Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta.

The above quote is from St. Teresa of Calcutta as she tells us to recognize needs in our own communities.

A friend of mine recently retired and was looking for a volunteer opportunity. She decided to help out at her grade school alma mater, St. Francis de Sales School in Walnut Hills. She began volunteering and realized as she observed the kids, they struggled with reading which would affect all of their other studies. While they read at school, many of them did not have any books at home to read.  Buying books for their children may not be a financial priority for parents who struggle to put food on the table. My friend saw a need and was determined to do something about it.

Child with books scuptureThe St. Francis de Sales Book Club was created out of a need to provide the school’s students with a variety of books to hopefully instill a lifelong love of reading, a curiosity of the world, and a foundation for success. St. Francis de Sales School is one of eight CISE (Catholic Inner-city Schools Education Fund) schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The demographics for the CISE schools include 93 percent poverty; 83 percent minority; and 76 percent non-Catholic. Although each classroom does indeed have a variety of books, and library time is part of each week’s curriculum, some students do not have access to books at home.

My friend decided to increase not only the classroom libraries but also the children’s personal library at home. She even started a weekly awards program for the best readers and gave them a book of their own.

Here is one of the Award Winners with her book.

Award Winner

In addition, she created the St. Francis de Sales Book Club on Amazon, which includes individual Wish Lists for each grade from Pre-K through grade eight, as well as a Miscellaneous Wish List and one for Black History Month. The teachers have provided titles they would like to have, and other books have been added. They have taken special care to include books that represent the demographics of the students, hoping that stories that reflect their lives in a positive way and will foster a love of reading and whet their appetites for more.

Can you imagine, as you look at this blog, to not being able to understand its meaning because you have not had books to practice and hone your reading skills. The work of Christians is to act where there is a need, just as St. Teresa of Calcutta told us and so it has been done in this situation. Jesus taught us to act when we see a need and to always help others.

. . . a skillfully composed story delights the ears of those who read the work. 2 Maccabees 15:39

 If you are interested in checking out the St. Francis de Sales Book Club, click on this link:   https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/26SHVBJ0868DY

Cathy O’Toole

 

Are You Excited to be Catholic?

It was over 5 years ago that I went on a faith journey that led me to where I am today. I was questioning the origins of my Baptist tradition so I started to study the history of the Christian faith. It was during this time that I came to realize that there were many truths  I never learned about at the private Baptist school I attended. Growing up I had always heard many misconceptions & falsehoods about Catholics, such as what they believed and why they did what they did. I have always been fascinated with history and I wanted to worship God the same way the early Christians did.

The more I studied, the more my investigation led me to the Catholic Church. Like understanding that before 1517 A.D. the only Christian church that existed was the Catholic Church and that all other denominations, like my own Baptist faith, originated from the Catholic Church. This was a total game changer for me. I thought, would the Church Christ gave us, the Church founded on the Apostles, be wrong for over 1500 years until the Reformation; I don’t think so.

I also thought, would Jesus want a divided Church? Of course not. Jesus prayed, “So that they may all be ONE, as you, Father are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” JN. 17:21.

Now I found myself studying and reading everything I could get my hands on about the Catholic faith. I identified 5 issues I had about the Catholic faith and researched them. I was totally shocked! Not only did I find them to be truth, but they were backed up by scripture as well.  I began to think, what else am I missing?

Then I started reading about the Church Fathers, and about the wonderful liturgy of the Church, and of course the Sacraments. To think I might have lived out the rest of my life and not experienced the Sacraments would have been a terrible loss.

I realized that the only way to experience everything Jesus gave us, was to become Catholic. My wife Beth and I began participating in RCIA about 5 years before finally being received into the Church and celebrating Confirmation and first Holy Communion together on August 27, 2017. It was a long journey, but one we would do all over again. It was such a beautiful, awesome experience and I can’t think of a better place to experience all of this other than at St. Andrew! We feel like St. Andrew is our family now and we have made many lifelong friends in this community.

What a wonderful thing to now realize the beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to know that Jesus really is in the Eucharist! Just knowing that every time we go to Mass that we are doing it the same way the Apostles would have celebrated it almost 2000 years ago. Just to know that we are all part of the first Church that Jesus gave us is such an awesome privilege!

I am certainly not knocking other Christian denominations some of which my entire family is still a part. The Reformation had its place in history. But, I now know that the only place to find the Full Deposit of Faith is the Catholic Church. Being able to experience the Advent season this year at the Eucharistic table with Beth was the highlight of my Christmas season.

After doing a lot of research for many years I am not only proud to say that I am Catholic.  I’m excited to be Catholic. I know for certain that I am a part of the One True Church. I look forward to going to Mass. It is always the highlight of my week. Knowing what I am a part of now, I can’t get enough. Jesus is there every week waiting for us in the Eucharist.  How could I not be there? I hope all of you can join me in being a part of God’s divine Truth that is called the Catholic Church! So, I’ll ask again;

Are you excited to be Catholic?

“It is in the Church, in the communion with all the baptized, that the Christian fulfills his vocation.”
CCC 2030

Ben Gilmore

Beth and BenBen and Beth Gilmore have been parishioners at St. Andrew Parish for over 5 years and came into full communion with all members of this community in August of 2017.

The Third Week in Advent

Third Sunday of adventI have been blessed to have taken 4 pilgrimages to the Holy Land. My first 3 though prevented me from going to the site of the Visitation because my arthritic knees would not permit me to climb the hills. Even the thought of walking those hills to get the Church of the Visitation made me cringe.

When I think of Mary traveling to be with her cousin Elizabeth in Judah, I imagine how difficult that journey up those hills must have been for her. She was a young woman and while I am sure she had good knees, she was in her early stages of pregnancy. As I thought about Mary making the journey from Nazareth to the hills of Judah (about 90 miles) walking and/or riding on a donkey suffering from symptoms of possibly nausea, headaches, backaches and tiredness, I was amazed at her self-sacrifice. She was determined to get to her cousin Elizabeth to help her in her time of need.

Elizabeth was an old woman who was likely suffering similar symptoms to Mary’s and she may have even had worn out knees. She was very near to giving birth to her son, John the Baptist, and Mary had to get there to assist her through her pregnancy and to help her with her newborn son. She put herself aside to help her cousin. No wonder God selected this woman to raise his son. She was selfless.

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Lk. 1-39

VisiationI finally made it to the Church of the Visitation at the top of the Judean Hills (see the picture to the right) on my last pilgrimage and was awestruck looking out over the scene. It was not only one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen but knowing what happened there made me more conscious of focusing on other people instead of my own troubles. The view along with this  reminder was well worth the wait.

Dear Lord, help me to always put others in need first as Mary, Your Mother did. Don’t let me trip over my own problems on the way to helping others, particularly as I look around at this time of the year and see so many others who require help.

Cathy O’Toole

 

 

What I am about to tell you will hopefully change the way you perceive the homeless!

Jesse

I am a student at Archbishop Moeller High School and was given the opportunity to spend a week at Xavier University through The Mayerson Foundation. The Mayerson Foundation works with many organizations helping to solve problems in the city of Cincinnati. One of their programs shows high school students the real side of Cincinnati by showing us people experiencing homelessness. Now I said that in a very particular way. People aren’t homeless, they are just facing a difficult time. They are experiencing homelessness.

 

We have the wrong perception with those suffering homelessness. We think they are druggies and they do bad things. Yes, they may have done those bad things, but often they wish they hadn’t.

A worker at the St. Francis-St. Joseph Catholic Worker House said, “When taking these drugs, you only get a minute rush and then it is over. These guys want to get off this stuff because they know it is making them poor and unhealthy. But once they cross this imaginary line, it is difficult to go back.”

When talking to these people, I realized they aren’t nasty. I talked to one guy experiencing homelessness and we started talking about restaurants, he loves Raising Cane’s. Those undergoing difficult times shouldn’t be discriminated against. They are people too with feelings and souls. We shouldn’t treat them like they are garbage.

Be Devoted to one another in Love.  Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

A lady experiencing homelessness talked to us also. Her name was Melisa. Her story stuck with the entire group through the whole week. She has been in poverty her whole life. She was born in Dayton and lived there for a few years and then moved to California at a young age. She was an outcast. She thought about suicide, but decided not to because “things happen and you can overcome them.” She got married and had 5 kids and then got divorced. She only had custody of 1 of her children. She knew her life was in shambles. She eventually did become poor enough that she started living on the streets. Every day she had 3 choices: eat, work, or shower.

Now, she works with the Homeless Coalition. Her main theme was to not treat people experiencing homelessness in a bad manner. If you just smile at them or nod your head at them that could help them through the day. They need that little encouragement that they are still there. They are not invisible.

The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?  Psalm 27:1

The second day of this journey we went to the Shelter House for Men. This is where men, who pass a test, can sleep and try to get on their feet again. They have to pass a very long test. The intake person asks many questions. He tries to ‘read’ the candidate to see if he can fit in at the Shelter House or not.

Then we took a tour. Living in the shelter house isn’t great. They keep the lights on 24/7 so people have to sleep in light. The beds are like college dorm rooms with mattresses that are very thin and very uncomfortable. Life there would be better than the streets, but way, way worse than the life we have.

One of our group leaders told me, “Every time I go there, it feels like I am in a zoo. We are walking around where they live, sleep, and eat.” When we were touring one of the rooms a guy passed us. He had a comment that has stuck with me since my experience. He said, “Hope you guys never end up in a place like this.” These people don’t want to be homeless. They work hard so they can get their own place and live on their own. They want to buy their own food and make better decisions.

Then we sold StreetVibes. This is an alternate newspaper reporting on local stories that don’t often get reported. StreetVibes are sold to people experiencing homelessness for 75 cents. Then they sell them for $2 each. This is how homeless people earn money for their food for the day. They can buy a hot dog by just selling one, but just selling one would be a good accomplishment because people often ignore them.

My group was put on the street just like the homeless to sell StreetVibes in downtown Cincinnati.   People are sometimes so unfeeling; they don’t care about the homeless or other people. I was one of the lucky ones. Some just passed by and said “I would if they had the money” or “Sorry, no thank you.” But some of the other guys in my group weren’t so lucky. One guy in my group got the worst from a nasty business man who passed him and said, “Thank you for interrupting our conversation. We would have passed the restaurant if you hadn’t interrupted me.”   They don’t know how much $2 will help them and they may not care.

When we got back to Xavier University dorms, the place we were staying, we had a long talk with a facilitator. In this discussion, most of the group cried. I almost cried. Some of the teens have never been exposed to this world. They are used to in their own community and don’t venture into the city. They don’t know how harsh the real world is. I knew a little bit about this world but not this much.

This experience has changed me. The rest of the week just kept supporting how we shouldn’t judge people based on how much they make and their looks. Surprisingly, we learned that the average age for those in poverty is 9 years old. Yes, you read that right, 9 years old. Children are the ones who need help the most.

Also, this past year, the morgue ran out of room due to the number of overdoses in one day. They had 176 bodies. They have never seen so many people overdose in one day. And, day laborers make very little money. For example, if they worked paving roads, they would make $100. When they get on the bus, they are given their uniform, helmet, food, and anything else they need. They work for 12 hours a day. When they get off the bus, they are given a check for $40. What happens to the $60 they lost?   Well, they have pay for the uniform, the helmet, the food, the bus fee, and anything else they need. It seems these people are getting ripped off.

Be strong and courageous.   Do not fear or be dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you Deuteronomy 31:6

This week long experience was life changing for me. I hope this has helped to transform how you view people experiencing homelessness, I know it has mine.

Dear Lord, be our guide and our protector on our journey in life.  Watch over us, protect from accidents and keep us safe from harm of both body and soul.  Support us with your grace when we are tired, help us to be patient in any trouble which may come our way. Let us see You in everyone we meet, not matter how impossible that may seem to us. Keep us always mindful of Your presence in Love.  Amen.

 

Come and Follow Me!

My name is McKenna Wulker and I’m 24 years old. I work as a Records Analyst at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, LLP in downtown Cincinnati. I am just now coming into the Catholic Church and was confirmed and made my first communion on the Easter Vigil.

I was baptized at St. Andrew as an infant, but did not complete any Catholic Education or receive sacraments beyond that. It wasn’t until I graduated college, had a best friend pass away, and ended a two year relationship that I found myself at a complete crossroads in my life. I had no direction, felt hopeless and confused about where my life was going and ultimately decided to rededicate my life to God, give up my control to God’s Will and complete my Catholic Education to enter the church.

I met with Deacon Tim in June to discuss how adults entered the church, a week early for my appointment; I guess I was too eager. We discussed my options and next steps which turned out to be RCIA. I have attended RCIA, Rite of Christian Initiation in Adulthood, since September in preparation to come into the Church.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, RCIA is the process through which candidates and catechumens enter the Church, learn about Catholic religion and the Church’s teachings, and discern if this is the right path for them. Normally, this all happens when you are a child, but for people who didn’t experience the rites in childhood or are converting to the Catholic Faith, this process is mandatory.

I have learned so much in RCIA and gained a fantastic faith community through the other candidates and the RCIA support team. I encourage anyone who is trying to get involved to become a member of the RCIA team and support the candidates entering the Church. It’s a great learning experience for even the most experienced Catholic.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

McKenna Wulker

Mc Kenna was initiated at the Easter Vigil.  We look forward to her joining our community she will certainly be an asset.  When you see her, please be sure to welcome her and encourage her to participate actively in our parish.

God Bless you McKenna and welcome to St. Andrew, the Apostle Church!

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Ask for a Sign

fourth-sunday-of-advent-pictureThe Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask? I will not tempt the Lord!” Then Isaiah said: Listen O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall name him Emmanuel. IS 7: 10-14

I have two coffee mugs that I really like. One I brought back from the Holy Land. It depicts five loaves of bread and two fish that the Lord used to feed the multitude. I got this mug while staying at the Mount of Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee. It is a sign to me of the Lord’s desire to feed the hungry, not just bread to satisfy my physical needs but also feed my soul. The other mug I only use during Advent and the Christmas season. It is a sign to me of God the Father will send his son Jesus to live among us.

What do these two mugs have to do with today’s reading? Well, they both remind me of God’s promise to me. Unlike Ahaz, one of the Kings of Judah, when asked if he wanted a sign from the Lord of any size or magnitude that would prove God’s promise to save the royal house of David from oppressors, he refused.  He preferred to depend on the might of his army while he was king and not on God. He wasn’t into putting his trust in the Lord.

But…the Lord did give him a sign: the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall name him Emmanuel. And we hear this passage repeated in the Gospel of Matthew some 780 years later. It was passed on through generations. It is a sign of God’s love for us! God sent us a Savior to redeem us from our sins and to love us unconditionally.

During this Christmas season, when I am distracted by worldly commercialism, may I always remember Emmanuel – God is with us.

Prayer of Christmas Thanks

Thank you Father for all the gifts you have bestowed upon me. All good comes from you. Help me to use the gifts and talents you have given me wisely and not abuse or waste them.

Ray Lamping   ray-lamping                                    

Second Sunday of Advent – Not by Hearsay Shall He Decide

mandys-advent-postNot by appearance shall he judge, not by hearsay shall he decide,

But he shall judge the poor with justice and decide fairly for the land’s afflicted.  Is.11:3-4

 

I think it’s safe to say that the past month has been…well…a bit crazy. The 2016 Presidential election was one that left many of us feeling bewildered, battered and at times, breathless. I personally watched in horror as friendships ended and even witnessed a temporary marriage separation due to a clash of political beliefs.

But despite the ballot boxes being closed and the winner being announced, we are finding ourselves standing in an aftermath of total divisiveness, fear, and at times even hate. Logging onto social media serves as a constant reminder that we are broken. It’s draining and disheartening.

The beautiful thing, however, is that as God’s people, we have LIGHT at the end of the tunnel. And that light is The Coming of Jesus our Lord and King! Advent is a time for us to remember that despite what is happening in the world – the Presidential election, hunger, human trafficking, terrorism – Jesus is coming. And He is bigger than all of that, and not only is he bigger than it, but he ABOLISHES all of it.

The reading from Isaiah this week reminds us of this, emphasizing that it is not our human eyes or ears that get to make the ultimate judgement call on another human being or group of human beings. It is the Spirit of the Lord who does this, and only through accepting His wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, and knowledge are we truly able to live out and work toward the righteousness He has intended for us. When we give ourselves to God and accept His will, when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our life decisions, and when we walk in Jesus’ footsteps, then and only then will we be truly capable of loving one another in the way that God intended. And then and only then will the wolf live peacefully with the lamb, the leopard with the goat, etc.

I have a challenge for us this Advent season. Starting with the next several weeks, let’s forget all political affiliations when it comes to speaking to and interacting with the people around us – co-workers, family, friends, etc. When we put aside our own judgements and invite God to work through us in our relationships, we serve as living examples of living righteously and with wisdom. Then, and only then, will we “stand as a banner for the peoples.”

Prayer for an Open Heart

Holy Spirit, fill me with your wisdom and courageousness to see only the good soul of this person. Please help me to forget any and all negative thoughts or feelings that I may have created about this individual, and to see them only as they are, my brother/sister in Christ. Thank you for allowing me the chance to re-energize and renew this relationship through your guidance and power. Amen.

matt-geymanMandy Geyman