Archive | May, 2011

Trying a new lake

May 31, 2011


“Nothing venture, nothing gained.”

This is what I told my oldest son, Joe, as we fished the waters of Lake Traverse, which runs about 15 miles or so on the border of Minnesota and South Dakota. We were hoping to cash in on a hot walleye bite that has been running strong for the last few weeks.

I got a great tip for a local fishing guide, Steve Carney, who has fished this lake many times over the years. He says it is typically good in the spring and fall. In fact, he said it’s usually “on fire” in May.

I was envisioning an outing like I’ve had on Upper Red, where dozens of walleyes come over the gunwale, and many more fish are thrown back then kept. What I liked, in particular, is that the protected slot for walleyes on Traverse doesn’t start until 20 inches. And, you’re allowed one fish over 20. So, you would be able to keep at least one walleye per person of any size.

That was enough to lure me and my son three-and-a-half hours west. I left with high hopes, confident we would be bringing home eight walleyes.

Unexpected results

Unfortunately, the fish had other ideas. We ended the day with three 13-inch walleyes in the livewell. Typically, we throw those back. But, it took us several hours to land the first one, so I kept that one and the other two. We pulled back to the boat landing scratching our heads.

I feared we might learn that other anglers were successful using different tactics, but that was not the case. In fact, Carney had told me that a number of people catch lots of walleyes fishing from their docks. We worked areas where there were docks and people fishing from them. We saw very few fish caught, and even asked a few how they were doing.

The reports were all the same — very few walleyes, and all of them small. Of course, we heard the classic line: “Shoulda been here yesterday.”

I emailed my report to another friend who has fished the lake. And, he said this lake can be very tough at times. Thus, he was not surprised that we had a tough day.

Still, we had fun, especially with the half dozen silver bass that we caught. They put up a pretty good fight, and I wouldn’t mind targeting them sometime. That is, after we have caught our limit of walleyes.

On the positive side

One bright spot was meeting Todd Johnson, owner of Wing N Fin Resort located on the south part of the lake on the Minnesota side. He was very accommodating and did his best to help us find good spots to fish. His information was solid, the fish just didn’t cooperate.

He said the fishing can be good all summer, and generally picks up in the fall. I think it would be fun to come back in October and try for some walleyes. What I like about the fall is that there generally are fewer boats on the lakes. In fact, sometimes you can have the entire lake to yourself.

Time to hire a guide?

Given the long drive and higher gas prices, it makes more sense to go for a few days to make the trip worthwhile. And, it might also be a good idea to hire a guide like Steve Carney. He has a keen attention to detail and he has fished lakes like this so many times, he knows just where to go and what to do. What I especially like about him is that he is very willing to share his tips and techniques. I can read them just about every week in Outdoor News, where he writes a weekly column.

I have had the pleasure of fishing with Steve on a few occasions, way back in the 1980s when I wrote a fishing column for Sun-Current newspapers in the south and western suburbs. Most of the time, we did very well. In fact, on one trip to Mille Lacs, I caught two 27-inch walleyes in one morning. But, Steve topped me with a 29-incher. That was a day on the water I’ll never forget!

I hope to have more days like this. Maybe, it will happen someday on Traverse. My next chance to catch a walleye comes later this month, when I’ll take my son, Andy, and his friend to Lake of the Woods for a fishing retreat led by a priest from the Diocese of St. Cloud. I hope to write about that for an upcoming outdoors column.

Stay tuned!

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On the air

May 26, 2011


I had a fun time in the studio at Relevant Radio this afternoon. Joining me for a show about the outdoors was Father Troy Przybilla, the vocations director for the archdiocese. The show airs tomorrow (Friday) morning at 9 a.m. and will last about 30 minutes.

He happens to be an avid outdoors enthusiast, and I knew he had some good stories to tell about his adventures. He did not disappoint. I got to hear about the 50-inch muskie he caught one year, plus he told stories about his turkey hunts in southeastern Minnesota. And, in the process, he was able to connect those tales with his calling to the priesthood.

It was fun to get a chance to sit down and talk with him about our mutual passion for the outdoors. As we parted ways, he said he’d like to go fishing with me on Lake Mille Lacs for smallmouth bass this summer. I gave him a simple answer:

I’m all in!

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Church meal program aids Minneapolis tornado victims

May 24, 2011


Mobile Loaves and Fishes helped in the recovery following the tornado that hit North Minneapolis last Sunday, May 22.

The joint MLF venture between St. Joan of Arc and Knox Presbyterian Church has been serving the homeless and working poor on weeknights for 14 months, reports Father Jim DeBruycker, pastor of St. Joan of Arc. A lunch truck stocked with sandwiches, chips, fruit, drinks and desserts travels to neighborhoods that have people in need of food.

Father DeBruycker noted in an email:

“On Sunday minutes after we heard of the devastation in North Minneapolis caused by the tornado, volunteers came together and made up over 400 meals. The meals were distributed Sunday evening to people who had lost their homes and to the police who were working in the area.

“Mayor [R.T.] Rybak and Councilman Don Samuels requested that we deliver meals to the devastated area again on Monday evening. On Monday the truck traveled to the center of Sunday’s devastation. In less than 45 minutes we had given away over 400 meals.

“Funds are needed to purchase food to continue to deliver dinners to people who have lost everything. If interested in donating, please write a check to ‘Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ and mail to St. Joan of Arc Church, 4537 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55419.  Mark McClelland heads up the ministry.”

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Fishing report

May 23, 2011


I got a call from a friend of mine last night who is planning on going up to Lake of the Woods this weekend. He is bringing his wife and kids to spend Memorial Day weekend on the big lake.

I have to confess feeling more than a twinge of jealousy. This is a prime time to be up on this lake — and many others. Judging by the fishing reports I have been reading for Lake of the Woods, the fishing is good and getting better. Because of the cold and wet spring we have had, the fish are a bit more sluggish than usual. But, on this lake, that just means that, rather than catching 100 walleyes a day, you might only catch 30-50.

In other words, a slow day of fishing on Lake of the Woods is often better than a good day on many other lakes. That is precisely why I consider the six-hour drive well worth it.

I also like the fact that you can keep walleyes up to 19 1/2 inches, before reaching the protected slot of 19 1/2 to 28 inches. On this lake and many others, I often catch walleyes between 17 and 19 1/2 inches, which I can keep on LOTW. For some reason, many other lakes, including Upper Red, have protected slots that begin at 17 inches. I sometimes get frustrated by the number of fish between 17 and 19 inches that I have to throw back on these lakes.

Another nice thing on LOTW, at least on the south end, is that finding the fish and catching them is relatively easy. You don’t have to hover on small pieces of structure and finesse fish with complicated rigs. Rather, you drive across Four Mile Bay and out through the gap near Pine Island, find where the boats are clustered, drop anchor in the mud and drop a jig and minnow down to the fish. It’s so simple, even kids and inexperienced anglers can do it.

I find that very appealing. As much as I like to fish, I don’t fish for walleyes enough to have learned many of the complex methods for catching them. But, I am pretty good with jigs, and you rarely have to use anything else on this lake, even in the middle of the summer.

Actually, I will be heading up to LOTW in late June with my son, Andy, and one of his high school classmates. We will be going on a five-day fishing retreat organized by a priest of the St. Cloud Diocese. That will be the subject of a future Outdoors column. We will be going to the Northwest Angle, which is several hours north of Baudette on the south end of the lake. It will be interesting to see what the fishing is like farther north on the lake.

I’m excited to find out!

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Quotations worth sharing from Irish, Irish-American and Catholic life

May 22, 2011


Overlook Press paperback bursting with quotations that are keepers.

Words put together with craft, with wisdom, with wit scream “Hey, pay attention here” to me, and I end up highlighting clusters of them where ever I find them printed.

Peter Quinn’s “Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America” (Overlook) is a rich vein of memorable and I thought share-able quotations – some by writers we know, some by people we never knew, and many from Quinn himself, a former speech writer for New York governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo.


“Tell us, doctors of philosophy, what are the needs of a man. At least a man needs to be notjailed notafraid nothungry (sic). . . not a worker for a power he has never seen . . . that cares nothing for the uses and needs of a man.”

John Dos Passos, “The Big Money”

“There was no damned romance in our poverty.”

Eugene O’Neill, “Long Day’s Journey into Night”

“There are only three types of men: Bullies, lackeys and them who refuse to be either.”

Patrick Francis Quinn

“He’ll be the last man out of purgatory, if, God willing, he was lucky enough to get in.”

Gertie Quinn

“When I consider how my life is spent,

I hardly ever repent.”

Ogden Nash

“Of all our passions and appetites, the love of power is the most imperious and unsociable nature, since the pride of one man requires the submission of the multitude.”

Edward Gibbon

“It is enough to know that children are poor to know that they need help.”

Peter A. Quinn, U.S. Congress, (D-NY)”

“If I thought less of my saliva, I’d expectorate in your face.”

Peter A. Quinn

“No Catholic breaks with Rome easily.”

John O’Hara, “BUtterfield 8”

“He, then, is perfect who does the work of the day perfectly, and we need not go beyond this to seek for perfection.”

John Henry Cardinal Newman

“Bishops come and go. The city continually molts its old self and renews its pursuit of the extravagant. But amid the whirlwind of ambition and celebrity, the need will always be great for institutions and congregations whose mission stays the same: to heal souls as well as bodies, comfort the sick and dying, welcome the stranger, shelter the homeless, defend the poor and disenfranchised, and insist on the God-given dignity of every person. to the degree that the Church and its members seek their perfection in this work, the future will never be in doubt.”

Peter Quinn

“Crumble, crumble

Voiceless things;

No faith can last

That never sings.”

Lascelles Abercrombie, “The Stream’s Song”

“For Catholics, sin is ubiquitous. But so is forgiveness. Hell exists. But it might be empty. Evil is real but mingles with good, and no human being is either all good or all evil. We are mixtures of both, and who is saved or damned is beyond our knowing.”

Peter Quinn

“In the end it comes down to the old story that we are sinners, but that this is our hope because sinners are the ones who attract to themselves the infinite compassion of God.”

Thomas Merton

“We feel the water and oil used in the sacraments, taste the bread and wine, not just to enjoy them for what they are, but to plumb our belief that they aren’t just what they seem to be but, in ways that defy the limits of language, signs of God’s real presence among us.”

Peter Quinn

“Although agnostic in spirit, the secular left . . . treats the mystery of divine love as a harmless myth; at worst, as a dangerous delusion that can impede human progress, particularly in the medical sphere. Secularism claims toleration as its central tenet. But it’s a qualified toleration. It says, Go ahead and believe what you will, just as long as it has no effect on any significant part of your public life, is never asserted outside of church, and remains a private eccentricity.”

Peter Quinn

“Christians’ belief in the eternal significance of every human life is a bulwark against a Malthusian ethic of reproductive profligacy that robs the individual of any meaning other than in furthering the survival of the species.”

Peter Quinn, paraphrasing Gabriel Marcel

“A man becomes a saint not by conviction that he is better than sinners but by the realization that he is one of them, and that all together they need the mercy of God.”

Thomas Merton, “New Seeds of Contemplation”

“The current huffing and puffing over gays in the priesthood can’t negate the fact that there were, are, and will always be homosexual priest whose piety, probity, and loyalty deserve respect and gratitude rather than slanderous distrust and squalid witch hunts.”

Peter Quinn

“Those descended from the Famine Irish have a special responsibility to look past the current evocation of innumerable, anonymous aliens threatening our borders, or the latter-day recycling of theories of ethnic and racial inferiority, and to see in today’s immigrants a reminder of our ancestors: those hungry ghosts who, though dispossessed and despised, passed on to us their faith and their hope.”

Peter Quinn

“Despite our differences, we Americans are hopelessly (and hopefully) entwined with one another, our histories, ancestries, stories, songs, dreams, and lives wrapped around each other like dual strands of DNA.”

Peter Quinn

“What we need most times is not the courage of our convictions but the courage to question our convictions . . . the willingness to see the world afresh, to throw over old presumptions and consider new possibilities, to abandon routine and renew a sense of wonder.”

Peter Quinn, paraphrasing Nietzsche


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What does the Church teach about suicide?

May 21, 2011


When Ántonia’s father kills himself in Willa Cather’s novel My Ántonia, his body can’t be buried in either the Catholic or Protestant cemeteries. Feeling the stigma of suicide, the gentleman’s family puts his remains to rest on their Nebraska farm while a neighbor offers a merciful prayer.

Suicide is no longer viewed the way it was in the late 1800s but the question remains of how the Church views this tragic action and what happens to the soul of a person who ends their life.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, cooperating voluntarily in suicide is contrary to the moral law. (CCC2282)

Suicide “contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.” (CCC2281)

Objectively suicide is against the commandments, and justice, hope and charity, said Father James Livingston, a chaplain at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, who offers spiritual assistance to persons who have attempted suicide. “There is something counteracting the rational inclination to live, something contrary to hope that suicide speaks to.”

When someone commits suicide to set an example, especially to youth, the Catechism states, “it also takes on the gravity of scandal.” (CCC2282)

However, a suicide victim’s behavior may look wrong objectively, but it’s not possible to know what’s going on in their mind, he said. “It’s not something somebody chooses.”

Clinically, suicide involves major mental illness, Father Livingston said, adding that 70 percent of those who attempt or commit suicide suffer from depression. Oftentimes, they feel hopeless and helpless, and die emotionally before they die physically, he said.

Suicide victims lack the resiliency skills to overcome their problems, Father Livingston said. They don’t have full freedom in their lives when stress is factored in—their emotions take away their sense of freedom.

The Church takes into account the state of mind of those involved in suicide. “Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.” (CCC2282)

Rather than deliberately intending to end their lives, some may attempt suicide or engage in parasuicidal behaviors such as cutting, to get help, Father Livingston said.

Because we don’t know a suicide victim’s thoughts, we can’t speculate on the state of their soul after death, he said. “The interesting question for us as Catholics is, where does the soul go? We don’t know.”

Unlike in the past, the current tendency is to err on the side of mercy, Father Livingston said. The Catechism offers hope:

“We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.” (CCC2283)

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Pope, astronauts talk about peace, prayer, the environment

May 21, 2011


YouTube Preview ImagePope Benedict XVI spoke today via satellite linkup with 12 astronauts, including crewmembers from the space shuttle Endeavour, currently aboard the International Space Station.

“Humanity is experiencing a period of extremely rapid progress in the fields of scientific knowledge and technical applications,” the pope said according to a transcript of the event provided by Vatican Radio.

“In a sense, you are our representatives — spearheading humanity’s exploration of new spaces and possibilities for our future, going beyond the limitations of our everyday existence. We all admire your courage, as well as the discipline and commitment with which you prepared yourselves for this mission,” he said.

The pope also asked the crew several questions. Here are some highlights from the conversation:

Pope Benedict asked the astronauts if they ever wonder, as they fly over nations and continents, how science can contribute to the cause of peace in a world racked by violence. He noted that shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly’s wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was the victim of violence herself, and the pope expressed his hope that her health would continue to improve.

Kelly, a Catholic, responded:

“Thank you for the kind words, Your Holiness, and thank you for mentioning my wife Gabby. It’s a very good question: We fly over most of the world and you don’t see borders, but at the same time we realize that people fight with each other and there is a lot of violence in this world and it’s really an unfortunate thing. Usually, people fight over many different things. As we’ve seen in the Middle East right now: it’s somewhat for democracy in certain areas, but usually people fight for resources. And it’s interesting in space … on earth, people often fight for energy; in space we use solar power and we have fuel cells on the space station. You know, the science and the technology that we put into the space station to develop a solar power capability, gives us pretty much an unlimited amount of energy. And if those technologies could be adapted more on earth, we could possibly reduce some of that violence.”

Pope Benedict, citing environmental threats facing the planet, asked the astronauts what issues people needed to be more attentive to.

Space station astronaut Ronald Garan Jr. said: “On the one hand, we can see how indescribably beautiful the planet that we have been given is; but on the other hand, we can really clearly see how fragile it is. Just the atmosphere, for instance: the atmosphere when viewed from space is paper thin, and to think that this paper-thin layer is all that separates every living thing from the vacuum of space and is all that protects us, is really a sobering thought. …”

Garan said he was filled with hope to think that the international partnership that led to the construction of the space station could be applied to other issues. “That just shows that by working together and by cooperating we can overcome many of the problems that face our planet,” he said.

Pope Benedict asked the astronauts about the most important message they would like to convey, especially to young people, when they return to Earth.

Shuttle crewman Mike Fincke responded:

“Your Holiness, as my colleagues have indicated, we can look down and see our beautiful planet Earth that God has made, and it is the most beautiful planet in the whole solar system. However, if we look up, we can see the rest of the universe, and the rest of the universe is out there for us to go explore. And the International Space Station is just one symbol, one example of what human beings can do when we work together constructively. So our message, I think — one of our many messages, but I think one of our most important messages — is to let the children of the planet know, the young people know, that there is a whole universe for us to go explore. And when we do it together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.”

The pope then went on to ask the astronauts whether, in the midst of their work and scientific research in space, they ever have time to stop and reflect on the origins and destiny of the universe and humankind.

Shuttle astronaut Roberto Vittori, who brought along a coin given to him by the pope that shows the “Creation of Man” painted by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, said that while work in space is intense, “we all have an opportunity, when the nights come, to look down on Earth: Our planet, the blue planet, is beautiful.”

Vittori added: “I do pray for me, for our families, for our future. I took with me the coin and I allow this coin to float in front of me to demonstrate lack of gravity. … I’d like to allow this coin to float to my friend and colleague [space station astronaut Paolo Nespoli]. He will make the return to Earth on the [Russian Soyuz capsule]. I brought it with me to space and he will take it down to Earth to then give it back to you.”

The pope then spoke in Italian with Nespoli, whose 78-year-old mother died in Italy at the beginning of May while he was serving on the space station. The pope said he prayed for the astronaut’s mother and asked how he was coping.

“Holy Father, I felt your prayers and everyone’s prayers arriving up here where outside the world … we have a vantage point to look at the Earth and we feel everything around us,” Nespoli replied in Italian, according to the

Pope Benedict concluded the conversation by saying he would continue to pray for the astronauts and imparting his apostolic blessing.

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Can you hear me now? Pope to make long distance call to space

May 19, 2011


International Space Station

On Saturday at 1:11 p.m. Rome time (6:11 a.m. Minnesota time), Pope Benedict XVI will speak live via satellite with astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

The event, meant to honor the last flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, will be streamed on the Internet at the Vatican Radio-CTV site, according to the Holy See Press Office.

There are 12 astronauts aboard the space station, including Col. Roberto Vittori, an Italian who is part of the Endeavour’s crew and who is carrying a silver medal from the pope, Vatican Radio said.

Endeavour, which launched May 16 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida,  is scheduled to return to earth June 1.

While Vatican Radio said the communication by Pope Benedict would mark the first time a pope converses with astronauts while they are in space, it is not the first time a pope has sent a message to astronauts.

Pope Paul VI sent a note to the Apollo 11 astronauts — Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin — to celebrate the first moon landing in 1969.

“Honor, greetings and blessings to you, conquerors of the moon, pale lamp of our nights and our dreams,” Pope Paul told them, according to a Catholic News Service story from 2009 marking the event’s 40th anniversary.

The pope also met with the astronauts later that year at the Vatican.

“Man has a natural urge to explore the unknown, to know the unknown; yet man has also a fear of the unknown,” he told them. “Your bravery has transcended this fear and through your intrepid adventure man has taken another step toward knowing more of the universe.”

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When Catholics, Irish (or any other immigrant group) were ‘real Americans’ greatest fear

May 18, 2011


Along with the oppressed immigrant angle, I really liked the history Peter Quinn’s captured of the anti-Catholicism the Irish faced in “Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America.”
Here’s a line to remember from this work of non-fiction: “If I thought less of my saliva, I’d expectorate in your face.”
It’s a quote from the author’s father, who was a member of Congress. A Republican heard Quinn’s Democrat father quote Shakespeare and remarked that he was “unusually cultured for an Irishman.”

And then there was the description of a Quinn’s grandfather by an aunt: “He’ll be the last man out of Purgatory, if, God willing, he was lucky enough to get in.”

The connection I made is that the immigrant experience of the Irish translates pretty well for other ethnic groups who came to this country. It’s American history at gut level.

I was impressed with the quality of research Quinn did. His connecting historical fact with fictional writing on those facts is an interesting tool. It reinforced for me the concept that in some ways fiction can tell history better than non-fiction.

As an active Catholic — one who works for a Catholic diocesan newspaper — and as a “hypenated-American” although non-Irish — I connected with Quinn’s understanding of the cultural value of Catholicism.

I’ll need to think a bit more about this, but my first thought is that he crossed the line when he included his opinions about a celibate clergy, for example. Not that that opinion shouldn’t have been expressed — I’m not saying that at all — but it seemed as though that subject matter belonged in a whole other book, not one about the Irish-American immigrant experience.

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Letter from Father Greg

May 17, 2011

1 Comment

Dear Friends of the Venezuelan Mission,

Yoryelis Botaban

I want to share with you how your support of the Venezuelan Mission is making a difference in the life of a young girl today, a family I have known for many years. Her name is Yoryelis Botaban. She is 14 years old and is being raised by her grandparents. Her grandmother, Noelia used to visit the sick at the public hospital every Saturday morning with other members of the Legion of Mary from our parish. Noelia helped me prepare for Mass at the hospital and if I was running late, she would lead the people in singing while they waited. She enjoyed visiting the sick and lifting their spirits with her positive attitude, warm heart and great sense of humor. Noelia is a woman of great faith and shares her faith and positive attitude with others.

About 10 years ago, Noelia witnessed the murder of her 17 year old son. He was called outside by a young girl and when he stepped out into his front yard, was shot by two gunmen waiting for him. He died in his mother’s arms. This was the second son Noelia had lost to the violence. This traumatic experience left Noelia unable to sleep at night and unable to walk. She was paralyzed from the waist down from the trauma. Dr. Luz Rodriguez visited Noelia at great length and helped find a psychiatrist for her. Noelia now sleeps better and gets around with the help of a walker supplied by our St. Vincent de Paul Conference. Over the last couple of years, she has slowly been able to return to Sunday morning Mass making her way up the hill with the help of her walker and then back down again afterwards. Yoryelis, Noelia’s granddaughter, has helped care for her and walk with her to Mass every Sunday.

Noelia’s daughter, Yoryelis’ mother, is mentally challenged. Noelia and her retired husband take care of Yoryelis and her mother on his pension check of $285.00 a month. They struggle to get by with food costs, medical costs and education expenses. We help this family through our St Vincent de Paul Conference.

Several days ago, Yoryelis came to Mass in the evening and asked to talk to me. She told me that she had received $500.00 worth of products to sell – AVON type products of lotions, creams, aftershaves and so forth. She was selling these products to raise money for much needed braces for her teeth. Last weekend, someone broke into their home and took all of the products she had and the money she had raised so far. Yoryelis’ family members paid for the products that were stolen but the amount was not enough for the braces. Thanks to your generosity and support, I was able to give her the money she lacked for the braces and she is off to have them put on. I feel very blessed to have been able to help this young girl and her family that have suffered so much and continues to struggle. Thank you! I hope someday you will be able to meet this wonderful family and have Yoryelis thank you herself for your help.

Thank you for your support of the Venezuelan Mission. Your prayers and support are making a difference in the lives of so many people!

May God bless you for all your kindness and generosity!!!

Fr Greg

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