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Pastoral Letter to Parents Regarding Gender Theory

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This letter was recently distributed to members of St. Mary Catholic Church in Pinckney, Michigan.

In light of recent concerns that have come to me regarding the issue of modern gender theory, I write this letter as a means of helping you form and guide your children as you navigate changing cultural attitudes and norms pertaining to gender identity. This new gender theory denies the nature of God’s created order inasmuch as it denies that God has created us male and female. Instead, it proposes that gender is fluid and changeable and is determined by the choice of the individual rather than by biology. In other words, if, for example, your child was born as a biological male, it may be that he is actually a girl who is only physically male. As such, you won’t know his true gender until he is old enough to psychologically identify as a male or female. This theory will further tell you that your role as a parent is not to impose a gender on your child, but to allow him the freedom to explore either gender and choose for himself which is his true self. The same goes in the case of a child who is biologically female; should she choose a different gender than her biological sex, you, the parent are told that you ought to support her choice of a new identity as a boy. This new way of looking at gender can present itself to your family in many forms, from TV shows, to children’s clothing lines, to public school curricula, and so forth. This has caused confusion for some and questions for many regarding the legitimate role of parents and what they should teach their kids about their sexual and gender identity. I wish to reaffirm to you the eternal truth that God has intentionally created each child; each of us are a gift from God. This is true also of sexuality: “Male and female He created them” (Gn 1:27). God has entrusted you with a sacred task of affirming, nurturing, protecting, and educating your child in his or her sexual identity as God has created them.

The Vatican has recently released a document entitled Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education[i], addressing the issues stemming from the new gender theory. It was released to assist those involved in the education and formation of young people, especially parents and teachers. This document states that the new gender theory attempts to “cancel out the differences between men and women, presenting them instead as merely the product of historical and cultural conditioning.”[ii] The text then quotes Pope Francis, who states that modern gender theory directly opposes God’s design for our sexuality:

“[Modern gender theory] denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.”[iii]

The Vatican has called this an “educational crisis,” in that curricula are being developed that supposedly present a “neutral conception of the person and of life,”[iv] devoid of sexual difference. Gender theory, rather than portraying a neutral conception of the person, has put forth an “anthropology which is opposed to faith and right reason.”[v]

One way that the proponents of gender theory propose this “neutral conception of the person” is by telling parents that they should not affirm the sexual identity of their children. To do so, the thinking goes, would be to impose upon them a sexual identity that they ought to be free to determine for themselves. One instance of this thinking comes to us from the French-Canadian singer, Celine Dion, who has launched a new gender-neutral clothing line for infants and children by the name of Celinununu. The commercial launching this line of clothing depicts Miss Dion breaking into a hospital nursery where babies are dressed by gender in pink or blue; Miss Dion then sprinkles black glitter onto the children and the babies suddenly appear in gender-neutral black and white clothing. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it here.

The clothing line touts that “fashion has the power to shape people’s minds.”[vi] Their company’s mission is to “inspire your children to be free and find their own individuality through clothes.” According to their website, they have created a “clothing brand that breeds equality and freedom of spirit, serving as a platform for a new humanistic education. Celinununu liberates children from the traditional roles of boy/girl.”[vii]

The efforts of Celine Dion and those at Celinununu are by no means arising out of a vacuum. The overnight cultural acceptance of gender theory has become somewhat of a movement, with many facets and many different incarnations. There is the American Library Association’s embracing of “Drag Queen Story Hours” for children. There is the ability, in the Canadian province of Ontario at least, to choose a non-binary option on birth certificates. There is the emergence of pediatric gender clinics, which often encourage patients to “transition” after a single visit.[viii]  One local incarnation of this movement is the reading of I Am Jazz in the classroom. For those who don’t know, I Am Jazz is a TLC show about a girl that was born inside a boy’s body. The program was recently turned into a children’s book and has been read in the classroom to area kids as young as pre-K. While some have not opposed this being read to children in the name of teaching kids how to love and respect others, it is becoming clear that this is not simply about teaching tolerance. This is not only about the loving acceptance of someone who is experiencing gender dysphoria; it is also a concerted effort to undermine the sexual identity of children and popularize transgenderism. Should your children lovingly accept everyone in their school and learn how to honor and respect them? Yes. Is that what is really going on here? No. At least not entirely.

The problematic nature of gender theory is also seen in the medical practices that arise from it. Doctors are prescribing powerful hormone blocking drugs for twelve-year-olds in order to prevent puberty from occurring naturally.[ix] This is being done despite the fact that most children who express gender dysphoria will grow out of it. The social commentator, Ryan T. Anderson, has pointed out the incredible dissonance in his best-selling book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment:

“There is no acknowledgement that the vast majority of children with gender dysphoria—eighty to ninety-five percent—naturally grow out of it, if they aren’t encouraged to transition . . . blocking puberty may interfere with the developmental mechanisms that help children accept their bodies, or that virtually none of the children put on puberty blockers grow out of their gender dysphoria.”[x]

Considering this fact, it would seem highly irresponsible to begin interventions involving hormones. Yet this is pushed as a solution, often with the claim that it will reduce the risk of suicide for the young person who is experiencing gender dysphoria. This does not really seem to address the risk of suicide, since the suicide rate for those who have undergone gender reassignment surgery is nineteen times higher than the general population.[xi] This doesn’t mean that the reassignment surgery is the cause of such a high rate, but simply that the surgery does not seem to lower the risk.

This is very sad in itself, and it ought to give us pause when we think about the way that we treat those of our friends, family, co-workers, or anyone in our lives who is experiencing that identity struggle. It ought to move us to a deep compassion for them and reflect on the way in which Jesus desires to love them through us. Just because someone has gone through a reassignment surgery, does that mean that they are less precious in God’s eyes? Does that mean that they are no longer made in His image and likeness? Does that mean that they are somehow unlovable? No. I hope you know those are lies. And while you may agree with my point here on a surface level, have you allowed the truth of their goodness to change your heart and actions to be those of love and compassion? Words don’t bring healing if they are only virtue signaling or lip service, and sooner or later people know whether they are truly loved as they are. It is true that this authentic love does not amount to a mindless approval of someone’s wrong course of action. You’ve heard me say many times that real love desires to be rooted in the truth, because real love always desires what is truly good for the beloved. We must also remember that to authentically love someone always involves a genuine delight in them, and a very basic acknowledgement of their goodness in the eyes of God; this is still true even if someone is embracing something they shouldn’t. These heartbreaking statistics regarding suicide should stir up in us a desire to love and protect those who experience gender dysphoria; to affirm their goodness, and to encourage them in the truth of their identity.

We should also be moved with a desire to protect our children from confusion about their own identities. Given the fact that the vast majority of children who express interest in a cross-gender identity will eventually come to embrace their biological identity, we should not be seeking to undermine their biological identity. Most children who experience confusion in this regard can be spared a great deal of confusion and pain if we simply affirm the God-given goodness of their sexual identity. I believe that if we thoughtfully consider what is going on with gender theory, we will reject it, and rightfully so.

There are many problems with the gender theory. In the first place, we don’t simply determine our own identity by choice. Each one of us was born either as a biological male or a biological female. This is true also of those termed “intersexed”, who all still possess either XX or XY chromosomes. Each one of us were created by God as a male or a female, and our bodies are a gift from Him. We should receive the body as such; we should accept ourselves the way we were created. We also ought to be loved and affirmed by others as we have been created.

This affirmation is particularly important, because a human being is a body-soul composite.  As a body-soul composite, it is impossible to separate my body from myself. It is wrong to suggest that my body is not me. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following concerning the matter:

“The human body shares in the dignity of the image of God: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and, as such, we may not despise (our) bodily life. Rather (we) are obliged to regard (the) body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it on the last day.”[xii]

In short, this means that 1) God made you very good, and 2) you includes your body. You, the parent, have a right and a responsibility to teach your children how to love, honor and respect others, including those who are experiencing gender dysphoria. You also have the job of teaching your child the truth of who they are.

But the statement that we don’t simply determine our own identity by choice applies beyond the biological level. Each one of us receives our own identity through the love and affirmation of others. A child discovers that she is lovable because her parents lavish loving attention upon her. A child knows that God has created him “very good” because his parents delight in him. The affirmation of what God has created is essential to childhood development.

“Affirmation is not something we do but something we are. The root of the word ‘affirmation’ is ‘firm’. We cannot become our true selves until another person affirms us. We become our true selves when we see our goodness reflected back to us in the eyes of another person who loves us.”[xiii]

This affirmation is important to the arena of a child’s psychosexual development, without which, a child could face a lot of confusion.

For Walt Heyer, a former self-identified “transgender woman”, it is important for parents to know the role that affirmation plays in their development. Walt, born a male, struggled with the gender issue for forty years, and spent eight as a self-described “woman” before de-transitioning. As Walt speaks about the moment his gender struggle began at the age of four, he mentions that his grandmother would encourage him in wearing dresses and affirm him in being a girl. Walt states, without qualification, that affirming a boy as being a girl is not truly affirmation; “In the very same moment that you are affirming that person, you are telling them there is something wrong with them. It’s not affirming a child. It’s causing them to be depressed and anxious about who they are.” After forty years of dealing personally with the transgender issue, Walt understands that, “there is absolutely nothing good with affirming someone in a cross-gender identity, because it will destroy their life.” I encourage you to learn more by hearing about his story here.

Healthy affirmation is an important aspect of your role as a parent. The way in which a girl is delighted in as a daughter helps to establish her identity as such. The way in which a young man is affirmed as a son helps to establish him as such. This affirmation of the sexual identity of your child is a blessing to them. This blessing is very important for them to receive both from their same-sex parent and their opposite-sex parent. The affirmation of a child in their sexual identity helps them to establish a secure identity as a young man or a young woman, and it allows them to experience the joy of being delighted in as they were created. This is what our children truly desire; boys want to know that they have what it takes to become men. We should affirm them in their ability to do so. Girls want to know that their strength, compassion, and beauty blesses those around them. We should affirm this blessing of their femininity. This need not lead us to shallow stereotypes unless we desire to impose them ourselves. In fact, over-restrictive stereotypes can undermine affirmation and cause confusion. When we offer healthy affirmation to children and young people, it is an affirmation of what God has done:

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you” (Ps 139).

God the Father has declared that He has created you and me and each person “very good” (Gn 1:31). We are invited to receive our own selves as sacred gift. It should be obvious that absolute self-determination of the new gender theory stands in opposition to all that God has revealed to us in His Word. As such, gender theory must be rejected by all Catholics, and especially by parents.

At the same time, we must acknowledge there are also some adults who experience gender dysphoria, and we ought to strive to know how to love them well and affirm them in the truth of how God created them, just as we would for any other person. It is true that we should not affirm anyone in a cross-gender identity, but it we can be present to them in love as a friend. It is also true that someone experiencing gender dysphoria should not be blamed for their identity struggle. Bear in mind as well, that those who are struggling with this issue are not necessarily the ones who want this to be in the forefront of the minds of children. To forget this simple fact could lead to the scapegoating that has plagued our culture relentlessly. Each person who has experienced gender dysphoria is infinitely loved and desired by the God of the universe, who created them “very good.” We must participate with Him in affirming their goodness as being made in His image and likeness. They have an equal human dignity to you and me. Lest this be forgotten, I ask that we all spend some time praying with Matthew 25:31-46 with a special attention to whether we are treating everyone as we would treat Jesus.

Jesus also warns us not to be a stumbling block for children. He tells us that if we bring confusion to children and cause them to sin, it would be better for us if a millstone were hung around our neck and we were thrown into the sea. This is found in Matthew 18:6-7. We should spend some time praying through this with a special attention to whether we are acting out of a desire for the true good of children or whether we are acting out of a desire to win the approval of the world. If we desire the approval of the world, we will become a stumbling block for some of Jesus’ little ones.

To close, I would like to share with you a few resources on this topic. First, I highly encourage you to read and reflect on the Vatican document, Male and Female He Created Them. This ought to form our understanding of the human person and help to root us in the truth of who we are as God’s children. If you wish to delve more fully into the topic of gender dysphoria as a whole, I recommend Ryan T. Anderson’s aforementioned book. This book touches on many things that I cannot address in this brief letter. One of the most important resources that I have come across in recent years, though, is not something that deals directly with gender dysphoria or struggles with sexual identity in particular, but something that deals with inner healing in general. Even if we do not struggle profoundly with our sexual identity, we all, in some form, struggle with identity wounds that can affect any arena of life. It is important for us to remember that we believe in a God who is a Healer. We believe in a God who restores the broken chapters of our lives. Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician, desires permission to heal these broken places. It is for this reason that I am continually telling you about the ministry of Dr. Bob Schuchts and the John Paul II Healing Center as well as his book, Be Healed. This book and his ministry have blessed many people with an array of different interior wounds, enabling them to experience the loving gaze of God the Father.

You who are parents are given the sacred task of caring for God’s children, of revealing Him to them, and of revealing to them their own blessedness as sons and daughters. Know of my constant prayers for you in this task. Do not be afraid to speak the truth of your child’s blessedness as your son or your daughter and that their masculinity and femininity are beautiful God-given gifts.

In Christ,

Fr. Dan Kogut

 

Endnotes

[i] Congregation for Catholic Education (2019, February 2). “Male and Female He Created Them”: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20190202_maschio-e-femmina_en.pdf

[ii] ibid, 1

[iii] ibid

[iv] ibid

[v] ibid

[vi] Celinununu.com

[vii] ibid

[viii] Ryan T. Anderson, “When Harry Became Sally”, (Encounter Books, New York, 2019), 132-133.

[ix] Ibid, 121

[x] Ibid, 119

[xi] Ibid, 103

[xii] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 363

[xiii] Dennis Linn, Shelia Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn, S.J., “Belonging: Bonds of Healing and Recovery,” (Paulist Press, NY, 1992), 89-90.

The Spirit Comes

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By Jack Flanagan

Cyril of Jerusalem had many wonderful things to tell the early Church about the Holy Spirit.  Here is a sampling:

  • The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance.  He is not felt as a burden for he is light, very light.
  • The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console.
  • The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives Him and then, through Him, the minds of others as well.
  • The Spirit comes to make one man a teacher of divine truth, inspire another to prophesy, give another the power to cast out devils, enable another to interpret the Holy Scriptures.
  • The Spirit comes to strengthen one man’s self-control, show another how to help the poor, teach another to fast and to lead a life of asceticism, make another oblivious to the needs of the body, train another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same.
  • The Spirit comes, according to St. Cyril, as a light that “floods the soul of the man counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of.”

Thanks be to God for the marvelous gift of the Holy Spirit! I share these words that we might deeply desire more of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Let’s humbly ask for more of the Spirit’s transforming action  Let’s begin now, inviting the Spirit to flood our hearts and minds, the Church and the whole world, so that all may be made new in God’s life and love.

Bishop Witnesses Conversion in Ethiopia

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ August 2019 newsletter.

By Heather Schultz, Renewal Ministries’ Editor

Bishop Lesanu-Christos Matheos, of the Eparchy of Bahir Dar-Dessir in Ethiopia, recently visited the Renewal Ministries’ offices. He was in the United States to attend the ordination of an Ethiopian priest in Chicago and to visit Ethiopian priests and communities.

Bishop Lesanu has seen amazing stories of conversion in his diocese over the past couple of years, especially in the Gumuz tribe. The Gumuz are very isolated, but two young men from the tribe who had encountered Jesus at school worked with the bishop to bring a priest to their people. Last year, 280 people were baptized!

And this year, Bishop Lesanu helped baptize 405 Gumuz people! He said the Gospel is bringing about tremendous change in the Gumuz culture. He said there are two things the Gumuz people value: not lying and not stealing. He said that even if a member of the Gumuz tribe were to kill someone, they would never lie about it.

He added, however, that the Gumuz also have a habit of killing people if they are annoyed with them. He said they don’t place much value on human life.

He explained that if a person’s family saw their loved one about to be killed, their typical response would be to simply kill the person themselves. By killing you before the enemy, he said, “they think they saved you.”

This “killing culture,” as Bishop Lesanu described it, has been reduced since the Gumuz have come to know Christ.

He shared a story about a mother who asked her sons to seek revenge on their father’s killer. All four sons refused, because “the Lord says not to kill.”

“This was a shock for the society,” said Bishop Lesanu.

Bishop Lesanu added that the Gumuz people are independent; they don’t want to beg. He once received $1 from a woman—“and, with the heart of the lady who gave it to me, that $1 is worth more to me than $1 million.”

“The Gumuz are unique because they are innocent,” he continued. “I tell them to keep that value and tradition. They give back if they are given any more than they need.”

He said he doesn’t like to make the Gumuz people wait too long to be baptized, because “it is a matter of salvation. We don’t need them to be theologians; we want them to be baptized.”

The faithful receive additional teaching before receiving their First Communions.

He described the beauty of the Gumuz people’s faith: “They kiss the cross every time they come to the priest. They love the cross. They will run up to a priest of they see him on the street and say, ‘Bless me, Father’ and ask for absolution.”

Bishop Lesanu’s diocese is both new and very big—more than two-thirds the size of Italy. Yet he only has a very small number of priests and religious to assist him in serving the faithful.

He became acquainted with Renewal Ministries after doing an interview with Church in Need. At the time, he was a chaplain for the Charismatic Catholics, who “looked very Protestant.”

“This was a big load for me,” he explained. “I was given the big responsibility just to be an umbrella over them. I knew no one else. They published the interview, and many Catholics from around the world reached out to me. Michelle Moran, who at that time was president of ICCRS (International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services), contacted me.”

Through that connection, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinators Lloyd and Nancy Greenhaw came to serve in Ethiopia. One way the Greenhaws have served is by teaching university students. “We have more than eleven big government universities in our area,” said Bishop Lesanu. “Each university has 40,000-50,000 students, with just one percent who are Catholic. We have to take care of them and give them good formation.”

Bishop Lesanu added, “In 2016, one year after my installation as bishop, I had a lot of problems directed to me. I questioned, ‘Is it really the will of God that I am a bishop?’ I had a car accident, there was division among my priests, and some of the faithful changed religions. It caused me to question myself. I was in contact with Ralph Martin and Sr. Ann Shields, and Sr. Ann told me to prostrate myself in front of the Eucharist very often. In one year, everything changed.”

Additionally, a priest who travelled with the Greenhaws last year saw the bishop’s living conditions—he had no office and worked out of his bedroom—and offered to pay the rent on a bigger house for a year. Now, the bishop has an office space and the Dominican Sisters of Catherine of Siena work there as well, doing pastoral education.

“I can see the Lord put me in that place and is following me, assisting me,” said Bishop Lesanu. “I can see that it is His will that this work be given to me.”

Walking with God’s Word

Peter Herbeck heard the call to serve God full-time when he was in college. At first he thought this likely meant a vocation to the priesthood. After some discernment, however, he discovered that was not the case: He was called to marry and have a family.

But how could he evangelize full time as a layman with a wife and kids? Herbeck quickly found the answer: By trusting in God’s promise that he read in the Bible.

Today, Herbeck is the vice president and director for missions at Renewal Ministries, an organization founded by Ralph Martin in 1980 to evangelize in the Catholic Church through parish missions, conferences and various media initiatives. He’s also an author, in-demand speaker, and co-host of two weekly TV programs on EWTN and one daily show on Ave Maria Radio.

On Sept. 7 Herbeck and Father John Riccardo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and host of the Ave Maria Radio program “Christ is the Answer,” will speak in La Vista at the 10 Year Anniversary Conference of Seeking Truth, an Omaha-based biblical formation apostolate.

Herbeck spoke with the Catholic Voice about the impact Scripture should play in the lives of Catholics. 

Q: Tell us about your talk at the upcoming Seeking Truth conference.

What I’d like to do is talk a little bit about the times we’re living in to give people a spiritual perspective. You know, St. John Paul II used to say that one of the fundamental calls of the Vicar of Christ is to help the church read the signs of the times and to interpret for the church, to see what the Spirit is saying in response to the signs of the times. And I think it’s very important to just see spiritually what we’re living through right now in the church. It’s significant. 

And then in that context to see how important it is to do what people like Sharon and Steve (Doran) are doing in Seeking Truth, the Bible study, and how crucial it is for us right now. Because the Word of God has a unique capacity to clear up our thinking, give us clear minds, to give us a fresh spirit, a new way of thinking. … It gives us a deep-rooted, strong identity, to be able to see the Lord, understand him, understand his teaching. It gives people an unshakable grounding. And that’s exactly what people need right now. 

The Second Vatican Council talked so much about the core responsibility of the clergy and the laity in the mission of the church. We still have a long way to go for the laity to be awakened to that core responsibility and what that means. And it’s important. It’s serious. It’s what we’ve been baptized and confirmed for. It’s having people like Steve and Sharon and various kinds of lay leaders who are really responding to God’s call in their lives. Now he’s deploying them and they’re going forward, and bearing fruit. It is such an important sign, such an encouraging sign to know. It’s really a work of God.

Q: Could you share with us an experience from your own life in which you were enriched by your study of the Bible?

When I was 20, I had been encouraged by friends and mentors to make sure to take up the Bible each day and to read it. And I was in my dorm in college and I was reading through Matthew 6, that beautiful passage where Jesus said, “Don’t be anxious about anything. What you’re going to eat, what you’re going to drink, what you’re going to wear.”

It’s so counterintuitive. Reading, I’m thinking, “Everybody’s anxious about everything. How can we not be anxious about anything, about the very things you’re talking about, Lord?” But he’s talking about our need to trust him. And the last line there said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God,” instead of being anxious. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his way of holiness and everything else will be added unto you. He’ll heal everything. He’ll provide, maybe not everything we want, but everything we need he will provide. 

And I felt like in that moment, that passage, (it was) the first time really in my life probably where a passage just kind of jumped off the page at me. And I felt as though the Lord was saying to me in my dorm room, “Peter, if you internalize this, you take this into your heart, if you accept this and believe it and live it, I will make something beautiful out of your life. I will show you that this is absolutely true.” And it’s absolutely true for anyone who believes it and lives in accord with it. I’m 61 years old. I was like 20, that was 41 years ago when I read that passage, and it’s absolutely true. And all I can say is God is faithful, completely faithful.

Continue reading here.

Ethiopia Mission Reaches University Students, Gumuz Tribe

Members of the Gumuz tribe listened attentively as Lloyd Greenhaw shares his “Genesis to Jesus” story.

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ August 2019 newsletter.

By Nancy Greenhaw, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator

The bishop has been so happy with the results of our visits with his university students that he asked us to give them another weekend session. Each year, we have some returnees and newly enrolled students as well.

Eighty students attended; the bishop was happy. Lloyd began his talks on knowing and defending the faith with an in-depth talk on Mary, going through biblical typology and that the Ark of the Covenant is Mary. He taught all day, going through talks on the Eucharist, confession, idols, and more. The youth were amazed by everything the Church teaches and believes is in the Bible!

The next day, I taught on “Growing in Prayer” and on St. Therese of Lisieux and the “Audacity of Faith.” Bishop Lesanu interpreted for us. He greatly enjoys being with the young people. He explained that these kids experience many problems and hopelessness. Choosing to stay Catholic means choosing the more difficult path—including less education and fewer job opportunities. He said our time with the students always strengthens their faith. One young man chose this university based on reports he had heard about us from prior students. After the session, he said he was not disappointed in his decision!

Lloyd answered the young people’s many questions on faith, marriage, and what being a true Christian means in their lives. I then taught them how to share their testimonies—which they had never done before. Then they practiced giving their testimonies. One young man stood up and said that in his church, a thief stole the Blessed Sacrament and threw the hosts on the floor. Suddenly, the thief was paralyzed. He remained that way all night until morning Mass-goers found him and the police were called; he then was set free of the paralysis, and they took him to jail!

The next day, we drove for about three hours to the small town of Dibate, which was our base for the next few days. We stayed with Fr. Desalegn, who teaches and preaches to the Gumuz Tribe.  He also runs a “hostel” for the Gumuz boys who are getting an education from the government. (Apparently the Church feeds and houses and the government educates them.) We were privileged to speak to nearly thirty of the boys.

Fr. Desalegn says Mass for the Gumuz every Thursday, even though no one has received their First Holy Communion. Lloyd, Fr. Desalegn, our interpreter, Franciscan Seminarian Senay Mesfin, the driver Dagnachaw, the Communication Officer of the Diocese Tegelemma Lemma, and I drove about ninety minutes on a very rough road through the hills around the Gumuz. When we could drive no longer, we got out to walk. It’s a beautiful area, but the young Ethiopians walk faster us up the hills than us flatlanders. When Lloyd and I got too winded, we slowed and loudly told each other, “Let’s stop and look at the view!” The guys laughed at us. We did finally reach the new Gumuz church! This is the only structure for miles that is not made of mud. With the help of the Gumuz, Italians brought in a corrugated aluminum ceiling and walls on poles as their church. It is a step up from the old blue tarp over poles.

The Gumuz had kept in contact with our progress through cell phones, and they were singing loudly for us as we walked in, happy that we were there. After singing, Lloyd began to preach the Gospel, going from Genesis to Jesus. Lloyd spoke in English, which was interpreted into Amharic by the Seminarian and then interpreted to Gumuzegina (the name given to us by the seminarian) by a local young man. Then Father said the short (only one hour) Ethiopian Mass, and then Lloyd led them in a prayer to accept Jesus. Then, Father, Lloyd, and I asked everyone interested to come forward for prayer. All responded. We laid hands on several hundred people, children included, and asked for God’s blessing and healing. Lloyd, with Father’s blessing, blessed them with a large Benedictine Cross. The people couldn’t take their eyes off Jesus!

Afterward, we were invited to the chief’s hut. The wide-eyed children rarely see “Fraenges,” know as whites, and they stared and pressed around me as I took photos. So cute! It was around noon and very hot. We walked several miles back to the truck, and many kids walked with us. We drove back to Father’s house, and we all ate and rested. Then, around 4 p.m., Father took us on another adventure.

He took us to another Gumuz village about thirty minutes away. None of these people have been baptized, and few have heard the Gospel. They practice traditional religion, and Father has gained their trust. Father thought that Lloyd’s “Genesis to Jesus” story was perfect to share with them. Again, we drove as far as we could. This time, we only had to walk uphill about a half mile to a set of mud huts with people sitting on logs in a half circle, with men on the right and women and most children on the left. The people were in no hurry and sat very attentively as Lloyd preached. Afterward, as in the other camp, he asked if they wanted to ask Jesus into their hearts. They did. It was a beautiful experience. Coming from America, it is still amazing that there are places where the Gospel has not been preached. What a fantastic privilege!

At dark, we started back. Many young boys ran after us. They ran faster than we could drive and tried to grab hold of our vehicle. The driver finally stopped and sent them away, but they still followed a long distance, waving and laughing.

. . .

Below are two of the many testimonies we collected from the university students:

When I was in grade eleven, I heard Americans brought teaching and told us what was wrong about masturbation. I longed for an opportunity to listen to these people. I chose the Bahir Dar University so that I could meet you. I knew that such an opportunity from Lloyd and Nancy could only be found in the Bahir Dar diocese.

I learned from the teaching that I was talking bad to myself. I would think things like I was not useful, I was not important. I also had no courage to speak to people. I could not express myself. Lloyd and Nancy taught me, “You’re very important. Jesus gave you the power so you can do great things!” Now I see that I can do great things as the son of God. I will exercise my faith. Now my life is completely changed.

All of you first-year students, you’re very lucky to hear about pornography and to be liberated and how our body is holy. I don’t say that I’m really holy. But I can say at this moment I am far away from pornography and masturbation. You cannot hide yourself from God.

When you spoke about Mary, I had never thought about this before. I am now fully convinced that Mary intercedes for us. During my final exam, I prayed to Mary to help me to pass the exam. I made an “F.” I had already prepared my luggage to move back home. But the teacher called me and offered to help, and he helped me bring my grade up. So, it was a chance for me! I realized Mary really is an intercessor, and when you pray to her, she responds.

Also, I was surprised that abortions are not allowed. I thought, how are you going to keep the population from becoming too big, it will be difficult. I now know that God has us for a purpose. Your teachings opened my eyes. We cannot be against the will of God. Only the Catholic Church is against divorce. It makes me love my Catholicism, because Catholicism is still firm in the teaching and continues its mission.

. . .

I have received many things in my life from the beginning of last year, when Bishop Scott McCaig taught us about Mass. I was converted by the teaching of Bishop Scott. Most of the time, even if you’re a singer in the choir, after Mass, you begin to look at bad photos on your phone. After hearing Bishop Scott, I completely stopped. I started to read the Bible, and I learned how to pray and to read the Bible and understand it.

In Lloyd and Nancy’s testimony, they had been rich and they had many things, but they had to leave that for Christ, for the service of the Lord. Now, I don’t think I will go into government work. I want to do what Lloyd and Nancy are doing. I will do that next year. I have to pay back. I have to do something for the Lord, because I learned from them, from you. After finishing the University, I would like to do evangelization work for the diocese.