Quarterly Review – Fall 2016 Issue

Welcome to our fifth edition of Salt and Light, the Quarterly Review of St. John Vianney’s Social Service Ministries. In this issue, we turn our attention to what The Church teaches about our fundamental rights and corresponding responsibilities.  The most important of these rights is, of course, the right to life and all those things necessary for survival.  All of the many human rights that the Catholic Church recognizes are a result of our belief in the dignity of the human person recognizing that we are all born in the image and likeness of God.  To explain more about what the Church teaches about “Rights and Responsibilities,” we have included a link to a short video from the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services and another video from Fr. Nathaniel Haslam, as well as an article from Education for Justice, and a reflection from Pat Guzman, one of our talented team of writers and parishioners.

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Interestingly, when we were researching and preparing this issue for publication, we found an abundant amount of resources detailing what the Catholic Church teaches about human rights, but not much about our corresponding responsibilities. So, what do our responsibilities entail? Much of what is written revolves around protecting and defending the rights of others as human beings.  As St. John XXIII wrote in Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), “In human society one man’s natural right gives rise to a corresponding duty in other men; the duty, that is, of recognizing and respecting that right.  Every basic human right draws its authoritative force from the natural law, which confers it and attaches to it its respective duty.  Hence, to claim one’s rights and ignore one’s duties, or only half fulfill them, is like building a house with one hand and tearing it down with the other.” Additionally, the USCCB refers to our responsibilities as duties “to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.”  Not only are we called to defend and protect each other, we are called to care for one another, teach one another, and share our faith with one another.  I can think of no better way to convey an example of how a Catholic can respond to this call than parishioner Sarah Kushner’s reflection which we share in this issue, “What a Gift!”  Sarah is co-coordinator of our Gabriel Project Angels, and as such, is actively involved in serving mothers and babies in need on a daily basis.  In her reflection, Sarah shares how her parents, her extended family, her teachers, and fellow parishioners met their responsibilities in caring for, teaching, and passing on their faith to her and how she endeavors to the do the same now for her family, her parish, and those in need.

Please remember that if you like to write and are interested in sharing reflections or reviews related to our Church’s social doctrine or the Works of Mercy, you may contact Vivian. We love our parishioner contributors!

The last few months in our Social Services’ office have been full of activity, and things will only get busier as we head into Thanksgiving and Advent. Please read on to learn more about our accomplishments in the last few months in our Quarterly Report.

As we approach Election Day on November 8th, please don’t forget to pray about the election and prepare your conscience to vote.  We urge you to explore and review the information included on the USCCB’s Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.  The USCCB has included in its website a video as well as a variety of resources to help us to prepare to vote.  Some of the documents are lengthy, so we’ve also included the shorter summary documents on the challenge of forming consciences for faithful citizenship: Our Call as Catholic Citizens and Making Moral Choices and Applying Our Principles. It is our hope that you will find them helpful.  Finally, I’d like to share with you this prayer for Election Day:

O God, so that I may both vote and act for the common good, I ask for your help in forming my conscience according to the Gospel and according to your will.
I ask for the eyes to see all human beings as my brothers and sisters– all equally beloved as sons and daughters of God.
I ask for the courage to stand up for the rights and dignity of all human beings, especially the most vulnerable members of our society, including the poor, the sick, and the unborn.
Above all else, grant me the courage to re-examine my political loyalties and to be first and foremost, a faithful follower of you, Lord Jesus.
Remind me that our only true hope rests in you and that political power can never replace the will of God and the mission of the Church.
Help me to cast my vote in a way that is pleasing to you, Lord. Help me to do it reverently and with a well-formed conscience.
Please bless us, Lord, in these elections with the best leaders possible at all levels of government.
My vote may be small and insignificant in many respects, but it is an important responsibility in my life as a Christian. Help me to both vote and live by the Gospel putting my trust only in you, Lord Jesus Christ. 

Peace and Blessings,


“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp-stand, where it gives light to all in the house.  Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father”  ~ Matthew 5: 13-16

In this issue of Salt and Light Quarterly Review:
  1. Rights and Responsibilities
    Catholic Social Teaching 101: Rights and Responsibilities
    A Reflection on Rights and Responsibilities 
    by Pat Guzman
    Rights, Responsibilities and False “Rights”
    by Fr. Nathaniel Haslam
    The Principle of Rights and Responsibilities: the ten second summary
  2. Strengthening Catholic Identity Through the Family
    What a Gift! by Sarah Kushner
    Healthy Families, Healthy Society
  3. Living Faith, Changing Lives, Making a Difference: One Person at a Time
    Quarterly Report from the Social Services Ministry

rights and responsibilities

“The Church’s social teaching rests on one basic principle: individual human beings are the foundation, the cause and the end of every social institution.” ~ Mater et Magistra, #219

A Reflection on Rights and Responsibilities

by Pat Guzman

Rights and responsibilities. Do these words go always together when we think about people in the context of the society?  Do we need to talk about both at the same time when we address social, economic, and political harmony or conflict?  Do we know why sometimes these words drift apart?  The current media environment uses loosely the meaning of these words creating confusion that gives way to idle discussions among the so-called experts.  At times, these individuals portray the concepts behind these words as if one word is more important than the other or that one applies to citizens and the other to the government or vice versa depending upon current events.  To make matters worse, politicians apply the meaning of these words based on their agendas, especially when these are at stake.  We cannot agree on the meaning of “rights and responsibilities” unless we know the conceptual definition of these words for us, Catholics.

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Rights and responsibilities. Do these words go always together when we think about people in the context of the society?  Do we need to talk about both at the same time when we address social, economic, and political harmony or conflict?  Do we know why sometimes these words drift apart?  The current media environment uses loosely the meaning of these words creating confusion that gives way to idle discussions among the so-called experts.  At times, these individuals portray the concepts behind these words as if one word is more important than the other or that one applies to citizens and the other to the government or vice versa depending upon current events.  To make matters worse, politicians apply the meaning of these words based on their agendas, especially when these are at stake.  We cannot agree on the meaning of “rights and responsibilities” unless we know the conceptual definition of these words for us, Catholics.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (1995) in their report on the Task Force on Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Education included the definition of Rights and Responsibilities as follows:
In a world where some speak mostly of “rights” and others mostly of “responsibilities,” the Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities, to one another, to our families, and to the larger society. While public debate in our nation is often divided between those who focus on personal responsibility and those who focus on social responsibilities, our tradition insists that both are necessary.

The teachings speak to a balance of rights and responsibilities.  Otherwise, the gap created, when they are separated or individualized, opens a path to discrimination, human trafficking, neglect, abandonment, or abuse.  Sadly, this gap appears to be wide open in the 21st century across the globe.  St. John XXIII (1963) spoke about a human society that in order to be well-ordered and productive, it needed to lay down as a strong foundation the principle that human beings are persons empowered with intelligence and free will.  He stressed that we have rights and responsibilities precisely because they flow from our own nature; that is, we were created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26, The New American Bible).  Thus, these rights and duties are universal, inviolable, and cannot be surrendered.

It is not enough, however, to believe and acknowledge these rights and obligations. We should strive to give life to these teachings and become advocates for the preservation and respect for human dignity.   In all we do with everything we have, we should strive to be generous, charitable, serving, and solidary.  Every encounter with a human being is an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to contributing to the common good.  We should look for opportunities to join ministries that serve those in need, to participate in advocacy, to be guardians of ethical principles, to be responsible caretakers of natural resources, to vote responsibly, and to have a voice of action.

We are never alone when we act to champion and protect human dignity; the Spirit of God is always inspiring, supporting, and counseling us. Through a lively faith, we will inspire others to follow our lead.  Benedict XVI (2009) affirmed:
God’s love calls us to move beyond the limited and the ephemeral, it gives us the courage to continue seeking and working for the benefit of all, even if this cannot be achieved immediately. . . . God gives us the strength to fight and to suffer for love of the common good, because he is our All, our greatest hope. (p. 49)


Benedict XVI. Vatican. Caritas in Veritate. 29 Jun. 2009. 22 Sep. 2016.
John XXIII.  Vatican.  Pacem in Terris.  11 Apr. 1963. 20 Sep. 2016.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (1995). Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and DirectionsRetrieved September 16, 2016.

Pat Guzman is a retired executive from one of the top consulting firms in the U.S. She holds the knowledge, experience, and insights of a 38-year career as a consultant. Currently, Pat is a Social Services volunteer at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Houston, Texas. She manages the Food Pantry, serves Meals-on-Wheels, teaches ESL, and is a member of the Social Services Board. Pat holds a Doctorate in Organizational Management and a Master’s degree in Management Information Systems.

Rights, Responsibilities and false “rights”

by Father Nathaniel Haslam

Continuing his series of videos on the key themes in Catholic Social Teaching, Fr. Nathaniel enlightens us with a brief explanation of the nature of rights, and the responsibilities that are linked to these rights.  In a society that is so focused on claiming everyone’s rights, Father Nathaniel reminds us that linked to these rights is our responsibility to serve God and our neighbor by promoting our human mission in life.  He also explains the difference between natural rights and pseudo-rights or false “rights,” and the importance of knowing the difference.

For further reading, see The Principle of Rights and Responsibilities: the 10 second summary by Sr. Katherine Feely, SND.


“Thus the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith…the family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates…the future of evangelization depends in great part on the Church of the home”
~ St. John Paul II (Familiaris Consortio, #51-52).


What a Gift!

By Sarah Kushner

It’s 15-20 degrees outside in the snow and maybe 60 degrees inside my house as the wind whips a nearby tree branch against my bedroom window and the radiator begins to rattle and hiss with the promise that the temperature inside my room may soon begin to slightly rise.   I comfortably lay under the covers trying to convince myself to make a run for the bathroom and turn on the shower to begin the lengthy process of warming up the frigid winter water.  As an adolescent, it’s what I did every day for school and it’s also what I did early every Sunday morning to attend CCE classes and Mass in my hometown of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

My parents, my younger brother, and I attended St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Beaver Falls. The parish was founded in 1871 by German immigrants and the finalized traditional European brick building with its many beautiful stained glass windows and towering spire was completed and dedicated in 1897.  The spirit of our parish was humble and holy and most of its members lived simple, hard- working lives.  We knew the names and family stories of almost all of our fellow parishioners.  Mr. Wagner was a parishioner and my high school CCE teacher.  He and his wife had 17 children and lived across the street from the church.  I remember him dissecting every word of the “Hail Mary” with us, pounding on his desk, asking us if we could “believe how beautiful this prayer is?”  At. St. Mary’s, I learned to do the dishes at the Friday Lenten fish fries, my dad was on the church council and my mom headed up things like the parish picnics and the church bazaar.  I can remember waiting for what seemed like hours outside in the snow after CCE class for my parents to join me for 10:30 am mass.  My parents were always dressed in their Sunday best and I can remember during mass, they both would recite the Nicene Creed in a way that made me know they really believed it. After mass, my parents would be sure to visit with our pastor, Father Gildea, as well as their fellow parishioners.  Sometimes they would offer to take someone “up the hill” back to their home if they had no other way.  My parents’ devotion to St. Mary’s taught me many things, among them that God was first and worth any human sacrifice, that the offering of the mass was a priority always, as well as were the teachings of our faith, and that we are here to serve God, to praise God, and to be Christ to others.  What a gift they gave to me!

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My aunt, uncle and cousins attended St. Philomena’s Catholic Church two miles away on the other side of our small steel town, and my grandparents attended St. Joseph’s Catholic Church three miles in the opposite direction, across the bridge in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. My aunt was both my godmother and my confirmation sponsor.  She was a Eucharistic minister and often took communion to those who were sick or homebound.  Occasionally we would attend mass with my grandparents at “St. Joe’s”.  They always sat in the same pew and were always there at least 30 minutes early.  My Italian grandmother would pray the rosary while waiting for mass to begin and once mass did begin, my German grandfather would sing the entrance hymn with such pride and vigor that I was sure he could be heard in heaven.  Many of the hymns we still sing at mass today move me to be able to hear my grandfather’s radiant voice, even though he is no longer here with us.  When I recite my rosary I often think about my grandmother’s own devotion to the rosary.  I can envision her in her recliner, rocking back and forth, rhythmically murmuring the words, almost entranced, finding peace in this prayer, particularly after her son, my uncle, passed away from Leukemia at the age of 43.   These practices taught me several things; to go to God first, to seek and praise Him with vigor, to bring my sorrows and requests to our Blessed Mother, and that our Catholic faith was a part of my extended family as well as my nuclear one.  What a gift they all gave to me!

As a mother, I know how important it is to give these same types of gifts to my three young boys. I sometimes find myself almost filled with panic wondering “How can I possibly do that, in a big city, where there is no snow, that is hundreds of miles away from any extended family, in a parish that sometimes seems bigger than the entire town where I grew up, in a day and age where our culture overwhelmingly tries to direct us away from the Gospel message, from family life, from serving one another, and from God!” …and then and I pray, or I work on my Bible study, or I attend mass, or I drop my children off at the Catholic school that they attend, or I go to Adoration, or I recite the rosary, or my son asks me a question about a Bible verse he doesn’t fully understand…and God blesses me with the wisdom of His Word, the grace of His love and sacrifice, and the peace of His protection.  My husband and I don’t always get it right, but we work hard to teach our children to put God first in their lives.  When planning our family time together, including weekends and vacations, we let the kids know through our choices, that God is first.  Mass, family prayer, making sacrifices for relatives, putting others first, doing works of mercy, treating all of God’s creations with dignity, not giving into all of our human wants and desires, are some of the messages we hope are making their way into the hearts and minds of our kids.  Raising soldiers of Christ is hard work!  What a gift they are giving to me!

Due to a declining number of parishioners and the under-abundance of available priests, in recent years, the parish of St. Mary has been consolidated with the other parishes in the area and has been renamed St. Monica. Two years ago this month, due to an over-abundance of necessary repairs, demolition began on the beloved St. Mary church building I grew up in.  After the initial demolition, I phoned my dad and asked him if he could retrieve for me, a relic of the church structure.  So, my dad cautiously walked among the rubble of the church, the church where I was baptized, where I worked at fish fries on Friday nights, where I watched Mr. Wagner and his 17 kids grow up with me, where Fr. Gildea was our pastor for 15 years, and where I heard the Gospel for the very first time.  My father got for my brother and I, each a brick from St. Mary Roman Catholic Church. My brick rests in my home here in Houston, Texas.  When I see it, it reminds me that I have to keep working hard, fighting the battle, teaching my faith to my children, and keeping Christ at the center of our family life, one day at a time, brick by brick.  It also reminds me that all of this shall come to pass and that the battle over sin and darkness has already been won.  God gave us his only son for our salvation.  What a gift God gave to me!

Sarah Kushner and her husband, Dave have been parishioners at St. John Vianney since the fall of 2014.  Sarah is the proud mother of three boys, Davis (9), Vincent (7), and James (1).  She has continuously heard a calling to aid expectant mothers in need through the Gabriel Project and has recently accepted the position of Co-coordinator of the St. John Vianney Gabriel Project.   Sarah is a former middle school math teacher at St. John Paul II Catholic School and currently serves on several committees at the school as a parent volunteer.  She is an active member of the St. Monica’s Society and is also looking forward to traveling this fall with the St. John Vianney mission team to Eagle Pass, Texas.

Sarah’s moving reflection and what she is doing for her family, her parish and her community are truly a gift and an example for all of us, and it could not have come at a better time. Multiple national surveys provide evidence of a drop-off in faith participation for younger Catholics.  This is particularly the case for millennials, where only about two thirds or fewer of those raised Catholic remain Catholic as adults.  In addition, a study conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) confirms that Catholics as young as ten years old are leaving the Catholic Faith.

As Sarah reminds us, “all of this shall come to pass and the battle over sin and darkness has already been won.” Yet, we are still called to fulfill our duty and responsibility to share our faith with one another.  In the article Healthy Families, Healthy Society, Archbishop William E. Lori encourages us to strengthen our Catholic Faith by strengthening one family at a time.  This, in turn, will lead us to becoming the civilization of truth and love which God created us to be.

One Person at a Time

Quarterly Report from Social Service Ministries

The mission of the Social Service Ministries at St. John Vianney Catholic Church is to act on Catholic Social Teaching and our commitment to the Corporal Works of Mercy by providing a compassionate response to those parishioners and families in our community in need of assistance.

Our Social Service Ministries provide an opportunity for our parishioners to get involved and to answer God’s call to grow in faith by sharing their unique gifts and talents while serving and reaching out to those in need. Our ministry is part of the continuous support that St. John Vianney Catholic Church provides to the surrounding community and its parishioners.  Read more.