|The Sebastian Family: Joseph, Naomi Marie, Jaga,
Paul, Stephanie Mary, and John-Paul|
As I begin this missive, it is the second day of Christmas and we are thinking of you
now as we did on the first day. After reliving the four thousand years (each week of Advent
being a millennium) waiting for the Messiah, let us celebrate all twelve days of Christmas
as we relive the dramatic events of the Nativity itself when God became one of us to teach
us how to live and save us from our sins, making it possible to enter the kingdom of
Heaven if we accept and follow Him. Then we relive the aftermath……..the
shepherds (Christ manifested to the Jews and the poor), the Presentation of the Christ
Child in the Temple, the Epiphany (Christ manifested to the Magi, gentiles, the affluent,
and the educated), the Holy Innocents & the Flight into Egypt, the Feast of the Holy
Family, the Finding of the Christ Child (now 12 years old) in the Temple. The song,
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” actually has its roots in a code in 16th Century England
when the Church was brutally persecuted.
May you all have a beautiful twelve days full of blessings and spiritual growth
with your loved ones. May the spirit of Christmas remain with us throughout the new year. Thank you for your Christmas cards and if you didn’t send a card, I deserve being
overlooked because we have been terrible at writing you. I especially appreciate your
newsletters –the bragging too and why not?-- because they help us to keep up to date on
you. I hope that this is a little bit of a substitute. I wish that I could send a separate card
to each one of you. Thank you for all that you’ve done for us and with us be it in the
parish, community or as a personal favor……plus your patience with me.
I know that I sometimes talk too much and write too much. Since this annual newsletter will probably be too long, I’ve used subtitles so that you can easily skim or pick and choose what interests
you. The Knights of Columbus had its annual campaign, “Put Christ into Christmas”. May
we and our children put Christ into Government, in business, and all sectors of society
as a counterweight to the secularization of America. Western Europe is already gone.
Don’t be afraid to say “Merry Christmas”; saying “Happy Holidays” is a surrender to
secularism which threatens to eventually destroy our country. I wrote an article for our
parish bulletin, local newspaper, and blog on the Grinch, i.e., secularism that stole Christmas.
See my blog #149 at http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com.
We all were home for Christmas except for Stephanie. We picked her up on December 30 while taking Naomi back to Franciscan University of Steubenville for mid-season two a day swimming practices during the break. Between weddings Stephanie spent five days of discernment including Christmas in a convent of the Norbertine Sisters, a contemplative order of rather young women nearby (http://norbertinesisters.org/). Those nuns, a happy bunch, feel a sense of urgency to pray for repentance to “keep sinners out of hell”. On January 2 we dropped Stephanie off in Detroit for her sixth wedding since graduation last May before flying back to Phoenix. I kid Stefcia about attending every wedding except her own. It’s amazing how close the Thomas Aquinas College graduates are. Members of the graduating class come from all over the country for these weddings. Their alumni loyalty is among the tops in the Country, something that any college would envy. Some families have generations of TAC alumni. Our airport shuttle to the Columbus (Ohio) airport ended on the feast of the Epiphany for John-Paul's return to Montrose, Colorado.
Our extended family lost Nick Loya (whom we affectionately called “Big Nick”) to Leukemia after a long valiant battle. There’s a lot of truth to a statement by Fr. William Morris (R.I.P.), my former boss in Peru: “Those who die of cancer die as saints” because they have time to prepare. Actually he had conquered the Cancer, but died from an infection that resulted from his lowered immune system. Nick and his wife Christine refurbished many Byzantine Catholic churches with exquisite icons. His tragic exit was replaced by the grand entrance of a baby boy whom Tim and Barbara Loya adopted. They run a farm near Cleveland that produces organic products. We sacrifice over a million babies every year to the pagan gods of abortion, convenience, and illicit pleasure while so many couples must go through hoops all over the world to adopt babies of mothers who heroically chose life.
The Eagle Eye Ministry Retreat last summer was a great experience for John-Paul, Stephanie Mary, and Naomi Marie. The minimum age of 18 eliminated Joseph. They spent one week at Shawnee State Park near Portsmouth, Ohio and then another week at a seminary in Cincinnati. It included great comradery, fun, classes on Philosophy, and spiritual formation. They got to be so close that they had an Eagle Eye reunion that Emily organized at the end of last summer. She had them in tents in her back yard. Now they’re talking about an in-depth month long retreat in Bismarck, North Dakota. See (http://eagleeyeministries.org/) for more details.
After taking Stephanie to Detroit for a wedding and crashing their Rehearsal Dinner at the Santine home (they were so hospitable), John-Paul and I stayed with Emily Christopherson’s family (the father is a retired Marine Lt. Colonel) near Toledo and visited the Lumbrezer family for a mini Eagle Eye reunion. What great examples of domestic churches! You see it as you enter the house and experience the warm hospitality. The atmosphere comes out in almost every room. Linn Lumbrezer, for example, has 11 kids, three of whom are adopted special needs kids whom she home schools. She and her adult son both raved about the simplicity and the beauty of those special needs kids. Many if not most of these great domestic churches have a full time mother who home schools. Ave Maria University, Thomas Aquinas College, and Franciscan University (among the few truly Christ centered Catholic colleges faithful to their original missions) are full of homeschooled kids. There is indeed hope for the Church in America!
Catholic Familyland (www.familyland.org) at Bloomingdale, OH near Steubenville does so much for promoting and nurturing the Domestic Church. Our kids practically grew up there since our family attended a number of week-long Family Fests and weekend Totus Tuus Conferences. The Family Fest is a seven day pray and play family retreat. With kids sleeping in the loft, a cabin can accommodate a family of 11. Each day begins with Mass and an enthusiastic congregation. The Vacation Bible School setup divides the kids into the “Saints Under Construction” (elementary school), the “Totus Tuus” (Middle School), and the “Destiny Generation for teens. The teen program is intense and continues after the younger children are asleep. Adults have their own programs while the toddlers are in a nursery. The afternoons are occupied with swimming, horseback riding, a 200 foot water slide, sports and tournaments, etc. The evenings consist of a bonfire with rosary and marsh mellows, square dancing, skits, etc.
At least this road has an edge line! More than one vehicle has gone over cliffs like this.
We finally made it to Montrose, elevation 5,000 feet about 50 miles south of Grand Junction. Montrose is a city of about 10,000 people, nestled in the Rockies (click on http://www.cityofmontrose.org/ for info, photos, and videos.
John-Paul teaches at Pope John Paul II Academy (click on http://popejohnpaul2academy.com/). The principal, Patrick Gordon recruited his college roommate at Ave Maria University. John Paul is happy in what he’s doing and the children love him. He gives a lot of individual attention and does some tutoring for extra pay. The teachers are young and they do a lot of things together……from parties to camping. He and his dedicated colleagues don’t make much, but when you die, God won’t ask how much money you made, but how you used your talents to serve others. Being a Math and Economics double major, John-Paul could be making a lot more working for business or government. They have dreams of eventually expanding into a high school even though the city has only one Catholic church, but it is a large parish.
Stephanie Mary graduated in May from top rated Thomas Aquinas College (TAC), outside of Santa Paula near Los Angeles with a major in Liberal Arts. TAC is a very accepting Christ centered, great books school, where they read the original authors, not something regurgitated in a textbook…….Aristotle, Plato, Augustine, for Philosophy; Aquinas for Theology, some parts in the original Latin; Euclid for Math, Dalton, Einstein for Science; gems of Literature, etc. The focus is on discussion, writing, and rhetoric. Stefcia received a fabulous liberal arts education which will serve as a good foundation for a variety of fields. Among their alumni are religious, lay parish ministers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc.
The school has the ideal of searching for the true, the good, and the beautiful. Now our new graduate has the mission to spread it. TAC is the most beautiful college campus I’ve ever seen……lying in a bowl surrounded by mountains. See www.thomasaquinas.edu for more info and photos. I wrote in detail about her graduation and the uniqueness of the college on my blog #139 at http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com and #140 on the unique Summer Program (a great books camp) for High School seniors.
After John-Paul left Phoenix in June, Stephanie arrived in Phoenix in August to teach fourth grade at, “Archway Classical Academy”, a Great Hearts Charter School in North Phoenix. Being a great books school, Stephanie was a natural for it. For details of her school, click on http://archwaynorthphoenix.org/ and http://greatheartsaz.org/ for information on the network of schools The kids have an unusual focus and enthusiasm for learning with hardly any of the discipline problems so common in other schools. The kids actively learn how to think and express themselves. Being a state supported charter school, Stephanie cannot proselytize, but she can still promote the true, the good, and the beautiful through the great books at the 4th grade level.
Stephanie shares an apartment with three other graduates of Thomas Aquinas College, Betsy, Liz, and Lora. Their apartment is some combination of sorority house and convent. They do a lot of things together and with others as visiting the Grand Canyon. Not only that; Stephanie hiked down, down, down to the bottom of the canyon and then hiked back up, up, and up. For details and photos, click on https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A0LEV0II4p1UA5UAljVXNyoA?p=Grand+Canyon&fr=mcsaoffblock&fr2=piv-web.
In addition Stephanie attends daily Mass and teaches a weekly CCD first Holy Communion class which she enjoys very much. Very impressive is the number of churches in the Phoenix archdiocese that have perpetual adoration. Of course, that is difficult for a small parish since at least 100 committed people (3 or 4 hours per week per person) are needed to cover 24/7. The Blessed Sacrament cannot be without at least one person present.
Naomi Marie is a sophomore majoring in Nursing at the Franciscan University of Steubenville (www.franciscan.edu). She was happy to get through the hardest course of them all, Microbiology with a good grade. She’ll have her first clinical course in a hospital this Spring Semester.
Naomi’s Mission Trip to Haiti……you can be part of it. For her Spring Break Naomi is not planning to spend a week at the beach in Florida. Franciscan University must select the students for the mission since there are applicants than openings. On the contrary she is planning to make a mission trip to Haiti in March, one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world and is trying to raise money to finance it as are the other students in the group. That includes $800 to help finance the building of a medical facility of the “Movin’ With the Spirit” (http://mwts.org/missionhaiti/), a Catholic mission there. She is studying to serve people and thereby God since “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).
What can Naomi do in one week? She won’t change the world, but this possibly life changing experience will give her a start in someday making a significant impact. Her job will be to care for little orphan kids, the aged, and the sick…….giving them lots of the Lord’s love which will have an impact on their lives since life is not valued in Haiti as it should be. If any of you would like to read Naomi’s proposal and her description of the mission and help her help the Haiti mission, Click here to support Haiti Mission Trip by Naomi Sebastian.
Joseph Christopher is an only child while his three siblings are away. He has his driver’s license now for varsity basketball and tennis practices. I enjoy watching his games and matches. He’s following in the footsteps of his three siblings as a full time PSO student at the University of Rio Grande. The State of Ohio gives students the opportunity to simultaneously receive high school and college credits. He’ll receive the college associate degree before his high school diploma.
Being officially a student of Gallia Academy High School, he’s on the varsity basketball and tennis teams. He came within one stroke of winning the sectional tournament and making it into the district level. Furthermore, he’s on the interscholastic Quiz Bowl team. He trains on Jeopardy, news magazines on the internet, and quiz type board games. He’s also a member of the parish youth group and attends our Newman Club meetings. He hit the 99%tile in the ACT test. I’m only mentioning that (Anyhow he got it from his mother) to show that reading books raises standardized test scores. Thus I strongly encourage teens to read books and teachers to assign more book reports, especially over the summer.
He’s now applying to colleges as Franciscan University, Creighton (Jesuit), and Notre Dame. I’m leery of the latter since I’m not sure how Catholic it is. What do you think? It seems from our visit to Notre Dame that it still has the Catholic culture, but one has to look for it although the administration is trying to restore its Catholic identity. At Franciscan, the Catholic culture is “in your face”, permeating all activities and courses. Along with Ave Maria University (John-Paul) and Thomas Aquinas College (Stephanie), Franciscan U (Naomi) is approved by the Cardinal Newman Society, which promotes and defends faithful Catholic education (http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/).
All schools on their approved list require their Theology faculty to take oaths of fidelity to Catholic teaching in their courses and adhere closely to the principles outlined in “Ex Corde Ecclesiae: the Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II on Catholic Universities”. You can read it at
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_jp-ii_apc_15081990_ex-corde-ecclesiae_en.html). Theology faculty at most Catholic colleges refuse to take the oath for the sake of “academic freedom”.
Jaga and Paul work together in a number of community and church ministries. We helped to form and run a free clinic (see my Blogs #90 & 91 of http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com) under the lead of our president, Dr. Mel Simon, an amazing man who has organized 31 medical missions of 35 doctors and nurses for his native Philippines (Blog #16). Jaga serves as an R.N. and went on one of his medical missions. At the University of Rio Grande we are advisers for the Catholic Newman Club (Blog #93). It is so important to have a Catholic presence on the secular campus. So many students go to college and lose their faith because their growth in the faith does not keep pace with their secular knowledge and thus appears to be “kids stuff”. In our parish (Blog #121) we are Eucharistic ministers and bring Holy Communion to the sick.
Jaga, our Polish immigrant, is emerging as a leader in the parish, having been recently elected to the Parish Council. She continues to teach the First Confession and Holy Communion class. Jaga is very well read and really knows her faith. She teaches with such conviction and the kids love her. I serve as her aid, adding my sound bites, a story at snack time, and anything else my boss wants me to do. In October we are captains in organizing the local annual Public Square Rosary Rally (see http://www.americaneedsfatima.org/Rosary-Rally/Public-Square-Rosary-Rally-Scheduling-Office.html).
Jaga is also active in the Catholic Women’s Club. In addition she prepares and enlists the women of the parish to prepare and serve food for the “Loaves & Fishes” monthly ecumenical soup kitchen. It’s crucial at the end of the month when the welfare money runs out (see blog #112). Finally, Jaga brings four shut-in women to Mass on weekends. At the beginning of every month she assigns a decade and mystery of the rosary to each woman. They promise to pray that decade every day of the month. Maybe that’s the real power of the woman; they pray for their men. One woman remarked: “Many a wife has prayed her husband to heaven”.
Paul also helps out with the Confirmation class with Pam Dovyak, the very dedicated lead teacher. He writes articles for our Church Bulletin and local newspaper, is a lector, and is active in the Knights of Columbus (see www.kofc.org). I continue to serve on the Chaplaincy Board of the University of Rio Grande (www.rio.edu) and on the Steering Committee of the Diocesan Men’s Day of Renewal (http://diosteubmen.blogspot.com). Our speaker on March 7 is Allen Hunt, a former pastor of a mega-church who discovered Catholicism. For the new evangelization to be successful the laity must get involved; the pastor can’t do it all himself. Needless to say, I’m behind on everything else as I struggle to find that balance between volunteer work and family. Retirement is liberating because it presents the opportunity to serve God and His people in a more profound way. Furthermore, it gives time for daily Mass to feed the soul.
Our Catholic Newman Club is struggling on a campus (we need prayers) where most students are indifferent to faith, but we got a great boost in the Spring. In answer to a prayer, Andy Marin appeared out of nowhere. He’s a young marine veteran with two purple heart medals for combat wounds suffered in Afghanistan. The Lord must have a special mission for him since he survived being hit through his helmet which is much better than the steel pots we wore in the old army. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to our active duty military and veterans for their service to our Country. Catholic chaplains are in critically short supply because so few bishops are willing to release a priest or two to serve in the military. See my blogs at http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com on veterans: #29 “Veterans, Salute the Flag Out of Uniform”, #30 “Veterans Still Suffering for God and Country”; #31 on “Fr. Vincent Capodanno: A Medal of Honor Marine Chaplain & a Maryknoll Father”, and #127 “Heroic Catholic Chaplains Who Have Been Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor”. Veterans are a great resource to businesses for their training in technical specialties, discipline, management experience, and leadership, especially in the case of NCOs and officers.
Catholics who like “Facebook” might enjoy a new networking site, www.awestruck.tv. They divide into groups according to their interests in different issues and aspects of Catholic thought and devotions. I use it as an outlet for my blogs and to share different ideas.
May you have many wonderful and fulfilling experiences and adventures in 2015……full of the Lord’s blessings. May all of us grow in every way, the most important being spiritually, in the quest for holiness which is what life is all about. May the lights of our lives illuminate everything around us in our homes, in our parishes, communities, and our professions as we rebuild our Church and our Country, recalling the mission of St. Francis. (Previous Christmas newsletters of ours are Blogs #58, #108, and #130; this one is Blog #150; I’ll be adding other past ones in the future.)