June 5, 2009
News reports of the murder of the doctor who performed late-term abortions are now highlighting the stories of some his clients. One woman learned in her third trimester that her child had a tragic illness and would not live more than a day after birth.
Families who find themselves unexpectedly in a similar situation are faced with shock, sadness and grief. As they approach what should be a joyous event — the day of birth, they know that it will also be a time of devastating sorrow.
An organization that donates its talents to help these families heal is Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. This foundation coordinates over 7,000 photographers worldwide who volunteer their time to come to the hospital or hospice and take heirloom portraits of the child during it’s too brief life. The photographers then give the photos on a CD to the family as a keepsake of their child. All services are provided for free.
Parents find that with time, the photos help with the healing process. The portraits honor and cherish their baby and help them share the child’s spirit with others. As the song on the organization’s website poignantly describes, these parents find that ”we say hello at the same time we say goodbye.” The photos help their child continue to be a part of their lives in the future.
When a family finds themselves in this paralyzing situation, learning that their child will never be able to come home from the hospital, as Catholics we need to be there for them. Trying to stop a tragic late-term abortion delays the child’s death and the means of death, but it still doesn’t address the real and sudden needs of the family. These families need more. They need others to journey with them. They need to be assured that their child’s brief life has meaning. They need faith and they need hope.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is not Catholic nor religiously affiliated. But what it does for families in time of grief can be called nothing short of ministry.
April 7, 2008
During his upcoming visit to the US, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate his 81st birthday on April 16. And what might be an appropriate gift for Americans to give a Pope?
The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) has come up with a wonderfully creative birthday gift which enables everyone interested to participate. NCEA is collecting pledge forms from students and other interested individuals who commit to doing volunteer service hours between now and May 31. These service hours will be a “gift” to the Pope on his birthday.
So far, over 200,000 people have agreed to donate over a million service hours. Parishes and schools are asked to record the totals and officially forward them to NCEA. Individuals must complete pledge forms by Friday, April 11.
Our society is often characterized as being materialistic. What a wonderful idea to use the occasion of the Pope’s birthday to show the true meaning of giving. The hours given will help many people, including the volunteers and those they serve.
To make a pledge, visit the NCEA Birthday Blessings site. And don’t forget to turn in your pledge form by April 11.
November 21, 2007
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to step back and look at the many blessings in our lives as we give thanks. It is also a wonderful time to think about how we, too, can be a blessing in the lives of others. Fostering this approach of being a blessing for others is a way to help our children connect faith and service. Helping to serve a meal at a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving Day, or making handmade cards and delivering them to shut-ins can have a profound effect on children. Discussions beforehand and afterwards can help children reflect on their experience and on how God is involved.
An excellent article with many concrete examples is How to Raise Kids Who Care – Teach Your Children Well, and Chances Are They’ll Make Service A Way of Life. Knowing that there are people who live differently than them can have a huge impact on kids. As the author, Christina Zaker notes in one example, “Even complaints about having to share a bedroom disappeared after one family visited a family shelter and saw how entire families lived in a single bedroom.” Books on how to foster an attitude of giving can also be found in ActiveParishioner.com’s Parenting/Families section.
When I was growing up I remember that every Christmas my Mom would wrap small packages of candy for children who were poor. I would help her and then we would drop them off at our parish for them to distribute. This was many years before the concept of “giving trees” with name tags became popular. As a young child I wasn’t that motivated to help because I couldn’t understand who would want candy as a Christmas gift, when it was readily available at home. I had a hard time grasping what it meant that there were children my age living in poverty. But the example of my parents giving to others in so many ways somehow touched something deep within me. This approach to life is now something that I very much want to pass on to our son.
In this busy holiday season as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas all get bunched up and seem to turn into non-stop motion, let’s pause and reflect on our blessings as we give thanks. Take a moment to talk with your kids about how each member of your family is so blessed. Then reflect together on how all of you as a family can also bring blessings to the lives of others.
From the staff of ActiveParishioner.com, may you and your loved ones have a blessed Thanksgiving!
November 19, 2007
Catholic parents want their children to grow up to be good people. Nurturing this can occur in many ways. One such way is encouraging stewardship among children and especially teenagers. The US bishops recently published a helpful document titled, Stewardship and Teenagers – The Challenge of Being a Disciple.
Addressed to teens, this brief statement provides the theological basis for acts of service by reminding teens that everything we have is a gift from God. Even our own being is a gift from God. We are surrounded by evidence of God’s love for us. When we give to others, we should give from that wealth of love.
Many teenagers today are very interested in service opportunities. But often the connection between faith and service is not made. Using simple language, the bishops’ statement makes this connection clear.
If you are a Catholic parent and are interested in additional resources to help you as you parent your child, visit ActiveParishioner.com’s Parenting Resources.
November 7, 2007
Have you ever thought you might want to do volunteer work for a week? Or perhaps for a year or two? Not sure where to start? Then check out the Catholic Network of Volunteer Service (CNVS). They publish the RESPONSE Directory that describes volunteer programs offered by over 200 Catholic and Christian member organizations.
The Directory can be searched online, or a hard copy can be ordered for free from CNVS by emailing email@example.com or calling 1-800-543-5046.
CNVS provides a bridge between individual volunteers and the sponsoring organizations. CNVS helps to match individuals with faith-based volunteer opportunities and also provides training and technical assistance resources. Volunteer and lay missionary opportunities exist within the US and also internationally in 108 countries.
Take a look at this great resource. Volunteer work might be a great way to spend your next “vacation,” however long it may be.