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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Seminarian with Maui links assists pope during ceremony"

From The Maui News

By Claudine San Nicolas

Photo at left: Patrick “Pat” Arensberg holds niece Julia Kaitlyn Smith during a family reunion two years ago in Hawaii.

A seminarian with ties to Maui held the microphone for Pope Benedict XVI throughout Sunday's canonization of St. Damien in Rome.

Patrick "Pat" Arensberg was born on Maui on Jan. 3, 1984, coincidentally the same birthday of Hawaii's first saint, Father Damien de Veuster, a 19th-century Sacred Hearts priest who served Hansen's disease patients in Kalaupapa.

Arensberg, 25, was baptized and received his first communion at Christ the King Church in Kahului. He attended Lihikai Elementary School up until the 3rd-grade when his parents, Joseph "Joe" and Julie Golis Arensberg, moved their family of seven children to the Mainland.

The Arensbergs - Joe, a 1975 St. Anthony High School graduate, and Julie, a 1974 Maui High alumna, have lived in Mobile, Ala., for the last 15 years. Pat is the fourth of their seven children and is studying at the North American seminary in Rome.

Contacted by e-mail, Pat Arensberg said he recently grew a strong devotion to Father Damien.

"He is a model for any priest, whether living in a parish or in a foreign mission country because of his devotion to the Lord and to the people he served," he said.

Just seven hours before Sunday's 10 a.m. (10 p.m. Saturday HST) canonization ceremony and Mass in Rome, Arensberg and Oahu resident Rheo Ofalsa were selected to serve as assistants to the pope during the canonization of five saints including Damien.

Arensberg's primary duty was to ensure that the microphone was placed correctly in front of the pope whenever he was to speak or pray.

"To have the opportunity to serve at the canonization was a real blessing," Arensberg said. "The whole event was very surreal, I couldn't believe I was in arm's distance from the pope the entire Mass."

The Arensbergs contacted family and friends on Maui as soon as they learned of their son's role. They also stayed up early Sunday morning in Mobile to watch the live telecast.

"We were so excited,"Julie Arensberg said about watching her son at the canonization. "We're just overwhelmed."

Joe Arensberg said he was proud of his son and happy about his choice to study for the priesthood.

"I was always hoping one of mine would choose a life of vocations," Arensberg said.

Joe Arensberg worked on Maui as paramedic but left the job nearly 20 years ago to study to be a teacher. He now teaches theology at a high school in Mobile, where he intends to share stories of Hawaii and of Father Damien.

"He was always one of those people local Hawaii Catholics could look up at," he said.

Pat Arensberg called it a blessing to be at Damien's canonization.

"I think that is is a great thing for Hawaii to get its first saint," he said. "Hopefully, it will be a call for a deeper relationship with Christ for all Christians, especially Catholics, that live in Hawaii.

"May they learn from the example of Father Damien: To love all our brothers and sisters as Christ did and to help those who are in need, no matter how dire the situation may be."

"Catholic priest kidnapped in The Philippines"

From Spero News
By Martin Barillas

A Catholic missionary was abducted from his home on the evening of October 11 in Pagadian City on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. Four assailants burst into the Father Michael Sinnott at his residence while he was strolling in the garden. Dragging him to a waiting pickup truck, he was then trundled into a waiting speed boat at a local beach.

The whereabouts of the octogenarian priest, born in Ireland, are still unknown, while no group has yet to claim responsibility for the terrorist act. There are distinct suspicions that a Muslim terrorist group may be responsible, since priests and other Christian missionaries have been abducted or murdered in the past by Abu Sayyaf – an ally of the al Qaeda terrorist network. Groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have operated for decades in hopes of setting up a separate Muslim state.

Father Shay Cullen, a fellow Irishman and priest who leads PREDA – a child welfare and advocacy organization in the Philippines – called for prayers. Said Rev. Cullen in an email, “Please pray and use all contacts to spread the news and we demand that no violence are used by the authorities but peaceful negotiation be conducted for his release. We are with you Father Michael in Sprit and prayer.”

Father Michael Sinnott (80), a member of the Columban order, is originally from Barntown in County Wexford, Republic of Ireland. Ordained in 1954, he was assigned to Mindanao in the southern Philippines in 1957 following his studies in Rome. Rev. Sinnott served in Mindanao until 1966 before being assigned to the theology staff in Dalgan Park, Navan. He returned to the Philippines in 1976 where he has served in a variety of pastoral and administrative roles. Since 1998 he has been involved with a school for children with special needs.

"Poker-playing priest has chance to win $1M"

From The Aiken Standard
By Rob Novit

Andrew Trapp's interest in becoming a priest dates back to fifth grade at St. Mary of Help of Christians School in Aiken.

He followed through on that path. Now 28, Trapp is serving as the assistant pastor at St. Michael Catholic Church in Garden City Beach.
Father Trapp has a new moniker in recent weeks - the poker-playing priest. He's good at it, too. In a tape-delayed broadcast from Los Angeles on Fox on Sunday, Trapp beat a professional poker player to win $100,000 - an unexpected prize he will donate to St. Michael's fundraising efforts for a new church building.

Trapp isn't through. He will return to Los Angeles with three other finalists in December for a chance to win $1 million for his church.

Trapp was there for the taping just over a week ago for the PokerStars.net Million-Dollar Challenge. After he won the $100,000 prize, he told only his parish priest and his parents, Don and Beth Trapp. So the atmosphere was surreal for him and his folks when they gathered in the school gym Sunday with 300 church friends who didn't know the outcome.

"The atmosphere was really exciting, like watching a 'Rocky' movie," Trapp said Monday. "I'm still amazed that I won, and I was really moved by the support and encouragement. I visited the different classes at school today, and all of them were excited about watching me on television."

But he's quick to point out to the kids that he's not advocating serious gambling. The online qualifying tournaments had no entry fee, and his trip to Los Angeles was provided expense-free.

Earlier, Trapp had gotten permission from his parish priest and bishop to pursue the poker challenge.

"They wanted me to be seen as a regular guy," he said. "It will help young people see that they can serve God and still have fun and be active, whatever their religious community is."

While growing up in Aiken, Trapp often played board games and draw poker with his parents and younger sister Lindsay, now a copy editor for a Louisiana newspaper.

The family was active at St. Mary, and Trapp began attending the church school as a fifth-grader. He started thinking about a daily prayer life and later that year watched a movie about Blessed Damien, who devoted his life to serving the lepers on Molokai.

That interest lingered for several years and then solidified after Trapp enrolled at Clemson University. He transferred to Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and remained there for seminary. He spent a year at a church in Bluffton before moving to St. Michael.

Trapp had learned to played Texas hold 'em at seminary and often played with friends there once a week or so. He was only "fairly good" at it but continued to enjoy the game. When he heard about the free online tournament last summer, he entered and, to his surprise, was among the winners invited to submit an audition video. Trapp described his work and his interest in helping the church on the video and was accepted.

Nationally-known poker player Daniel Negreanu served as a coach for all the players. The format was unusual; Trapp played celebrities one-on-one and defeated them, including ESPN commentator and former NBA player John Salley. That gave Trapp the opportunity to play Negreanu, again one-on-one, and each with the equivalent of $20,000 in chips.

The match didn't last long. Both players still had close to their original stake when Negreanu, looking at a straight draw, went all-in with his entire chip count. Holding one pair, Trapp called the bet. He picked up a second pair on the turn and then had to wait anxiously before Negreanu failed to make his straight.

"It's really amazing and scary," Trapp said. "Daniel is one of the very best in the world."

Beth Trapp said with a laugh that her son has said his parents will have to wait until the delayed broadcast to find out how he does in the finals.

"We're so proud of him," she said. "He's doing this for two reasons - to help with the church building and as a means of evangelizing. Andrew wants people to see he can be a young man in the priesthood and still have fun."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Big guns in the spiritual warfare"

From CatholicCulture.org
By Phil Lawler

If you've ever spent autumn in New England, you know about the "leaf peepers"-- the tourists who flock to Vermont to enjoy the foliage in early October. But early October-- and specifically this day: October 6, the feast of St. Bruno-- bring different memories of Vermont for me.

Back in 2001 I had a truly unique experience. I was invited by the Carthusians of Arlington, Vermont, to spend a day with them and write a story about their way of life. They were celebrating the 900th anniversary of the death of St. Bruno, the founder of the Carthusian order, and decided that it was an appropriate time for a bit of publicity.

I say that my experience was unique because Carthusians generally don't seek publicity-- to put it mildly. Theirs is the strictest, most ascetical order in the Catholic Church. The monks live in silence, utterly withdrawn from the world. When I commented to the prior on the oddity of a Carthusian "publicity campaign," he remarked that he could perhaps imagine another opportunity for a journalist to visit the Charterhouse in Vermont-- in another 100 years, to celebrate St. Bruno's 1,000th anniversary!

For that one day in 2001, at the monastery hidden near the top of Mt. Equinox, I had a glimpse of a totally different kind of life: a life devoted utterly to prayer and contemplation. When a man enters the Carthusian order, in a real sense he leaves the world in which you and I live. He gives up normal food, social life, travel, even speech for the rest of his days. Barring medical emergency he will not leave the Charterhouse until his remains are buried there. The Carthusian monk willingly chooses a life sentence, in solitary confinement, to devote himself totally to prayer. These are very, very serious Christian men: seasoned veterans of the spiritual combat.

Very few Christians are called to such an austere life. Most of us live ostensibly ordinary lives, absorbing a daily drubbing from the secular world. But we're engaged in spiritual combat as well. In fact we lay people are the infantry.

There are days when the skirmishing is rougher than usual, when I feel exhausted and bedraggled. Those are the days when I remind myself that while we're not alone. While we're grappling on the front lines, the big guns are booming from Mt. Equinox. Those are the days when I'm struck anew by the amazing diversity of vocations within the Church, and I thank God for my silent friends at the Charterhouse.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Army: Fr. Kapaun worthy of Medal of Honor

From The Wichita Eagle
By Roy Wenzl

Father Emil Kapaun, the U.S. Army chaplain who died in a prison camp after saving dozens of soldiers' lives in the Korean War, is deserving of the Medal of Honor, the secretary of the Army has determined.

Kapaun, a native of Pilsen, in Marion County, and a former parish priest there, died of starvation and pneumonia in the prison camp at Pyoktong, North Korea, on May 23, 1951; he was 35. Soldiers who were with him have said that the communist Chinese camp guards murdered him because he rallied fellow starving soldiers to pray, to stay alive and to stay true to their country in the face of relentless brainwashing sessions.

Fellow prisoners of war have pleaded with the military for decades to give Kapaun the Medal of Honor. As a result, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, as early as April 2001 asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to review Kapaun's eligibility for the honor.

In a letter Tiahrt received this week, Army Secretary Pete Geren wrote, "After giving this request careful, personal consideration, I have determined that Chaplain Kapaun's actions in combat operations and as a prisoner of war in Korea warrant award of the Medal of Honor.

"This brave Soldier clearly distinguished himself by his courageous actions. The Army and our nation are forever grateful for his heroic service."

Tiahrt said Thursday that the decision is not entirely complete. Congress and President Obama must sign off on it.

"But it's the Secretary of the Army who does the research and makes the key recommendation," Tiahrt said. "This is huge, and I'm very happy about this."

Tiahrt himself called Kapaun's remaining immediate family — his brother, Eugene, and Eugene's wife, Helen, who live in Bel Aire. The news stunned Helen, who spoke for her ailing husband.

"We are proud of him, as we should be," she said.

"But I don't think Father Emil would have wanted honors for himself. He would have said, 'Oh, shucks,' and thrown off any thoughts about honors to someone else."

The Roman Catholic Church has for several decades conducted a separate investigation to determine whether Kapaun should be declared a saint. That investigation has gained strength in recent months.

The Vatican earlier this year sent an investigator to Wichita to interview families and their doctors who say their children miraculously recovered from what looked like fatal medical problems after they prayed to the soul of Kapaun. Proving at least two miracles is a requirement for considering sainthood in the church.

The military during the Korean War had already awarded Kapaun the Distinguished Service Cross, its second-highest award. But fellow POWS said he deserved the nation's highest award.

A number of them dictated notarized affidavits testifying to his heroism under fire and in prison. Several fellow prisoners, after they were released at the end of the war, came to Wichita and Pilsen to extol Kapaun's heroism.

Kapaun was a chaplain of the 8th Cavalry Regiment of the First Army Division during the Korean War. Soldiers in that outfit saw him run through machine gun and artillery fire during a number of battles, dragging wounded soldiers to safety.

Four months after the war began, with the communist North Korean Army falling apart and the American army apparently victorious, the Chinese Army suddenly entered the war. Kapaun's 8th Cavalry regiment was surrounded and nearly annihilated by tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers in November 1950.

American soldiers who escaped the battle outside the North Korean village of Unsan said Kapaun refused to leave the wounded even after officers ordered and soldiers screamed at him to leave the battlefield.

In the following six months, on a horrific death march to prison camps and then in two prison camps just south of the Chinese border, Kapaun saved many lives. He escaped numerous times to steal food to bring back to starving prisoners, washed the filthy underwear of sick soldiers too feeble to do it themselves, and made pots and pans out of shredded roofing tin to boil the only clean water soldiers drank in the camps.

Soldiers said he used many skills he told them he'd learned as a farm boy growing up outside Pilsen.

They said he was a devout priest who violated camp rules every night by saying the rosary with fellow soldiers; but he sometimes spoke four-letter-words after confronting vicious guards mistreating prisoners.

When starving soldiers, freezing in subzero weather, began to hoard or steal food from one another, Kapaun would give his own food away and bless it in front of the soldiers as "food we cannot only eat but share."

"By offering pieces of his clothing and giving portions of his own meager rations to his injured comrades, Chaplain Kapaun unwittingly weakened his resistance which, in turn, hastened his untimely death," Tiahrt wrote Rumsfeld in 2001.

Helen Kapaun said she and the family were "shocked" when former POWs came home after the war and told hundreds of stories of her brother-in-law's heroics.

"All we knew of him was that he was a good priest and a good man," she said. "My husband had said that Father Emil was a man who was always religious and always meant what he said."