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January 10, 2009

Insights for family ministers: the Internet in home life -- How human trafficking works - Greed and its far-reaching effects - When parishes collaborate in youth ministry - and more!

In this edition:
-- Benefits of inter-parish collaboration in youth ministry.
-- Human trafficking, a continuing form of slavery.
-- Catholic leaders comment on federal law that targets human trafficking.
-- Current quotes to ponder: 1) World of finance and the common good. 2) Pentecost today: the church as a gathering of many peoples. 3) Christmas revisited one last time.
-- Families and the Internet: Insights from family life ministers association.
-- Gaining perspective on the workings of greed.
-- Pope views financial crisis as bench test.
-- Diocesan action on behalf of job-seekers.

Benefits of Inter-Parish Collaboration in Youth Ministry

What happens when parishes collaborate to provide a joint youth ministry for their teen-age members? Michael Horan invites readers to reflect upon this in an article titled "Forming the Faith of Teens" appearing in the winter 2008 edition of Church magazine, published by the National Pastoral Life Center. (The article is found online at www.churchmagazine.org/issue/0812/upf_forming_faith_teens.php.)

Horan asks readers to imagine a situation involving three parishes - a situation in which they, five years ago, collaborated to hire, share and retain a youth ministry director, leading them toward a number of unanticipated benefits. The writer is a professor of religious education at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

In the scenario he lays out, Horan says there had been worry among leaders in the three parishes that their teenagers "were not very articulate about, or committed to, their faith." In addition, "the leaders experienced spotty success in hiring and retaining part-time youth ministers; it seemed there were revolving doors at all three parish youth ministry offices."

So the leaders "crafted a plan to hire a full-time youth ministry director to work among the youth of the three parishes." Their action, Horan writes, would mean:

-- A lessened financial burden on each parish.

-- An increased number of spaces throughout the three parish facilities in which to conduct functions that serve youth.

The collaboration among the three parishes also respected "the reality that people no longer live or practice faith only within their parish borders," Horan says.

But the parishes' collaboration also would foster "quality formation experiences, not only for youth but for the adults," Horan says.

In Horan's scenario, the professional youth ministry director now works closely with an adult formation director, who also "collaborates among the three parishes," as well as with a full-time parish life coordinator. "All these ministers are well educated and current in their field." They are not all based at the same parish.

One thing the ministers do not do is "compete for a head count of people to come to their events and offerings," Horan says.

His article makes the point that an important step in "addressing the faith needs of teens is to equip them with various opportunities to grow and to meet adult mentors and role models (beyond their parents) who take their own faith seriously." This, Horan indicates, is a benefit of the inter-parish collaboration described in his article.

Human Trafficking, Continuing Form of Slavery

Slavery in today's America simply is "not on anyone's radar," said Nyssa Mestas, associate director of anti-trafficking services in the Department of Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference. Quoted in an article on human trafficking in the January 2009 edition of U.S. Catholic magazine, she called trafficking "a real violation of human dignity." She said: "This isn't like a robbery; your whole body has been violated. You as a person are a commodity to traffickers."

This compelling article in U.S. Catholic was written by Kevin Clarke, a senior editor at the magazine. He describes the workings of human trafficking and some steps undertaken to counteract it. Titled "Hidden in Plain Site," the article appears in the magazine's print edition, as well as online at www.uscatholic.org. Pastors, parish justice and peace committees, youth ministers, adult formation leaders and others are likely to find the article illuminating.

Clarke tells the story of a woman called Lucy, trafficked into the U.S. from Kenya. She ended up in a home, whose owners - in what Clarke suggests is a frequent pattern -- "locked her visa and passport, and later her Social Security card away for 'safekeeping.'"

When Lucy was beaten by the man of this household in an upper-class hamlet in New York state ("She had been essentially a slave for more than a year by the time of this attack") -- she finally sought help by calling her only friend in North America, a priest in Toronto, says Clarke. She did not consider calling police. Clarke says Lucy's employers had warned her not to call police, saying she would be deported; moreover, "civic life in Kenya had taught her that police officers were not to be trusted."

What happened after the call to her Toronto friend? Clarke says the priest was able to connect her with an archdiocesan Catholic Charities office. "After a few days of planning with federal agents, they made a final call." When Lucy assured them she was ready, "Catholic Charities staff and agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency descended on Lucy's home and pulled her out."

Mestas comments in Clarke's article that "trafficking victims can be found in all walks of life. They're not going to be found in some dark alley." She says, "You'll find them working in nice homes or even for legitimate businesses."

Clarke says the U.S. State Department estimates "there may be as many as 18,000 trafficked people living in some form of involuntary servitude in the United States, but few advocates of trafficking victims are confident that figure represents the extent of the problem."

The writer says: "Trafficking victims have been identified in 90 U.S. cities. Worldwide human trafficking generates as much as $42.5 billion annually."

Clarke reports that trafficking victims "often don't understand that their treatment is illegal in the United States" or that U.S. police can be trusted. Furthermore, trafficking victims may fear that if they come forward, harm will befall their families back home.

Catholic Leaders Comment on Federal Law That Targets Human Trafficking

"Trafficking in human persons is a horrific crime and should be combated with all the legal means and resources available," Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, said Dec. 23. He welcomed the White House signing that day of an anti-trafficking bill. Human trafficking is a scourge, both in the U.S. and globally, said Bishop Wester.

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 extends services and benefits to a greater number of trafficking victims, the bishops' conference said. It explained that victims whose application for a visa is pending, for example, will now be eligible for immediate benefits. Additionally, children believed to have experienced a form of trafficking will receive 120 days of interim assistance as they await a determination of their eligibility for assistance.

Julianne Duncan, an official in the Department of Migration and Refugee Services at the bishops' conference, said it is vital that "federal and local governments better coordinate their efforts so that more human trafficking victims, including children, are identified, rescued and provided appropriate services." She is the department's associate director of children's services.

Duncan praised provisions in the reauthorized and expanded legislation to assist vulnerable children at risk of being trafficked. "Children, especially those without parents or guardians, are particularly susceptible to human traffickers and are unable to escape trafficking situations. The provisions targeted to children will help ensure they are better protected and that they receive services in a timely manner," Duncan said.

According to a Catholic News Service report Dec. 29, Duncan said the revised program will require that children in the anti-trafficking program be placed in the least restrictive settings and receive home study before they are released. And it will provide protections for children who are not admitted to the United States and are returned to their home countries, she said.

Current Quotes to Ponder

World of Finance and the Common Good: "Among some big and wealthy people, they just play finances as a game. Really, finance works as long as it's put in the service of the common good and especially the great slice of our society which is composed of poor people or people who are not rich." (Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Vatican ambassador to the U.N., speaking in an interview with Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the San Francisco Archdiocese, published Dec. 23)

The Church's Pentecost Today: "The Church speaks in many tongues, and not only outwardly, in the sense that all the great languages of the world are represented in her, but, more profoundly, inasmuch as present within her are various ways of experiencing God and the world, a wealth of cultures, and only in this way do we come to see the vastness of human existence and, as a result, the vastness of the Word of God." (Pope Benedict XVI in his Dec. 22 pre-Christmas address to the Roman Curia)

Christmas Revisited One More Time: "What made [this] holy holiday so rich for us? I think two forces were at work to make it so. One was the conscious exchange of love within the family; each of us was looking out for the others. The second was simply Christmas itself, an event so much larger than our personal lives. Christmas is Christmas, and it carries itself." (Dolores Leckey reflecting in her new book "Grieving With Grace," from St. Anthony Messenger Press, on her family's 2003 gathering for the first Christmas after her husband's death; Leckey, a former U.S. Catholic bishops' conference official, is a recognized leader on issues in the life of the laity.)

Families and the Internet: Insights From National Family Life Ministers Association

"There are upsides and downsides to how the Internet affects family life," says Tony Garascia, clinical director of the Samaritan Counseling Center in South Bend, Ind. Pastoral ministers, particularly those working with families, may want to read the current article he contributed to the Family Perspectives Journal titled "The Internet and the Family." The article appears on the Web site of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers, www.nacflm.org. (Once you arrive at the site, click on "publications," then click on "current article.")

Garascia, a licensed clinical social worker, observes that "the impact of the Internet is everywhere. Families that have the core values of trust, honesty, respect, safety and fidelity will utilize the positive aspects of the Internet while placing boundaries around the negative aspects."

In discussing "the upsides and downsides" of the Internet in family life, he says that for people over 40 the Internet may largely mean sending e-mail messages and visiting favorite Web sites. Yet, the Internet now has merged with many other forms of media, raising fresh challenges.

Garascia notes, for example, that "as we move into the future, everything that one could have access to on a desktop computer is now available on a cell phone, along with e-mail, texting, Facebook, blogging, videos and many other features."

Examining the Internet's upside for family life, Garascia tells of visiting the Marianist-run University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, where a campus minister told him "that many parents text their university sons and daughters goodnight every night. Love messages straight from the heart, a way of being present." Garascia said this struck him "as a positive way of 'being there.'"

Also on the upside, "parents of children who use the Internet can teach that the world is a community of relationships and that their family is a 'community within a community,'" he writes.

Garascia calls attention to the fact that "many Web sites are devoted to spirituality and offer valuable tools" to enhance a person's faith. He says, "Believers can enhance their spirituality through access to Web resources such as daily readings, lives of the saints and even online cyber communities where people come together to pray and share insights."

On the downside, however, the Internet leads to "constant interruptions," not only in family life specifically, but in other contexts. For example, Garascia notes that even during therapy sessions he is accustomed to clients who "interrupt the session to take a call from children, to receive text messages or to let their phone ring as it goes into voice mail."

Parents and children today constantly receive text messages, along with "e-mails, pictures and videos on their cell phones, laptops, and desktops." The world in which people now live is "fraught with interruptions," the writer says. All these interruptions "can play havoc with family meals and family check-in times." And parents themselves "are not immune" to such interruptions.

Says Garascia, "Blackberries often take precedence over conversations with children or one's spouse."

The writer believes that "cyber bullying now affects thousands of teens." He writes: "It is easy these days to 'flame' someone through e-mail or postings to someone's Web page." Many of those engaged in cyber harassment do not seem to realize "how hurtful their comments can be," Garascia says.

Also on the Internet's downside is the online presence of pornography, along with its effects on family members and family life. Garascia says, "Families and couples affected by a spouse's porn use are a regular part of my practice."

Garascia offers several recommendations to families. He believes that children should know that the "cell phone is a privileged device, not an inalienable right." He adds, "The wise parent need not continually check the texts his/her child sends and receives but should reserve this right if conditions warrant."

Parents are urged by Garascia "to remember the basic contract between themselves and their children: 'The more responsibility you show, the more freedom you will be granted. The less responsibility you show, the less freedom you will be given.'"

Among other recommendations, Garascia urges that respect for others be honored in "online behavior, texting, the use of cell phone cameras, etc." Bullying, as well as "putting down others, engaging in rumors, posting negative comments to another's MySpace or Facebook page are examples of how a family member might be disrespectful of others," he writes.

And the writer encourages families "to discuss etiquette issues" with children, "such as not allowing your child to receive text messages during dinner or any other family time."

Gaining Perspective on the Workings of Greed

Greed may be a vice, but Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, N.M., expressed the fear recently that "it is a vice that for many is wrongly held as a virtue." The archbishop raised the issue in a late-October Red Mass homily in Albuquerque. He described greed as a "vice that opposes charity."

Greed, said Archbishop Sheehan, "is the single most seductive and destructive vice in our times. Corrupt corporate executives, white-collar criminals and even senior partners in great firms all demonstrate how devastating greed can be. In the end, greed has destroyed people, corporations and even the greedy person himself or herself."

The archbishop said, "We've all seen greed in the economic collapse we are experiencing!"

Speaking to lawyers present at the Mass, Archbishop Sheehan cautioned against dismissing the virtue of charity "in the name of the false virtue called 'success.'" He said, "If greed is opposed to charity and charity is the principle of law ordering human action to the common good, you can understand why this is a particular challenge to us."

What is greed? First, the archbishop explained, the term can refer to "the acquisition and the keeping of riches" in such a way that "a person obtains money beyond his or her due, by stealing or retaining another's property." Second, he said, the term "denotes immoderation in the interior desire for riches; one's soul is distorted by such desires."

The archbishop said that "if greed, under the guise of a false virtue, dominates our lives, it robs us of an inner sense and conviction of the good and the true." It seems to him, the archbishop said, "that the only genuine corrective to greed must be charity, a manifest love for the other, a sacrifice of self for the other."

In mentoring the young -- in this case young lawyers -- one question is whether they will be guided by the good or by greed, the archbishop said. He cautioned against teaching them "to go after the dollar and not their dignity, to judge their worth by the money they make and not the meaning of their life."

Archbishop Sheehan said that "in the end, a person without moral meaning is a danger to himself and to others." If greed, which "can so easily infect corporate and political institutions," also blinds "those who serve justice, then it is a matter of time before all institutions fail and the common good is set in peril."

The hope, on the other hand, is that "honest people will do all on their part to serve the cause of justice," said the archbishop.

Pope Views Financial Crisis as Bench Test

Insatiable greed "sparks conflicts and divisions" in the world, Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily for the Jan. 1, 2009, World Day of Peace. His theme was poverty, viewed in light of the global financial crisis and ecological concern, as well as in light of the reality of the incarnation and the poverty into which Jesus was born. He linked poverty to war, as he had done earlier in a message for this year's World Day of Peace.

"God made himself poor for our sake, to enrich us with his poverty full of love, to urge us to impede the insatiable greed that sparks conflicts and divisions, to invite us to moderate the mania to possess and thus to be open to reciprocal sharing and acceptance," Pope Benedict said.

The financial crisis, he said, should not be viewed only as an emergency of the present moment, but "as a bench test: Are we ready to interpret it, in its complexity, as a challenge for the future and not only as an emergency to which we must find short-term solutions?"

The pope asked, "Are we prepared to undertake a profound revision of the prevalent model of development in order to correct it with concerted, far-sighted interventions?" In reality, he said, the state of the planet's ecological health requires this, as does "the cultural and moral crisis whose symptoms have been visible for some time in every part of the world."

In order to fight the "poverty that oppresses so many men and women and threatens the peace of all, it is necessary to rediscover moderation and solidarity as evangelical and, at the same time, universal, values," Pope Benedict said. To combat poverty and thus to move toward peace, it is necessary to reduce the gap "between those who waste the superfluous and those who lack what they need," he said.

Church Action for Out-of-Work People

An effort to connect local employers with people who need jobs is being undertaken this January by the Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Providence.

The newspaper said in late December that "with Rhode Island's unemployment the highest in the nation," Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence announced "a new weekly feature to connect unemployed Rhode Islanders with companies offering jobs."

Beginning in late January, the newspaper each Thursday will publish help-wanted ads free of charge from area companies with open positions. Alongside these ads, the newspaper also will publish information from Rhode Islanders seeking employment. In addition, the newspaper will post the listings on its Web site each Saturday morning (www.thericatholic.com).

Bishop Tobin said: "Rhode Island families and individuals face very difficult situations and choices, especially as we enter a new year filled with challenges. This is but one way the Catholic Church can help Rhode Islanders during these difficult times."

The diocese planned to launch an outreach effort to area employers, chambers of commerce, human resources professionals and other agencies, informing them of this cost-efficient opportunity, the newspaper reported.