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This surfing school in Chile was created for kids with Down syndrome

February 7, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Santiago, Chile, Feb 7, 2017 / 01:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sundays, Felipe Pereira is full of enthusiasm. That’s because on Sundays, the 21-year-old goes to Paradise Beach to enjoy the sea along with his friends and to learn how to surf.

For children and young adults with mental disabilities, this is more than a sport. It is the Waves of Hope free surfing school, based in northern Chile’s Antofagasta region.

The school is directed by Chilean surfing enthusiasts Claudio Morales, Catalina Daniels and Pablo Marín. They launched the program five years ago.

After knocking on a lot of doors, running pilot projects, consulting with specialists, and coming up with financing, they began their first class with six surfboards and six wetsuits.

Each Sunday from December to February, the three directors and other volunteers welcome up to 15 children with Down syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome and autism, giving them completely personalized classes adapted to each person’s condition.

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Pereira is a very sociable young man who does folk dancing, goes swimming, and works in his school’s bake shop. He told CNA that what he likes most about the surfing classes is “getting on top of the surf board and catching the waves.”

“I like the sea. I really like to go,” he said. Pereira also liked his instructors, saying, “I like how nice they are to us, I love what they do.”

Instructor Catalina Daniels told CNA that her students “challenge you to change. You can’t go on being the same.”

“They are a tremendous example of how love is the driving force of the best things, the best times, the best efforts. Affectionate warmth is the best investment and with them it’s incredible,” she said.

Daniels also discussed the impact of faith, saying “the person who knows Christ, Jesus, who by his mercy came into your life, can’t be the same. You have to be better, more loving, more understanding, more tolerant, because they are.”

Surfing requires strength, balance, agility, and a lot of technique. But what is most important, the Waves of Hope founders recognize, is the relationship between the instructor and the student. This breaks down the barriers of discrimination to make way for integration.

Many Chileans have never spoken or shaken hands with a person with Down syndrome.

“So very motivated volunteers come, but the first day they don’t know what to say, they don’t know how to act, they try to help, but even they freeze up,” Daniels told CNA.

But the students laugh and tell jokes, and eventually, relationships are formed.

“They have an incredible time. They float, row, do group dynamics, take up the surfboard. They have demonstrated that they can do a lot, they have overcome many difficulties related to their condition,” Daniels said.

She explained that the problem is rooted in discrimination and the lack of proper integration.

“They were born struggling with frustration, they were born already disadvantaged,” she said of the students. “It was really hard getting support from the businesses. Why don’t we see girls with Down syndrome promoting products in advertising? Because the beauty of our students is an atypical beauty and no one wants it on their front page.”

“Chile is a country that creates handicaps,” she reflected, adding that trends to de-value family, school and the Church also cause problems for the disabled.

Daniels recommended that people draw closer to God: “to give love you have to be with the Creator of love…When you have love, you have to give it, you have to give it shape, make it real.”

Claudio Morales, another director, added that the volunteers are “the big winners” of Waves of Hope.

“Children with Down syndrome capture your heart in an incredible way,” he said. “I believe that all the volunteers have a changed way of looking at life.”

 

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Archbishop: There’s a ‘bloodbath’ going on in Venezuela

January 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 31, 2017 / 02:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When asked by a reporter about the threat of civil war in his country, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana of Maracaibo responded starkly: “there is already a bloodbath of considerable proportions in Venezuela.”

“We’re talking about 30,000 people murdered a year, and if we don’t manage to find peaceful ways to understand each other, that number can increase,” he said in a recent interview.

Archbishop Santana, the former head of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, made his remarks to the Alpha and Omega news weekly during a visit to Spain, in which he discussed various issues related to the grave crisis affecting Venezuela.

In the wake of Nicolas Maduro succeeding former socialist president Hugo Chavez after the latter died from cancer in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval.

Poor economic policies, including strict price controls, coupled with high inflation rates, have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers and medicines.

Venezuela’s socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.

The Venezuelan government is known to be among the most corrupt in Latin America, and violent crime in the country has spiked since Maduro took office.

In response to a question about the possibility of a civil war in the South American country, Archbishop Santana said that a potential conflict “would be in very asymmetrical terms.”

“The party that possesses weaponry belongs to the government,” he clarified. “I can’t say the opposition groups don’t have weapons, because today arms trafficking is uncontrollable, but perhaps not in the number and quantity of the other groups.”

“That doesn’t mean there can’t be a bloodbath. In fact, we can say that in Venezuela there already is a bloodbath of considerable proportions,” the archbishop said.

He noted added that “there are armed groups all over the country. In Maracaibo, we have in addition groups of criminals and gang members that would seem to enjoy a certain impunity. We know that there’s a lot of overcrowding in the prisons and at times the authorities have opted for a massive release of prisoners to reduce the congestion.”

There are also “extortion rings,” he noted, “that operate in the city, many are undercover in the security forces, not infrequently backed by operatives in some of those groups who by day keep order and at night are robbing.”

To this “is added is the presence of irregular armed groups on the border who come from Colombia,” he said. “They ensure protection, order and the resolution of small neighborhood conflicts
upon payment of what we call a ‘vaccine.’”

A “vaccine” is an illegal charge that armed groups in Venezuela and Colombia use to allow passage through territory they control. Archbishop Santana said that these are paramilitary groups, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and some factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that have not demobilized.

Despite the country’s problems, a recent assembly of bishops and lay people held in Venezuela had an upshot that “was highly positive,” he said. “You could feel a great deal of consensus  in the lay people’s feeling regarding the need for political change in the country.”

“We talked about how the laity could play a more important role in the Church and in their transformative action in diverse social environments,” he said.

The meeting also discussed “the formation being offered to lay people and its impact because we see they are not sufficiently present as Catholics in the political, economic and cultural worlds. The time was short, but it resulted in proposals for future meetings.”

Pope Francis also met with President Maduro in October of last year, According to the official Vatican communique on the meeting, Francis invited the president “to undertake with courage the path of sincere and constructive dialogue.”

He also invited the Venezuelan dictator to make it a priority “to alleviate the suffering of the people – first of all, those who are poor – and to promote a climate of renewed social cohesion which would offer a vision forward with hope for the future of the nation.”

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After performing 6,000 exorcisms, this priest says the devil fears him

January 19, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 19, 2017 / 04:22 pm (CNA).- Fr. Francisco Lopez Sedano is an 80-year-old Mexican exorcist. In the past 40 years of service, he has conducted at least 6,000 exorcisms.

And, he says, the devil is afraid of him.

Fr. Lopez told the newspaper Hoy Los Angeles (Los Angeles Today) that when the devil speaks to him through possessed people, he responds, “I am nobody, but I come from Christ, your Lord and God and you leave right now – I command you in His name that you go. Out!”

Fr. Lopez is the national coordinator emeritus of exorcism for the Archdiocese of Mexico, and he belongs to the order of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit. Now, he continues his ministry in the Parish of the Holy Cross in Mexico City.

During the interview, the priest highlighted four things that he learned during his years as an exorcist.

First, he emphasized, the devil is a person and not a thing. He noted that Jesus confronted the devil many times and spoke to him. When speaking with a demon, “one isn’t talking with a thing, one is talking with a person.”

The evil one, he added, wants “to separate us from God, to frighten us, to threaten us, to make us tremble.”

“He brings us laziness, fatigue, sleepiness, distrust, desperation, hate; everything negative.”

Second, Fr. Lopez noted, the devil enters into persons because they allow him to do so.

“He can’t enter us if we do not open doors,” the priest said. “Because of this, God prohibits the practice of magic, superstition, witchcraft, sorcery, divination, consulting the dead and spirits and astrology. These are the seven lands of lies and deceit.”

“That the stars influence our life is the biggest lie. They are millions of kilometers away! They are bodies formed by metals and gasses – how can they influence us? It’s the same with magic, which attributes to objects a power that they don’t have. To carry a horseshoe because it’s going to give me good luck – it’s a lie.”

Another truth that Fr. Lopez has learned from decades of experience is that the possessed exhibit specific behaviors.

He said that he has observed possessed persons who “began to shout, to bark like a dog, to scream or writhe and who squirmed like a snake on the ground. There are a thousand forms.”

On one occasion, Fr. Lopez said, a boy around 18 years old pushed five large benches that were so heavy they should have required the strength of 10 people to move.

“He had a terrible strength. We had to get him between three people to practice the exorcism. Having the presence of the Other, already explains anything. They are able to climb the walls, yes. And fly too.”

Sometimes, the possessed person “hears voices, feels hatred or rejection of God where before they believed and now they stamp on the Bible. Other people have a terrible backache, but doctors say that they are perfectly fine.”

“The injuries of Satan are outside the control of clinical medicine,” he continued. “People who live with permanent diarrhea and nothing makes it go away; people who have eye pain and ophthalmologists find nothing. These are injuries that science does not detect.”

Finally, the priest said, decades of ministry have taught him that exorcism is a divine mandate.

Regarding his appointment as an exorcist some 40 years ago, he affirmed that it was “out of necessity” after seeing “very serious and painful cases.”

“A fellow priest who was involved in it made me see that fighting the Evil One was an obligation. He said to me, ‘You have to enter into this by the command of the Lord.’ The three mandates are to carry the word of God, heal the sick and cast out demons. All three are in valid in the Church.”

 

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