Monday, January 6, 2014

(130) Our Christmas 2013 Family Newsletter

Christmas 2013: Joseph, Naomi, Jaga, Paul, Stephanie, & John-Paul


             Today is Christmas Day and we’re thinking of all of you.  Although my friends Joan Szuch Pohlman and Joe Loya’s recent deaths place a certain pall on this Christmas season, I know they would want us to have a joyful and blessed Christmas.  Joan courageously suffered for years with her kidneys and had to go through dialysis three times a week for a long time.  George was ever so faithful at her side.  Joe was also an inspiration to me……maintaining his strong faith and solid unbreakable family through the agony and the ecstasy of 61 years of marriage (see my previous blog #129 at  May you all be full of joy and the Lord’s graces as we celebrate the twelve days of Christmas through the Feast of Epiphany when I’ll finally be able to finish and post this on my blog.  The liturgical Christmas season actually ends on the First Sunday after Epiphany in which the Gospel describes the Baptism of Christ.

            On the first Christmas the infinite Son of God became one of us; in the Eucharist we become one with Christ.  That is Christ becomes one with us.  May the spirit of Christmas remain with us throughout the 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 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.  This annual newsletter will probably be too long; so I’ve used subtitles so that you could easily skim or pick and choose what interests you.
            On a lighter note: "There will be no live Nativity Scene in Washington this year! The Supreme Court has ruled that there cannot be a Nativity Scene in the United States Capitol this Christmas season. This isn't for any religious reason. They simply have not been able to find Three Wise Men in the Nation's Capital. A search for a Virgin continues. There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable." (Fr. Robert Goodyear).  May we and our children put Christ in Government, in business, and all sectors of society as a counterweight to the secularization of America.  Western Europe is already gone.
        Stephanie and a band of fellow “counterculture revolutionaries” from her Thomas Aquinas College took the initiative in the War on Christmas and invaded a Los Angeles mall (Pacific View Mall) to sing some religious Christmas carols.  They call it “flash mob” where the students enter the store at different entrances and moments and meet at the designated rendezvous point at the appointed time to start their well rehearsed singing.  They made a splash all over the world on and EWTN, the Catholic cable/satellite television channel with over 32,000 hits (My blog with 130 articles only has about 8,500 hits in over two years). They did a great job!  To see it for yourself, click on  A close-up of Stephanie in her turquois scarf and purple jacket appears towards the end.  Google Thomas Aquinas College Flash Mob and you’ll see its impact.  Do your part to put Christ into Christmas in the coming years.  Don’t be afraid to say “Merry Christmas”; saying “Happy Holidays” is a bow to secularism which threatens to eventually destroy our country.

          After running a shuttle to the Columbus airport and picking up Naomi at Franciscan University, we’re all home for Christmas and then the shuttle resumes.  The family being together enjoying each other with Christ at the center of the home is one of the greatest joys of  Christmas.  May each discern the Lord’s will for their lives, then serving God and his people well.

        John-Paul, an Ave Maria University graduate ( is in his second year as a Math & Science teacher at Ville de Marie Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona (  The school is very Christ centered with a strong emphasis on the liberal arts and spiritual formation.  Having only about 75 students K-12, he teaches a great variety of Math and Science courses in middle school and high school.  It’s almost miraculous how the school can survive, but with God’s help and a cadre of dedicated teachers accepting very low salaries, they’re making it a very good school with a lot of individual attention for the kids.  It has so much potential to advance to the next level and become a great school.

            Stephanie is a senior at top rated Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) outside of Santa Paula near Los Angeles.  She works 13 hours per week in the Cafeteria and full time in the summer to earn her way through college.  It’s 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.  She’s getting 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.  Stefcia has to read over the break, “Brothers Karamazov”, the final novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky and work on her senior thesis as well.  The school has the ideal of searching for the true, the good, and the beautiful.  I think that each student there is finding it.  So far, Stephanie is the intellectual of the family.  TAC is the most beautiful college campus I’ve ever seen……lying in a bowl surrounded by mountains.  See for more info and photos.  Joseph will probably go to their two week summer program for high school juniors.
Naomi Sebastian          
            Naomi received an Associate Degree in General Studies from the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College more than three weeks before she received her high school diploma from Gallia Academy High School where she was on the swim team, ran track, and  participated in musical theater.  Although she has been in competitive swimming for years, she went out for track for the first time in her senior year.  One of her coaches said that she immediately filled a gap in middle distance and contributed to her school’s winning the league championship, showing that being in shape for swimming easily carries over into track.  

             Naomi is now a freshman at Franciscan University of Steubenville, hoping to major in nursing.  She’s also on the varsity swim team, having had to go back on December 29 to get ready for upcoming meets.  The girls practice at 6 am every morning.  That's self discipline and dedication!  It’s so Catholic that when the coach works them hard, she simply tells the girls to “offer it up”.  Naomi loves the school, saying that it’s the best thing that has ever happened to her.  Franciscan has such an accepting Christ centered environment that permeates both academics and student life.  She has made many friends.  On any given day, most students go to daily Mass.  They attract students from all over the country……from New Hampshire to California as well as abroad.  Their recruiting theme is: “Academically excellent; passionately Catholic”.  Click on for more.

Gallia Academy sophomore Joseph Sebastian hits a forehand volley during this April 11 file photo of a tennis match against Marietta in Centenary, Ohio. (Bryan Walters/photo)

            Joseph is an only child while his siblings are away.  While he’s preparing to take his driver’s test, we still have to accompany him to school activities and attend his games.   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 receive high school and college credits at the same time.   Being officially a student of Gallia Academy High School, he’s on the basketball and tennis teams.  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 98%tile in the National Merit Scholarship competition.  I’m only mentioning this (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.

            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 under the lead of our president, Dr. Mel Simon, an amazing man who has organized some 35 medical missions to 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 was an answer to the prayers of our CCD Director and agreed to teach the First Communion Class.  She’s 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  Jaga is also active in the Catholic Women’s Club.  In addition she prepares and enlists the women of the parish to prepare food for the Loaves & Fishes monthly soup kitchen and helps to serve the food.  It’s at the end of the month when the welfare money runs out (see blog #112).  Finally, Jaga brings three shut-in women to Mass on weekends. 

              We attended a weekend Marriage Encounter (see for our 25th Wedding Anniversary.  It really rekindled our marriage; we were like newly weds for a while.  Now we have the task of keeping the fire going.  Our Bishop Montforton said a Mass in each deanery for those celebrating their 25th and each additional 5thWe often fall short of what a good Christian family should be, but we keep trying.

            Paul also helps out with the Confirmation class, writes articles for our Church Bulletin and local newspaper, is a lector, and is active in the Knights of Columbus (see  I continue to serve on the Chaplaincy Board of the University of Rio Grande ( and on the Steering Committee of the Diocesan Men’s Day of Renewal (  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.
         Left for last is the highlight of the year with an unplanned bonus adventure……our trip to Niagara Falls and New York and the great people we met.  Naomi’s friend Anita (on the far left in the picture below) from Poland came to visit, see a little of the USA, and perfect her English which is already very good.  She’s very ambitious and talented, studying Medicine in Warsaw.  Stephanie could not go because of a bad foot and Jaga elected to stay with her.  We picked up our four and Anita at the end of a four day Youth Conference at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  We went north and Jaga and Stephanie went south to Rio Grande.

Anita, Naomi, John-Paul, Paul, and Joseph with Tim Loya in the rear
            On our way we stopped at Jefferson, OH not far from Erie, PA to see Tim and Barbara Loya.  Barbara still teaches and Tim runs his all-organic farm.  They both really look great from all that work.  I love their pioneering spirit.  They shared the news that his brother Nick, suffering from Leukemia, married his business partner, Christine of many years (he does the interior decorating of churches & she paints the icons) in the hospital.  After his brother heroically donated his own bone marrow, Nick is doing well.  The many prayers are being answered.  Since the medical costs are astronomical; they held a dinner fund raiser in October.  One can still donate by mailing a check to Rev. Thomas Loya; Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church; 14610 Will-Cook Road; Homer Glen, IL 60491.

          After 24 hours at Niagara Falls, that wonder of nature, with a boat ride underneath the falls and a lot of walking, we crossed the state into New York City with a stopover near Syracuse to see Mark Nowak, son of Polish immigrants and a fellow student with John-Paul at Ave Maria University.  A music major, he gave us an organ recital in the local Catholic Church where he is the organist.
      To avoid the high hotel cost and the city traffic, we decided to stay in a motel across the Hudson in Belleville, NJ and commute by bus each of the four days.  To get a general view of New York, we got a two day tourist double decker bus pass and got on and off as we pleased.  We stopped at the very expensive Empire State Building and the very sobering Ground Zero.  The Statue of Liberty was closed due to Hurricane Sandy, but we still were able to travel free right past it on the Staten Island Ferry.
       We also enjoyed walking through Central Park and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.  I stumbled upon Sherry Sylar the oboe musician of the New York Philharmonic there and had a great conversation.  Currently the Ohio Valley Symphony is looking into inviting her to come to Gallipolis.  Anita was dying to see a Broadway play.  So Naomi and Anita saw the “Lion King” (the girls were thrilled to talk to one of the actors after the show) while John Paul, Joseph, and I saw the “Phantom of the Opera”.  Right on Times Square behind the stands, tickets are available for all the shows on the same day.  Being sold out, the girls had to wait at the main theater box office for a cancellation.

            Anita and Joseph saw the “Body Worlds” (see,  a fabulous look inside the human body with preserved cadavers, giving real insights into the intricate engineering of the great Creator.  Since we already saw it in Chicago, we made a visit to see the Foley Gallery in Greenwich Village.  Michael Foley makes a real contribution by hosting art exhibits to promote the works of different artists.  I previously saw Michael in San Francisco, where he was an artistic photographer and I presented a paper.  It was great seeing him again.  He also teaches art at two local universities
         An Unplanned Adventure Heading Home.  Since the ventilator on our car wasn’t functioning, it overheated and blew a gasket in Doylestown, PA just before barely making our final stop at the beautiful National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa on the outskirts.  The original mother shrine is in Czestochowa, Poland (  Both are staffed by the Pauline Fathers of Poland who host many retreats, pilgrimages, and a variety of ministries in Doylestown, PA (click on  That together with our visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral (undergoing $180 million restoration in New York gave our trip a bit of a pilgrimage flavor. 

            Since the engine of our little red wagon would not keep cool even on the open highway, we had to look for a garage.  They determined that the engine was “cooked” and it would be very risky to make it back over the mountains even with a new ventilator.  Thus we had to abandon our 2004 salvage Cavalier bought at 120,000 miles.  May the little red wagon rest in peace in the junk yard until it’s recycled into another car; it served us well until we had to give it a dignified burial at 268,000 miles.  We had to rent a Toyota from Enterprise to get home and drop it off in Gallipolis at a cost of an extra $500.  One can only avoid that extra cost by renting the car round trip to the starting point.  We drove most of the night.   With no gas station open along Route 50 in the heart of West Virginia Appalachia, we had to wait for an hour until a barbie doll looking girl opened up the gas station in Rough Creek (population 200 or so deep in the sticks) at 7 am.  It was an experience operating the old 1940s vintage gas pump and mechanical gages.
    Moral of the story…….occasionally look at your gages for warning signs of low gas, high temperature, etc. before the car dies; be alert for unusual sounds or signs; and don’t use an old car for such a long trip…….better to rent one.  Live and learn even at my age.  Thank God we arrived home safely; that’s really the bottom line.

            May you have many wonderful and fulfilling experiences and adventures in 2014.  May we all of us grow in every way, the most important being spiritually in the quest for holiness.  (Previous newsletters of ours are Blogs #58 and #108; this one is Blog #130; I’ll be adding other past ones in the future.)

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