Holy Spirit every day just like his father taught him.”

Another profound meeting came in 1994. Martin had an audience with the Pope and presented him with his new book, The Catholic Church at the End of an Age: What is the Spirit Saying?

“When I gave it to him, he said, ‘I read it already,’” Martin said. “I almost fell over at that point, and then he said, ‘Ralph what is the Spirit saying to the Church?’

“I knew he didn’t want the whole 300-page answer, so I said, ‘Holy Father, I think what the Spirit is mainly saying to the Church is Jesus.’ And then the Holy Father took my hand and he said, ‘Jesus.’ I said, ‘Jesus,’ and he said, ‘Jesus.’ We just stood there for a couple of minutes saying the name of Jesus together, and it was just a moment of profound communion in the Lord.”

Doctor to a saint

Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, a member of Legatus’ San Juan Capistrano Chapter, went to Rome in August 2000 to volunteer as a doctor with the Knights of Malta. During one of the general audiences, he noticed how bad John Paul’s health was. As a neurologist, he wondered if the Pope’s Parkinson’s disease was being treated correctly and voiced this concern to a friend, Monsignor Vittorio Formenti.

Dr. Vince Fortanasce poses with a portrait of St. John Paul II in his office in Arcadia, Calif.

Dr. Vince Fortanasce poses with a portrait of St. John Paul II in his office in Arcadia, Calif.

The next day, a group of Swiss Guards found  Fortanasce at a clinic near the Vatican and asked him to follow them. Within minutes, he was introduced to John Paul’s doctors.

“We spoke for half an hour and went over the Pope’s X-rays and medications,” Fortanasce said. “As I was walking out the door, I was motioned to go up a corridor. I walked into a room and found Pope John Paul II sitting by the window, reading a book.”

John Paul asked Fortanasce about his mission. The Legate told him that his life’s mission was to defend life — stopping things like human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research.

“The Pope told me that the real problem was that man believes he is God, and that man is afraid of death because he didn’t have God,” said Fortanasce. “And so people want to do everything possible to postpone death, even at the cost of taking another person’s life.”

John Paul told Fortanasce not to give up and not to expect people to listen.

Fortanasce ended up recommending another medication and an appropriate exercise regimen. The Vatican “paid” him by sending him holy water blessed by the Pope.

All of these Legates said they knew Pope John Paul II would be canonized one day.

“He was my No. 1 hero in the world,” said Monaghan. “He had a presence. He was a man’s man, an intellect and an actor.”

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

Following in the footsteps of Jesus

Author and evangelist Steve Ray will lead Legatus’ Holy Land pilgrimage in October . . .


It’s safe to say that Steve Ray and his wife Janet feel right at home in the Holy Land. The renowned Catholic convert, apologist and filmmaker and his wife have been to Israel over 130 times.

Together they have led over 60 pilgrimages — about 10 per year — and they will lead Legatus’ Holy Land pilgrimage from Oct. 8-17.

The Footprints of God

Those who have been on a Ray pilgrimage say the experience is life-changing. Ray’s deep knowledge of scripture and his passion for the Holy Land are among the reasons pilgrims love to travel with him. Pilgrims also say they have developed a deeper understanding of Jesus and the world he lived in.

“Steve has a way of explaining things that anyone can understand,” said Rosie Cunningham, a member of Legatus’ Naples Chapter. The Cunningham family has gone on three pilgrimages with Ray.

“He adapts to anyone — from the most educated person to the most simple. We took six of our children and they all fell in love with him,” she said. “Today all of my children have an intimacy with Christ. We saw this on the trips. Every day they were praying on their own.”

Steve Ray

Steve Ray

Ray’s business background is another reason his pilgrimages are so successful. He began cleaning offices in high school and went on to found a janitorial company that, at its zenith, made $12 million per year and employed 600 people. The experience taught him how to take care of people and pay attention to detail.

“I was a Legatus member for 10 years,” he explained. “I know what businessmen want. We are very punctual, organized and structured.”

When Ray converted to Catholicism in 1994, his interests changed from business to the New Evangelization. After writing three books for Ignatius Press, Ray had a brainstorm in 2000.

“I woke my wife up and told her that I had a great idea: I had to make a series of videos on the history of salvation! We would film each video on location in Israel. My wife told me we didn’t even take good pictures. How could we possibly do a video series? She told me to go back to sleep,” said Ray.

Nevertheless, Ray embarked on the Footsteps of God project which has filmed seven out of the 10 episodes. The couple went to Iraq earlier this year to film the latest episode on Abraham. Leading pilgrimages was a natural outgrowth of Ray’s many years of studying and capturing the Holy Land on celluloid.

Life is a pilgrimage

holyland-1Ray has been leading groups to the Holy Land for nine years, and his program stands out from the others.

“Most groups go with a licensed Jewish guide and a Muslim driver,” he said. “I only work with Christians. We eat at Christian shops and try to stay in Christian hotels. In Jerusalem, we stay at the Notre Dame Center, which is owned by the Vatican. In this way, we support the local Christian population.”

Janet Ray assists her husband on all pilgrimages. Through the years, the couple has collected countless stories of lives changed while on pilgrimage.

“We have had many conversions — not just of lapsed Catholics, but also of Protestants,” he explained. “One couple had come on the trip hoping to convert me back to Protestantism.”

Another woman came on pilgrimage and never spoke the entire time. On the last day, she told Ray that she had been an alcoholic. Before the trip, she had planned to kill herself. Her children had convinced her to go on the pilgrimage and, through it, she had experienced real healing.

Highlights for the upcoming Legatus pilgrimage include a trip to the Garden of Gethsemane and stops at sites of the rosary.

holyland-2“You will never pray the rosary or read Scripture in the same way again,” said Laura Sacha, Legatus’ conference director, who was on the last Legatus pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2009.

“We go to the wedding church in Cana,” she said. “This is very special for our married couples who can renew their wedding vows. We go to the Sea of Galilee and take a boat ride. We have a Mass at St. Peter’s house in Capernaum. We travel along the Via Dolorosa. We go to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”

Legates will also swim in the Dead Sea and sample wine at a local winery.

“We get olive wood rosaries made in the Holy Land and everyone is allowed to touch places at Calvary, Bethlehem and the Jordan River,” Ray explained. “These rosaries then become third class relics.”

Safe and secure

holyland-3Ray is always asked about the safety of pilgrims in Israel.

“It is perfectly safe,” he said. “I have taken thousands of people to the Holy Land. We have never once had a problem. Israel gets 3.5 million tourists every year. None of them have ever gotten hurt. There are a few hot spots in Gaza, but we don’t go there. By the end of every pilgrimage, people laugh about how safe it was. Don’t let the devil steal this opportunity from you.”

Louise Rainey, a member of Legatus’ Orlando Chapter, went to Israel in 2007. “There were issues in the Middle East at the time and quite a few people backed out. We decided to go anyway and were so glad we did. We never felt any threats at all.”

“I was really nervous about going,” said Maria Cunningham, 16. “But Steve Ray knew where to go and he made us all feel like he had known us forever. Being in those places was basically stepping out of my world and stepping into a new one.”

Pope Francis will visit Israel and Jordan from May 24-26. One of the stops on his packed itinerary is Mass in the Upper Room — the location of the Last Supper and Pentecost. The last person to celebrate Mass there was St. John Paul II in 2000.

“Local Christians will get a shot of encouragement and pride by his visit,” said Ray. “Pope Francis will charm everyone and hopefully effect some changes. He will address the persecutions and limitations imposed on the local Palestinian Christians.”

Ray said security for the papal trip will cause headaches for the local populations and pilgrims, “but if they do get to see him by some chance, the pilgrims will remember it for the rest of their lives.”

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

To register for Legatus’ October 8-17 Holy Land Pilgrimage:

Call: (313) 565-8888 x 150

Email: conferences@legatus.org

Omaha’s Miracle Man

How Legate Dr. Edward Gatz’ extraordinary healing led to a new Catholic saint . . .

cover-april14Nothing strikes the core of our being more powerfully than coming face-to-face with our own mortality. So when Dr. Edward Gatz — a member of Legatus’ Omaha Chapter — learned that he had six months to live, it sent his mind reeling.

The great irony is that Gatz was given six months to live more than 25 years ago.

His friend and anesthesiology partner, Dr. Donald Kerr, broke the news to him on Jan. 10, 1989. Gatz was 51 years old, working 80 to 100 hours a week as an anesthesiologist at Omaha’s then-Bergan Mercy Hospital.

But at the time, no one could foresee how the tragic news would one day turn into tremendous joy for thousands.

Deadly cancer

A few weeks earlier, Gatz had noticed thousands of bumps on his hands. Preliminary tests were inconclusive. Then his doctor had him undergo an endoscopy which revealed a fist-sized cancerous tumor which spread through his esophagus, around the vagus nerve and into the stomach.“We went home after the terrible news,” recalled Jeanne Gatz, his wife. “Ed was stunned and depressed. I asked him what the next step would be, and he said, ‘Nothing.’” Gatz believed that this type of cancer — adenocarcinoma of the esophagus — wouldn’t respond to radiation or chemotherapy.

Ed and Jeanne Gatz

Ed and Jeanne Gatz

“I came home and called Fr. Richard McGloin immediately, a Jesuit friend and former teacher at Creighton University. He was a walking saint,” said Jeanne. “I told him we needed his prayers.”After Jeanne explained that her husband did not want to do anything, Fr. McGloin said something which stunned her: “The doctors have never heard of Jeanne Jugan, the founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor. You and I will say a novena to her every day without fail for Ed’s cure.”Neither Jeanne nor Ed knew the Little Sisters of the Poor, but Fr. McGloin had been a chaplain at one of their centers in Milwaukee during the 1950s. During that time, he developed a profound devotion to the order’s French foundress.

Jugan had been beatified in 1982. The Little Sisters of the Poor — founded in 1839 and dedicated to helping the elderly poor — had been praying for years for another miracle that would bring Jugan to canonization.

In the meantime, the Gatz family traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for surgery, which was purely palliative. It removed as much of the tumor as possible, including 70% of the esophagus and half of the stomach. Father McGloin sent a letter to Jeanne during her time in Minnesota with an official Jugan novena prayer card. In the letter, he wrote: “If she [Jugan] wants to become a saint, she better get busy.”

St. Jeanne Jugan

St. Jeanne Jugan

Gatz’s specific cancer type had never spared anyone in U.S. history. Yet, when Gatz had his first CAT scan three months later, no cancer could be found. Six months later, no cancer. Jeanne and Fr. McGloin continued to pray the Jugan novena every day for five years. The cancer never returned.

Prior to surgery at the Mayo Clinic, Gatz received the Anointing of the Sick three times. His depression left him as soon as he had the first anointing. With each subsequent anointing, he felt more grace and more peace. It is interesting to note that Gatz never prayed the novena to Jugan.

Verified miracle

One evening 13 years later, the Gatzes went to a dinner for their archdiocese. That evening a monsignor at their table heard of this medical miracle and suggested that it be documented.As fate would have it, the Gatz family was hosting two consecrated Legionary women at their house that weekend. One of them had just stayed at a Little Sisters of the Poor residence in Kansas City. She had a phone number and a name: Sr. Marguerite McCarthy.“This was the hand of God,” said Jeanne. “Sister Marguerite was the perfect one. I told her our story. She was convinced it was the miracle they had been praying for. She kept calling the motherhouse and pushing the process along.”

The intensive investigation took seven years — from 2002 to 2009 with several roadblocks along the way.

Dr. Gatz receives Communion from Pope Benedict XVI.

Dr. Gatz receives Communion from Pope Benedict XVI

“I had to get my medical records from Bergen Hospital,” Gatz explained. “All of the records were on old machines that wouldn’t work. I had to literally kick a machine to get it on.”

“A tribunal was set up in Omaha to determine the authenticity of this miracle,” Sr. Marguerite added. “And then it sent all their findings to Rome.”

The Gatz family was with Sr. Marguerite in San Pedro, Calif., when they got word that the miracle had been accepted and that Jugan would be canonized.

“Our reaction was just joy and gratitude,” said Sr. Marguerite. “The Little Sisters had been praying for this. We wanted her raised to sainthood.”

The Gatzes traveled to Rome for the canonization on Oct. 11, 2009, with hundreds of Little Sisters of the Poor. They stayed at the Order’s house in Rome and met Mother General Celine de la Visitation, the order’s superior.

Since then, the couple has visited many Little Sisters facilities across the country. They are welcomed as part of the family.

Edward Gatz is now 76 and healthy, and Jeanne continues to pray to St. Jeanne Jugan every day for all her intentions — confident that she has a friend in heaven.

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


Little Sisters of the Poor v. Sebelius

gatz-2The Little Sisters of the Poor came to America in 1868. They operate 29 U.S. homes and serve 13,433 elderly. Worldwide, they run 193 houses in 31 countries.

Despite their quiet work, the Little Sisters have launched a legal battle against the federal government’s contraceptive mandate. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest law firm, is representing the Little Sisters in a class-action federal lawsuit which includes over 500 Catholic nonprofit organizations.

The mandate would force the nuns to go against Church teaching by forcing them provide health insurance to employees that covers abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations.

“The federal government has put the Little Sisters of the Poor to the choice of either violating their faith or paying millions of dollars in fines,” said Daniel Blomberg, a member of the Becket Fund’s legal team defending the Little Sisters. “No American should ever be placed in this situation.”

A district judge ruled against the Sisters in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Dec. 27, and four days later, an appellate judge ruled against them. However, the U.S. Supreme Court gave the Sisters temporary relief from the mandate on Dec. 31, just three hours before fines against them would have begun accruing. The case has been sent back to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to be retried.

“We are praying every day to St. Jeanne Jugan about this, and we are having our residents pray,” Sr. Marguerite explained. “Why should the government have the right to do this? We want to witness to life at the beginning and the end of life.”


Deadly Dealings USA

The disturbing spread of human trafficking has spawned a wave of faith-based relief . . .

The day before the Seahawks celebrated their Super Bowl victory with a parade through downtown Seattle on Feb. 5, the dark side of professional sports in America reared its ugly head.

FBI officials announced that 16 children as young as 13 – some of whom had been reported missing by their families – were rescued from the sex trade in a law-enforcement sting operation that targeted alleged pimps who brought the victims to New Jersey for Super Bowl weekend.

Law enforcement took down more than 45 pimps and their associates – several who brought their victims from out of state – in the sting.

Modern-Day Slavery

An anti-trafficking ad in New York City

An anti-trafficking ad in New York City

In its Feb. 4 announcement, the FBI noted that high-profile special events which draw large crowds have become lucrative opportunities for child prostitution criminal enterprises — a modern-day form of slavery, commonly known as human trafficking, where people are deceived and exploited for their labor or their bodies.

“The typical story in our country will be of a girl who suffers at home from sexual abuse,” said Jeff Wilbarger, founder of The Daughter Project, a shelter for trafficking survivors in Toledo, Ohio.

“She might come from a home where the mom or dad is addicted to drugs. She spends hours at the mall every day in order to avoid going home. Traffickers will approach the girl and tell her she could be a model. She goes with them because she thinks she can make money and get affection. She is never seen again, and often enough her family never even reports her missing.”

Officials say the exact numbers of people being trafficked are difficult to come by. “The numbers keep changing, but it’s believed that 21 to 27 million people are trafficked around the world,” said Mary DeLorey, a human trafficking expert with Catholic Relief Services.

Southeast Asia is an epicenter for both forced labor and sex trafficking. Women and children are often trafficked to the Middle East as laborers. Sometimes small children are forced to become camel jockeys. In Europe, most people are being trafficked for sex. In India, it’s estimated that 200,000 women and children are forced into the flesh trade each year.

In the U.S., there is a growing labor- and sex-trafficking market. Sex trafficking exists in alarming numbers among minor girls — as many as 100,000 children.

“In some of these cases there is kidnapping,” DeLorey explained. “At other times, they’re tricked into thinking that they’re getting a job. This is what makes following human trafficking so difficult. At some point along the journey, a person is deceived.”

Christian Intervention

If the stories of human trafficking are horrific, then the stories of how Christian organizations reach out to victims are heartwarming.

“We have the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program, which is a network of Catholic refugee foster care programs,” said Nathalie Lummert, director of special programs in Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Sometimes foreign children are discovered in raids at brothels here in the U.S., or children are found who were forced to carry drugs across the border,” she said. “The child will be brought into a private Catholic foster care program to live either with a family or in a group home. We will get them the counseling they need to recover from the trauma. They also get legal help and cultural orientation services.”

Last November, the Vatican held an international working group on human trafficking to help Catholic conferences around the world share ideas and work together.

“Human trafficking is a crime against humanity,” Pope Francis told a group of ambassadors to the Vatican on Dec. 12. “We must unite our efforts to free victims and stop this crime that’s become ever more aggressive, that threatens not just individuals, but the foundational values of society.”

The first U.S. legislation to combat trafficking came in 2000 with the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). The bill gave $95 million to law enforcement to fight trafficking and assist victims. It also laid out severe punishment for traffickers.

Although law enforcement has known for years that major sporting events like the Super Bowl act as a magnet for sex trafficking, the media had been slow to report the story. But this year was different.

“I think the tide has turned,” the USCCB’s Lummert explained. “There’s a lot of energy. Many people want to know about it and want to do something about it. This is the result of a lot of work in the last 10 years and a great deal of momentum.”

The U.S. bishops’ conference combats trafficking in three ways: services for victims, a National Day of Prayer for Victims on Feb. 8, and an educational awareness program. The USCCB developed a Become a Shepherd tool kit for parishes to learn about trafficking and how to organize prayer services for victims.

Their Amistad program takes it a step further.

“Amistad trains local leaders in parishes where there are many immigrants,” Lummert said. “It trains them to identify victims and helps them learn how to build coalitions within their communities. The goal is to prevent trafficking among vulnerable populations.”

Making a Difference

trafficking-2When U.S. law enforcement officials rescue a victim, they often discover there is no stable family for the girls to return to. They will often bring the victims to shelters run by Christian organizations. One of these organizations is Wilbarger’s The Daughter Project.

“A couple of years ago, I was living a very comfortable, Christian life — teaching math at a local school,” Wilbarger said. “My son-in-law gave me a book called Not for Sale by David Batstone, and it was real-life stories of women who had survived human trafficking in the U.S. I had thought that slavery was over. It was really shocking.”

When Wilbarger realized how bad the problem of trafficking was, he decided to build a shelter for victims with the help of his Lutheran church.

“We give the girls psychological help, education, health and good nutrition. For them, it’s a lifelong journey to recovery,” he said.

Most of the girls they help are between 13 and 15 years old. A team of “house moms” lives at the shelter full time so the girls can develop strong relationships — for many, their first positive relationship with an adult.

“Trafficking has always existed,” Lummert explained. “It’s linked to poverty, but ultimately this is a life and dignity issue.”

For the workers in this vineyard, the task is continually to shine a light on the problem, assist the victims, and prevent it from happening again, she said.

“We still have a way to go,” said Lummert. “People still have a hard time believing that this is happening here. You could be looking at a trafficking victim in plain sight and not know it. It’s very complicated.”

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

Learn More:




Roman intrigue

Legatus magazine reveals the inside scoop on Obama’s Holy See embassy downgrade . . .

Moving from one house to another is always a stressful affair. But when the house being moved is the U.S. embassy to the Holy See, a myriad of headaches flow from this maneuver made by the Obama administration in late November.

Bogus reasoning

William Donahue

William Donahue

Early next year the U.S. State Department will move the embassy from its current free-standing location in Rome to a building within the walls of the American embassy to Italy. The reasons for the move, according to the government, have to do with security and cost savings. Reaction to the impending move has been mixed.

“The administration says ‘safety’ and ‘economic’ issues are the reason for the move,” said William Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. “This comes from the Obama administration — the least Catholic-friendly administration in decades. We have to wonder.

“If they want to talk about safety, this administration was not preoccupied with safety in Benghazi,” he said. “I haven’t seen any evidence of them closing or moving other embassies in the Middle East. When it comes to economics, this is the most fiscally reckless administration in history. I find their reasoning unconvincing.”

Five former U.S. ambassadors to the Holy See have condemned the move. Four of them are Republicans and one is a Democrat: Ambassadors James Nicholson, Mary Ann Glendon, Francis Rooney, the recently deceased Thomas Melady, and Ray Flynn, respectively. Their main concern is that the move signifies a downgrading of the U.S.-Vatican relationship.

“I don’t like the idea of consolidating the U.S. embassy to the Holy See within the embassy to Italy,” Flynn said. “It doesn’t send the right message. We want to maintain a level of respect and dialogue.”

Renewed diplomacy

Kishore Jayabalan

Kishore Jayabalan

The current ambassador to the Holy See, Ken Hackett, sees no problem with the move.

“This has been in the planning for years,” he said. “Right now you could throw a rock from the sidewalk through my window. It’s much too close to the street.”

Under the Lateran Treaty of 1929, all nations that have diplomatic relations with the Vatican must maintain a separate building from their mission to Italy.

“The Vatican wants this [maintaining separate embassies] or else everyone would double up,” said Kishore Jayabalan, head of the Acton Institute’s Rome office. “They would use the same ambassador to Italy for the Vatican. They would treat the Vatican as an appendage to Italy.”

The new location for the U.S. embassy to the Holy See will reportedly be in a renovated building within the compound of the embassy to Italy.

“We will have our own gate and our own entrance on Via Salustina,” Hackett said. “Plus, we will have our own much larger office space. There will be no decrease in staff or budget. It is not in any way, shape, or form a downgrade. Pope Francis was just named Man of the Year by TIME magazine. Could you see any president not paying attention to what he does?”

When asked if there have been any specific security threats to the embassy, Hackett said he did not know of any.

Ken Hackett presents his credentials to Pope Francis.

Ken Hackett presents his credentials to Pope Francis.

Edward Pentin, Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register, said he doesn’t believe the move will diminish U.S.-Vatican relations.

“The main critics have been past ambassadors,” Pentin said. “There’s a sense here that it’s a political debate spurred by certain Republicans.”

A genuine concern for the Vatican, he said, is when countries close their embassies altogether as Ireland did in 2011 — or when the British government relocated their embassy to the Holy See in 2006 to its embassy to Italy. There were demands in Great Britain at the time to go even further and shut the embassy altogether, but pressure from the Vatican stopped it.

“It does feel like the U.S. embassy to the Holy See has been made an appendage to the larger embassy to Italy,” Jayabalan countered. “The Vatican says it understands, but it does feel like a demotion. In terms of practical matters, it won’t change things.”

Still, there is a sense that Catholics continue to receive the short end of the stick from the Obama administration, particularly with regard to the HHS contraceptive mandate.

“The optics don’t look good because the Obama administration has all these issues with the Catholic Church at home,” said Jayabalan. “It’s not a good public relations  move for the U.S. government in general.”

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

The history of U.S.-Vatican diplomatic

Bishop John Carroll, SJ

Bishop John Carroll, SJ


1788. Pope Pius VI sends an emissary to Paris to meet with Benjamin Franklin, the first U.S. diplomat to France. He asks if President George Washington would allow a bishop in the newly formed nation. Washington agrees and the pope elevates Fr. John Carroll, SJ, as America’s first bishop.

1797-1870. The U.S. appoints 11 American consuls to the then-Papal States. Rome becomes known as a “listening post” and place to protect U.S. merchant interests.

1867. Congress votes to de-fund the diplomatic mission to the Holy See due to religious prejudice and the desire to humiliate President Andrew Johnson.

Eugenio Pacelli

Eugenio Pacelli

1867-1940. U.S.-Vatican relations are conducted on an informal basis.

1930s. The U.S. government and American Catholics work together to tackle  poverty and unemployment.

1936. Franklin Roosevelt meets with the Vatican’s secretary of state Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (Pope Pius XII)at his mother’s home in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Frank A. Wilson with Pope John Paul II

Frank A. Wilson with Pope John Paul II

1939. FDR creates a U.S. Mission to the Holy See with a personal representative. He sends Myron Taylor, a Protestant and former U.S. Steel chairman, who works with the Vatican to feed refugees, provide aid, and assist Allied prisoners of war.

1944. U.S. charge d’affaires to the Holy See Harold Tittman and his family spend months hiding in Vatican City during the Nazi occupation.

1984. President Ronald Reagan establishes full diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Frank A. Wilson is named ambassador.

On a mission for souls

Relevant Radio has a remarkable evangelical mission and unique Legatus connection . . .

Janet Quinn was at the end of her rope.

Recently unemployed, divorced and facing severe problems with her adult children, she decided to end her own life. Quinn turned on the radio before taking sleeping pills, hoping to find soft music to accompany her final moments. She inadvertently tuned in to Relevant Radio.

“The words she heard were from Drew Mariani, one of our hosts,” explained Linda Ruf, a Relevant Radio board member and member of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter. “Drew said, ‘If you think things are hopeless, they’re not. God put you here in this world for a reason.’”

Quinn (not her real name) instantly realized that God wanted her to live. She threw out the pills and eventually sent a letter to Relevant Radio, thanking them for saving her life. The network’s staff‰ receives letters every day — letters requesting prayers, testimonials about prayers answered, and thanks for the strength listeners receive through this unique radio network.

Unique mission

Fr. Francis Hoffman

Fr. Francis Hoffman

While most American Catholic radio stations rely on pre-recorded programs, Relevant Radio produces 12 hours of live talk radio daily, Monday through Friday. This allows the network’s hosts to comment on major events as they happen.

“When the shootings happened at Sandy Hook, we changed all our programming to focus on the tragedy,” Ruf said. “We were interviewing priests and psychologists shortly after the news hit.”

Relevant Radio thrives on breaking news, but John Feltl says it still focuses on its core audience — Catholics commuting to work.

A Relevant Radio board member and Legate from the Twin Cities Chapter, Feltl explains: “There has been a decline in the number of Catholics participating in the Mass, but there is no decline in the number of Catholics sitting in their cars stuck in traffic.”

The network’s executive director Fr. Francis “Rocky” Hoffman concurs. “Radio is the most cost-effective way to carry out the New Evangelization and reach millions of people. This is the modern Aeropagus.”

New Evangelization

Catholic radio has come a long way in the last 15 years. In 2000, there were only a handful of Catholic stations, while today there are 250.

Based in Green Bay, Wis., Relevant Radio is now in its 13th year of operation. The company owns 13 stations and provides programming to 21 affiliates. Most Relevant stations are in the Midwest, though it also own stations in Austin, Texas, and Providence, R.I. Its programs are heard around the world in 108 countries online and on mobile devices. Relevant Radio plans to continue buying stations and working with affiliates. The company expects to purchase a station in New York City in the near future.

“Our national listening audience over 34 stations is at 200,000 souls — five hours a week, listening six times a day, for 11 minutes at a time,” said Fr. Hoffman.

“The network has a spiritual director that people can call and ask questions about the faith,” said Ruf. “Sheila Liaugminas talks about bioethics, politics, and immigration reform. We have been talking about Pope Francis, giving people clarity about what he is saying. We teach people how to live their faith more. We teach them about doctrine, virtues, how to live business ethics and how to strengthen marriage.”

Relevant Radio even has a monthly program for teenagers. Monsignor Stuart Swetland hosts the program live from local high school auditoriums.

“I overheard my teenage son talking with a few of his friends one day about same-sex ‘marriage.’ One kid used an argument he heard on Relevant Radio. So I know that teenagers are listening,” said Ruf.

Father Hoffman noted that Relevant Radio uses an “infallible” business and spiritual fundraising model.

“We raise money on our knees,” he said. “We pray four rosaries a day. We make an annual pilgrimage to the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal, and we do four pledge drives a year.”

During the last four years, Relevant Radio has raised $10 million per year.

Legatus connection

Drew Mariani and Margaret pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet on air

Drew Mariani and Margaret pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet

“When we first heard about Legatus, we thought we were too busy to get involved,” said Ruf. “Then Fr. Rocky asked us to go to a Legatus Summit and represent Relevant Radio. We were floored by the quality of the people and the piety.”

Ruf soon realized that the missions of Legatus and Relevant Radio are nearly identical. “We inform and educate,” she said. “We meet people where they are at.”

Eight of Relevant’s board members are Legates, another emeritus board member is a Legatus member, and the network’s three founders are members.

The most invigorating thing for the Legatus members who work at Relevant Radio is to hear testimonies from listeners, Feltl said. “We get 90,000 prayer requests a year — and we pray for all of them,” he explained. “The No. 1 prayer request is for adult children to come back to Church.”

Tom Vorpahl is Relevant Radio’s CEO and a member of Legatus’ Green Bay Chapter.

“My wife was a listener, and then she became a volunteer,” he said. “I remember she asked me once to take pledge calls. I could just feel the impact that the Holy Spirit was having. There’s a reason why people call and donate. Each shared how the network had changed their lives.”

Some share how they had left the Church for years and then come back because of Relevant Radio. Others had battled drugs. Still others had marriage problems. In every case, Relevant’s programming had strengthened them.

In the future, Relevant Radio hopes to stretch from coast to coast.

“We want to feed people daily so that they are strong enough to change the culture,” Fr. Hoffman explained. “Because either we change the culture or the culture changes us. Relevant Radio is that daily strength to enable you to carry Christ into the middle of the world.”

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

Learn more: relevantradio.com

A culture of giving

Denver Legates Pete and Marilyn Coors have made philanthropy a way of life . . . .


Pete and Marilyn Coors are as close to royalty as one can get in their beloved Rocky Mountain State. The storied family rose to prominence after Pete’s great-grandfather Adolph Coors founded the Coors Brewing Co. in 1873.

In addition to having a hand in running the seventh largest brewing company in the world — Molson Coors — the Colorado power-couple are known for backing conservative values, the free market and the Republican Party. Pete ran for U.S. Senate in 2004, losing by a slim margin of 47% to 51%.

Faith-focused philanthropy

What most people don’t realize, however, is that Pete and Marilyn — members of Legatus’ Denver Chapter — are serious Catholics. Marilyn is a lifelong Catholic and Pete is a convert. They give of their time and resources to a host of Catholic endeavors within the Archdiocese of Denver. But for the Coors, philanthropy is not just about writing a check.

Pete Coors

Pete Coors

“They really get involved, personally,” said Monsignor Michael Glenn, rector of St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver. “They’ve been willing to take their Catholic convictions to the public square.”

Although Pete is heavily involved in the Adolph Coors Foundation, he and Marilyn engage in their own philanthropy as a couple through a separate, private foundation.

“We have decided that the bulk of our philanthropy is going to Catholic institutions or activities with a special focus on education,” Pete told Legatus magazine.

“For secular institutions, we give to those that espouse the values of Christ and the Catholic Church,” Marilyn added.

Pete comes from a family that has made philanthropy a way of life. His great-grandfather Adolph aided victims of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake by starting a private relief fund.

“The company [Coors Brewing Co.], for as long as I can remember, has been active in the local community,” said Pete, who serves as its chairman. “It was important to us to be good citizens. The Adolph Coors Foundation, which was formed after our first IPO in 1975, was really due to the generosity of my father and one of my uncles. They turned a great part of the wealth into a foundation.”

Education and evangelization

Pete and Marilyn Coors

Pete and Marilyn Coors

While Pete spends the bulk of his time in the family business, Marilyn has developed a full-blown career as a bioethicist with a focus on genetics. She earned a doctorate in bioethics from the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine. Besides her job as an associate professor there, Marilyn has lectured locally, nationally and internationally on bioethics. She has published scores of papers and is due to publish a book on bioethics next spring. Marilyn has been a board member of the National Catholic Bioethics Center for over a decade.

Since the Coors live in one of the most dynamic archdioceses in the nation, they are involved with a host of homegrown Catholic endeavors — groups like the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, St. John Vianney Seminary, ENDOW and Regis University.

They attribute the dynamism of their archdiocese to Pope John Paul II’s 1993 World Youth Day visit. Pete was so moved by the event that he ended up converting to the Catholic faith soon thereafter.

“We are still experiencing the incredible fruits of that visit,” said Marilyn.

Pete grew up in the Episcopal Church, but his father was not religious. “None of my forebears took religion seriously — though they lived the principles of religion,” he explained.

After the couple married in 1969, Pete began to attend Mass with Marilyn. As their family grew to six children, he continued going to Mass because he thought it was important for the children’s character development. Then one day, a friend asked why he wasn’t Catholic.

“Nobody had ever asked me,” said Pete. He soon entered RCIA.

Giving back

Monsignor Michael Glenn

Monsignor Michael Glenn

Besides her work as a bioethicist, Marilyn is a board member of Denver’s St. John Vianney Seminary, founded in 1999.

“We contribute to them and their wonderful work involving our future priests,” she said. “They are doing an amazing job. Their enrollment continues to increase — and the men they are turning out are outstanding.”

Marilyn says one of her proudest accomplishments has been to help found ENDOW — Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women — with two other women in 2003. ENDOW is an international apostolate that reaches thousands of women who seek to transform the culture through their “feminine genius,” inspired by the writings of Pope John Paul II on the dignity of women.

“That has been a major focus of our philanthropy, time and prayers,” she said.

The couple has also been involved in Regis University — a Denver-based Jesuit school — for decades. Pete was chairman of the board for 15 years. After that, Marilyn was on the board for nine years.

One of the Coors’ future projects is an outreach to non-practicing Catholic millennials — men and women aged 18 to 32. “This outreach will be via social networking,” said Marilyn. “The aim is to reintroduce them and others to Christ and the Catholic Church.”

Marilyn and Pete joined Legatus in 2006. Although Pete often travels for work and cannot make all the monthly meetings, Marilyn attends most of them.

“Through Legatus, we have met a circuit of individuals who inspire us,” Pete said. “The speakers always have a message that has some relevant impact on our lives. We think it’s a valuable organization to participate in.”

Marilyn concurs. “The members and the speakers have really contributed to our spiritual lives,” she added.

A personal touch

Archbishop Samuel Aquila

Archbishop Samuel Aquila

Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila first met the Coors during World Youth Day 1993. The couple was on the organizing committee and had contributed financially to the global gathering.

“What impresses me about Pete and Marilyn Coors is their deep concern for others within our community,” said Archbishop Aquila. “As Catholics they exemplify what Christ asks us to do in caring for others and placing them before ourselves.”

He is quick to add that both Pete and Marilyn have achieved every level of success — he in the business world and she in academia. “But within that success they are truly servants of God who cherish their faith, their marriage, their family and their community,” the archbishop said. “They truly care about everyone and it shows.”

Monsignor Glenn recalled how, while studying for his doctorate in Rome, the Coors would always look him up when visiting the Eternal City with their children.

“They were personally supportive of me when my parents died,” he said. “They always call me for the holidays and invite me over at Christmas and Thanksgiving. I have brothers, so I always end up going to my family. But the Coors always call to make sure that I’m taken care of.”

Despite all their professional and charitable obligations, the Coors make sure that family comes first. Every Sunday, the couple invites all of their Denver-based children and grandchildren over for dinner.

“Family takes up a great deal of our time — joyfully,” said Marilyn.

According to Archbishop Aquila, the couple recently helped build a Habitat for Humanity home in Mexico with their grandson Peter — one of their 10 grandchildren.

“As we work on our estate-planning for the kids, one of our conditions is that 10% of revenues generated from those trusts must go to charity,” said Pete.

“Philanthropy for us as Catholic Christians is really an obligation, to the end that Christ said we should share what we have,” Marilyn said. “I think it is a privilege for us to be able to do this.”

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

Saving lives one ad at a time

Legate Brian Follett has mounted a fight for mothers and their babies using the media . . .

Brian and Bernice with their two children

Brian and Bernice with their two children

Sometimes the right pro-life ad really can make all the difference.

Heroic Media founder Brian Follett has seen it happen time and again. His pro-life media company targets geographical markets with a multimedia approach: billboard, TV and Internet ads. The result is, invariably, that the number of women contacting pregnancy help centers skyrockets.

Heroic Media has made a name for itself for both the quality and quantity of its ads. When the company ran a media campaign in Ohio two years ago, they saw the numbers of abortions plummet with 3,000 fewer abortions in the state that year.

Three-fold mission

A member of Legatus’ Orange County Chapter, Follett spent the majority of his professional life running Anchor Foods, which his family sold in 2001. The break from leading a large company led Follett to ponder ways he could “give back.”

“I went on a spiritual retreat and began to think about a construction boycott that I had taken part in against a huge Planned Parenthood facility being built in Austin, Texas,” he said. “I realized then that pro-life media wasn’t being done in Austin.”

Follett, who has a marketing background, slowly discerned God calling him to pro-life media. He founded Majella Cares in 2004. For four years, the organization focused on Texas, spending $2 million on ads — including 7,000 TV commercials and 128 billboards, in addition to Internet ads and radio spots. Abortions dropped 20% in Austin.

After changing the company’s name to Heroic Media, Follett decided to go national in 2008. In the last three years, Heroic has conducted 10 nationwide media campaigns and more than 160 campaigns in 32 states. Heroic is running 24 regional campaigns this fall.

“As a non-profit, we run on a faith-based process,” Follett explained. “We gather as a team every morning at 8 am and pray. The number one thing for us is to place our trust in God.”

Heroic Media has a three-fold mission: “Call for Help” ads connecting women to pregnancy help centers, “Attitude Change” ads getting women to rethink abortion, and ads promoting adoption. When Heroic conducts a campaign in a specific region, the first thing it does is partner with local pro-life groups.

Rev. Joe Young

Rev. Joe Young

“We are all about partners,” said Rev. Joe Young, an evangelical pastor who serves as Heroic’s executive director. “No one group can do it all. It’s biblical for us to work together. When we team our resources, we can do exponential work in any area.”

When Heroic partners with a pregnancy help center, it does client marketing plus promotional TV, Internet, billboard, and mass transit ads for the center.

Heroic’s marketing staff travels the country, conducting market research and focus groups. “Before and after any media campaign, they get very serious statistical numbers,” said Alejandro Bermudez, a Heroic Media board member and president of Catholic News Agency.

For example, Heroic Media conducted a campaign in Pittsburgh from Dec. 1, 2012, to June 23, 2013. The campaign generated 6,849 responses. People responded by web visits, emails, phone calls and direct contacts. Heroic created Google ads, TV ads, transit ads and posters. They discovered that their Google ads produced 73% of all responses.

Young tracks the national response to Heroic’s campaigns, noting that each market responds in a unique way.

“Last year, over 178,000 women responded to our media ads,” he said. “They connected with us through our 24/7 helpline, Option Line. It’s humbling when you think that we are only a staff of 10 people,” Young said.

Adoption option

When Heroic staff began to research the issue of adoption, they discovered that the concept frightened many women.

“Our effectiveness is measured by how these ads speak to target audiences,” Follett explained. “Everything we do is researched. We did a focus group and found that historically, the marketing of adoption scared women into having abortions. But then we discovered that if the ads had language that said, ‘I can choose who will raise my child,’ the attitude towards adoption changed for the better.”

“Our partnership with Heroic has been 100% positive,” said Marc Andreas, vice president of marketing for Bethany Christian Services. “They did the leg work through national TV ad campaigns, and we’ve shared our adoption expertise.”

Andreas recalls the first night they aired a commercial on the Oxygen cable channel last November.

“A woman in Jacksonville, Fla., had four children and was due in a few days with her fifth child. She didn’t have a good family situation and was planning to leave the baby at the hospital,” Andreas said. “When she saw the commercial, her 11-year old son said, ‘You should call that number.’”

The woman called and within two hours someone from Bethany met with her to discuss adoption. They found a pastor in Orlando trying to adopt and facilitated the adoption. Today, the woman is in touch with the pastor’s family because it was an open adoption.

“We have gotten hundreds of phone calls from airing those ads,” Andreas said. “We’ve been able to help so many women dealing with an unplanned pregnancy who had never considered adoption. It’s enabled us to walk them through.”

Legatus connection

Follett’s family has long been connected with Legatus — especially in Green Bay where his brother Mark is a member of the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter.

“Legatus has been an inspiration in so many ways because the work we do is so hard,” Brian Follett said. “It is really helpful when we come together with Legatus members to share our struggles. They have been very supportive.”

While Legatus has helped him keep his passion alive for helping women in crisis pregnancies, Follett says it is stoked from years of cultivating his faith in Jesus Christ and His Church.

“A lot of my passion comes from a trip I took to Medjugorje in 1991,” he explained. “My dad had gone there in 1990 and came back crying whenever he spoke about it. Before that trip, I had only been a Sunday-Mass kind of Catholic, but my heart wasn’t into it. Now, I’m still waiting for my head to catch up.”

That passion has also inspired Follett to take Heroic Media international. In 2011, the company opened operations in Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru and Mexico as Opciones Heróicas. In Costa Rica, Heroic runs a pregnancy help center. In Ecuador, Heroic is cohosting an international pro-life Congress which uses a “tunnel of love” van, allowing students and adults to walk through and look at interactive videos about fetal development.

“Abortion is still not legal in the majority of Latin American countries,” Bermudez explained. “However, this is exactly why pregnancy help centers are needed. Without them, people will say that women really have no options.”

Giving women and their babies life-affirming options is what Heroic Media is all about, he said, and their ads are quietly making a difference in hundreds of lives every day.

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

Learn more:





FOCUSed on the faith

Legate’s ministry leads young people to friendship with Christ and His Church . . .

cover-aug13April Collar came across FOCUS — the Fellowship of Catholic University Students — while studying at Colorado State University. It could not have come at a better time.

“I was at a low point in my life,” she said. “I hadn’t been to church in a while. Someone referred me to a local parish and there I met a friend who was involved in FOCUS. I ended up meeting the FOCUS missionaries, and they were so welcoming to me. I felt I was in a safe place.”

Collar eventually went to a FOCUS conference for college students. It was there that she decided to go to Confession for the first time since her Confirmation.

“It was a slow process, but what FOCUS did for me was guide me to a better place,” she explained. “They were very patient with me and very focused on living a life in Christ.”

Conversion of heart


FOCUS founder Curtis Martin, a member of Legatus’ Denver Chapter, shares a moment with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican last October

Founded in 1998 by Curtis Martin and his wife Michaelann — members of Legatus’ Denver Chapter — FOCUS is a national outreach that meets college students where they are and invites them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith.

FOCUS sends missionaries to live at colleges — both Catholic and secular campuses — where they engage in “personal discipleship” or evangelism with students. Missionaries commit to working for FOCUS for two years.

“At the heart of our work is the belief that the most authoritative person to live on this earth was Jesus Christ,” said Curtis Martin. “His command was to go out and make disciples.”

Martin himself was a fallen away Catholic during his youth. While attending Louisiana State University, he grew unhappy with the man he had become. One day, out of desperation, he began to read the Bible his mother had given him.

“I came across Luke 6:46 where Jesus says, ‘Why do you call me Lord, Lord, but not do as I command?’” he said.

This passage shook Martin to the core, and he spent several weeks wrestling with it. He soon met a group of evangelical Christians from Campus Crusade for Christ and joined them. Campus Crusade has a systematic way of evangelizing young students, but the Catholic parish on campus did not.

After 18 months with Campus Crusade, Martin began noticing inconsistencies with their doctrine. Despite the inconsistencies, Martin decided to write a paper during his senior year about the early Church to disprove that Peter was the first pope. He started reading the Church Fathers and was shocked to learn that they were all Catholic, all believed in the Eucharist, and all believed that Peter was their first leader and pope. Martin realized that he would have to return to the Catholic Church, which he did one year after graduating from LSU.

Spiritual multiplication

focus-mugFOCUS’ strategy isn’t only to bring students into right relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. Its mission is ultimately to teach students how to evangelize others — or as Jesus commanded “make disciples of all nations.” Missionaries begin the process through authentic friendships.

“We have a ‘win, build and send’ model,” said Christine Westerlin, FOCUS’ manager of events. “In the ‘win’ stage, we meet people where they are. In the ‘build’ stage, we build up their faith. In the ‘send’ stage, we send them back out and teach them how to evangelize.”

In 1998, FOCUS sent four missionaries to Benedictine College in Kansas. Fast forward to 2013 and FOCUS will be sending 355 missionaries to 83 college campuses in 34 states. Each FOCUS team includes four to six missionaries.

For the first time, FOCUS expands its mission this fall to California. Missionaries are now at three Ivy League schools as well MIT, University of California-Berkeley and New York University. Only 10% of FOCUS schools are Catholic.

As of May 2013, more than 11,000 students were involved in FOCUS-led student groups. The ministry’s growth rate has been 20-25% annually since 1998. Because of FOCUS’ success, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Martin as as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization in 2011.

For his part, Martin says evangelization must be intentional. He teaches his missionaries to think about “spiritual multiplication — the idea that if one person makes disciples of two people, and these two people make disciples of four people and so on, by the end of 25 years, 33 million people will have been converted,” he explained. “By the end of the 33 years, 8 billion people will have been converted — which is more people than we have on earth.”

Authentic friendships

focus-mug3FOCUS missionaries receive their training during an intensive five-week summer course.

“We take formation very seriously,” said Jeremy Rivera, FOCUS’ senior director of marketing and communications. “We teach cultural apologetics, which is: How would God our Father respond to issues we face today — like same-sex ‘marriage’? For theology, we bring in some of the best speakers in the nation. The summer training can be described as being part retreat, part boot camp, and part theology graduate school.”

During their training, held over the summer at Ave Maria University, missionaries also learned how to engage in “incarnational evangelization.”

“Jesus shared our humanity, so we have to meet people where they are,” Rivera explained. “We need to meet people who are in crisis. This calls for heroic generosity.”

Sam Mazzarelli, a FOCUS regional director, says evangelization starts with intercessory prayer. “We pray for affinity groups like sports groups or fraternities,” he said. “We pray for God to provide an opportunity for an encounter.”

FOCUS missionaries receive further training at the invitation-only Student Leadership Summit, which typically hosts 2,500 students. The largest annual FOCUS event, however, is the SEEK conference for Catholic college students, featuring some of the top Catholic speakers in the country.

“The first SEEK conference was held in 2000 with 30 people,” Westerlin explained. “Even during the recession, when most hospitality events were closing, SEEK conferences kept growing. This year’s SEEK had 5,200 students and 700 were from non-FOCUS student campuses.”

In terms of evangelization, FOCUS missionaries are on the cutting edge. Catholics may have ceded active evangelization to Protestants or Mormons in the 20th century, but today’s Catholic youth are serious about changing the culture for Christ.

“We push missionaries to get out of their comfort zone,” said Westerlin. “When I was a FOCUS missionary, every Thursday we would set aside a few hours to walk around campus and actively evangelize. We had to learn to be bolder.”

Westerlin learned that many times when students had “issues” with Catholicism, their real issues had nothing to do with religion. For example, when students rail against a paternalistic God, they often admit to having absent or distant fathers. FOCUS missionaries try to fill that gap by building authentic friendship — and by being radically available to others.

“It’s through authentic friendship that lives are changed,” Westerlin said. She points to the 355 men and women who have entered the religious life since 1998 after their involvement with FOCUS.

“I went to the Napa Institute conference in 2012, and many of the speakers spoke about the problems we have in the Church,” said Westerlin. “When my FOCUS colleague, Grace DelNero, got up and spoke, it was amazing to see how the mood in the room changed and brightened. Here at FOCUS, we are young and fresh. We show that there is hope in the Church.”

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

Learn more: focus.org