All posts by Maria

Teens Make a Difference During Week One of the Good Samaritan Project

Teens from around Tampa Bay have chosen to spend part of their summer vacation serving others as part of the Good Samaritan Project (GSP), a week-long service retreat located in our diocese. During GSP, middle and high school teens from around the Diocese work, pray, and have fun together for the betterment of the community and the Glory of God. This year, two weeks of the program are taking place. The first week was June 24 through 29 and the second week is July 8 through 13. 

During the first week, teens made a difference at service sites in Pasco and Hernando Counties despite the sweltering heat. “These kids were seriously working and getting things done,” said Amy Suarez, Education Director of Hope Youth Ranch in Hudson. The Ranch is a nonprofit school for children with autism and other special needs located on a farm like setting. The large property requires a lot of upkeep that can be costly. This is the fourth year students from the GSP have volunteered to lend a hand. This year they painted, mulched, and moved a fence on the property.

“They have been such a blessing,” said Suarez. “It was wonderful to have them here helping us.”

During the second week of the GSP, 80 teenagers, 15 college leaders, and 20 adult chaperones will be serving at St. Vincent de Paul Society soup kitchens in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Pinellas Hope, and a variety of other agencies that help meet the need of the homeless and less fortunate in Pinellas County.

The Good Samaritan Project started in 2012 with summer service projects in Pasco-Hernando Counties. There are 240 volunteer teenagers serving this week at a variety of agencies in the area including: Metropolitan Ministries, the Volunteer Way, Sunshine Christian Housing, Notre Dame Catholic School, Safety Town (which is run by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office), the Angelus, Youth and Family Alternatives (a foster care agency), Gulfside Hospice, Sunrise Domestic Violence Center and others. There is also a team of 20 young adult college leaders and roughly 40 adult chaperones assisting with this effort.

President of Catholic Relief Services Responds to the Border Crisis

Sean Callahan, the President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), wrote the following in response to the family separation happening at the US/Mexico border. Included in his reflection are ways that you can help.

“In Mexico last week, I sat with a mother who explained the suffering she and her sons faced as they left their home in El Salvador because her boys were threatened to be killed by a local gang.  Can you imagine her fear when she found out her little boys, David (8 years) and Isaiah (5 years), were targeted by the gang.  David loves to write poems and his mother beamed with pride as she spoke about his thoughtfulness beyond his years, and Isaiah, a quiet boy with a buzz haircut, was known by everyone in the migrant center as a meticulous artist.  Her eyes swelled with tears as she described the sickness in her stomach and the hopelessness she felt when she thought her children would be taken from her (and all of us in this world) before they could share their God given gifts.   What could she do?  She ran!  She risked her life and that of her children, using what little money she had on transport and food, and then walking for 2 ½ days without food until they found the Sisters and the migrant center in Mexico.

Yesterday, I met another women with two sons.  She is one of close to a million people who have fled violence and are now in a camp in Bangladesh.  She told me how her home had been destroyed, and how she traveled to Bangladesh to seek a “new life” for her boys.  The boys were quiet and a bit shy of this foreigner in there small shelter, but they broke into big smiles and giggles when I asked them what they wanted to be and they proudly said teachers – both of them.  As we spoke in the dimly lit shelter the monsoon rains began to pelt her plastic roof, and the camp turned from a hot dusty place, to one of streams, puddles, and mud.  Her boys laughed as I waved goodbye sliding out the door.  My shoes were caked with mud, and everyone watched (and smiled) as I tried to make my way without landing on my backside in a muddy puddle.  Despite the inconveniences, she felt lucky to be in a place where she could sleep in a shelter of bamboo and plastic sheeting on an immaculately clean dirt floor with her two boys.

In Mexico and in Bangladesh, I saw people who cared!  Our local partners (Sisters in Mexico and Caritas Bangladesh) are the people you can count on when your life is in the balance.  And our colleagues?  I was inspired!  Inspired by their commitment, dedication and perseverance.  Sure, they get tired, frustrated, and are constantly overcoming challenges and obstacles, but they just kept coming.  Driving forward!   They did not let the pelting rain, the threats, the mud, the violence or the poverty get them down.  No!  They are working overtime to ensure these families can stay together in a safe environment.  They are installing solar lights for safety near the camps latrines, cutting steps into the hillside, providing access to potable water, securing shelters with ropes, creating child friendly spaces, and explaining to the local communities that these are “good people” and that we must (as Pope Francis urges us to do) be welcomed, protected, promoted, and integrated them into our communities.  It isn’t easy, but as Sister Magdalena said from her barrio in Mexico City, “I did not come here because it is easy”.

I write to you not just because these stories should be shared, but to demonstrate the lengths that people will go to in order to keep their families safe and together.  We see this around the world.  It is not just in Mexico or Bangladesh, but Uganda, Syria, South Sudan, and beyond.  That is why it is so disturbing to me personally, and, I expect, to many of you to see the separation of families at the border of the USA.  As a civil rights leader stated in testimony today, it is not who we are!  Regrettably, we have witnessed these sort of practices and their consequences all over the world.  We know the impact of child separation through our extensive work with orphans and vulnerable children.  We witness and respond to the poverty and violence that drive families to make the difficult choice of fleeing their homes to seek safety here and in many other countries.  And, we often call on governments to respect the dignity and rights of children and families.

Pope Francis and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have spoken prophetically and resolutely about the policy and practice of separating children from their families at the US border. The USCCB is actively advocating on behalf of the Church to reverse this policy and end this practice immediately.  As part of the Church in the United States, we stand in full support of the Holy Father and the USCCB.  While we do not directly advocate on this domestic issue, we are working with the USCCB to make sure our experience and perspectives inform and bolster their work.

Below are links you may find useful:

For those of you who are either not U.S. citizens or those U.S. citizens who would like to do more, please take a moment to share a meal or a moment with someone from a foreign land, stop someone from talking bad about a neighbor or colleague, and say a prayer for those children who have been separated from their families.

Let us all be that beckon of light that provides hope, solace, and direction for those who have been separated from their loved ones.”

Sean Callahan
President and CEO
Catholic Relief Services”

5 Ways to Help with the Immigration Crisis at the Border

The ongoing practice of separating children from their parents has already, as of May, left nearly 2000 children separated from their parents.  As Bishop Parkes reminds us, as a nation and people of faith, we can and must do better.

FIVE WAYS TO HELP STOP FAMILY SEPARATION

  1. Pray: You can find a prayer for migrant children here. On Wednesday, June 20, 2018, at 8:00 p.m., we will show our solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters by praying together during a special Mass followed by a prayer service at San Jose Mission in Dover. We invite all to attend. If you cannot join us in person, please join us spiritually in prayer. Remember, we are called to live courageously by standing up for ALL vulnerable populations – the unborn, the disabled, the elderly, the imprisoned, the immigrant and the refugee. PRAYER VIGIL FLYER
  2. Speak Up: Sign our Action Alert and share with your networks. Also consider contacting your senators and representative directly by phone to voice your concern. You can find the number for your representative here and your senators here.
  3. Take Action: Contact your local Catholic Charities affiliate to learn about their material/volunteer needs, consider fostering an unaccompanied child, or join the Share the Journey global solidarity campaign with migrants and refugees.
  4. Give: To support agencies that are helping families and children impacted by the crisis. (100% of your donation will go to the 21 Catholic Charities agencies assisting unaccompanied children)
  5. Learn More: To learn more about Family Separation, visit the Justice For Immigrants (JFI)”Family Separation Webpage” to review backgrounders, educational material and a webinar.

Info adapted from Catholic Charities USA’s website.

Volcano Erupts – Help Our Guatemalan Brothers and Sisters

Volcan de Fuego–Fire Volcano–erupted Sunday, June 3, 2018, in Guatemala, burying one whole community in ash and blocking roads with a deadly flow of rocks, ash and hot gas. Roads, bridges and houses have been destroyed, families have evacuated the area and at least 33 people have been killed.

Catholic Relief Services’ local partner Caritas Escuintla is already providing lifesaving assistance within emergency shelters.

Your help is urgently needed. Your gift will help provide immediate emergency food, water and other essential living supplies. Please give today to your brothers and sisters affected by the volcanic eruption in Guatemala.

GIVE TO CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES 

Prayer for Guatemala (English and Spanish)

 

Hurricane Season – Now is the Time to Prepare

June 1 marks the start of the Hurricane Season. Everyone needs to be prepared for the unexpected in the event of a storm in our area. Now is the time to plan ahead.

Mass Attendance:
All parishioners are urged to use good judgement when planning to travel to and from Mass. In the event that roadways are not clear and weather conditions are unsafe to travel, the faithful are reminded that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation (see Code of Canon Law, Canon 1248 §2)

News and Updates:
If a storm threatens our area, please watch your local news for updates. The Diocesan website and social media will post the latest updates affecting our Diocese. Our Diocesan radio station Spirit FM 90.5 will broadcast those updates as well. Should the radio station go off the air, please stay tuned to your television at WFLA Channel 8 for updates.

Prayers for Protection during Hurricane Season

State and Federal Resources:

Find resources to help you prepare below. For resources for parishes regarding hurricane preparation, please click here.

Helpful Articles & Resources

Deacon Rajeev Philip to be Ordained to the Priesthood on June 2, 2018

Deacon Rajeev Philip grew up in our diocese and will be ordained a priest for the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago on Saturday, June 2, 2018, at St. Paul Catholic Church in Tampa. All are invited to attend! If you are unable to attend the ordination, you can watch it live on Shalom America TV on their website or their Facebook page.

Please keep Deacon Rajeev in your prayers! Learn more about the the Syro-Malabar Church, the second largest Church among the Eastern Catholic Churches, here.