Catholic HEART — experiencing Christ through liturgy and service

By David Cooley.

Around 140 youth and youth ministers from across the country came to the Diocese of Covington to serve the local community June 30–July 6. Bishop Brossart High School in Alexandria was home base for Catholic HEART WorkCamp, an international youth-friendly, Christ-centered organization dedicated to service, connection and loving others, headquartered in Orlando, Florida.

This is the second time Bishop Brossart High School served as a host site; the first time was in 2017. Each summer more than 13,000 youth go on mission trips through this organization around the country to restore homes, feed the hungry, lift the spirits of children, bring joy to the elderly and disabled, and offer assistance while partnering with social agencies.

The missionary campers stayed in the school facility at Bishop Brossart for the week. They began each day with Mass and then broke into teams, working at many different sites throughout the region. The group collectively worked more than 5,750 hours during the week. They served in soup kitchens, food pantries and worked for organizations like HONK (Housing Opportunities of Northern Kentucky), People Working Cooperatively and the Rose Garden Home Mission. Groups painted at St. Anthony School, Taylor Mill, organized crafts and activities for the aged and infirm at Carmel Manor, assisted elderly neighbors at their homes, helped with minor construction projects and cleaned properties.

In addition to service projects each day, the evenings were filled with music, skits, games and spiritual enrichment. Donna Heim, former Bishop Brossart religion teacher and Catholic minister at NKU’s Newman Center, managed the work camp.

“These campers worked hard. What I love about Catholic HEART is that it is the epitome of what it means to be Catholic packed into one week,” said Mrs. Heim. “It is like a service-learning retreat; not just serving people but also loving them as Christ does.”

Mrs. Heim said that the experience has a very positive impact on the campers and those they serve.

“It’s a win-win situation,” she said. “The campers get to experience the joy of serving others, homes in the community get restored and the people served feel loved and develop a relationship with the campers.”

Father Robert Rottgers, pastor, St. Philip Parish, Melbourne, served as the chaplain for the camp; Lee Roessler Band led the worship music; and Charles Marks, junior high teacher at St. Thomas School, Ft. Thomas, gave three presentations on the theme — “Radiance” — and how Christians are called to shine with the light of Christ. As part of the experience, adoration was offered as well as reconciliation during evening ceremonies.

Students from Bishop Brossart High School also took part in the week, serving as a hospitality committee for those visiting and living at the school. Three recent graduates — JD Schumacher, Justin Kiefer and Samantha (Sam) Webster — served those who were serving others.

“It was a great experience; not only do I think that we helped them but this experience also helped me in my faith. When you are in an environment like that it is hard not to take a step forward. Everyone there was working toward the same thing,” said Mr. Schumacher. “It was just awesome.”

Mr. Kiefer said that his favorite part was the fellowship he experienced with the campers from all over the country and worshiping Christ together.

“During the week I had an experience that really changed me. It isn’t something that I can explain but I feel it,” he said. Mr. Kiefer was inspired and is hoping to become a member of the trained Catholic HEART Workcamp team next year.

Service is very important to Miss Webster, who is also thinking about applying to become a member of the national team next year.

“Catholic HEART Workcamp allowed me to see a larger community of youth that were super passionate about helping the community and those around them. I’m struck by the joy and the passion and the faith that the whole experience brought to everyone involved,” she said.

“This is a great way to go around and spread Christ’s message and show everyone love and compassion, and teach other young people how valuable and how important service is for ourselves and our community — locally and globally.”

Mrs. Heim said that a lot of young people come to camp because they like to volunteer and serve, but she noticed something more happening below the surface.

“It seemed to me that many of them have not had that personal encounter with Christ. They know of him but they didn’t know him in such a personal way; I have seen this camp change that. Through the worship and the liturgy, tied in with the service, they experienced something that they hadn’t experienced before,” she said.

“This is what we are all about — the sacraments, the power of a community united around Christ, serving our brothers and sisters in need, worshiping together and enjoying each other’s company. It is one of those ideal moments in time when you can see what the Church is, what people do in Christ’s name.”

How to answer pro-choice arguments: Part 1 — ‘Science’

By Caitlin Shaughnessy Dwyer.

This article is the first of a three-part series. Future articles will address logic, the law, and “hard cases.”

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Are you comfortable talking about being pro-life? Many of us aren’t. We may be convinced that abortion is wrong, but when it comes to sharing our convictions with others, we tend to clam up. We want to say something, but we don’t know where to begin.

There is a simple strategy that you can use to make these difficult conversations easier. If someone expresses that she is pro-choice or undecided, you can ask the following question: “If you were convinced that the unborn child is a human life, would you still support abortion?”

This question does two things. First, it invites the person to examine her ​own​ position. She must decide: is abortion still ok if the unborn child is a human life? ​Second​, it cuts your own work in the conversation in half:

— If the person answers “No” — meaning that if she accepted the unborn child as a human life, she would ​not ​support abortion — then you have a conversation about ​science​ on your hands.

— If she answers, “Yes” — meaning that, even if she accepted the unborn child as a human life, she would still support abortion — then you are entering into a conversation about the legal and philosophical question of ​personhood:​ Which human beings are ​persons​ who have basic rights?

This article will focus on the scientific conversation, while a forthcoming article will focus on personhood.

If your listener agrees she would not support abortion if she were convinced the unborn child is a human life, tell her you are going to share why you are convinced that the unborn child ​is a human life from the first moment of fertilization.

First, the unborn child is ​human because he has human DNA. There is universal scientific consensus regarding this fact: a complete ​human genome made up of a unique set of 46 chromosomes (23 from each parent) is present at fertilization. The child is not a chicken, or a rabbit. He is not one kind of thing that turns into another kind of thing. He is always human.

Second, the unborn child is ​alive because he exhibits the characteristics of life that scientists generally use to determine whether an entity is living. You don’t have to remember all of these, but I’m going to list them here for reference:

  1. made of one of more cells;
  2. has DNA;
  3. metabolizes;
  4. maintains homeostasis;
  5. is responsive to environment;
  6. grows and develops; and
  7. reproduces (meaning an entity that can reproduce even if reproduction isn’t possible until adulthood).

An unborn child meets all criteria.

At this point, you can pause and ask, “When do you think life begins?”

This is a Golden Rule moment: treat this person the way you would want to be treated. Really listen, and show that you are listening to her and seeking to understand her thoughts by repeating back her definition of when life begins.

She may present an objection to your argument, such as, “Ok, it’s alive, but at the beginning it’s just a clump of cells! My skin cell is alive and human, but it’s not a ​human being​.” Here, it is helpful to explain that the unborn child is an ​organism​, a self-directing entity that coordinates its own growth and including the right to development and will mature into an adult member of its species if given a proper environment and adequate nutrition. A skin cell cannot mature into an adult human.

It would also be helpful to share basic facts of fetal development. Begin by explaining that words like “zygote,” “morula,” “embryo” and “fetus” are terms used to describe ​phases of development of a human child before birth (just like we use “newborn,” “toddler,” and “adolescent” after birth). This is an important clarification because some people use these words as though they were describing different ​non-human kinds of beings.​ A baby is human and exhibits the characteristics of life at each phase of development.

During the first few days of development (zygote and morula phase), the baby is already communicating with the mother by sending her body chemical signals. These signals tell the mom’s body to keep making progesterone, so that she will not menstruate and lose the endometrial lining that the baby needs to successfully implant. The baby also sends signals to suppress the mother’s local immune system so that her body will allow the baby to implant (the baby has different DNA than the mom and our bodies tend to attack or reject foreign DNA).

During the embryo stage (2-8 weeks), the baby’s heart starts to beat at just 21 days after conception. Many women do not even know they are pregnant at this point. At six weeks, brain waves can be detected. By 8.5 weeks, every organ is in place and unique fingerprints have formed. At this age, babies react to touch and there is some evidence that babies can feel pain.

During the fetal stage (9 weeks until birth), the baby continues to grow and develop, and by 20 weeks, there is compelling evidence that babies can feel pain. For this reason, twelve states have banned abortion after 20 weeks citing fetal pain.

You might ask if the person has ever seen an ultrasound, and if not, offer to pull one up on YouTube.

Another objection that your listener might present is the claim that the baby is just part of the woman’s body. The points that we have already covered above can help you respond to this; you can point out again that the baby has ​unique DNA. If he were part of the mother’s body, they would both share the same DNA. The baby also has his own heart with his own blood (often a different blood type than the mother). He has his own brain that directs his own movements and bodily functions. He is a unique,​ distinct​ human being.

Finally, when having these conversations, always remember that the goal is not to “win” the argument, but to speak the truth in love for the genuine good of the other. Ask questions, listen, and lovingly respond through the guidance of the Spirit. The person will not only remember ​what you said, but ​how y​ou said it. Your message about dignity, given in a way that respects her dignity, will resonate in her heart.

Caitlin Shaughnessy Dwyer is an Instructor of Theology at Thomas More University. She and her family are members of St. Pius X Church in Edgewood. This “We Choose Life” article first appeared in the July 19, 2019, edition of the Messenger.

General Tips:

  1. Ask questions. Begin by making lots of statements about your own position can be off-putting. Asking good questions can invite a person to more carefully reflect on her own position. A question could be as simple as, “Could you share with me why you think that?”
  2. Plant the seed; don’t give a lecture. The article provided today is not meant to be a script and you don’t need to cover every point to have an impactful conversation. You can ask a question, listen, then share what you think might be helpful based on the person’s response. If the conversation is going well you can ask, listen and share again. If the person is not receptive, you might try to engage in dialogue again another day.
  3. Empathize and find common ground wherever you can.
  4. Be calm, humble, kind, respectful and joy-filled. So much about the message is conveyed by the demeanor of the messenger!

“To accept the fact that, after fertilization has taken place, a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion … It is plain experimental evidence.” – Dr. Jerome Lejeune, discoverer of Trisomy 21 as the genetic basis of Down Syndrome

“​It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.” – Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard Medical School