Recently, I spent a few days at a conference that dealt with many issues, including euthanasia, that have preoccupied healthcare professionals in recent months. Although I am not a doctor, I attended the MaterCare International Conference for Catholic obstetricians committed to respecting human life at all stages.
As it turned out, as a lay person, I was in good company at the event. Other non-physicians also attended. In the midst of a busy holiday trip, the conference was a welcome break – a chance to ponder some challenging ethical issues, away from the thousands of tourists milling about St. Peter’s Basilica, just metres from the conference venue.
The conference held some surprises. Many Catholics are familiar with the story of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, the Catholic doctor who sacrificed her life to save the life of her unborn baby. Gianna Molla was canonized in 2004. St. Gianna’s daughter, saved by her mother’s sacrifice, is now an adult and was one of the conference speakers.
A devout Catholic, Vincent Kemme, stands apart from many scientists in a fundamental way. He does not believe resistance to euthanasia can succeed if it is purely secular. In Canada, many who oppose the practice — along with assisted suicide — do so on the grounds that it’s unreasonable, unnecessary and harmful to society, but they often go no further.
Kemme argues that euthanasia is a spiritual problem. The practice has sadly gained the most traction in the Netherlands. About 6,000 people will be put to death there this year, up from 2,000 cases only a few years ago. Kemme argues Dutch society has become largely secular, effectively cutting God out of the picture. He believes it is no coincidence that euthanasia has made the greatest inroads there, although the number of cases in Belgium is also on the rise.
By largely excluding God, the Dutch have done what secular philosophers only contemplated. They have substituted man for God, replacing divine law by human reason, which they consider supreme. Despite the grim trend in the Netherlands — a government report some years back noted involuntary euthanasia was on the rise — Kemme is not without hope for the future.
He believes the solution to the euthanasia problem lies in a return to God and prayer. A Catholic group he belongs to practises daily prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, underscoring that Catholics should avoid judging those involved in euthanasia, recalling the Church’s longstanding distinction between the sinner and the sin. He believes that resistance to euthanasia will succeed only if we oppose peacefully, without judging. “There is no room for aggression,” he told conference attendees.
St. Gianna Molla
For Gianna Beretta Molla, the path to sanctity began in late 1961 with an unwelcome event: the diagnosis of a uterine tumour during the early stages of her pregnancy. At the time, the attending surgeon offered abortion as an option, one that would very likely save Gianna’s life and allow for future pregnancies, should she so choose. In six years of marriage, this was her sixth pregnancy.
Yet, abortion was one option that St. Gianna Molla never entertained. Asked what other options remained, the surgeon offered one with potential, at least from her perspective. He could surgically remove the benign tumour and allow the pregnancy to come to full term. This option was risky for baby and mother, but offered one certainty: there would be no abortion.
The child was born, and named Gianna. Years later, her father, Pietro Molla, related the sequence of events to his daughter — now a geriatrician in Italy — also a speaker at this conference in Rome. She spoke lovingly of her parents and told the story in her own words:
“Mama prayed that the Lord would save her life and mine,” she said. “Two weeks before the delivery, she told my father, ‘Pietro, if you have to decide between the baby’s life and mine, do not hesitate: choose the child.’”
As it happened, when the delivery took place, it was safe and the newborn was healthy. For her part, St. Gianna Molla survived the delivery, but her condition worsened. In only a few hours, she developed a high fever and severe abdominal pains that did not dissipate.
“After a week of agony, during which Mom often repeated the words, ‘Jesus, I love you,’ her condition continued to deteriorate. She did not want to die in hospital, and so was returned to our family home, where she died, aged 39.”
Gianna, the daughter, named after her mother, has had many years to reflect on the lives of her parents. “Both the lives of Mom and Dad were the occasion of great joy, but also of great suffering,” she said.
Recalling the years her father carried on after his wife’s death — Pietro lived into his nineties until his death a few years ago — his daughter related something he said before his death. “Eternity is not enough for me to thank the Lord for the graces he has sent, in particular, through your mother’s canonization.”
Reflecting on her parents’ lives, Gianna offered her own thoughts, invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary. “Our Heavenly Mother has asked us for an unconditional ‘yes’ to, and our humble acceptance of God’s will, even when we don’t understand it,” she said. “My [experience] teaches me that the Way of the Cross is the way of joy: when we have the Lord on our side, when we follow his holy way, and see everything in the light of faith.”
- Presentations from MaterCare’s Rome 2017 conference are accessible online at the MaterCare Media website, at www.matercare.com
The Courage & Encourage Apostolate is a ministry for those who are struggling with same gender attraction. Members of the group meet to support each other in their common journey of faith. The Courage Apostolate, in particular, is a peer support group of people seeking the grace to live a life in the spirit of the Risen Lord.
Thank you to one of the members of the Courage group for sharing a reflection and personal faith witness in light of the recent political challenges faced by Alberta Catholic schools:
"With all the talk and controversy in the media over the last couple of months pertaining to the rights of the people in the LBGTQ community at schools, and in public, I have been asked to share from my personal experience of living with same-sex-attraction.
I left the Catholic faith in early adulthood because I wanted to find love, and a true relationship for me. I was looking to find the love that would help me see my true identity. After hitting rock bottom because I was not encountering the reciprocal love that I desired in my relationships, I entered a period a silence, interiorly, and in my life. I had lots of time to think, and I felt God was calling me back to my roots, the roots of my faith.
When I lived the homosexual lifestyle, I thought I felt a sense of community, but I later came to the conclusion that it was only a façade. That particular community lived only for itself, with all of its physical pleasure. I needed something beyond the physical to sustain me in life.
When I came back to the Church, I actually encountered love and truth within the parish community. I came to realize the gift and vitality of living a life of chastity. Chastity, for me, means living Jesus' message of love. He calls everyone to live chaste lives, whether you're a single person, a priest, a consecrated religious, or married. In today's day and age it is rather difficult to remain chaste because we live in such a sexualized, sensual, and individualistic society that is based on the ideology that happiness is attained through self-gratification. Jesus counteracts this false notion by inviting us to leave behind our former selves, and to seek and build His Kingdom of love.
In discovering my place in Christ's church, I found my self-identity. I'm part of a larger community, the Church, where each of its members lives with all kinds of struggles. In moments of loneliness and isolation, I have come to realize that the church community can, and does, help me to feel like I really belong.
I am a member of the Courage apostolate and partake in support and fellowship in the Courage group. My close friends support me on my journey, and I seek spiritual guidance so I don't feel like I'm alone. My inner communication with Jesus through prayer is important because He helps me remember that He is the one who will love me always and forever, unconditionally.
All people live with some sort of struggle that challenges their ability to love and be loved. The struggle can show itself as anger, greed, gossip, excessive drinking, etc. When we act on these struggles, it goes against Jesus' message for us to love one another. When I stray from what Jesus teaches about human sexuality, I end up objectifying the people I desire. This usually leads to loneliness and isolation. I will be happy for one moment, but unhappy the next. However, when I try to see others of the same sex that I am attracted to through Jesus' eyes, I realize that He will continue to give me the strength to strive to live a chaste life. He helps me to see more of the person, rather than focus only on my sexual desires towards that person. It is not easy, but knowing that I am not alone gives me strength to live Christ's call to chastity.
As God's people, within our Catholic faith, we gain a new perspective of ourselves and our role in His kingdom of love when we come to Him with our struggles. Whether we are struggling with gender identity dysphoria or same-sex attraction, Jesus reveals our calling to us within the context of our Catholic faith by giving us the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to live it."
Running a Believe, Study Group will be a rewarding experience for you and the participants in your group. Believe is an excellent opportunity to rediscover “….the reason for our hope..” and to be able to find the words to share our faith with others. We believe your efforts will bear great fruit in your own life and the lives of those who join you on this grand discovery.
The following pages provide a quick overview of the main points that will be covered at the Leadership/Facilitator Training Session offered to your Deanery. We will highlight the starting, promoting, and facilitating of your Believe study group in your parish. Although the training you will receive and the information that follows should suffice in helping you plan, promote, and coordinate your study group, if you have any questions along the way, please feel free to contact us for assistance:
1) Select a team of people (the “Study Group Team”) to handle the various positions needed to plan, promote and facilitate each session successfully. The list of persons/positions is as follows (depending on the size of your parish and team, one person may hold more than one position):
- Coordinator/facilitator will likely be the liaison with the parish and also conduct the large group discussions.
- Small Group Facilitators are responsible for leading the small group discussions. Depending on the turnout, you may need several small group facilitators. The Coordinator should work with the small group facilitators in advance, including viewing the DVDs and discussing all the small group questions found in the workbook.
- Publicity Coordinator is responsible for the promotion of the study.
- Hospitality Coordinator is responsible for greeters, as well as refreshments, if they are planned.
- Facilities Coordinator is responsible for handling opening and closing of the venue at which you will meet, arranging for tables, chairs, TV/DVD player, etc.
- Prayer Coordinator is responsible for planning a prayer effort that will provide the necessary spiritual support for the study group.
2) The following tasks will need to be done:
- Set the dates and times of the program study. Believe is a six-part study consisting of 45 to 55 minute DVD presentations. You could, for example, run the study over a period of six consecutive weeks with each session approximately two hours long.
Here is one sample format:
- Arrival 7:00 p.m.
- Break 8:00 to 8:10 p.m.
- Social/welcome 7:00 to 7:10 p.m.
- Group discussion 8:10 to 8:45 p.m.
- DVD presentation 7:10 to 8:00 p.m.
- Closing prayer/petitions 8:45 to 9:00 p.m.
Others might choose six consecutive evenings or perhaps a Lent retreat weekend.
- Confirm the facility you will use by contacting the appropriate parish staff member.
- Create the budget, if any, that will be needed to pay for advertising, refreshments, etc. The Diocese of Nelson wants every parish to be able to participate. No one is to be denied. If a parish needs financial assistance please Contact Sister Elaine Biollo and funding will be made available. For those parishes that are able you should determine at this time if you will charge a modest fee to participants to help cover the costs related to the program, or if the parish or other sponsor will cover the expenses. One option is to have a free-will collection or donation basket at one or more of the meetings.
The Cost of the Believe program kit is $125.00. The booklets to go along with the study are $2.00 per participant.
- Set dates to train your small group facilitators, if necessary.
- Advertise with flyers, posters, and bulletin ads.
- Arrange for appropriate TV equipment and DVD player. Confirm that the other facility items (tables, chairs, etc.) are ready to go.
- Determine if you will have snacks, coffee, nametags, and other items of hospitality. If so, arrange for these.
- Pray (and have others pray) for the success of the Believe Study Group series. Suggested prayers are included in the Facilitators Workshop notes with a prayer that could be said in parishes each week at the Prayers of the Faithful.
- Order Believe Program Kit and Participant booklets. For ordering information, see end of document.
Facilitating Group Discussion
Study Questions are provided at the end of each session. To help facilitate group discussion, suggested answers to the questions are included in the Facilitators notes.
- Understanding the Questions and Responses
Some of the questions have actual, expected answers. Others may have a number of potential answers and are designed to draw participants in and help them interact with what they have learned. Often a great richness of response comes out in the group discussion, where each person brings a different perspective. Everyone benefits from this. The “answers” you will find in the Facilitators notes are not exhaustive but are offered as a guide. Consider them “Food for Thought” (FFT).
- The Goal of Group Discussion
The primary goal of group discussion is to help participants appropriately, “digest,” and/or apply the main teaching points of each session: to make the specific points of the Believe practical
- The Role of the Facilitator
Though not absolutely necessary, it would be helpful for the leader to have some experience or training in group facilitation. The role of the facilitator is not to teach – and it is not even so much to get people to answer questions correctly. Rather, it is to help draw out of the participants what they have learned from the presentations.
- Keeping Time
The amount of time available for group discussion will vary from group to group. We recommend that you allow plenty of time to get through the study questions and for group discussion. You may find it helpful to assign one person to assist the facilitator by keeping track of the time. Please be respectful of the participant’s time by making sure to start each session on time and end on time. For those who wish to stay and visit after the designated time a coffee social is a great idea.
- Keeping Focused
Often the questions provided will lead people into related areas that, however interesting, are off the subject and steal time from the point at hand. One way to handle this is to keep a log of these questions. When one comes up, simply write it down and delay discussion until the end of the session.
Advertising/Promoting the Study
Within your parish
It goes without saying that effectively advertising your study is a key component to its success. Perhaps you want to present this study the adults in your parish and offer a second session time for your youth, and young adult groups within your parish. If that is the case, we suggest you communicate with posters, flyers, bulletin announcements (several weeks prior to the first day of registration), and pulpit announcements (during the registration weekends). We have posters and invitations available in your marketing kits for you to customize.
It is important that the registration process be informative and efficient, since this will be your first contact with participants. When beginning a new study, consider taking registrations after weekend Masses at least several weeks prior to the start of the study. Be sure to advertise in your bulletin and/or from the pulpit when registrations will be taken.
In some parishes registration cards, along with a letter from the pastor could be included in the bulletin announcing the study. The cards can serve as an invitation to the youth or adult members of your parish to participate and informing them of the details of the study.
Cut-off dates and late registrations depend entirely on your preference, but we recommend you communicate a cut-off date to encourage sign-up. This also helps you determine how many Participant booklets you need to order.
Setting up Your Discussion Groups
You are now ready to set up your discussion groups. Set a date for your core team to meet. When you meet, we recommend you first spend some time in prayer, asking God’s blessing on all those who have registered for the study, and that His will be done concerning the dynamics of the individual discussion groups that will now be formed. Sample prayers will be provided in your Facilitators notes.
When you break into your discussion groups they can be formed in several different ways: men only, women only, married couples, singles, or they can just naturally form etc. We have had positive feedback about each of these group arrangements.
To order your Believe program kit and participant booklets please contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org (403) 218-5501
When we share our faith, it grows, it deepens and we gift one another with the Spirit that lives within us. Like the disciples on the way Emmaus, who were sharing their faith, we too can experience the presence of Jesus in our lives.
FaithLife: PFA: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving
Fr. Eric Nelson, Fr. Cristino Bouvette and Fr. David meadows speaks about the importance pf Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.
FaithLife: Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In
In this Session we speak about the creation of a Saint with Fr. Cristino Bouvette, Fr. David Meadows, Fr. Eric Nelson, in this Three-part video.