Friday, March 30, 2012

A College Visit to Franciscan University of Steubenville

I have been preparing her for this all her life. When Gabbi my oldest of three daughters was five, we brought her to Franciscan University of Steubenville for Mass and told her, "you're going to college here some day." I didn't mean it lightly; a good Catholic college education was one of my goals for my daughters, albeit a far off goal when we were beginning homeschooling in 1998.
Gabbi and her friend Annete in front of the Chapel
Fast forward twelve years to last week, and her first visit to Franciscan for a college interview, Gabbi is applying to their RN program.  After twelve hours on the road, I should have been able to sleep soundly this night before her visit to Franciscan University, but I wasted time fighting my own feelings of loss.It was obvious to me that my daughter's heart has flown from our home to the college on the hill above the Ohio River.  A big, silent sob burst out of me. Thankfully Gabbi was already sleeping. Having my oldest daughter live 12 hours away from home is a sacrifice I knew would cost me dearly, but I didn't want to cast a shadow on her big day. It was what we both wanted and planned for during those twelve years since our visit.

She was up before me, nervously doing her hair as she made sure I wasn't late for her 8:30 nursing class. I had time to take in the university while she was gone, blooming flowers and students in shorts as a spring heat wave caused spring flowers to burst into early blooms. I was charmed by the kindness of the staff I met, no question was too detailed, and no story too long to capture their interest. We were soon on a tour of the campus. Statures of St Francis, Our Lady and Christ, soon made us feel at home and we were impressed with the guides' familiarity of the University Mission to bring Christ to the world, which they explained in detail throughout the tour.
The Portiuncula
The Student Center was colorful with bulletins announcing pro-life rallies, prayer vigils at abortion clinics, socials,  and famous speakers on bioethics. Students were sociable and polite, easy to engage in conversation and passionate whenever the Church was discussed. I was falling in love with this school and happily parted with Gabbi as she met one of her friends attending the school for lunch.
During the parents-only luncheon, the Admissions Director was peppered with questions about the faculty's adherence to the Magisterium and how many were Catholic. "We have five faculty members who are not Catholic," she answered, "there were six, but then one spoke to Scott Hahn!" I met parents who knew one of our new priests from the Diocese of Norwich, CT and suddenly home didn't seem so far away.

Prof Helen Alvare
Soon, I found myself alone for the evening, Gabbi was to spend the night in her friend's dorm room. What could have been an awkward moment, Mom feeling at odds in her daughter's school, was more of an opportunity,  as I had noted a number of prominent speakers on bioethics were present for a conference. I spent the rest of the day discussing issues of bioethics and sexual morality with former USCCB spokeswoman,  Helen Alvare who called Franciscan "ground  zero of Catholic Higher Education."
I discussed my book and my advocacy for the rights of babies with Down syndrome to a friendly audience engaged in the struggle against the Culture of Death. Helen Alvare warmly embraced me as thanks for my work and for writing "A Special Mother is Born".
John Paul II Library
I returned to the hotel alone yet grateful that my daughter would be attending a university which attracted such Catholic superstars and important discussions. The morning found us reuniting at Mass, one of three daily Masses packed with the entire student body who participated wholeheartedly, singing the hymns of both tradition and praise, in full voice. Later, we sat in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, a scale model of St Francis' Portiuncula, amid a dozen students deep in prayer, and thanked God that my homeschooling efforts had been blessed with success, that Gabbi was qualified to study at such a fine Catholic school, but more for the fact that in her heart she longed for such a school where her mind and soul would be prepared to meet the challenges of bringing the culture of life to a darkened world.

We left the college after lunch, reluctantly, taking many photos and buying a shirt for everyone in the family. We were hoping to share our joy in our discovery of this wonderful college with the rest of our family, knowing that words would not be enough to convey the exuberant faith which emanates from this place. I prayed for an opportunity to attend, as my parents had, a summer conference at Franciscan with my husband Francisco, so that releasing our daughter to the world in this worthy college would be a triumph to him as well. We drove home over the Pennsylvania mountains leaving part of our hearts behind in what we knew had already become my daughter's second home, anxious for a chance to share our stories with our friends in Connecticut.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day 21 of 21 Words for 21 Days: World Down Syndrome Day

Dr Brian Skotko, Christina and Leticia

“We call on all people of good will to ensure that health protection is grounded in a renewed spirituality: every patient is my brother.”

Servant of God, 
Dr Jerome Lejeune

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day 20 of 21 Words for 21 Days

The genetic makeup of a human being is complete from the moment of fertilization: not a single scientist doubts it. What some of them want to debate is the amount of respect due to an individual based on her stage of development. If a human being is a half-inch long, does she deserve respect? If she is 20 inches long, does she deserve 40 times more? People who use years and pounds to quantify the respect due to another human being are not well intentioned.”

Servant of God, Dr Jerome Lejeune

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Christina's tenth birthday celebrations

Chrissy and Grandpa. 

Bella and Gabbi having fun.

Ten years never flew faster than this decade of my youngest daughter's life. Ten years when she taught her family to love with a more intense love, celebrate with a greater joy, and laugh heartier laughs. To notice the daffodils budding, the sunshine in the trees,  and watch the bluebirds flying overhead. She turned up the volume on our thanksgiving prayers, gave us the gift of patience, and made us into activists.
Christina has given me the courage to finally begin that writing career, and this week, my book "A Special Mother is Born"  will be on sale in the United Nations Bookstore!
Thank you to my funny, musical, loving daughter with the extra chromosome, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the song in my heart!
Birthday party at home

Birthday party at Grandpa's house

You can't miss a farmer at heart!

Christina likes to play school in the schoolhouse. 

A lovely 1830's family!

Christina loves the cooper's workbench!

Always the daddy's girl!

We learned it takes 40 gals of sap to make one gallon of syrup!

Aunt Mila and Daddy love Christina.

Riding a HUGE sheep!

Break from walking is time for a hug!

Daddy and Uncle Manuel love Christina. 

Lovely sunshine!

They saw fish swimming against the current. 

The family had a wonderful time!

Christina loves sheep!

Her sisters made amazing cupcakes from "Despicable Me"

The dynamic duo, Chrissy and Mary!

To celebrate Christina's ten years, we all spent a sunny, warm spring day in Old Sturbridge Village. Its a peaceful place, where she knows the way around and happily visits her favorite sites, the schoolhouse, the cooper's workshop,  the barnyard, and, of course, the candy shop!

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Day 19 of 21 Words for 21 Days

“Ending an inconvenient life is a terrible thing. And age is no protection against this threat: the elderly are as much at risk as our youngest children.”

Servant of God, Dr Jerome Lejeune

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day 18 of 21 Words for 21 Days

“To avoid overheating the debate, I will go much further back—to the Spartans, the only ones to eliminate newborns that they believed would be unable to bear arms or beget future soldiers. Sparta was the only Greek city to practice this kind of eugenics, this systemic elimination. And nothing remains of it; it has not left us a single poet, not a single musician, not even a ruin! 

Sparta is the only Greek city that contributed nothing to humanity: is that a coincidence or is there a direct correlation? Geneticists wonder, ‘did they turn stupid because when they killed their future thinkers and artists when they killed their less-than-beautiful children?"
 Servant of God, Dr Jerome Lejeune

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Day 17 of 21 Words for 21 Days

“We need to be clear;
the quality of a civilization can be measured by the respect it has for its weakest members.
 There is no other criterion. “

Servant of God, 
Dr Jerome Lejeune

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 16 of 21 Words for 21 Days

“The enemies of life know that to destroy Christian civilization, they must first destroy the family at its weakest point—the child. And among the weakest, they must choose the least protected of all—the child who has never been seen, the child who is not yet known or love in the usual meaning of the word; who had not yet seen the light of day; 
who cannot even cry out in distress.”

Servant of God, Dr Jerome Lejeune

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Day 15 of 21 Words for 21 Days

“People say, ‘The price of genetic diseases is high. If these individuals could be eliminated early on, the savings would be enormous!’ It cannot be denied that the price of these diseases is high—in suffering for he individual and in burdens for society. No to mention what parents suffer! But we can assign a value to that price: it is precisely what society must pay to be fully human.”

Servant of God, Dr Jerome Lejeune

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Alberto Costa: Breakthroughs in Down Syndrome Research

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William Mobley: Breakthroughs in Down Syndrome Research

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day 14 of 21 Words for 21 Days

“In modern democracies, which no longer refer to a higher moral law, upright citizens have an innate duty to aspire to laws that reflect what they believe to be best for society, and the only freedom they still possess.”

Servant of God, 
Dr Jerome Lejeune

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

National Alzheimer's Project Act should include Down Syndrome

As some of you know, NAPA (National Alzheimer Project Act) was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011. The project is divided into 3 areas, research, clinical care, and long term care. NAPA does recognize that Alzheimer’s disease is more common in those with intellectual disabilities, but does not address the very close relationship between DS and AD. Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers would like to remedy that.
NAPA will be having a Teleconference Advisory Council Meeting tomorrow from 1 till 5 PM. The chairs from all 3 subcommittees (Research, Clinical Care, and Long term services) will be present.

I know of two people who will be speaking to the group. One is a sibling of a man who had DS and AD and has passed away. The other will be reading a letter from some in the DS research community (letter embargoed until the meeting). The gist of the comments are that NAPA has omitted Down Syndrome as a specific group with an exceptionally high risk of Alzheimer’s and that DS should be included, specifically, particularly under goal 1 of NAPA (research to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by 2025).

The public may attend the Teleconference by clicking this link.
HHS is seeking input on the draft plan through March 30, 2012. The Congresswoman is submitting a letter and I hope each of you will as well. Inclusion of DS, specifically, in the National Alzheimer’s Project Act will clearly benefit DS. It will most likely benefit others as well.

Karen L. Summar, MD, MS
Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation Public Policy Fellow
Office of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers
2421 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515Bookmark and Share

Day 13 of 21 Words for 21 Days

“Fertilization outside the body—making a child without making love-- and abortion—the unmaking of a child—are incompatible with natural moral law in varying degrees.”
Servant of God, Dr Jerome Lejeune

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Day 12 of 21 Words for 21 Days

“It is not medicine we should fear, but the folly of mankind. Every day, the experience of our predecessors increases our ability to change nature by using its own laws. But using this power wisely is what each generation must lean in its turn. We are certainly more powerful today than ever before, but we are no wiser; technology is cumulative, wisdom is not.”
Servant of God, Dr Jerome Lejeune

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