Editorial — Changing lives the world over

Sometimes all it takes is one person to change the lives of many.

That is not a revelation that will take anyone by surprise; in fact it is something we all know and hear about frequently. But it is worth remembering, from time to time, that life-altering people — those who give of themselves to help better the lives of others — are numerous in our own Archdiocese of Louisville.

Most of us know at least one or two such people; some of us know many. The truth is simple and direct — there are among us people who do saint-like work, who give of themselves repeatedly for the sake of others, just as Jesus asked us to do, just as Pope Francis is regularly reminding us to do.

Just think about the history of our archdiocese and the number of individuals throughout our 200-plus years who’ve made a positive impact on the lives of people not just in Kentucky, but throughout the world. If you were to start creating a list, surely some worthy names would be unintentionally omitted simply because there are so many. It would be a remarkable list; and it would be incomplete.

So let’s avoid trying to put together such a comprehensive look into our past; let us just know that it is filled with the names of those who, often acting on their own, brought the light of Christ to those in our community and often helped to carry the Good News of God’s grace across the globe. And let’s be sure to remind ourselves that such work is continuing to this very day.

Last week, for instance, there was a story in The Record about the efforts of Father John Judie Ministries in four African nations. In Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and Zambia, Father Judie’s ministry is supporting seminarians and, in his words, “helping to bridge the gap across the cultural divides, and across continents.”

His ministry, he continued, is “about simply helping to forge closer relationships with our brothers and sisters in the human family.”

Father Judie said his work is “more about being than doing.”

It began nearly two decades ago when Father Judie — pastor of Christ the King and Immaculate Heart of Mary churches — heard that some seminaries in Africa were sending seminarians home because they could not afford the yearly tuition cost of $100. Surely, he thought, we can do something about that. And they have. Now the annual budget for Father John Judie Ministries, Inc,. is about $60,000 a year, and all of it comes from donations from individuals and gifts from interested and concerned organizations. It all adds up to a significant force in the lives of hundreds of people, all because God spoke to one person, and that one person made a difference.

There are so many others about whom we could write. We’ve heard, from time to time, about the continuing work of Father Charles R. Dittmeier in Cambodia, where for decades he has helped to care for the poorest of that poor nation.

And we’ve read frequently about the work of dozens of Archdiocese of Louisville people who continue to help the struggling population of Haiti in the aftermath of that nation’s earthquake in 2010. It should be noted that the work of a lot of people from many local parishes began in Haiti long before the earthquake struck.

It is comforting to realize that dozens of people continue to make frequent trips to that Caribbean island nation, people such as David Puckett, Don Cavanaugh and others from the Cathedral of the Assumption; parishioners from St. Edward and from several parishes in central Kentucky who, along with the guidance of Catholic Charities in Nazareth, haven’t forgotten about the needed work — and prayer — for the people of Haiti.

Wherever the work, whatever the nation, let’s not forget the “immersion trips” that Hand in Hand Ministries makes to places such as Appalachia, Belize and Nicaragua. An important constant in all these efforts has been the effect on those doing the helping. Invariably, people who take part in such efforts say pretty much the same thing — “It changed my life forever.”

For instance, for a couple of years now Father John Judie Ministries has been producing a calendar filled each year with pictures and quotations from those who took part in mission trips to Africa. Consider some of their responses:

Becca Schrank, whose comments are included in the 2014 “Africa Echoes in our Hearts” calendar:

“If you measure success in happiness and relationships, Africa is one of the most thriving places I have ever been … money doesn’t mean too much if you can’t be happy.”

Another person featured in the calendar, Jo Ann Haner, noted that “It didn’t matter where you called ‘home,’ — it didn’t matter the color of your skin or your age, everyone was welcomed and being there was all that mattered.”

An African friend once told Father Judie that “a visitor is a blessing from God. If we’re not hospitable, we’re not being African. We’re ignoring God’s gift.”

Let us not ignore God’s gifts to all of us, either. Some of those gifts are the people who carry the good name, and the good work, of the Archdiocese of Louisville around the world.

Glenn Rutherford
Record Editor

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