Letters • March 9, 2020


Envisioning excellent education for youth

Our future lies in our faith, educating our children, nurturing their full potential and helping them grow into capable productive adults, responsible citizens and good human beings.

We must transform our education sector to “education for all.” An education that cuts across geography, gender and socio-economic groups and race will help break societal inequalities and create lifelong opportunities for millions of youth.

The United Nations Population Fund states that the U.S. youth bulge will continue to 2030. Heartening news, but how many youths will be able to grab current and emerging opportunities and make the transition from mere knowledge holders to innovators and entrepreneurs to leaders on a global scale? Few, unless we transform education by:

  • overhauling curriculum to focus on skills, mindsets and habits, basic literacy, numeracy skills using technology
  • aiming for 21st century skills of critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration and communication
  • empowering teachers to teach like the best teachers in the world
  • ensuring each child, not a few toppers, is learning
  • using internships for greater insight by students
  • using technology and data to enable personalization in schools, for teacher development and student progress

To achieve these goals, run an integrated system that upgrades curriculum, upgrades pedagogy, empowers teachers, upgrades learning infrastructure and connect all. Integration brings high results in student learning, teacher performance and school operations. It brings change in habits and behaviors of principals, teachers and parents – critical aspects in change management processes. Integrated systems use technology in empowering teachers, enabling school leaders and lead to sustained transformation. – Lois L. Williams, Virginia Beach

Norfolk Birthright is open!

I want to share some good news with my fellow Catholics in Virginia who are concerned about whether enough is being done to help pregnant women who are facing pressure to abort: Birthright of Norfolk stands ready to help women who are in crisis so that they may choose life.

Founded by Louise Summerhill, a Catholic mother of seven, Birthright provides free, practical, confidential and loving support to women, guided by Catholic Social Teaching and available to all.

If you have been told recently that Birthright of Norfolk is closing its doors, let me assure you — nothing could be further from the truth! If you are seeking a way to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world, volunteering with Birthright is an excellent way to continue your mission. – Jennifer Miele, Norfolk

‘Don’t give up on the Church’

In response to “Where is the friendliness?” (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 10): I was saddened and dismayed to read Gary Brown’s comments about his experiences visiting a Catholic church.

When we travel in the U.S. and abroad, we try to arrive early enough at Catholic churches to introduce ourselves and speak with some of the parishioners seated nearby. Our experiences have mostly been very positive.

Mr. Brown’s letter is a good reminder to strive to see the image of Christ in others. Matthew 25:35 says, “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me…”

Our parish is known for its diversity and welcoming attitude, which is evident when we greet people arriving, at the end of Mass when our priest welcomes visitors, and after Mass when we greet visitors. Our welcome also extends to more than a hundred folks each week who come to share a Sunday supper and take home a bag of fresh and canned goods.

We come together as a faith community to worship and to be nourished by the Eucharist, but we also come together in various ministries where we find ourselves being welcomed into new “circles” of friends while serving others.

Mr. Brown might consider visiting some other parishes to see if he feels more comfortable elsewhere. There is so much more to the Catholic Church than an hour at Mass once a week.

Mr. Brown, I urge you not to give up on the entire Catholic Church based on your experience at one church. Continue to “…seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7). – Jenny W. Crawford, Yorktown

Lack of friendliness not just a Catholic concern

The letter “Where’s the friendliness?” (Catholic Virginian, Feb. 10) about hospitality in Catholic parishes reminded me of similar experiences I have had. Like Gary Brown, I have asked that same question. I am pretty sure this is not just a Catholic concern.

Raised Baptist, I have belonged to a Lutheran church and am now Presbyterian. I have also attended Catholic Church on occasion. I have experienced church as friendly and welcoming but also as aloof and cold. I prefer the former but have long ceased being surprised when I encounter the latter.

Ushers who don’t look you in the eye; not being greeted; even having a hymnal snatched from the pew in front of me (that was in a Protestant church) — I’ve gotten that and more.

To be fair, I could probably improve how I greet/treat other people in church and out, but regardless, no matter how I am treated, I always have the freedom to choose how I respond.

One cultural norm I have witnessed in central Virginia is the closeness of family ties in rural churches, best illustrated in the phrase, “If you’re kin, you’re in.”

Given the size of most Catholic parishes, I wouldn’t think this would be a part of their dynamic, but are there not other risks here, too, such as people being taken for granted or, worse, treated with anonymity?

How visitors perceive churches is important to how well we are witnessing God’s love. People need community, and for many, they haven’t found it at church. It may just be that the local gym, sports bar or dog park will do as well. – Steven Moore, Milford

Know difference between charity and social justice

As a Catholic, I continue to be reminded of the difference between charity and social justice. The work of charity is helping those less fortunate. This is certainly Jesus’ call, and it feels good!

The work of social justice is the work of righting injustices in our community even if we did not commit the injustices.

One area of injustice is toward the African American community whereby purposeful structural racist policies such as redlining have left many in poverty with the message “you and your children don’t count.”

Evidence includes deteriorating schools in low income areas with fewer resources than affluent areas, food deserts with a lack of good grocery store and an inability to obtain a mortgage resulting in cyclical poverty which has left many unable to develop intergenerational wealth.

Evidence also lies in the criminal justice system: In 2017, African Americans represented 12% of the U.S. adult population but 33% of the sentenced prison population. Whites accounted for 64% of adults but 30% of prisoners. African American children are often labeled as troublemakers and become victims of the “school to prison pipeline.”

These challenges have led to mental health issues, lack of hope and deep distrust. I challenge each Catholic to be anti-racist and not just have an awareness of racism. Join your parish’s social justice committee. Contact your legislators, help community gardens in the inner city, join the reading program in an inner-city school, support inclusive and truthful African American history being taught in all of our schools.

This is our faith! You won’t regret it. – Margaret Rittenhouse, North Chesterfield

How Trump is defined

When scrutinizing President Trump, it’s good to recall some champions of Israel whom God anointed.

Israel’s greatest king was David. God said, “I’ve found David, son of Jesse, a Man after my own heart.” David unified the Israelis and conquered her enemies. But David became proud, cocky. He committed adultery and murder, which brought Israel close to ruin.

Yet David still loved God, was repenting of his sins, and God forgave him. It was David’s love of God and following his will which defined him. Not his sins.

Samson was a great Hebrew champion, single handedly besting thousands of Philistines. Yet Samson also had promiscuous relationships with pagan women that brought him tragedy. He was blinded and put in chains.

However, in the end, Samson remembered God and begged his forgiveness, which God granted, and afterward, Samson gained his greatest victory. It was Samson’s love of God and his heroic defense of Israel which defined him. Not his sins.

In Trump, we’re witnessing a seeming evolution of spirit. From crass playboy billionaire to presidential champion for religious liberty and an ardent promoter of pro-life. Trump’s taken extraordinary political risk bucking abortion and being openly for Christianity, as well as a stalwart defender of Israel.

Yet Trump’s actions are wholesome signs of an interior orientation towards God — “despite” Trump’s previous vulgar lifestyle. Today, it’s his support of the Church, the unborn, Israel and American rights which define Trump. Not his sins. – Fran Rodgers, Virginia Beach

Review Catholic Social Teaching, catechism

Several recent comments highlighted readers’ political biases and unfamiliarity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and Catholic Social Teaching.

One commented, “What about the ‘seamless garment?'”

The “seamless garment” was used by the late Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin to address Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person and having a consistent attitude toward life at all stages.

In March 1984, Cardinal Bernardin said, “A consistent life ethic does not equate the problem of taking life, e.g., through abortion and in war, with the problem of promoting human dignity (through humane programs of nutrition, health care and housing).”

Archbishop Gerhard Muller noted, “Unfortunately, however, it is also true that the image of the ‘seamless garment’ has been used by some theologians and Catholic politicians in an intellectually dishonest manner to allow or at least justify turning a blind eye to instances of abortion, contraception or public funding for embryonic stem cell research, as long as these were simultaneously accompanied by opposition to the death penalty or promotion of economic development for the poor.”

President Trump was attacked although he hasn’t been accused of immoral activity since becoming president. Perhaps he is undergoing conversion. Under his tenure, poverty and unemployment have been reduced, the middle class has grown and our country is experiencing increased productivity. Besides being a strong voice for life, he has also been a strong advocate on the international stage supporting religious freedom.

A review of the CCC and Catholic Social Teaching is warranted for all of us before deciding who to vote for in the next election. – Tom Klocek, Chesapeake

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