Friday, January 18, 2013

Patroness of Life: TB&TR Exclusive Team Interview, Part 2

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Photo Courtesy of
The Blood & The Rose
Take a close look at the picture to the right – it’s a replica of St. Juan Diego’s tilma, imprinted with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe following her appearance to him at Tepeyec, Mexico in 1531.

The black ribbon tied across Our Lady’s waist is a symbol very recognizable for the indigenous people of Mexico. She is pregnant, a sanctuary of life for Christ.

We’re just one week away from a special screening of The Blood  & The Rose – a feature-length documentary centered on Our Lady of Guadalupe – on January 24, one night before thousands of pro-life activists hit the streets of DC for the annual March for Life. The timing, said director Tim Watkins, while not purposeful, is certainly fortuitous.

“It’s stunning how things turned out,” said Tim Watkins, director of TB & TR. “This year is the 40th anniversary of Rowe v. Wade. Our screening is the night before the March. And Our Lady of Guadalupe, the focus of the film, is the Patroness of Life. It’s almost like we made this movie for precisely this moment in time, promoting the dignity of human life.”

The screening will benefit Catholic Charities and our many ministries supporting the dignity of all our neighbors, from the unborn to the elderly. For staff at Catholic Charities’ Sanctuaries for Life program (SFL), the message of The Blood & The Rose has particular significance as they work daily with pregnant women in crisis to help them make a life-affirming choice.

“It’s very powerful when you think about the many pregnant women we serve at Sanctuaries,” said Ana Menjivar, Prenatal Care Coordinator at SFL. “It’s a reminder that Mary said yes to the angel, and yes to God, that she would be this important sanctuary. We want all the women who seek our help to be able see themselves as sanctuaries for the life they carry.”

The power of “yes” is a theme throughout the movie – for Mary, for St. Juan Diego, and for all of us. “Juan Diego a great hero, because he’s ordinary, an everyman,” said Watkins. “He is like you and I, the average person who wonders if they can really make a difference or have any effect on the world. Juan Diego is proof that all of us can help spread the word of the church.”

Tickets are available online for The Blood & The Rose. For information on group rates, please call Jaimie Yates at 410-667-1400, ext 280. The event also includes spiritual insights from popular EWTN program host and mariologist Fr. Leo Patalinghug; host and creator of EWTN’s The World Over Live, Raymond Arroyo; and our very own President and CEO, Father John Enzler. Bishop Francisco Gonzalez will offer a post movie reflection and blessing. 

  • Get Tickets here
  • Learn more about Catholic Charities' Sanctuaries for Life here

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This Jeep Has Heart

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George Jones (left) works with hypothermia staff
Mark Beeson to load blankets in the Jeep
to distribute at hypothermia shelters
Guest Post by George Jones
Hypothermia Shelter Coordinator

It’s called our “Hypothermia Jeep” – a weathered old Jeep Cherokee that has crisscrossed the District literally thousands of times, shuttling supplies and staff to Catholic Charities shelters during the harshest of winter conditions.

That includes the blizzard of 2010 (called Snowmageddon). It includes every very cold night since the Jeep joined my team in 2004. And though the Hypothermia Jeep just hit its 200,000 mile marker, it’ll keep trucking on this winter, helping to ensure the safety of our homeless neighbors on nights when it’s just not safe to sleep outside.

When temperatures are near or below freezing, DC city government issues a “hypothermia alert.” This allows extra shelters to open across the city to make sure there are enough beds to accommodate every single homeless man and woman.

Now loaded with supplies, the Hypothermia Jeep
can make its rounds to shelters
For Catholic Charities, the hypothermia alert means we open five extra shelters, usually in a church basement or community center, with beds for 170 people, and four of our shelters that run year-round put out extra cots to make sure we can keep as many people as possible safe from harsh winter weather. We also bring in extra staff.

When this happens, I rely on the Jeep to get me from shelter to shelter, from northwest to southeast DC, making sure each site has all it needs to make it through the night safely and as comfortably as possible. I check in at each of these shelters to replenish cleaning supplies, kitchen supplies, and toiletries. I collect nightly reports. I replace broken cots, and assess what supplies need to be ordered, or delivered, or replenished.  

The Jeep is such a blessing on those nights. It has four-wheel drive, plus it can hold four passengers, plus cargo. Before the Jeep I was doing my rounds on public transportation, and Chapman Todd, the Director of Housing at the time and still a great friend, secured the Jeep to make things easier.

Some shelters such as Adam's Place (shown above)
put out extra cots and hire extra staff to work during
severe weather alerts - ensuring no one needs to
sleep outside in dangerous conditions.
The Jeep has never quit, even during Snowpacalypse. One of the windows shattered from the weight of the heavy snow, but we kept going. We’d ask people we saw out in the cold if they wanted a ride to a shelter with us, people we’d see lying in gas stations and elsewhere.

I also used to the Jeep to ferry our staff between their homes and our shelters. Many worked long shifts during the blizzard, staying up to two days straight in the shelter, so our Jeep helped me get them home when the roadways were difficult and public transportation was down.

Believe me, especially after that winter, all my trust is in our Hypothermia Jeep. I’ve spent a lot of long, lonely nights in the driver seat when there is literally no one else on the road, and all I see is flakes. But it’s important to be out there. It can really be bitter out, and literally dangerous, for some of the people we serve who might be elderly, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or suffering from mental and/or physical illnesses. We need to make sure they have a safe, warm place to sleep.

The work changes you. I remember one day, a woman approached me on in front of the Verizon Center. She was all dressed up in a silk suit, her hair was all done, and she said, “Mr. Jones? Do you recognize me?” And I had to say that I didn’t. “I used to stay at one of your shelters,” she said. “And I just want you to know, I don’t smoke crack anymore.” At times when I ask myself why I do this, especially those late nights in bad weather, I remember her.

Now, last winter was one of the softest things we’ve ever had here in DC. The hypothermia alert was active only 67 nights the whole season, and normally we see over 70 alerts by mid-January. This winter, people are saying it’s going to be hard, but I think they just mean normal. For us working at the city’s homeless shelters, that means between 90 and 110 hypothermia shelters for the season.

One thing for sure, the Hypothermia Jeep will be in action. We just recently had it overhauled so that it can continue helping us, and serving those in need, for many winters to come. 

  • Don't let anyone risk a frigid night's sleep on the streets. Call the DC Shelter Hotline if you see someone at risk:1-800-535-7252. Your call could save a life!
  • Donations to our Housing Programs (including Hypothermia Shelters) can be made online here.
  • Your family, classroom, or office can help make a shelter a home for our clients. Just a few ideas: Write birthday cards, make welcome baskets, or decorate for a holiday! Learn more about adopting a shelter here.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Blood & The Rose: Exclusive Team Interview, Part 1

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“On December 9, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary first appeared to Juan Diego, an ordinary man of extraordinary faith…The beautiful miracle of that day is chronicled in this story that begins with Mary’s faith filled yes.”

Come Thursday, January 24, prepare to be inspired. Catholic Charities is teaming up with Renegade Productions to bring you a special screening of The Blood & The Rose, which chronicles the rich history – and lasting power – of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The screening will be held at the Warner Theater and benefits our good work at Catholic Charities!

The event will include commentary from several faith leaders including Father Leo Patalinghug (star of EWTN’s “Savoring our Faith” and author of Spicing Up Married Life) and our very own Father John Enzler!

The Open Door sat down with Timothy J. Watkins and Stephen McEveety, Director and Executive Producer of the film.

Catholic Charities: What compelled you about the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe?

McEveety: I’ve always had an interest in Mesoamerica – the Aztecs, Cortés, the conquest of Mexico. I visited Mexico in 2005 with my family as part of a mission, building houses, and we visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There, I heard the story and I just couldn’t let go of it. There was so much more to the story that I wanted to uncover.

Director Timothy Watkins (above)
and Executive Producer
Stephen McEveety (below)
Watkins: And the story is so much bigger than most people realize. There’s a Guadalupe, Spain too, and built there is a church where Cortés worshiped  where Columbus signed papers to go to America. The historical and religious connections are just incredible. There isn’t a person who doesn’t leave this movie wowed, and inspired. It’s a reminder what so many people are missing in their lives: the joy of serving others, the joy of echoing Mary’s “yes” to God. So many people are lost in self-satisfaction and gratification that they don’t believe the true satisfaction of helping others.

Catholic Charities: So you explore the historical and religious implications. How about science? Many people know about Juan Diego’s tilma, impressed with the image of the Virgin Mary, and there’s been recent articles regarding its miraculous qualities. Does the film delve into this research?

Watkins: Absolutely. Science has actually proven that no human could have created the image on the tilma. One could argue then, that the tilma is the work of God – the word of God, and we ought to listen and follow Christ. I think we all need that reminder.

McEveety: And that's why we're thrilled Catholic Charities is a part of this event. When Our Lady appeared in Mexico, she formed an incredible bond between people and Christ. She brought hearts together in a massive way. I think that’s similar to what Catholic Charities does – bring people together, spread peace and love.

Don’t miss our special screening of The Blood & The Rose at the Warner Theater and stay tuned for Part 2 of our team interview, coming soon to The Open Door blog! Tickets available online - and watch the preview here below: