"We are forming missionaries. We want to bring hope - the hope of our Lord - to our people."
So wrote Fr. Anthony Jayakody, the rector of Our Lady of Lanka National Seminary in Kandy, Sri Lanka, in a recent letter to the Propagation of the Faith /St. Peter Apostle.
Ordained just under a dozen years, after studies at the same seminary, Father Anthony understands the need for that hope, especially in his own country.
"There has been civil war here, fighting for more than two decades, which has brought great suffering," he observed. "Our seminarians represent both ethnic groups involved in this conflict. Our living together as brothers is a model to our people."
And he added, "Above all, we want the hope we have found in Jesus, our joy in following the Lord as priests, to help uplift the poor and suffering."
Some 200 young men currently are preparing to be such joy-filled missionaries at Our Lady of Lanka Seminary. Seminarians here run a pig farm and raise dairy cattle. They plant vegetable gardens as well - all to raise additional support for their education that costs, according to Father Anthony, about $5 a day for each student.
Contributions to the Propagation of the Faith/St. Peter Apostle help support the students at Our Lady of Lanka Seminary - and so many others who have answered, "Yes!" to our Lord's call to follow Him as priests.
The same is true for the students at St. Paul's Regional Seminary in Nuzvid, India. Recently ordained after studies there, Fr. Joseph Sugura would never have been able to provide for his seminary studies, coming from a poor farming family.
Father Joseph shares another experience with the Sri Lankan future priest. The part of India where he grew up saw its share of tribal fighting. "We are here safe and sound by God's grace," Father Joseph noted.
At the seminary, Father Joseph and his classmates "were able to grow in Christ, Who made us happy so that we could, in turn, lead other people to ultimate happiness in Jesus."
"Knowing that I can now celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in my village and be able to distribute the precious Body and Blood of our Lord is the greatest privilege of my life," he continued. "My people have no material wealth, but in receiving the Eucharist, they have a treasure of infinite riches."
In the missions today, many young men are hearing the Lord's call to the priesthood but lack the financial help to complete their seminary studies. Through help offered to the Propagation of the Faith/St. Peter Apostle, these 30,000 mission major seminarians receive that much needed support for their studies.
Donations to the Propagation of the Faith/St. Peter Apostle also support some 10,000 women and men as they prepare to serve the poor as Brothers and Sisters.
For example, Sister Mary brings help - and hope - to the families of the coffee growers in Chikmagalur in India. "My life as a religious Sister," she said, "is to give witness of my love for Christ - and help others see His great love for them. I see the face of Jesus in the poor, the needy, the sick, the aged, the downtrodden, and the outcast. I visit all of them and try to help them in whatever way I can."
A year's help to educate a mission seminarian is $700; support for the novice year for a religious Sister or Brother is $300.
Whatever help you can offer would be a real blessing for those seminarians and novices. You would be sure of the many prayers offered for you by these young men and women. Remember too that your prayers are your greatest gift to the missions. May the Lord bless you as you reach out as a missionary in prayer and sacrifice!
Msgr. Delbert Schmelzer is director of the Propagation of the Faith for the Diocese of Madison. Contributions to the Propagation of the Faith/St. Peter Apostle may be sent to: P.O. Box 44983, Madison, WI 53744.
A new human life:
We forget what a marvelous thing it is to be able to bring forth a new human being.
God chooses to bring forth new human life through the love of spouses. God wishes to share His creation with new human souls, and brings new souls into the world through the love of men and women for each other.
God created the world as an act of love, and the bringing forth of new human life is, quite appropriately, the product of another kind of loving act.
When a man and woman have a child together, it is an act that changes the cosmos: something has come into existence that will never pass out of existence; each soul is immortal and is destined for immortal life.
And whenever a new human life comes into existence, God performs an entirely new act of creation, for only God can create an immortal soul. In sexual intercourse, spouses provide God with an opportunity to perform His creative act.
Contraception says no to God; it says those using it want to have the wonderful physical pleasure of sex but do not want to allow God to perform His creative act.
But contraception is wrong not only because it violates the procreative meaning of the sexual act but also because it violates the unitive meaning of the sexual act. Pope John Paul II was most energetic in explaining how couples do not achieve true spousal union in sexual intercourse when they use contraception.
He explained that the sexual act is meant to be an act of total self-giving and that in withholding their fertility from one another spouses are not giving totally of themselves.
He claimed that bodily actions have meanings much as words do and that unless we intend those meanings with our actions, we should not perform them any more than we should speak words we don't mean. In both cases, lies are being "spoken."
Sexual union has a well-recognized meaning; it means "I find you attractive"; "I care for you"; "I will try to work for your happiness"; "I wish to have a deep bond with you."
Some who engage in sexual intercourse do not mean these things with their actions; they wish simply to use another for their own sexual pleasure. They have lied with their bodies in the same way as someone lies who says "I love you" to another simply for the purposes of obtaining some favor from him or her.
It is easy for us to want to have sexual intercourse with lots of people; but we generally want to have babies with only one person. One is saying something entirely different with one's body when one says "I want only to have sexual pleasure with you" and when one says "I am willing to be a parent with you."
In fact, one of the most certain ways to distinguish simple sexual attraction from love is to think about whether all you want from another person is sexual pleasure, or whether you would like to have a baby with him or her.
We generally are truly in love with those with whom we want to have babies; we do want our lives totally tied up with theirs. We want to become one with them in the way in which having a baby makes us one with another - our whole lives are intertwined with theirs.
A noncontracepted act of sexual intercourse says "I am yours for better or worse, in sickness and health, till death do us part." Having babies with another is to share a lifetime endeavor with another.
Professor Janet E. Smith is the Fr. Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Mich. These columns, syndicated by www.OneMoreSoul.com, are excerpts of a longer work by Smith.
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A study funded by the Rand Corporation in 2002 determined that there are about 400,000 frozen human embryos being stored in the United States in fertility clinics.
One of the chief arguments used to justify embryonic stem cell research involves the claim that these embryos are "just going to be thrown away anyway," and therefore, we should "get some good out of them."
Perhaps Katie Couric put it most bluntly during one of her interviews in 2001 when she asked White House aide Karen Hughes this question: "Of course, many of these frozen embryos will be discarded because they won't be needed, so they'll be thrown in a dumpster anyway. Does it trouble President Bush that these things are being thrown away when they have the potential to save lives?"
This widely repeated and seductive argument has ensnared not only numerous commentators and lawmakers, but also other Americans, and many Catholics as well. It is worth considering the various fallacies and falsehoods embedded in this argument.
The first fallacy is the idea that most of the currently frozen embryos have been earmarked for destruction. In point of fact, the vast majority of these embryos are not slated to be thrown out; rather, according to the same Rand Corporation study, approximately 88 percent are being kept in storage for future family building.
The actual number of embryos that have been designated for disposal is quite small, only around 2.2 percent of the total. The fraction designated for research is also quite small, about 2.8 percent. Of the original 400,000 frozen embryos, therefore, only perhaps 11,000 would actually be available for destruction at the hands of researchers who would like to harvest stem cells from them.
The second fallacy is that every embryo will be useful for providing stem cells. In the real world of laboratory science, it is often necessary to destroy 15 or 20 embryos before you succeed in getting just one embryonic stem cell line. The process is inefficient. Hence from the 11,000 embryos mentioned earlier, one could reasonably expect just a few hundred stem cell lines.
Thus, the seemingly impressive number of "400,000 frozen embryos" hides the real truth that the number of stem cell lines you could expect to get is too small to be of use in treating large segments of the population who have various diseases.
In other words, vast numbers of embryos beyond those currently frozen would still be required to treat diseases, if it ever, in fact, becomes possible to treat human diseases in the future with embryonic stem cells. The push to strip-mine embryos that are stored in the deep-freeze is but the opening salvo of a broader effort to produce many more doomed embryonic humans in Petri dishes for research purposes.
Canada, for example, recently announced a new policy that will permit research not only on embryos taken out of the deep-freeze, but also on freshly prepared, never frozen, in vitro fertilization embryos.
Similar experimentation using fresh human embryos is also legal in a number of states throughout the United States, as long as private rather than government funds are used to pay for the experiments.
The third fallacy concerns the idea that when embryos will be "thrown out" by somebody and are going to "die anyway," that somehow gives me carte blanche to destroy those embryos myself for research. In point of fact, however, the unethical behavior of others can never condone immorality on our part.
Somebody's imminent death, moreover, does not create a license for us to subject them to lethal forms of experimentation. Organs, for example, may not be forcibly taken out of death-row inmates merely because such prisoners are going to "die anyway."
The language of Katie Couric sets a misleading tone for the discussion, by suggesting that embryos are mere objects, "things" for our manipulation, ultimately little more than dumpster-bound material. Representative Chris Smith, on the other hand, sets a more proper tone when he observes that it is, " . . . highly offensive, insensitive, and inhumane to label human embryos as excess or throwaway or spare."
To put it simply: human beings are never disposable, whether in the form of a zygote, an embryo, a fetus, a neonate, an infant, a child, an adolescent, a teenager, an adult, or a 90-year- old woman. Each of us exists as a remarkable biological continuum that extends from conception until death. Our fundamental and unique value is never determined or diminished by our stage of development.
Dr. Alfred Bongiovanni of the University of Pennsylvania once testified at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing in these words: "I am no more prepared to say that these early stages represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty is not a human being."
As fellow human beings, human embryos ought never to be the subjects of death-dealing experiments aimed only at benefiting others. The violations here are grave enough that Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome, recently stressed how the automatic excommunication that happens when a Catholic knowingly and freely chooses an abortion should apply equally to a researcher involved in destructive embryonic research.
The cardinal was quoted as saying, "To destroy the embryo is equivalent to an abortion, and the excommunication applies to the woman, the doctors, [and] the researchers who eliminate embryos." An excommunication is the heaviest spiritual sanction the Church can render. As long as it is in force, it bars the excommunicated individual from the church community and from receiving most of the sacraments.
It also places his eternal salvation in jeopardy until such time as the excommunication is lifted. Hence, parents must be especially attentive to never hand over their embryonic children who are still frozen to researchers eager to extract their stem cells. Catholic scientists and politicians likewise should be especially attentive to steer clear of research or legislative efforts aimed at promoting the destructive harvesting of the youngest and most vulnerable members of the human family.
Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Mass., and serves as the director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, Pa.
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