Sunday, March 4, 2018

(205) A Catholic Alternative to Obamacare and Commercial Health Insurance Plans.........Accepted by the Affordable Health Care Act and the IRS



       Faithful Catholics have opposed Obamacare because it forces them to have coverage that includes sterilization, contraceptives, and abortifacients……… all of which are opposed to Church teaching under the so called “HHS Mandate”.  The Little Sisters of the Poor, EWTN, Thomas Aquinas College, and other Catholic institutions as well as some Protestant ones took on President Obama and the Supreme Court.  Under the Trump administration, Obamacare has not been repealed, but conscience rights are now being regard to Catholic institutions.  The Little Sisters and the other institutions actually won their case in the Supreme Court.

       There is an alternative to Obamacare at a much lower cost that is very Christian in concept and exempt from the individual mandate of the Affordable Health Care (AHC) Act and thus not subject to penalties for non-compliance.  CMF CURO is a Catholic Living Health Care Ministry or apostolate with more than 1100 families, organized by the Catholic Christ Medicus Foundation (CMF).  It is endorsed by Cardinal Raymond Burke, former Archbishop of St. Louis, and other Church leaders.  EWTN interviewed their leaders on one of its programs and the Catholic Register published an article on it (
CMF CURO partners with the ecumenical Samaritan Ministries International (SMI), which is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charity (see, to obtain a larger and stronger financial base…...founded in 1991 and now with 59,000 households or 190,000 members from all 50 states and several foreign countries..  There are some 300,000 members in different health care sharing ministries that share $200 million in health care costs each year (see the Alliance for Health Care Sharing Ministries at  Health care sharing is not health insurance as such, but really medical expense sharing.  The IRS does not impose penalties on SMI members for not having medical insurance according to the Affordable Health Care Act.

  The Christ Medicus Foundation (CMF) (see was founded in 1997.  Its mission is to promote Christ-centered health care that is faithful to Catholic teaching, the Gospel of Life, the Theology of the Body, Humanae Vitae, and the ethical and religious principles of Catholic health care, through active engagement in education, public policy, and the marketplace.  It advances Christ centered health care in following in the footsteps of the great healer.

CMF CURO, was established by CMF in 2014 as a Catholic living health care ministry. It is a Christ centered alternative to secular medical insurance for committed Christians that is fully consistent with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, the ideals of the Christian community, and the Gospel of Life.  CMF CURO employs the SMI health care sharing ministry as the basis for its program and, as a Catholic member-representative to SMI, adds additional services for its own members.  The members share each other’s medical  needs grounded in Christian charity and solidarity.  It’s a great example of subsidiarity espoused by papal teaching……solving problems at the grass roots instead of depending upon socialistic Big Government.   CMF CURO members are directly and actively responsible for the stewardship of their own health and health care.
       Each family, in addition to their monthly SMI share, pays $84 per month for the benefits of CMF CURO  membership and to cover the corresponding administrative costs;  this is automatically charged to the credit card of the head of the household or single person.  Then, each family (three or more) typically shares $579, two share $524, a widowed or divorced parent with children $389, and a single $304.  This share is sent directly to another family whose member is undergoing a major medical expense along with a note of encouragement and assurance of prayers.  Ultimately the members share in the excitement of seeing how God answers prayers.  Preventative care as medical exams are not covered; nor are routine illnesses or injuries, dental, vision, etc. with some exceptions.  A member is responsible for the first $300 of any medical expense, comparable to a deductible.  There are no legally binding contracts as such; it is all built on trust in God and in each other.
To request a share for a medical need, SMI examines the documentation and bills and confirms that the medical services received are consistent with Christian beliefs and comply with the SMI guidelines. Although one is not excluded for pre-existing conditions, there are a number of limitations and exclusions.  In that case, a member may still ask for prayer in the newsletter and other members besides family, friends, and local church may offer help.  Once approved, SMI assigns sharing members to send their monthly shares to the member in need. Each month all members receive a newsletter in the mail that instructs them as to whom they should send their monthly share along with prayers. The sharing member mails a check for his/her monthly share amount directly to the person in need, along with a letter or card of encouragement and assurance of prayers.
       The member in need chooses his/her doctor, treatments, and other medical services as a direct-pay patient and presents his/her CMF CURO card, which has a code that allows the medical service provider to send the medical services received to a Service Pricing Administrator (SPA) for pricing.  Once the SPA approves and assigns a price for the services, the bill is sent to SMI and to the member in need for review.  Once the member in need and SMI approve the bill, SMI assigns healthy members to share with the one in need through the  newsletter.  The checks are then forwarded to a bank to be deposited on the member’s CMF CURO card.  This verifies that the assigned members are indeed sharing as required.  The member in need can then use his/her CMF CURO card to seamlessly pay for eligible medical expenses up to $250,000 generally and even higher if in the “Save to Share” program.

The member in need receives a list from SMI detailing all sharing members who have been assigned to send a check. As the member in need receives the checks in the mail, he or she verifies that assigned sharing members have submitted their share and reports to SMI those who have not sent their shares. The member in need then pays for the medical services they’ve received, using the share money sent to them.  A member cannot receive benefits if not current on payments, but extenuating circumstances are considered.  Overall, the payment is voluntary and the patient is still ultimately responsible for the bill.  There is a certain leap of faith.

       Stated more simply, a member who has a medical need requests a Need Processing Form from the SMI office, then completes and returns it along with the bills for the need.  At SMI, a Member Services specialist will verify the information and prepare the need for publication in the newsletter.  When the need is published, a checklist of the members who have been assigned to share in the need is sent to the receiving household so that the SMI staff can keep track of the sharing.  If a provider seems unwilling to offer competitive rates or discounts for their services to cash-pay patients, Samaritan can assist members with patient advocacy in negotiating lower rates to decrease the burden on the members.  Each year an independent, outside auditing firm verifies the integrity of ministry finances and how it is spent.  

Maternity is covered; abortion, abortifacients, contraceptives, sterilization, STDs, etc. are not.
Only faithful practicing Catholics are eligible for CMF CURO as certified by their pastor.  The primary indicator is faithful attendance at Mass every Sunday, not only when it is convenient.  Members must agree to abstain from sinful practices such as drug abuse and sexual immorality.  Thus sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), abortion, sterilization, etc. are not covered.  Heavy drinkers and smokers are excluded from membership.  In other words, members agree to live a Biblical lifestyle and conditions resulting from violating this promise are not covered.  Following Church teaching decreases health risks and medical costs because families of faithful practicing Catholics tend to have healthier lifestyles. Thus the monthly financial obligation is much less than with a conventional health insurance premium.  Furthermore, direct sharing decreases administrative costs.  The members enrolled in CMF CURO are strongly encouraged to live healthy lifestyles that include regular exercise and proper nutrition.  An on-line health assessment is provided along with articles in their newsletters to improve and maintain health.
Some Feedback From Current Members.  “It is a privilege to send our shares each month to those who like me have a need and thank the Lord for His provision to do so.”  “There are no strangers in God’s family.”  “‘Bearing one another’s burdens’ brings much greater joy than paying overinflated premiums for insurance. We are so grateful.”  “Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and wisdom; each member of the Body is necessary. We need one another. All must have a deep concern for each other.”  “1 Corinthians 12:25-26 says: ‘That there may be no division in the Body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.’”  “People loving people whether across the street or across the nation.”  That’s what Christianity is all about!  To love and care about and for each other as Christ taught us to do.
Christian Community at Its Best.  The beauty of all this is that the members of CMF CURO and thus SMI directly share their health care costs with Christians nationwide in a manner that fosters Christian charity, builds our Catholic community, and fosters faith in God though assisting one another with medical expenses through voluntary giving, helping others with the needs they have right now (Acts 20:35), and ministering to each other while maintaining personal responsibility.  Christians “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians   6:2).  That is, Christians bear one another’s health care needs spiritually, emotionally, and financially.  At the same time, much of the exorbitant premiums, bureaucratic rules and overhead, huge executive salaries and bonuses, marketing expenses, stockholder dividends, etc. of a traditional for profit health insurance company is avoided.  There’s no binding legal contract; it’s Christians giving their word.  It’s all built on trust, trusting other Christians and more than anything else……trusting in God…….faith. 

For more detail and how to join can be obtained from the website  For personal testimonies, watch a personal CMF CURO testimony at, go to, or speak to Paul and Jaga.  Matt & Mary Ann Bokovitz are also members.  Mike Haas is a member of SMI alone.

         The Christ Medicus Foundation founded CMF-CURO as a Catholic alternative to Obamacare that is accepted under the Affordable Health Act with no penalty that is supposed to be paid as part of your federal income tax return.  The Christ Medicus Foundation partners with the ecumenical Samaritan Ministries International and works closely with them.  They both agree upon the following principles. 

Foundational Principles of Samaritan Ministries’ Health Care Sharing
SMI emphasizes certain Biblical principles that we believe are basic to the life of every believer and thus are foundational to the effective function of our health care sharing ministry. 

Jesus Christ is the only adequate Provider for every need we have.
He is the One Who created everything, and He is the only One Who has enough resources to meet every need. No human organization is large enough to do this— no company and no government. He gives some of His provision through human channels, but He is ultimately the only One we can trust.

A medical need (or any other need) involves more than money.
The physical world is not all there is. Human beings are more than a collection of cells. We are made in the image of God and have needs that go beyond our physi­cal bodies. When we have a medical need, there is more involved than money or mere physical healing. Samaritan members pray for one another for all aspects of members’ needs, and we hear daily from members with needs telling how God has answered these prayers.

Believers in Jesus Christ are responsible to first use the resources He has given us to meet the needs of ourselves and our families.
When a need occurs that exceeds what He has provided, other members of the Body of Christ should show His love by using the resources God has given them to help in the same way they would want to be helped.

The local church should be the next “line of defense” to provide for the needs of its own members.
SMI is intended to support and supplement this work of the local body, not replace it. We seek to avoid undermining what should be done locally. We also depend on the leaders of the local church to provide accountability for the SMI members under their care.

God created man as His image bearer and the crown of His creation.
Right worship of God requires respecting His image in all people for all of life, including health care. The Fifth Commandment, “You shall not murder,” requires the preservation of human life, and the subduing of all passions and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices which tend to the unjust taking of life. We must live according to Biblical ethics in all aspects of health care.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

(204) Mike Aquilina, Expert on the Early Church, Featured Speaker at Steubenville Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal

Mike Aquilina

For the ninth consecutive year, the Diocese of Steubenville is sponsoring the Men's Day of Renewal on Saturday, March 3 from 9 am to 3:30 pm at St. Stephen’s Church in Caldwell off of I-77 Exit 25.  The patron of the Conference is St. Joseph, a model of a true man of God, to whose intercession we count upon for its success.

Prior to the official start of the conference there will be an optional half hour of private prayer at 8:30 am.

The goal of the Men's Day of Renewal is to focus on the spiritual development of the men of our diocese. That includes being ready to face the four last things…….Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell.  Having spiritually strong men of faith and character translates into more solid families, more dynamic parishes, and better communities. This is crucial to the Church and particularly our diocese, now and in the future. It is also critical for nurturing vocations.   

       To complement the Mass presided by Bishop Monforton and Penance Service the featured speaker is Mike Aquilina, an expert on the early Church, particularly the Early Church Fathers and martyrs.  He will show that the witness of the first Christians coincides very well with Church teaching today in a remarkable continuity over the centuries through 267 popes.   Aquilina is an author of over 50 books, particularly on the early Church and how the early Christians lived their faith.  The books have been translated into many languages and even Braille.  He is a nationally known speaker at many conferences, also appearing frequently on Relevant Radio and EWTN in which he has hosted ten television series and two documentaries.   He also has talents as a poet and song writer, even collaborating with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist Dion DiMucci.  Aquilina’s extensive journalism experience includes being a past editor of New Covenant magazine and the Pittsburgh Catholic (diocesan newspaper).   

His morning talk is titled “The Strength of Heaven”, which will show how the angels were effective witnesses and can teach us much to apply to our daily lives.  In the afternoon, he will show how the witness of the martyrs of the early Church can teach us to be witnesses today in secular America.  Mike Aquilina will challenge the men to follow the example of the early Church Fathers and martyrs and be effective witnesses in their homes, in their parishes, on the job, and in their communities.

Blessed Pope Paul VI put it very eloquently:  “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. St. Peter expressed this well when he held up the example of a reverent and chaste life that wins over even without a word those who refuse to obey the word. It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus- the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity. (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41)

Aquilina is the executive vice president and trustee of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, a Catholic research center, based in Steubenville.  Drawing from his diverse experience as a journalist, prolific author, conference speaker, and father of a family of six children, Mr. Aquilina can speak to the needs of the men.

       This background puts Mike Aquilina in a position to speak on the theme of this year’s Diocese of Steubenville Men’s Conference, “Being a Cloud of Witnesses”.   That is through the power of faith rise up to be the spiritual leaders of their families, to do their part in renewing their parishes, be servant leaders in the community, and to make a difference for Christ by applying the social teachings of the Church to their professions.

       The fact, that travel time may be long and distance may be far for many, gives the conference a pilgrimage flavor.  Lent, of course, is all about sacrifice and spiritual growth.  Since St. Stephen Church in Caldwell is in the geographic center of our far flung diocese, the Steering Committee is hopeful that the men of Steubenville in the north and the men of Ironton and Chesapeake in the south will be able to participate.   Regardless of distance, this mini-pilgrimage is a Lenten sacrifice of early rising and a long trip with great fellowship in a van or bus as the men pray together, discuss the talks and other events of the Conference, and deepen friendships.  A bag lunch is provided. 

It should be a great day of enjoyable fellowship and spiritual invigoration. In each of the last eight years men returned reinvigorated, enthusiastic, and spiritually refreshed.  Expect the same this year.  It is awesome to hear the men lift up their voices in song and be moved by the beauty and power of the faith.  But mostly, through God’s grace, we will have more good spiritually strong men for the kingdom of God as well as for the battle against secularism and other evils that plague our society. We will have more men who put Christ into their professions. We will have men who will become more knowledgeable in their faith and better prepared for a joyful Easter and an eternal closeness to God.  The Men's Day of Renewal has grown into an annual event in our diocese, thus fulfilling a great need.

Promotional Help Needed.  Many if not most men will hardly notice the bulletin announcements, posters, and brochures, although they are indeed important and helpful.  What they can’t miss is the one-on-one personal selling by their peers, i.e., talking it up.  The most effective form of advertising or promotion is word of mouth.  Most effective is the witness of men who have gone to a previous Conference, especially the parish representative that we are asking the pastor to appoint or accept as a volunteer. 

Thus one or two men are urgently needed in each parish to assure the success of this event. To ease the burden on our pastors, we are depending upon our men to offer their assistance as parish representatives to mobilize the men with good one on one personal selling, register them, and organize van pools.  Word-of-mouth advertising is essential to maximize the promotion of the Men’s Day of Renewal throughout each parish. We ask participants of past years to tell their friends about this awesome opportunity for spiritual renewal.  If there is no parish representative in your parish, please consider volunteering by informing your pastor and by e-mail “Don Coen - Chair Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal” <>. 
Equally important, women can be most valuable in encouraging their husbands, sons (including teens), fathers, brothers, boyfriends, etc., to attend. This is a very important part of the new evangelization.” 

Father and son can make this day an unforgettable shared experience in which they become closer to each other.  If the pastor accompanies the men, he would have an opportunity to know the men better and thus solidify the parish.  The Men’s Day of Renewal needs confessors.

 The local Knights of Columbus council can be most valuable since the spiritual formation of their men is part of their mission.  They are asked to mobilize their men to attend and organize a van pool.  Traveling together can build friendships, solidify the Council, and provide opportunities to tell about the Knights, thus making the Conference a recruiting tool.   

Each prospective parish representative is asked to make his availability and contact information known to the Chair of the Steering Committee, Don Coen at (740)264-0155, (740)632-1565, or  Men may register individually or the parish representative may collect the registration forms with payment and send them as a package to Roger Huck; %Men’s Day of Renewal, P.O. Box 54; Beverly, OH 45715.  This would save considerable time waiting at the door.  Checks for the Registration cost of $25.00 per person are to be made payable to the Diocese of Steubenville with “Men's Day of Renewal” written on the memo line of the check.  

Transportation Needs. A carpool, vanpool, or bus saves on fuel costs and gives an opportunity for fellowship while traveling to and from the event—especially for those traveling greater distances. Please invite other men and assist with the organization of transportation for those attending in your parish.

Donations Needed. It is very expensive to put on a conference of this magnitude and feature nationally known  top speakers. While the Steering Committee does its best to minimize the cost for each participant, we are seeking donations from businesses, parish organizations, the Knights of Columbus, and individuals. Please send donations to Roger Huck as shown above.  Furthermore, we do not charge men who are unable to pay so that no man is excluded.

Ads in the Program Brochure.  Details on placing the ad for a business or community organization, or Knights of Columbus Council are in the Conference Blog or call Roger Huck at 740-984-2234 or 740-336-9128.
More information is available from your pastor, from Don Coen above, or Paul Sebastian at (740) 245-9404 or The Men's Conference Blog at has a wealth of promotional materials for use at the parish level……. Blog #136 – Overview; and continued with 137) Ad Form; 138) Diocesan Press Release #1; 139) Possible Short Bulletin Announcements; 140) Promotion Ideas; 141) Functions & Crucial Importance of the Parish Rep; 142) Sign Up Sheet; 143) Sample Bulletin Insert; 144) Diocesan Press Release #2; 145) Backing of the Pastor; 146) Role of the Deacon; 147) Example of an After Mass Talk By a Layman; 148) Possible Pastor Announcements; 149) Diocesan Press Release #3; 125) Catholic Newspaper Press Release; 126) Secular Newspaper Press Release; 127) Appeal to the Diocesan Councils of the Knights of Columbus; 128) Invitation to Parishes in West Virginia; 129) Invitation to Veterans; 130) Invitation to College Students; 131) My Ad in the 2017 Program Booklet; 132) Highlights of the 2017 Men's Conference.  Numbers 125 to 132 are from last year, but will be updated soon.

There are also interesting articles on men’s spirituality, past conference highlights, etc.  After the Conference and throughout the year, articles will be added to help the men keep in good spiritual shape.  Clergy, Religious, and knowledgeable layman are invited to submit articles.

Please submit your registration as soon as possible. Registration will be accepted at the door; however, doing so in advance makes our planning more efficient and also helps to minimize waiting at the conference entrance. 


 Get you into good spiritual shape.
 Have a great day of enjoyable fellowship and spiritual invigoration with fellow parishioners and participants at the conference, resulting in deeper friendships and parish cohesion.
Develop ourselves as men of character and spiritual strength as we obtain the graces to cope with problems and conquer problematic issues that trouble our society
Be an effective spiritual leader to your family as a better husband and father
Prepare our hearts for the great feast of Easter as we become closer to God
Become more knowledgeable about our Catholic faith and grow in Christian maturity
Become a more effective soldier of Christ, and help strengthen His kingdom on earth

Visit for additional resources to help promote the Men's Day of Renewal.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

(203) Diversity As East Meets West at the 2018 March For Life in Washington


        Over the past several years we’ve had weather worthy of a walking sacrificial pilgrimage of the middle ages……..rain, sleet, cold --enough to freeze our feet and hands off--, so much snow on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to strand a miles long line of buses for 18 hours.  We expected to have much of the same, but the Lord gave us a big surprise and a welcome break.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous after a big snow a few days before, not even one cloud in the sky with a bright blue surrounding the sun.

       A pilgrimage is a prayerful journey to a destination of prayer.  Indeed our March for Life was that.  On Thursday, January 18 the South bus was due to leave at 4:15 am from Gallipolis and the North bus at the same time from Cambridge.  We met in at the bus depot outside of Parkersburg.  On the way we prayed the rosary as well as the Chaplet and saw the video, “Rediscovering God in America”. Newt Gingrich, a historian himself, took the viewer all over Washington, particularly the Capitol rotunda and the Supreme Court, to show that America is indeed a nation under God.  On the way back we saw the “13th Day” which is the Fatima story and Mary’s message.....pray the rosary daily for peace, repent, and offer sacrifices such as the daily trials to the Lord through Mary for the conversion of sinners.

       The Vigil Mass at the Basilica. After checking into the Comfort Inn in Sterling, VA, we took a subway to the fabulous Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.  We saw the beautifully painted Dome of the Holy Trinity that was just  dedicated.  Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York was the main celebrant and homilist while hundreds of bishops and priests concelebrated, including Cardinal Shawn O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., who gave special recognition to the work of the Knights of Columbus.
It was standing room only at the beautiful Mass televised live by EWTN.  The overflow had to watch it on TV in the crypt.  36 cadets from West Point and 30 Midshipmen from the near-by Naval Academy at Annapolis (male and female) looked really sharp in their uniforms.  The cadets bivouacked in sleeping bags on the floor at a nearby Catholic school.  They were great witnesses for life.  It’s amazing that the West Point cadets were excused from class after doing extra work.  Thus they marched the next day, but not in uniform at what could be construed as a political event.  The vigil Mass preceded all night adoration and prayer.

The Knights of Columbus played an active part in the March for Life on Friday January 19.  A large honor guard in full regalia processed at the Vigil Mass at the magnificent Basilica of the Immaculate Conception with hundreds of cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, and seminarians all of which was televised on EWTN.  At the end of the Mass Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington publicly gave special recognition to the Knights of Columbus for their work.   They paid for many of the signs in the March.  At the March itself a local council from Virginia acted as the marshals for the March and collected money in a bucket to alleviate the cost of the March.  Pictured above are the knights from the Diocese of Steubenville after the Vigil Mass in front of McGivney Hall of the Catholic University of America which was financed by the Knights of Columbus.  The statue of Fr. Michael McGivney, the founder of the order, overlooks the group.  The Council from Cambridge brought the greatest number of knights in the diocese.  Our own Council 3335 was represented by Michael Stapleton, Paul Sebastian, and Mike Merry.  Tim Stapleton came separately with his family of seven children in his stretch van.  We missed our chaplain, Fr. Thomas Hamm, who was unable to attend.  Both he and his predecessor, Fr. Bill Myers have been very faithful to the March over the years.  Start planning now to participate in the March next year.  Photo thanks to Susanne Patrick. 

       The next day we had a choice of three different Masses by our three priests (we missed Fr. Tom) to start the day…….the early bird 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30 am.   The participants had the choice of seeing the sights or attending the Right to Life Rally on the National Mall at 11 am.  Among the speakers were Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Vice President Pence, and President Trump, all of whom spoke remotely on the big screen from the White House.

       Inspiration in the Archives Building on 7th and Constitution Avenue, where I met my godson.  It give a fascinating overview of the History of the United States in hundreds of expositions, including the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Gettysburg Address.  They all point to the dignity of the person and to the inalienable God given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

     That’s why we and at least 100,000 more were there…….to proclaim together in a loud voice the right to life from the womb to the tomb…….to witness for the life of the most defenseless person, the unborn.  Who has the right to snuff out the life of God’s most magnificent creation (see my blog #183 at  Every person, from the unborn to the handicapped and the aging invalid has such dignity and value because each one is created according to the image and likeness of God whose son suffered and died for us in order to open the gates of Heaven for everyone who chooses to follow the Lord.

       Diversity and East Meets West.  Most of the participants were younger people, but all ages and races were represented, including babies in carriages, kids from Catholic Schools, disabled on wheelchairs, and more women than men as in our two buses.  The marchers were predominantly Catholic, but there was a Lutheran group and an Anglican group.  I met or saw university students from Catholic University, Franciscan, Christendom, Benedictine, Ave Maria, and Notre Dame either this year or last.  There were many nuns, priests, and seminarians. Buses came from Missouri, Indiana, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York which has the most liberal abortion inclusions, and neighboring states.

       “I love storks”; it’s not a choice, it’s a life”; babies can feel joy (of the mother) in the womb”; “students for life”.  The local Knights of Columbus from Virginia were the parade marshals who kept order and collected buckets of money for the March for Life and rally expenses.  We missed our pastor, Fr. Tom and our pastor emeritus, Fr. Bill who attended some 30 of these Marches since 1974.  The extended Stapleton family has been very faithful over the years.  This year the Scott & Bernadette Lewis family less the two babies and the Tim & Chrissy Stapleton family were all there with their Uncle Mikey.  Maureen Murphy Kormanik and her granddaughter were also present.  The witness of the kids is special, especially babies.  Mike Merry, the President of Right to Life of Gallia County attended his 25th or so.  John Spencer has done a great job in organizing at least two busloads of people to make the March in each of the past several years.

Even Germany is represented.  The fight for the right to life, God’s greatest creation and gift, from the womb to the tomb has no boundaries in this world of ours.

       I met a small group of Polish Americans with a sign in Polish, “Zycie zawsze, jest dobrem (Jan Pawel II)” or “Life is always good”.  Scott Lewis saw a group of Polish seminarians.  There was a group of Germans with a sign in German, French Canadians with signs in French, and Latin Americans with signs in Spanish as “Pro Mamá; pro bebe; pro vida”.  A group of Vietnamese Americans were praying the rosary melodically in their language of birth.  I noticed a group of Filipino Americans, a Hibernian group, and Iraqi-Americans with their banner of the Chaldean Rite of the Catholic Church.  They were violently persecuted by ISIS and other radical Islamists in Iraq.

Milan Lach SJ, Bishop of Parma, OH and part of his flock.  Born in Slovakia, he blends our ancestors, Carpatho-Rusyns who immigrated to the United States, and their descendants, Ruthenian-Americans.

        What really caught my eye was the banner of “Eastern Rite Catholics” from the Parma, Ohio Diocese about a third of the United States.  One of them recognized me.  Five of them are my relatives (grandchildren of my cousin Martha Loya) from Cleveland.  What a happy chance reunion!  I gave a warm hug to all five of them.  The boys are tall and handsome and kid sister, the last of the eight children, is blossoming into a beautiful young lady.  I marched with them around the Capitol building to the Supreme Court building where they conducted a singing prayer service in their Byzantine Rite.  They sang the beautiful Akathist Hymn in English to the Theotokos, the Mother of God (see and I sang along with them…….all 22 pages of it.
Byzantine Ruthenian Catholics of Parma, Ohio sing the beautiful Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, the Mother of God in front of the Supreme Court building. 

       Then their Bishop Milan Lach SJ gave us a blessing.  The prayer service attracted attention and Latin Rite seminarians and religious joined in.  Indeed East met West.  As St. John Paul II said: the East and the West are the two lungs of the Catholic Church……unity in doctrine under papal authority, but diversity in customs, culture, and traditions.  Somehow, I was not the last one to board our bus.  Every March is different; every March is an adventure and a new experience.  Come and join us in 2019.

Friday, February 2, 2018

(202) A Beautiful Byzantine Catholic Experience Last Summer and Christmas Too


Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, IL near Joliet.

Our Byzantine Catholic 29th Wedding Anniversary
     After enjoying the celebration of the Big 50th anniversary of my brother John and sister-in-law Kathleen, we just had to go to the Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church’s 10th Annual Prairie Fest was going on that same weekend.  Jaga found out about it via their website (  So about 9:30 pm we left to attend the fest that had great fellowship and dancing under the big tent plus games, pierogi and other ethnic foods.   It was on the grounds of the beautiful church built on the top of a hill.  Fr. Tom Loya (cousin Martuka’s oldest son) had an army of volunteers, working through the weekend, but that presented a problem…….how to get them to fulfill their Sunday Liturgy obligation.  Simple!  Have Sunday liturgy for the feast of the Transfiguration at midnight for all of the volunteers after all the patrons went home.

       Since Fr. Tom’s guest room was occupied, he arranged for a motel.  Jaga reacted:  “We’re here on Mr. Tabor and you want to go to a motel!”  You can sleep in the motel, but I’m staying here.  So we slept in the front seat of our little red wagon (2010 Chevy Cobalt).  It was a beautiful peaceful evening under the moon and the stars, a romantic way and cheap to celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary on August 13.  We slept well.  At 6 am the rising sun woke us up and we saw this lanky guy with a beard in shorts picking up the trash with a nail tipped cane.  Not having my glasses on, I thought that the guy was some flunky that Fr. Tom hired.  Jaga said: “That’s Fr. Tom!”  “No way!" I said.  That's beautiful humility!  As always, Jaga was right and I'm out there in the cool of the morning, helping him pick up the trash and beer cans for recycle.
The interior of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, IL

       We attended the regular 10 am Liturgy.  As always, this Byzantine Catholic divine liturgy was beautiful.  A deacon was there when it was over to give explanations of the beautiful icons that Fr. Tom himself painted.  He did it all, inside and outside.  In fact, he’s still painting icons on the exterior of the church.  Before he discovered a call to the priesthood, Fr. Tom was an artist.  I believe that the icon screen was done by Nick of dear memory and Christine who he married on his deathbed.

       We started the afternoon with an ethnic dinner at one of the stands.  We walked around and enjoyed the atmosphere.  A big highlight was the tour of the prairie of several acres that Fr. Tom himself conducted.  It was originally a swamp, a wasteland on the other side of the hill.  The parish let it grow back into its original habitat with typical Midwest prairie vegetation and flowers as “God intended” according to Fr. Tom.  What a beautiful place for reflection and meditation!   We thought we were on a little Mt. Tabor on the Feast of the Transfiguration.  And guess what the name of the prairie is?  Transfiguration Prairie of course.

Constructing a building to house visitors, Annunciation Church could be a retreat center as well as a parish, similar to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pennsylvania which is run by a Polish order of priests and brothers (  The master plan and more detail is on the website at  Everything is environmentally correct and even the runoff rain water is collected in a barrel on the side of the church to water the flowers.  The church and its grounds really follows Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato si - On Care For Our Common Home".  Al Gore would be impressed by it all and Fr. Tom is by no means a liberal.

On the first Saturday of December Transfiguration Prairie briefly wakes up from its winter slumber for a day.  Children learn the real story of St. Nicholas as they walk on the prairie paths.  They even get to meet St. Nick and get a ride on a horse drawn carriage.  There’s frontier era Christmas crafts for children and a homemade Christmas bake sale for the adults.    

Transfiguration Prairie on the grounds of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, IL

I’m sure Fr. Tom would love to have members of his extended family and others to visit when in the Chicago area, especially for the Prairie Fest on the second weekend of August.  It would really be worthwhile to attend a 10 am Sunday liturgy in his beautiful church full of his own art and pray on the prairie, restored to the way it was in pioneer days.  Give him a call at 708-645-0242 or e-mail him at or stop by at 14610 Will-Cook Road in Homer Glen, IL 60491 near Joliet. 

     What a great weekend!  Since we celebrated our wedding anniversary that Sunday and Fr. Tom married us on August 13, 1988, we asked him to give us a parting blessing.  Years before he blessed our Stephanie in utero.  And we were off to visit our brother (in-law) Joe Gajda & his wife Justina along with his daughter Kalina and son Miłosz.  Time wise we were half way to Poland and it was time to visit the Polish branch of our extended family.  That will be another adventure.  The next day we were over the Atlantic to arrive in Poland in time to celebrate the great feast of the Assumption.

Christmas 2017

Picture taken on Father’s Day 2016 at the Little Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home in Pittsburgh where Naomi worked.  Left to right are Joseph, Naomi, Stephanie, John-Paul, Paul, and Jaga.

       On the morning of December 17 we had an empty nest.  Suddenly, in late afternoon we had an invasion and a full house.  On their way back from Pittsburgh Naomi and her boyfriend picked up Joseph at Ohio State (Computer Science & Engineering) plus John-Paul (Ave Maria University Math & Economics) and Stephanie (Liberal Arts Thomas Aquinas College) at the airport.  They were on the same flight from Dallas, where both are teachers…..John-Paul teaches Math at Faustina Academy and Stephanie teaches 4th grade at Great Hearts Elementary, a great books charter school.  Naomi graduated from Franciscan University last May and is a registered nurse at Montefiore Hospital in Pittsburgh.

  She had no desire to date any guy from rural Gallia County.  But guess what?  In Pittsburgh she ran into a medical student, named John Faro, from Gallia County and they’re close friends now.  They stayed for a few days, but Naomi had to return to work and that included Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the second day of Christmas.  Clearly we couldn’t bring Naomi to us for Christmas; so we took us to Naomi.  Since her three roommates went home for Christmas, we had an empty house all to ourselves for a few days.

       After arriving early in the afternoon and moving in, we went to Mass at 4 pm at the combined St. Patrick/St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in the Strip District, a large and beautiful church built at the turn of the 20th Century.  The pastor, Fr. Harry Nichols gave me a taste of the history.  Once an ethnic Polish church, only traces of its history are left.  It’s amazing how these immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, etc. arrived as unskilled workers with practically nothing.  They worked long hard hours under poor working conditions in the steel mills for low wages.  This made it possible for the tycoons to accumulate capital for reinvestment and expansion, leading to the economic takeoff of the United States and our high standard of living.  We are greatly indebted to them.  These immigrants skimped and sacrificed and saved and were generous with their parish.  Thus they were able to build magnificent churches, schools, and convents.  After Mass we walked around among the many quaint shops, including one selling Peruvian crafts.

       On Sunday while Naomi was working, Stephanie wanted to go to both a Byzantine Liturgy and a Mass in Latin.  Both John-Paul and Stephanie frequently attend St. Basil’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Dallas on Sundays and for daily liturgy.  The pastor, Fr. Joseph Wargacki I believe was a deacon for many years and has several grown children, but opted for the priesthood with the new Vatican ruling for eastern rite Catholic Churches outside of Europe.  For the sake of uniformity, the Vatican had ruled in 1925 that priests of all rites had to be celibate outside of Europe. 

Thus we drove to Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church in McKees Rocks.  That brought back memories of Fr. Romza, pastor in the 1940s and 50s.  I dated his daughter, Rita once.  I had a nice talk with Fr. Frank Firko, the pastor.  Within a block is a Roman Catholic Church and also St. John’s Ukranian Byzantine Catholic Church.  I was impressed in the way they cooperate with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, giving hope for eventual Church unity. 

      Then we drove to St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church, once an ethnic German parish.  It consists of two parishes, Holy Wisdom and St. John XXIII, which has all of its Masses in Latin, drawing from all of Pittsburgh and the suburbs.  I thought I was in a time capsule going back to the Pre-Vatican II Church I grew up with.  The members of St. John XXIII Parish love the solemnity, the tradition, the Latin, and the beauty of the Latin chants.  The priest was ordained in the 1970s, but was no stranger to the traditional Latin Mass because he grew up with it.

      We picked up Naomi from her 12 hour shift at Montefiore Hospital and had our traditional Polish Christmas Eve Vigilia dinner.  Again Jaga was queen of the kitchen.  Then we went off to St. Paul’s Cathedral for midnight Mass.  It was packed.  Bishop David Zubik carried Baby Jesus during the entrance procession.  The Choir was instrumental, probably with members of the Pittsburgh Symphony.  A nationally known singer from the Pittsburgh Opera sang a solo.

         It turned out that Montefiore Hospital did their best to discharge their patients in time for Christmas.  Since they had too many nurses, they asked Naomi, the rookie, to take the day off.  Naomi was with us all of Christmas Day after all!  To boot we woke up to a white Christmas.  So far we had a Roman Catholic Christmas, but we wanted a Byzantine Catholic Christmas too.  Afraid to risk driving on the icy streets, we decided to do the half hour walk past St. Paul’s Cathedral to Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church on Fifth Avenue.  It was icy even to walk, but a good workout on a cold Christmas morning. 

Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church on busy Fifth Ave. in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh.  Christ is in the center, showing the unity between the prophets of the Old Testament (the promise of the Redeemer) on the left and the saints of the New Testament (the fulfillment of the promise) on the right.

It was a beautiful liturgy.  Msgr. Russell Duker proclaimed: “Christ is born” and the people responded, “Let us adore Him” and he repeated the same in Old Slav: “Christos razdajetsja!” with the response, “Slavite Jeho”.  Ms. Revilak, a native of Slovakia, was the cantor.  She has a beautiful voice, leading the people with singing in English and some in Old Slav.  I remember as a kid how powerful were the liturgies sung in the original Old Slav, led by the deep voice of the cantor.  The beautiful liturgy, originally written for Old Slav, seems to lose something when translated into English.  Ms. Revilak’s two sons were altar servers.  The very musical Revilak family does ethnic singing throughout western Pennsylvania and beyond (<>). 
The magnificent church has icons everywhere, inside and outside too as shown in the photos above and below.  When the Church was built in the 1960s, they had over 200 families and the church was often packed.  Now they’re down to about 60.   Since driving was treacherous on this Christmas morning, not many people attended.  Nevertheless, this shows that many churches are bleeding as many Catholics of all rites are drifting away under the influence of a very secular society.  We have a huge job of re-evangelization.  Everyone can do something big or small……by prayer, example, word, or deed.

Christmas at Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church in Pittsburgh.  We see portrayed the Son of God becoming one of us to begin His great mission of Redemption and in the background His victory over death in redeeming us.

For the first time our family joined the Byzantine Rite in celebrating their three Holy Days of Christmas.  The second day focuses on Mary, the God bearer and the third day on St. Stephen, the first martyr.  

In the Byzantine Rite the liturgy is normally sung acapella, being led by a cantor.  The liturgy emphasizes the majesty of God that inspires awe.  They have a great focus on imploring the mercy of God centuries before St. Faustina and St. John Paul II made it popular in the Latin rite.  Instead of statues the Eastern churches under Greek influence use icons, which are full of symbols.  The focus is on the message of the icons rather than an exact likeness.  The Byzantine Rite is stricter with fasts and the number of holy days.  Through all of Lent, they abstain from all dairy products.  The principal parts of the liturgy are the same in all rites, but each is adapted to a particular culture of the East.