September 25, 2015 // Local

Day 3: Topic of human sexuality, wounded families covered at World Meeting of Families

By Tim Johnson

PHILDELPHIA — “How essential the family has been to the building of this country, and how worthy it is of our support and encouragement,” quoted Fred and Lisa Everett, co-directors of the Office of Family Life on their report on the World Meeting of Families on Sept. 24. While Pope Francis was ending his morning address to Congress with these inspiring words, the World Meeting of Families was embarking on another awesome day.

A Catholic married couple from Panama, Dr. Juan Francisco and Gabriela de la Guardia gave the first keynote address. Dr. Juan Francisco is the founder of the Panamanian Institute of Family Education and Gabriela is a psychologist in private practice and president of the institute. Their topic was “A Gift from God: The Meaning of Human Sexuality.”

Scott Hahn, Christopher West, Helen Alvaré, Janet Smith, Robert George and Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, (the daughter of St. Gianna) were among the many terrific workshop presenters on Day 3.

Juan Campos who is a candidate for the diaconate and a member of St. Patrick Parish, Ligonier, said a session he attended opened his eyes about original sin and how he needs to be vigilant to protect his loved ones in making right choices through the free will God gives us.

Cardinal Luis Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, presented the afternoon keynote address on “The Family: Home for the Wounded Heart.” He began by mentioning that since this is the World Meeting of Families, he brought along with him from the Philippines his parents, brother and cousins.

Most painful are the wounds inflicted on us by members of our families, the Cardinal pointed out, but the family is also the privileged place for consolation and healing. Jesus heals us by becoming wounded, and His glorified body still bears the lasting marks of His love for us.

The cardinal said as the family of God, the Church is called to continue the healing mission of Jesus Christ, and sometimes this means simply being a loving presence in someone’s life.

He illustrated this point with a moving story from his own episcopal ministry. In Manila, he typically attends the diocesan youth camp in the summer, and after he addressed the young people one year, they asked him to sing songs, take selfies and sign their T-shirts. While he enjoyed it, Cardinal Tagle wondered what these requests said about him and the seriousness with which these young people regarded his episcopal ministry.

The following year, a young man came up to him and reminded the cardinal that he had signed his T-shirt the previous summer. “I have not washed it since,” the boy recounted. “I fold it up neatly every night and place it under my pillow when I go to sleep.” He went on to confide in the cardinal that his father had been away a long time working abroad. The T-shirt was for this young man a tangible reminder that in Cardinal Tagle “I have a home, and I have a father.”


Mass honors gifts of persons with disabilities

PHILADELPHIA — Diocesan participants to the World Meeting of Families were invited to a Mass honoring the gifts of persons with disabilities, the Deaf Community, family, friends and caregivers with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades as celebrant on Thursday evening. A bus took 55 participants to St. Peter’s Church in Phladelphia. The diocesan group has 31 adults and 24 children.

“As soon as we got there we started seeing all the special people that were the specific population for whom this Mass was celebrated: men, women and children with many physical and mental challenges, and all happy to be there,” reported the Enid Roman, director of the diocesan Hispanic Ministry Office.

Bishop Rhoades celebrated the Mass and Oblate of St. Francis de Sales Father Mike Depcik, who is deaf, was the homilist.

“This Mass emphasized not only the need to be inclusive, but our need to understand the personal challenges that those with disabilities go through every single day of their lives,” said Roman. “How the world has isolated them in so many ways but also how important it is for the Church (and us) to make priority to find spaces for their participation of the regular Church activities. We all have something to offer, and they showed us. There was a choir of blind elderly people — so beautiful — as well as the choir of the deaf.”

Roman said, “The second surprise of the night was to see the little children of our group watching and mimicking the sign language responses and the singing. It was inspiring.”

She added, “The third gift to me was the realization that most of us are heatlhy, we can hear, we can see, we can learn, but we decide to be blinded by fear, deaf to the cries of the needy and dumb to understand the simple teachings of Christ, to love all creation, specially our fellow man.”

“We need to give ourselves the opportunities to share our faith with so many others who might not look like us or do the things the way we do, but they too have a deep faith and the same promise of salvation,” Roman said. “We really are brothers and sisters of the same Father. Praise be to God.”


Speakers say couples facing infertility need prayer, understanding

By Laura Ieraci

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Couples facing infertility need not only to hear that others understand their heartbreak, they need to feel it, too, said Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht, Netherlands.

Family, friends and community members, including pastors, must do all they can to help childless couples through their suffering, the cardinal said at a session of the World Meeting of Families.

The Dutch cardinal was part of a three-person panel Sept. 24 on the theme, “Out of the Depths I Cry to You, O Lord: The Heartbreak of Infertility.”

Other speakers included Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, the daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, and Dr. Kyle Beiter, an obstetrician and gynecologist at The Gianna Center for Women’s Health and Fertility in New Jersey.

The room overflowed with participants, with dozens standing at the back and sitting on the floor in the side aisles.

Speaking in Italian, Cardinal Eijk said couples have a natural desire to generate new life, and Catholics understand this desire as a vocation to fatherhood and motherhood. But those who cannot have children experience their “involuntary infertility” as an inability to achieve their goal as a married couple and feel “guilty” and “inadequate,” he said.

“It is understandable, then, that they would try to seek solutions to their infertility at any cost,” he said.

Medical interventions can help find causes of infertility or correct conditions that impede fertility, such as blocked fallopian tubes, he said. Some childless couples may discover they are called to adopt, he added.

However, in vitro fertilization presents ethical problems; less than 20 percent of embryos created in IVF end in birth, he said. Furthermore, every human person has the right to be the born of a couple’s conjugal love and not as the product of a technological process, he said.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, the cardinal addressed the isolation some couples feel in their communities for being unable to have children.

Communities should “not look at (childless) couples with suspicion, but with comprehension, which is healing for them,” he said.

He also affirmed the love of a childless couple, citing church teaching that the conjugal act is “both unitive and procreative.”

“When there is no procreation, the unitive aspect, the sign of love, remains,” he said. The couple’s “love is real and, of course, it is painful that their love is not fulfilled in procreation but, nevertheless, it remains love.”

Picking up on the topic of IVF, Beiter said many couples, “out of desperation” to have children, “feel forced” into IVF treatment. They are unaware that other ethical options, such as NaPro (natural procreative) technology, exist, he said.

Developed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, NaPro technology is based on women’s natural fertility cycles and helps women to identify the times they are more likely to conceive.

Ethical options for male infertility, such as medication to stimulate sperm production, also exist, he said.

While no fertility therapy is 100 percent successful, NaPro technology has shown to be 60 percent successful over two years, Beiter said.

Molla’s witness shifted the discussion from pastoral and scientific to spiritual in speaking about the growing devotion among couples to her saintly mother, St. Gianna.

“I want to give couples, who have not yet been able to conceive, a word of hope,” she said. “Nothing is impossible for the Lord.”

Molla’s mother was diagnosed with a fibroma while she was pregnant with her. St. Gianna refused the recommended hysterectomy and abortion in order to protect the child in her womb and died seven days after giving birth. She was canonized in 2004.

Many couples have had children after praying for St. Gianna’s intercession, Molla said. Others have been helped by St. Gianna to accept the will of God and to seek adoption or different ways to share their love, she added.

Molla said couples worldwide write to her and ask her to pray to St. Gianna that they may have a child.

In an interview with CNS, Molla said she left geriatric medicine several years ago to care for her aged father and, since his death five years ago, has dedicated her life entirely to her prayer ministry and to promoting devotion to St. Gianna.

“My mother praised and gave glory to God with her life on earth,” she said. “I know now she continues to praise and give glory to God in heaven.”


Canadian archbishop: Biggest challenge to families is commitment

By Philippe Vaillancour

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Commitment is the biggest challenge for today’s families, said Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec.

In an interview during the World Meeting of Families, he invited church leaders to look at families with a “realistic” perspective.

He recalled a discussion he had with a teenage girl when he was teaching religion classes to high school students in Ontario, just before he was ordained. The girl asked him what would happen if he ever fell in love with a woman.

“I told her: ‘I expect it will happen. Many times,'” said Archbishop Durocher. “‘What would you do then?’ she replied.”

Instead of answering directly, he said he asked her if it was possible that, one day, once she was married and had children, she might meet another man and fall in love. She said it might indeed happen.

“What will you do then?” the archbishop asked. “‘I’ll have to make a decision,’ she said.”

The archbishop replied: “So will I, dear. So will I.”

“It was the first time she was confronted with the idea of lifelong commitments,” he said. He added that the durability of a lifelong commitment goes hand in hand with faithfulness.

He said the first words he ever exchanged with St. John Paul II were about this matter. During a visit by the Canadian bishops to the Vatican, the archbishop, who was auxiliary bishop in Sudbury, Ontario, at the time, told the pope he did not agree with him that young people do not believe in faithfulness.

He told Pope John Paul that every young couple he had accompanied before their marriage believed in faithfulness. However, for many complicated reasons, it did not always last.

“‘What can we do to help them, then?’ the pope asked me. To this day, this question has stayed with me,” he added.

Though he said the church is still looking for an answer, he said he believes that being “as realistic as possible” with today’s challenges for families is the way to go. He says an event like the World Meeting of Families might help the church to be “realistic.”

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