Archive | August, 2013

Church job or not, ultimately we have the same Employer

August 30, 2013

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Parish sanctuary renovation in progress. Work done directly for the Church or for a secular employer is all work for God.

Parish sanctuary renovation in progress. Work done directly for the Church or for a secular employer is all work done for God.

Renovation of my parish’s sanctuary began this week, and along with fellow parishioners I enjoy checking out the progress. As workers rebuild the altar, lay marble tile and complete other project tasks working directly under the sanctuary crucifix, they clearly are laboring for the Church.

But next month when these workers are laying tile at a car dealership or in a private home, will they still be working for God? What about the rest of us who hold jobs in secular professions, is the Lord in our work as much as He is in that of a priest or others working for the Church?

God and our work

Since Labor Day is about celebrating the economic and social contributions of workers, I thought it would be a good time to look at the role God plays in our work.

Regardless of whether our work is manual or intellectual, religious or secular, we engage our whole selves—body and spirit–in what we do, Bl. Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Laborem Exercens (On Human Work.)

There’s much more of a spiritual connection than we might think because ultimately, our work is really a sharing in the Creator’s work, Bl. John Paul wrote:

The word of God’s revelation is profoundly marked by the fundamental truth that man, created in the image of God, shares by his work in the activity of the Creator and that, within the limits of his own human capabilities, man in a sense continues to develop that activity, and perfects it as he advances further and further in the discovery of the resources and values contained in the whole of creation.

As Creator, God alone can bring something out of nothing, Bl. John Paul wrote in his Letter to Artists. “The craftsman, by contrast, uses something that already exists, to which he gives form and meaning.”

Creator and crafts-person

Even though we’re not all artists or craftspeople, we are co-creating in some way with God when we work. Bl. John Paul illustrates the relationship between Creator and crafts-person/worker by pointing out that the Polish word for craftsman, “Tworca” can be formed from the word for Creator, “Stworca”.

As we share in God’s work, we also need to share in His rest, as Genesis tells us He rested on the seventh day. And we should be aware that we’re participating in God’s activity even in our smallest ordinary tasks.

Work isn’t just about making and improving things, we also improve ourselves by working. We learn, develop our faculties and transcend ourselves, according to the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes. This growth is more important than the value of what we produce and the document goes on to say,

“Technical progress is of less value than advances towards greater justice, wider brotherhood, and a more humane social environment. Technical progress may supply the material for human advance but it is powerless to actualize it.” (35)

As a worker Himself, Jesus undoubtedly made technical improvements in his carpentry work. In his preaching he spoke frequently about ordinary jobs done by men and women. Bl. John Paul writes in Laborem Exercens that we unite with the Crucified Christ when we go through the toil of work and in a way collaborate with Him for human redemption.

A “new good” from our work

Whatever work we do, when we take on our work we accept a small part of the Cross and “accept in it the same spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted His Cross for us.” As a result, according to Bl. John Paul, a “new good” springs out of our work which is a kind of foreshadowing of heaven.

Sometimes after a long week it’s hard to imagine “new good” springing out of work. But when we consider the Source and object of our work, whether or not it’s directly for the Church, it’s easier to understand its spiritual and temporal value.

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Pope Francis, line one

August 27, 2013

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Apparently Pope Francis is calling people in Italy. He’s not having his people make the call mind you. He’s just picking up the phone and making a personal call.

‘Hello, it’s Pope Francis’: Italian teenager gets surprise phone call  (Telegraph)

So what do you say if you get the call?
Telephone etiquette for ‘the cold-call pope’ (NCR)

 

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Children become pro-life by example and instruction

August 26, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

How are children supposed to learn about respect for human life if no one teaches them by role modeling and giving instruction? Oftentimes, I hear parents say, “I don’t want little junior to know about abortion or euthanasia. The thought of killing sweet babies and the elderly would disturb them too much!”

Of course, we want to respect the age of innocence, but there comes a time when parents have a moral responsibility to encourage their children to promote life. To make this possible, parents need to “walk the walk,” and  kids need to be taught that we live in a culture of death. The goal is to give them the truth sprinkled with hope and mercy. Eventually, as the young ones grow up, they can expand on the knowledge that Mommy and Daddy gave them, and use these tools in order to teach others.

But to do this, they need to know about some yucky things that are plaguing our world today.

What’s a good age for kids to learn about the atrocities out there?

Well, given the stuff they see by means of the media, I think that children can handle information about the evils of abortion and euthanasia–and heck, we’d better throw pornography and genocide into the mix as well–by the time they enter junior high. Kids’ bodies are changing around that time and they are curious about everything. They appreciate and deserve the truth, and they crave adults being level with them. They want to be guided along the right path, and they start to develop leadership skills. And boy, we need this next generation to be our leaders for the marginalized! If  right and wrong is not ingrained in their heads by the time they hit puberty, they are more apt to be led astray by peer pressure as they get older, and not carry the torch for life.

My husband and I started discussing respect for human life with our nine children when they were in the stroller (See my blog called, My Prolife Running Stroller). They’d be strapped into the contraption when I took their big brothers and sisters outside Planned Parenthood to pray. As they got more mature this practice fueled many good questions:

“Why are people going in that naughty building?”

“Why are the police letting them go in there?”

“How can we help?”

The other aspects of life were taught as the subjects arose. When they read a book about Anne Frank or see a presentation on The Lost Boys of Sudan we discuss genocide. I tell them to look the other way as we stroll past Victoria’s Secret, and I tell them why pictures with women falling out of their tops are bad. And appreciation of the elderly was learned by spending time with older family friends and grandparents.

It’s not that hard, and it must be done.

 Pope to parents: Teach your children to respect, defend life

The Catholic News Service wrote this article (Printed in The Catholic Spirit’s August 15, 2013 issue):

Respect for human life from conception until natural death is something children must be taught, not mainly with words, but by the example of their parents, Pope Francis said.

“Parents are called to pass on to their children the awareness that life must always be defended,” Pope Francis wrote in a message to people joining in the Brazilian Catholic Church’s celebration of Family Week, which began Aug. 11.

The pope returned to his condemnation of the “throwaway culture,” something he spoke against several times during his July 22-28 visit to Brazil. He had said that modern cultures tend to treat even human lives as disposable, pointing to the way people, societies and even governments tend to treat both the young and the old.

In his message for Family Week, he said parents have a responsibility to fight that disposable culture by teaching their children that human life, “from the womb,” is a gift from God. New life ensures the future of humanity, he said, while older people — especially grandparents — “are the living memory of a people, and transmit the wisdom of life.”

The pope also charged married Catholic couples and their children with the task of recognizing they must be “the most convincing heralds” of the beauty and grace of Christian marriage.

I think Pope Francis is spot on! Don’t you?

 

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Living in Alaska, she’s got a prayer

August 25, 2013

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107633I’m just catching up with a book that’s been in print for seven years, but the lag in time doesn’t do anything but add richness to Heather Lende’s fine work, “If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska.”

Haines might be any hamlet in a unique geographic environment, but Lende lifts the southeast Alaska coastal area and the people who live there to a level that turns her writing into a literary classic.

The fact that Lende writes obituaries for the local newspaper isn’t the only reason this ought to be on the required-reading list for journalism majors. How she gathers the details of the deceased lives — face-to-face with the people who knew the person best — is a lesson to be remembered, and the quality of what she learns about them is evidence that her methodology isn’t to be ignored.

Sprinkled through chapters with titles like “Nedra’s Casket” and “When Death Didn’t Stop for Angie” are snippets of her column, “Duly Noted,” tasty snacks to enjoy between the meals that are the satisfying entres. They’re newsy bites, subtledly humorous, frequently ironic, and help give a fuller picture of the goings on in this neck of the woods, from the mundane to the fascinating.

The picture includes spirituality in a variety of traditions, including a mention or two or three of the ministry of Father Jim and Sister Jill from Sacred Heart Catholic Church. In how many other books that make the N.Y. Times bestseller list do you think you’ll read the “Hail Mary” or about the author’s discovery of the rosary and learning how to pray it from a parish prayer group. “The rosary prayers are directed to the Virgin Mary,” this Episcopalian author wrote, “I liked that. It would be easier to talk to a woman, a mother like me, than to God himself.”

Living simply, living in tune with nature, caring about environmental issues, hunting, fishing, family, snowshoeing, skating and life-and-death drama — it’s all in there.

The uniqueness of Alaska makes great copy for those of us in the lower 48, but how Lende tells the stories of life there, that makes great reading.

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It’s not Lent–do we have to give up meat on Friday?

August 23, 2013

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Photo/bitslammer. Licensed under Creative Commons

Photo/bitslammer. Licensed under Creative Commons.

It’s a warm summer evening and you’re sitting on your friend’s patio sipping a cold drink as he puts steaks on the grill. It’s Friday, finally, and steak is going to taste so good! You remember those meatless Friday dinners during Lent. Thank goodness Catholics don’t have to give up meat on the other Fridays of the year.

Or do they?

Contrary to what quite a few Catholics believe, Vatican II did not do away with most meatless Fridays. It’s no longer a sin to eat meat every Friday as it used to be, but the Church still asks us to abstain from meat or do some other form of penance each Friday because it’s a mini-Good Friday, an anniversary of Christ’s death.

We’re asked to do penance in order to suffer with Christ so that someday we will be glorified with Him. To remember our sins and those of the world and help expiate them in union with the Crucified Lord, according to the U.S. Bishops in their 1966 Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence:

Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.

Canon Law states: “All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.” (§1250)

It is also a universal law of the Church to abstain from meat or another food, according to Canon Law which goes on to say, “It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.” (§1251, 1253)

What do the U.S. bishops say about Friday penance?

They have given the option to abstain from other things instead of meat that might be more penitential for some. They recommend additional penitential works:

It would bring great glory to God and good to souls if Fridays found our people doing volunteer work in hospitals, visiting the sick, serving the needs of the aged and the lonely, instructing the young in the Faith, participating as Christians in community affairs, and meeting our obligations to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our community, including our parishes, with a special zeal born of the desire to add the merit of penance to the other virtues exercised in good works born of living faith.

During the Year of Faith, the bishops have asked Catholics to join them on Fridays in praying and fasting for renewal of a culture of life and marriage, and for the protection of religious liberty. They send participants a weekly text reminder and post on their website an intention for prayer, as well as a call for fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays. Visit their website for more details or text “FAST” to 99000.

The Catechism offers more ideas:

These “intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice … are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). (CCC 1438)

Steak might be the right thing on a summer Friday evening but maybe not in the future. England’s episcopal conference of bishops recently revised their law to return more completely to the universal norm of abstinence. Comments from USCCB President Cardinal Timothy Dolan point to the possibility the U.S. may do the same. For now, we need to make sure some form of penance is on the day’s agenda.

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What a bass means to a boy

August 21, 2013

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Proud anglers hoist the biggest bass of the day.

Proud anglers hoist the biggest bass of the day.

I’ve never been so excited about a 16 1/2-inch largemouth bass as I was last Friday.

And, it wasn’t even my fish. The lucky angler was my nephew, Michael. I think I was as joyful as he was when we hoisted his prize over the gunwale.

The chunky fish was the largest he had ever caught. And, the look on his face made that point clear. It matched a fish I had landed about an hour earlier, providing an excellent start to a meal for my brother and his family.

Times like this create summer memories that last well into adulthood. But, I had started wondering if a moment like this was going to happen for Michael or his older brother Matthew. I had spent the early afternoon trying to teach them how to catch bass on plastic baits, but with little success. There definitely is a steep learning curve for this endeavor, and early attempts can be filled with frustration and futility.

This occasion was no different. There were bites, hooksets that weren’t nearly stout enough, and numerous escapes by the bass.

The good news was, the fish were there and plenty willing to grab onto the baits. I was hoping, in time, one of the boys’ hooks would work its way into a largemouth’s jaw.

Sure enough, in the last hour, Michael pierced the mouth of a bass with a worm hook I had let him use. The battle was on! Usually, if the hook gets through the fish’s bony jaw, it’s curtains for the bass, unless the line gives way.

Michael played his fish well, and the fish eventually came belly up to the side of my boat. A quick swoop of the landing net, and the young lad tasted success at last.

I did my best to applaud his skills and acknowledge his success, hoping this would hook him on bass fishing – and plastics – for life. Meanwhile, another task just as important tugged for my attention.

Matthew never did land a fish that day, and he struggled with tangled line on top of that. This is an opportunity for gentle teaching and encouragement, and I took some time after we got off the water to have a little talk with him. My brother felt bad for his oldest son, but I told him that experiences like this can create a hunger that can make a person hungry and determined to conquer the learning curve.

I reminded him that I have been bow hunting for two years, and have yet to tag a deer. Guess what? I am more eager than ever to get out there and try to shoot and recover a whitetail. So, I noted, Matthew’s unsuccessful try at catching a bass on a plastic worm is not necessarily going to sour him on fishing.

Hopefully, it will keep him coming back for more. I have a feeling he is going to want to top his brother’s bass.

Now’s the time to turn to the next page of his young fishing career. Largemouth class will be in session next summer!

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The Assumption: Our Earthly Bodies and Heaven

August 14, 2013

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Painting in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baltimore, MD.   Photo/Jim, the Photographer.  Licensed by Creative Commons.

Painting in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baltimore, MD. Photo/Jim, the Photographer. Licensed by Creative Commons.

I’ve sometimes wondered if the Blessed Mother experienced the wrinkles and pains of old age. She was human and by all accounts didn’t have an easy life. The Church tells us she had no pain when she gave birth to Our Lord, but during the rest of her life there must have been some hardship and suffering.

The dying who suffer terribly in their bodies are not always sad at the prospect of leaving them to meet God. Yet the Church teaches that the Lord did take His mother’s aged body to heaven at the Assumption.

As the angels bore her body there, maybe the aging process went in reverse so that by the time she got there she looked the way she has in her apparitions. That’s not to say she wasn’t equally beautiful in her later years on earth but she has mostly appeared to us as a younger-looking woman.

Why bring her earthly body to heaven?

God could have made a new body in heaven for the Blessed Virgin. Why did he choose to bring her earthly body which, if it’s like mine, came with runny nose, bad breath and hangnails? The most obvious answer is that her body was the tabernacle of the Most High, Christ’s first earthly home.  According to Father Canice Bourke, OFM Cap.:

The womb that bore Jesus Christ, the hands that caressed him, the arms that embraced him, the breasts that nourished him, the heart that so loved him — it is impossible to think that these crumbled into dust.

Another reason appears in what we profess in the Apostles Creed: “The resurrection of the body…” This essential Christian doctrine is explained in the Catechism:

We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess” (Council of Lyons II: DS 854). We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible body, a “spiritual body.” (CCC 1017)

Our Lady was the first to receive the fruits of our redemption in her Immaculate Conception. She did not sin and it is believed that her body was immune to corruption. Would she not also be the first after Christ to experience the resurrection which all the faithful will experience?

Cremation for the Blessed Virgin?

According to the Golden Legend, a 13th century collection of saint biographies, Our Lady’s body was placed in a tomb for three days after her death (though whether she did actually die has been disputed by scholars for centuries). During that time, some who thought Christ was a traitor sought to burn her body.

It’s hard to imagine someone actively destroying the body of the Mother of God. And it makes me question whether we should do this to our own bodies, which St. Paul calls temples of the Holy Spirit.

The Church does allow cremation, “provided it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.” (CCC 2301)

Thankfully, it didn’t happen to the body of the Blessed Mother. According to the Golden Legend, Christ and a company of angels came to bring Our Lady’s body to heaven. St. Gregory, Bishop of Tours wrote in 594 AD:

“The Lord…commanded the body of Mary be taken in a cloud into paradise; where now, rejoined to the soul, Mary dwells with the chosen ones.”

I hope to be one of the chosen ones, up there in my body. Hopefully without the dry skin and wrinkles.

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Rediscover: the song

August 12, 2013

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If you haven’t had an opportunity to hear this yet you really should.

From the Rediscover website:

Singer-songwriter Eliot Morris has been recording since 2002 and toured nationally with acts including James Taylor, Nickel Creek, John Mayer and Counting Crows. After years of witnessing the ups and downs of the music industry, as well as a brief but frightening health crisis, Eliot reassessed both his music and his life with a deeper sense of urgency.

The song may be heard here.

An interview with Eliot on The Rediscover: Hour radio show may be heard here at about 27 minutes into the show.

If you would like to learn more about Eliot, his story and the story behind his song please watch for an interview in the upcoming August 15 issue of The Catholic Spirit and TheCatholicSpirit.com.

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Tribute to Adam

August 6, 2013

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From left, Steve, Tyler, Lisa, Ryan and Rachel Gott hold the championship trophy for the lacrosse tournament in honor of Adam, the son of Steve and Lisa who died in a motorbike accident last summer. The tournament was held at Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood July 13 and 14. Photo by Lori Wietecki / Special to The Catholic Spirit

From left, Steve, Tyler, Lisa, Ryan and Rachel Gott hold the championship trophy for the lacrosse tournament in honor of Adam, the son of Steve and Lisa who died in a motorbike accident last summer. The tournament was held at Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood July 13 and 14. Photo by Lori Wietecki / Special to The Catholic Spirit

 

A replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà sits upon the mantle in the home of my friends, Steve and Lisa Gott. It has been there for years. The sculpture depicts Mary with her head tilted and eyes closed in prayerful mourning, cradling her beloved son after he was crucified.

The prophets foretold Jesus’ death, so Mary must have been prepared a little, but no matter the circumstances, losing a child must be the most terrible thing in the world. The Pietà on the Gotts’ mantle now holds significant meaning for them because they’ve experienced Mary’s pain firsthand.

Every parent’s fear

During the month of June last year, Steve and Lisa were happily spending their days with their son Adam and his three siblings: Tyler, Ryan and Rachel. Adam, a graduate of Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood, had moved out of Tommie Hall at St. John’s University and into his old bedroom at their home in Stillwater. He had just wrapped up his freshman year and was looking forward to playing lacrosse and working his summer job as a painter for their friends’ company, Fresh Paint.

On the last day of June, Steve took his sons Ryan, who was 22, and Adam, 19, golfing and then to a car show. “When we got home, Adam packed a bag and headed to a family friend’s cabin. It was the last time I talked to him,” said Steve.

After 5:30 Mass that evening at their parish, St. Michael in Stillwater, the Gotts received the type of phone call that every parent fears. It was one of Adam’s buddies. “Adam had an accident,” the young man cried. Steve and Lisa drove two hours to the hospital in Sandstone. The rosary was recited the whole way. They phoned a nurse there who told them, “Doctors are having difficulty finding a pulse.”

When they got to the emergency room’s parking lot, they saw their family friends outside. “Is he alive?” the hopeful parents asked.

Lisa told me through tears that when they heard the words “No,” she sank to her knees. Adam’s college friend, who also had played lacrosse with him at Hill-Murray, picked the mourning mother up and brought both parents into the hospital to see their son.

This young man had been with Adam a few hours earlier riding a motorbike. Adam hit a tree when it was his turn. Even though he was wearing a helmet, he had suffered a hard blow to the head. His buddy bravely administered CPR while waiting for help, but Adam died on impact.

Their Pieta

Now when I go to the Gott’s home and examine the Pietà, I also see a representation of Lisa and Steve holding Adam. I think of a story Lisa told me the day after his accident:

 “When I was getting ready to view Adam’s body at the funeral home, I prayed for the Blessed Mother’s intercession. I said, ‘Mary, help me get through this.’ As I cradled Adam and had my face in his hair, I begged Mary once again to help me. As I was kneeling beside him, my body began to tingle and I felt lifted or supported. . . and then I saw Adam with Mary and I knew he was OK.”

Adam’s faith

Adam’s parents, who were chairs for the Catholic Services Appeal in 2009 and 2010, are thankful he had a K-12 Catholic education, plus one year to learn more about his religion at St. John’s. They believe the values and character traits that are developed in a Catholic environment are priceless. Knowing that their child had a strong faith and that he died with the graces of a good relationship with God has given them comfort.

Something else that gives Steve great comfort is the memories he stows in his heart of the medical mission trip to Peru he took with Adam a few years ago. At this clinic in South America, Adam worked with his father, who is an anesthesiologist.The young man mostly assisted with the Peruvian children before and after their surgeries. He always had a gift with kids and a smile that captivated people. He used these talents in everything, from helping the needy to coaching during mini youth camps at Hill-Murray even after he graduated.

For his myriad volunteer activities, Adam was awarded a Gold Level Service Award from Hill-Murray when he was a student.

After the accident, his employers at Fresh Paint established the Adam Gott Scholarship at Hill-Murray, which awards a junior or senior $1,000 for tuition. They wanted to honor Adam because he exemplified the ideals of a Hill-Murray student through his dedication to academics while maintaining high levels of athleticism and service to the community. Those who knew Adam are excited about this scholarship because, in his short 19 years, he was an ambitious leader who centered his life on his Christian faith.

Adam was an altar server through high school. In the funeral homily, Father Michael Miller said, “When I first became pastor at St. Michael’s, one of the Dominican sisters at St. Croix Catholic told me to keep an eye out for Adam Gott because he was a special kid who loved his Catholic faith.”

The night before he died, Adam’s friends were teasing him because of a decision he had to make. He told them, “God will decide what is supposed to happen because he decides everything in my life.” His mother said that her son trusted in the Lord and had a good-natured contentment because he knew life wasn’t centered on himself; life was about God’s will.

A day after Adam’s death, friends gathered in the chapel at Hill-Murray. It was overflowing with people who, in a time of shock and sadness, chose to be in a holy place that reminded them of their friend.

The tournament

That same chapel was filled once again on July 13. The first annual Gott to Lax tournament was held on the weekend of July 13 and 14 at Hill-Murray, with Mass celebrated during the event. This tournament was the brainchild of Adam’s high school coaches, Greg and Kristy Visich, who also served as tournament directors.

They were happy to do something in Adam’s memory because their family is better for having known him. “Our children grew up with Adam as a strong role model within the Catholic faith, in his service to the community, and simply in his daily demonstration of treating people with respect and kindness” they said.

They also said that Adam, who played the position of attack, was always a natural leader and earned the designation of captain at both the JV and varsity level. A trophy emblazoned with Adam’s silhouette was presented by the Gotts to the tournament champions from Prior Lake on July 14.

Nine high school boys’ teams participated, with more teams put on a waiting list. Hundreds of people attended, and it is estimated that the event raised $20,000. Proceeds benefit the newly established Adam Gott Collegiate Club Lacrosse Player Fee Scholarship Fund.

The vast majority of high school lacrosse players continue at the college club level and the cost to participate in these programs ranges from $500 to $3,000 per academic year. Many students simply can’t afford the added expense, and this scholarship will help. For more information visit http://www.penguinlacrosse.com.

Among the 100 volunteers at the event was Adam’s father, who served as the medical representative. “Adam was a very frugal accounting major,” Steve said. “After he passed away, we found a spreadsheet on his computer that organized his spending. He’d be happy to know that there’s funding now available to help college students.”

Lisa told me after it ended, “If there was a way that Adam saw this tournament, he’d have been so thrilled to see everyone having so much fun. It was an unbelievable weekend.”

 

 

 

 

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