July 16, 2017
KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Summer camp; tithing and almsgiving; Bill Baalmann; Nathan Schaller; Jubilarian Sisters; Sister Hortencia Rodriguez; Sister Petrona Stockemer; Sister Denise Sevart; Convocation of Catholic Leaders; Mother talks about her son entering seminary; Arcoiris; Youth group travels to Colorado Springs; Major Phillip Roth
This Oklahoma priest was a martyr – and he'll be beatified Sept. 23
By Mary Rezac
Oklahoma City, Okla., Jul 8, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News) - “Padre, they've come for you.”
Those were some of the last words heard by Father Stanley Francis, spoken by someone staying at the mission in Guatemala who had been led, at gunpoint, to where “Padre Francisco” was sleeping.
It was 1:30 in the morning on July 28, 1981, and Guatemala was in the throes of a decades-long civil war. The three ski-masked men who broke into the rectory were Ladinos, the non-indigenous men who had been fighting the native people and rural poor of the country since the 60s. They were known for their kidnappings, and wanted to turn Father Stanley into one of “the missing.”
But Father Stanley refused. Not wanting to endanger the others at the parish mission, he struggled but did not call for help. Fifteen minutes and two gunshots later, Father Stanley was dead and the men fled the mission grounds.
“How a 46-year-old priest from a small German farming community in Oklahoma came to live and die in this remote, ancient Guatemalan village is a story full of wonder and God’s providence,” writes Maria Scaperlanda in her biography of Father Stanley, “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run.”
The five-foot-ten, red-bearded missionary priest was from the unassuming town of Okarche, Okla., where the parish, school and farm were the pillars of community life. He went to the same school his whole life and lived with his family until he left for seminary.
Surrounded by good priests and a vibrant parish life, Stanley felt God calling him to the priesthood from a young age. But despite a strong calling, Stanley would struggle in the seminary, failing several classes and even out of one seminary before graduating from Mount St. Mary's seminary in Maryland.
Hearing of Stanely’s struggles, Sister Clarissa Tenbrick, his 5th grade teacher, wrote him to offer encouragement, reminding him that the patron Saint of all priests, St. John Vianney, also struggled in seminary.
“Both of them were simple men who knew they had a call to the priesthood and then had somebody empower them so that they could complete their studies and be priests,” Scaperlanda told CNA. “And they brought a goodness, simplicity and generous heart with them in (everything) they did.”
When Stanley was still in seminary, Pope St. John XXIII asked the Churches of North America to send assistance and establish missions in Central America. Soon after, the diocese of Oklahoma City and the diocese of Tulsa established a mission in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala, a poor rural community of mostly indigenous people.
A few years after he was ordained, Fr. Stanley accepted an invitation to join the mission team, where he would spend the next 13 years of his life.
When he arrived to the mission, the Tz'utujil Mayan Indians in the village had no native equivalent for Stanley, so they took to calling him Padre Francisco, after his baptismal name of Francis.
The work ethic Fr. Stanley learned on his family’s farm would serve him well in this new place. As a mission priest, he was called on not just to say Mass, but to fix the broken truck or work the fields. He built a farmers' co-op, a school, a hospital, and the first Catholic radio station, which was used for catechesis to the even more remote villages.
“What I think is tremendous is how God doesn't waste any details,” Scaperlanda said. “That same love for the land and the small town where everybody helps each other, all those things that he learned in Okarche is exactly what he needed when he arrived in Santiago.”
The beloved Padre Francisco was also known for his kindness, selflessness, joy and attentive presence among his parishioners. Dozens of pictures show giggling children running after Padre Francisco and grabbing his hands, Scaperlanda said.
“It was Father Stanley’s natural disposition to share the labor with them, to break bread with them, and celebrate life with them, that made the community in Guatemala say of Father Stanley, ‘he was our priest,’” she said.
Over the years, the violence of the Guatemalan civil war inched closer to the once-peaceful village. Disappearances, killings and danger soon became a part of daily life, but Fr. Stanley remained steadfast and supportive of his people.
In 1980-1981, the violence escalated to an almost unbearable point. Fr. Stanley was constantly seeing friends and parishioners abducted or killed. In a letter to Oklahoma Catholics during what would be his last Christmas, the priest relayed to the people back home the dangers his mission parish faced daily.
“The reality is that we are in danger. But we don’t know when or what form the government will use to further repress the Church…. Given the situation, I am not ready to leave here just yet… But if it is my destiny that I should give my life here, then so be it.... I don’t want to desert these people, and that is what will be said, even after all these years. There is still a lot of good that can be done under the circumstances.”
He ended the letter with what would become his signature quote:
“The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger. Pray for us that we may be a sign of the love of Christ for our people, that our presence among them will fortify them to endure these sufferings in preparation for the coming of the Kingdom.”
In January 1981, in immediate danger and his name on a death list, Fr. Stanley did return to Oklahoma for a few months. But as Easter approached, he wanted to spend Holy Week with his people in Guatemala.
“Father Stanley could not abandon his people,” Scaperlanda said. “He made a point of returning to his Guatemala parish in time to celebrate Holy Week with his parishioners that year – and ultimately was killed for living out his Catholic faith.”
Scaperlanda, who has worked on Fr. Stanley’s cause for canonization, said the priest was a great witness and example, particularly for the Year of Mercy.
“Father Stanley Rother is truly a saint of mercy,” she said. “He fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, visited the sick, comforted the afflicted, bore wrongs patiently, buried the dead – all of it.”
His life is also a great example of ordinary people being called to do extraordinary things for God, she said.
“(W)hat impacted me the most about Father Stanley’s life was how ordinary it was!” she said.
“I love how simply Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Paul Coakley states it: ‘We need the witness of holy men and women who remind us that we are all called to holiness – and that holy men and women come from ordinary places like Okarche, Oklahoma,’” she said.
“Although the details are different, I believe the call is the same – and the challenge is also the same. Like Father Stanley, each of us is called to say ‘yes’ to God with our whole heart. We are all asked to see the Other standing before us as a child of God, to treat them with respect and a generous heart,” she added.
“We are called to holiness – whether we live in Okarche, Oklahoma, or New York City or Guatemala City.”
In June 2015, the Theological Commission of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted to recognize Fr. Stanley Rother as a martyr. Pope Francis recognized his martyrdom in early December 2016, after meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Fr. Rother will be beatified Sept. 23 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. The Mass will be said by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and concelebrated by Archbishop Coakley.
An original version of this article was published on CNA Feb. 18, 2016.
Why Nathaniel Hawthorne's daughter is now called a Servant of God
By: Stephanie Mann / NCRegister.com
Hawthorne, New York, Jul 11, 2017 / 01:34 pm (National Catholic Register) - Nathaniel Hawthorne added the “w” to his last name because one of his ancestors was John Hathorne, a Salem witch trial judge, and he wanted to distance himself from that legacy. Raised in a Calvinist milieu, Hawthorne was not a regular churchgoer, but as anyone who read The Scarlet Letter in high school knows, he was conversant with religious themes of sin, judgement, forgiveness, and mercy.
A supporter of Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States, he was rewarded with a diplomatic post – the consulship in Liverpool, England. The Democratic Party did not nominate Pierce to run for a second term, however, and the Hawthorne family toured Portugal, France and Italy in late 1850’s after leaving that post.
Hawthorne’s wife, Sophia Peabody, had been raised a Unitarian and both Nathaniel and Sophia were influenced by the Transcendental Movement, being friends with Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. They had three children, Una, Julian, and Rose.
Nothing in the family background could have prepared them for the conversion of their youngest child to the Catholic Church – except perhaps those years in Europe where they encountered “the Roman Church” in art and architecture, music, culture and prayer.
Marriage, Conversion, and Separation
Rose Hawthorne’s conversion to Catholicism in 1891 shocked the family. Her father had died in 1864 and her mother moved the family to Dresden, Germany, where Rose met George Parsons Lathrop. Because of Franco-Prussian War, Sophia moved again, back to England. There she died in 1871; Rose and George were married later that year in an Anglican Church over the objections of her brother and sister; they thought it was too soon after their mother’s death and that Rose was too young and vulnerable to marry.
They had a troubled marriage; he abused alcohol and their only child Francis died of diphtheria in 1881. George edited The Atlantic Monthly and Rose wrote poetry. They lived in New London, Connecticut and took instruction from a Paulist, Father Alfred Young, and were received into the Church. Like many new converts, they were filled with zeal and worked for the Church together on several projects, including the Catholic Summer School Movement and a history of the Visitation Convent in Georgetown.
In 1895, Rose and George took the extraordinary step of asking the Catholic Church for a permanent separation – not an annulment of their marriage – because of George’s instability and alcoholism which endangered Rose. Neither would be free to marry until the other died, so they demonstrated their belief in the indissolubility of marriage and in the Sacrament of Matrimony even as they separated. George died of cirrhosis of the liver three years later.
A New Cause; A New Vocation
Rose had witnessed the decline and death of the poet, Emma Lazarus, who wrote the poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, “The New Colossus.” Rose noted that although there had been no cure for Emma’s cancer, she had been comfortable and cared for during her illness. Rose began to think of those who suffered from the same disease without the same palliative care and studied nursing the New York Cancer Hospital. She went out to the poor in their tenements and opened Sister Rose's Free Home on the lower East Side with the assistance of Alice Huber.
At the same time that she was engaged in such practical nursing and care for the poor. Rose attended daily Mass, went to Confession frequently, prayed, wrote (publishing a collection of family letters as Memories of Hawthorne), and worked to raise funds. At the urging of Father Clement Thuente, O.P., Rose and Alice became Third Order Dominicans.
On December 8, 1900, with the approval of the Archbishop of New York, Michael A. Corrigan, Rose founded a new religious order, the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer, and became its first Mother Superior with the name Mother Mary Alphonsa. She died on July 9, 1926 when she was 75 years old. Her parents had been married on July 9 in 1842.
Servant of God
The late Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York, approved the opening of her cause for canonization in 2003. She is now called a Servant of God.
Her story, with its hints of literary romance and reality of separation and sorrow, demonstrates how strong the call to holiness can be. Out of her disappointment and grief from her failed marriage, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop as Mother Mary Alphonsa found a new vocation and a way to serve the poor and destitute in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, as her order is known today, offers this prayer for her canonization on their website:
Lord God, in your special love for the sick, the poor and the lonely, you raised up Rose Hawthorne (Mother Mary Alphonsa) to be the servant of those afflicted with incurable cancer with no one to care for them. In serving the outcast and the abandoned, she strove to see in them the face of your Son. In her eyes, those in need were always “Christ’s Poor.”
Grant that her example of selfless charity and her courage in the face of great obstacles will inspire us to be generous in our service of neighbor. We humbly ask that you glorify your servant, Rose Hawthorne, on earth according to the designs of your holy will. Through her intercession, grant the favor that I now present (here make your request).
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Funding for abortion to become more compulsory in Oregon
Salem, Ore., Jul 12, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News) - The Oregon governor is expected to sign into law a proposal requiring Oregon insurers to cover abortion on demand and increasing taxpayer funding for abortion, drawing strong criticism from Catholic leaders.
“By insisting on complete insurance coverage of abortion, including late-term and sex-selective abortions, the legislature shows itself intolerant of widely-held opposing views and will compel thousands of Oregonians to support what their conscience rejects,” the Oregon Catholic Conference said.
“House Bill 3391 forces insurance companies to cover abortion on demand and it forces all Oregon taxpayers to help finance an extremist abortion agenda that does not enjoy majority support.”
The Oregon House of Representatives passed the bill July 5 by a 33-23 vote. The Senate passed the bill 17-13.
The initial version of the bill’s religious exemptions were so narrow that the Catholic-run Providence Health System threatened to exit the state’s insurance market. The bill’s backers increased exemptions to the bill, but some objecting lawmakers said the provisions did not go far enough, the Catholic Sentinel reports. The exemptions apply to churches and other religious nonprofits.
Under the bill, the Oregon Health Authority must now provide abortion coverage where religious organizations will not.
The bill aims to counter expected changes in federal health care policy. It increases state spending by $10.2 million, most of the funding aiming to provide free coverage of exams, drugs, devices, and procedures. Abortion is considered a procedure under the law.
Under the Oregon Medicaid program, over $2 million is spent each year to pay for about 3,500 abortions, the Associated Press reports. The proposed bill sets aside about $500,000 over the next two years to expand free reproductive health coverage, including abortion, to immigrants.
The Oregon Catholic Conference voiced hope that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will not sign the law.
The conference encouraged citizens opposed to H.B. 3391 to support the proposed 2018 ballot initiative called the Stop Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The proposal would bar state funds for any abortion that is not medically necessary or when spending is required by federal law.
The petition needs 117,000 signatures from registered Oregonian voters in order to qualify for the ballot.
Senate health care bill ‘unacceptable,’ bishop says after budget office report
By Matt Hadro
Washington D.C., Jun 28, 2017 / 06:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Senate’s health care bill remains “unacceptable,” one U.S. bishop insisted after a non-partisan government office estimated it would result in millions more uninsured.
“This moment cannot pass without comment,” said Bishop Frank Dewane, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, in response to the scoring of the draft Senate health care bill by the Congressional Budget Office on Monday.
“As the USCCB has consistently said, the loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply unacceptable,” he said of the office’s estimate that the number of uninsured could increase by 22 million by 2026. “These are real families who need and deserve health care.”
The Congressional Budget Office released its scoring of the Senate health care bill on Monday, H.R. 1628, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.
The bill eliminates the individual and employer mandates of the Affordable Care Act, replacing the individual mandate with a six-month waiting period for new insurance in non-group plans if one goes without insurance for more than 63 days.
Also, the bill makes it easier for states to waive essential health benefits, or the list of benefits like emergency services and maternity care that was mandatory in health plans under the Affordable Care Act. The elderly can be charged up to five times more than younger persons in their premiums by insurers, as opposed to the limit being three times more than younger people.
The bill could reduce the federal deficit by over $320 billion over 10 years, according to the CBO, largely because of cuts to the rate of increased spending on Medicaid over that time (almost $800 billion in cuts) and cuts in the amount of federal subsidies for health plans.
The Medicaid cuts would take place through “per capita” caps on federal Medicaid funding of states. Thus, the funding in the future would be dependent upon the populations of the states.
An estimated 22 million more people would also be uninsured by 2026, increasing the projected number of uninsured from 28 million to 49 million.
Some of those uninsured would be persons who voluntarily forego having health insurance because of the removal of the individual mandate, which levies heavy fines on those without health insurance.
Instead, the new bill would fine persons with a gap in coverage once they sign up for insurance again, at a rate of 30 percent of their new premium.
In the short-term, this would be the “primary” reason behind the increase in the number of uninsured, the CBO said. However, after several years, other policies could increase the number of uninsured, like the cuts to Medicaid spending and federal subsidies.
For instance, for persons under the age of 65 by the year 2026, Medicaid enrollment would be down 16 percent, the office estimated.
The White House panned the CBO estimates in a statement released on Monday evening.
“The CBO has consistently proven it cannot accurately predict how healthcare legislation will impact insurance coverage,” the White House stated. “In 2013, the CBO estimated that 24 million people would have coverage under Obamacare by 2016. It was off by an astounding 13 million people – more than half – as less than 11 million were actually covered.”
“To date, we have seen average individual market premiums more than double and insurers across the country opting out of healthcare exchanges,” the White House continued, urging action to be taken to reform health care.
Bishop Dewane, meanwhile, promised to pray for the Senate “to keep the good aspects of current health care proposals, to add missing elements where needed, and to not place our sisters and brothers who struggle every day into so great a peril on so basic a right.”
Last week, the bishop had outlined his serious concerns with the draft legislation. The bill, he said, in some ways made the problems with the House health care bill on health coverage for low-income persons worse.
“It is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written,” he said on Thursday. The cuts to Medicaid funding in particular would “wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported,” he insisted.
Bishop Dewane also noted the lack of language protecting “conscience rights” of those in the health care industry from mandates that they perform morally objectionable procedures like abortions or gender-transition surgeries.
He did praise the language protecting tax credits from being used to pay for abortions, but showed caution in warning that the language could very well be removed by the chamber’s parliamentarian because it could be ruled as not pertaining to the budget.
Other parts of the health care bill that the CBO scored included changes to premiums for persons in non-group plans.
The average premiums for these plans would increase in the short-term, the CBO estimated, but by 2020 would drop to 30 percent lower than the premium estimates under the current health care law.
However, some could still see their health care costs rise because their benefits might be cut and their out-of-pocket health costs could be higher, especially those living in states which choose to waive the essential health benefits.
The marketplaces for non-group health insurance would still be stable in the coming years, the CBO estimated, but in certain areas for “a small fraction of the population,” insurers might not participate in non-group coverage.
This would be because fewer people would sign up for health plans due to fewer available subsidies, or even if the insurers participate in marketplaces, the plans themselves might be more expensive.
When asked on Monday if the White House would take CBO scores into account to the extent that they would go “back to the drawing board” on the bill if necessary, press secretary Sean Spicer answered that the White House would continue its current plan on health care reform.
“We feel very confident with where the bill is,” he stated. “And he [President Donald Trump] is going to continue to listen to senators who have ideas about how to strengthen it. But it’s going to follow the same plan as we have.”
Combat the world's elitism with inclusion, Pope encourages youth
Vatican City, Jun 9, 2017 / 04:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis participated in a Google Hangout on Friday with youth from around the world, emphasizing that “everyone has meaning,” even though the world will try to exclude certain people.
Combatting a world which promotes elitism and exclusion, the Pope said June 9, “you have a meaning, everyone … has meaning, you have a meaning, it is in your hands to discover the meaning I have in life, what I am like, with the potentiality that you can … and how to give this meaning to others.”
The hangout, Pope Francis’ third time for the meeting, was organized for the inauguration of a new Vatican office of the Scholas Occurentes, a world-wide initiative in schools to encourage social integration and the culture of encounter through technology, arts, and sports.
Society “is accustomed to exclude, to select, to attack, to shut out people,” he lamented.
However, he said Scholas isn’t like the world, but instead it will “include, shake hands, give a hug, [refrain from] attack, and recognize that no one is a ‘no’… everyone is a ‘yes,’ a ‘yes’ for them and a ‘yes’ for others. To include, a ‘yes’ to give.”
The video chat included youth from the countries of Italy, Colombia, Haiti, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates. Each group took turns giving a short presentation on the impact of their local “Scholas Ciaudadania” group.
The Pope listened intently to each one before making his comments in Spanish.
“This work that you're doing, of encountering one another, dialoguing … is an example for us grownups,” he said.
Scholas was started by Pope Francis when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. In 2013 it was approved as an ecclesiastical institute by the Holy See.
With just a few youth involved at its beginning, the foundation now consists of a worldwide network of over 400,000 state and religious schools, which are organized by Argentine school headmasters Enrique Palmeyro and José María del Corral.
Nigerian priest shares harrowing story of being kidnapped
.- It was supposed to be a quiet retreat weekend last April for Fr. Sam Okwuidegbe, a Nigerian Jesuit priest and director of a local spirituality center.
Before he left, he chatted with his new provincial, Fr. Chuks Afiawari, who joked with Fr. Sam: “Make sure where you are going they don't kidnap you."
“We laughed about it,” Fr. Sam recalled.
Little did the priests know that the joke would be an unfortunate foreshadowing of what was to come. In a testimony posted on the website of the Jesuit Superiors of Africa and Madagascar, Fr. Sam recalled how his faith carried him through a traumatic and harrowing experience of kidnapping.
On his way to the retreat, which was to be in Onitsha, in the state of Anambra, Fr. Sam took a familiar, seemingly safe highway on which he had traveled many times.
That’s why he was so surprised when he heard gunshots.
“On glancing back I saw all the vehicles behind me stopping, and trying to reverse … that's when it hit me that there was something dangerous ahead of me,” he recalled.
“On looking up I saw masked men with AK47 rifles shooting. I was so scared. I also stopped my car abruptly and began to reverse, but as I was trying to do that, a man suddenly appeared … and said, ‘If you don't get out of the car I'll shoot you.’”
The priest could see behind him that the men had also stopped another car, a black Mercedes, and were forcing two men out of the car. In a hurry, Fr. Sam left his phone in the car.
He quickly identified the armed kidnappers as Fulani herdsmen, a notoriously violent group whose clashes with farmers have killed thousands of people in Nigeria over the past two decades. According to the Global Terrorism Index, they were the fourth most violent militant group in the world in 2014.
Violence against Christians has also significantly increased in the country in recent years, particularly in Muslim-majority areas. In 2016, one Nigerian bishop lamented that Christians had essentially become “target practice.”
The Fulani kidnappers led Fr. Sam and the other two men into the forest at gunpoint for eight hours, barely stopping for breaks. They eventually let one of the two other men go, because he could not keep up with the pace, but they first cut his feet so that he could not escape quickly, Fr. Sam recalled.
“The pace in the forest was jogging, jumping over tree trumps, going over leaves, which often cut through our skin. So it was quite brutal!” Fr. Sam said.
“I was so shaken, and began to ask myself, is this happening to me? What am I doing in this forest? What am I doing here? I felt extremely cold and in my confusion … I'd mutter to myself, this can't be happening, God. This can't be happening,” he said.
The captors started questioning Fr. Sam and the other man, and were suspicious when Fr. Sam identified himself as a priest; they thought he might be a government spy. They stripped him of all his belongings – his watch, wallet, and rosary.
When they questioned Fr. Sam about his phone, the captors were enraged that he had left it in his car – which was fortunate, the priest said, because he had saved financial information from his work on it.
The militants asked him if he could remember anyone’s number – someone to call who could negotiate for Fr. Sam’s life and pay off the herdsmen. Traumatized by his experience, Fr. Sam couldn’t remember one phone number.
“That triggered a series of beatings...they huddled me up, hands and feet tied to the back with a rope like a goat before a kill. They removed my cassock, then my shirt, threw me into the dirt on the ground, and began to beat me with the back of their guns, they'd kick me hard on my sides, slap across my face, push and pull me hard across the ground...one of them said ‘We are going to burn you alive!’” the priest recalled.
“I really believed that they were going to do it...I began to pray in silence...I said, ‘God, I commit to you, I commit my spirit' and I resigned to the thought of my fate, that I was going to die that day.’”
Finally, the beating stopped. Fr. Sam said he remembers praying constantly through the whole experience.
“I hoped for a miracle...every minute I'd pray saying all kinds of prayers, I'd pray to Saint Ignatius, say the rosary and the Divine Mercy (chaplet)...at one time I found myself singing heartily but in the inside, a Ghanaian song that says 'God speak to me...God where are you?’ I kept humming in my heart...it gave me hope,” he said.
Eventually Fr. Sam was able to get the phone number of another Jesuit priest through the contact of the other man in captivity. This priest, Jesuit provincial Fr. Jude Odiaka, began negotiations with the herdsmen.
And while at times he prayed for death, Fr. Sam said he felt better once he had made contact with the Jesuits.
“I knew that word must have gotten around about the kidnapping, and that the sisters at the retreat centre and people who knew me all over, must have been praying for me.”
The other man who had been captured with Fr. Sam also was a great comfort, he recalled.
“...the guy I was kidnapped with...he was a grace for me, a gift from God. I hope I was too for him because we exchanged words of encouragement silently, as we were not allowed to talk to each (other).”
Finally, the captors seemed to have gotten what they wanted, and started talking of letting the men go.
“I intensified my prayers and I prayed to God ‘Please God, make this end well,’” Fr. Sam said.
“I recalled a saying that ‘God will not bring you this far, then abandon you’, so this brought some assurance to my heart,”
When the militants decided to release the men, they were left to wander alone together through the forest, trying to find the pathway out. Eventually, they were able to make it to safety and back home.
While the experience was “painful and traumatizing,” Fr. Sam said one of the best consolations upon his return was hearing from many people, near and far, that they had been praying for him.
“In all these things God revealed to me that I was never abandoned while in the forest, even if I was out of reach and in danger, that God heard the prayers and was with me,” he said.
“It has renewed my faith in God, my faith in people...the human person, God's gift of friendship and that if what I do matters, then also those people I do it with are also very important.”
Fr. Sam said he also plans to use his experience to help other people in his work as a counselor.
“This has also given me an understanding to accompany those who come to me for help seeking solace, encouragement, strength, hope, renewal...you know...maybe that's why it happened,” he said.
“I'm going to use it in my work as a counselor, psychologist and help those who come to me for help, because what support can be given to people that have been kidnapped? What help can we give such people? I think I have become part of that help with what I have received, and experienced.”