Wednesday, October 28, 2015

November 2015 Bulletin:
Pro-Life and the Unsung Heroes

Lead article from the November 2015 bulletin, online now.

With October being Respect Life Month there have been plenty of opportunities to reflect on this topic. As a father of 7 it would seem obvious that I am pro-life, but that wasn't always the case.  Of course when someone finds out how many kids I have I get the standard “you must be Catholic” or “you know how that happens right?” or some other comment that drives me crazy.  Why must I be Catholic to have a big family?  The fact is that we were expecting our 4th child before we went through RCIA, so technically we had a big family before fully joining the Church.  But even after having children I still cannot say I was pro-life.  I remember having a very serious conversation with my wife between child 3 and 4 about getting a vasectomy at 26.  We “knew” that we were done having kids after a miscarriage left a bad scar on our marriage.  Thankfully, my procrastination meant that I never got around to making that appointment.  Now, 4 children later, we still seem to have the conversation about being done having kids quite often but permanent prevention is absolutely never an option.  If I have learned anything, its that how I feel today does not mean that I will feel that way in the future.  Life will always give you plenty of opportunities to regret permanent decisions.  I've talked to too many men, especially in our own parish, that have horrible regrets after getting sterilized earlier in their lives.  Fr. Joah put it best in one of his homilies, “being Catholic does not mean having a dozen kids, it means always being open to life and not putting up any barriers to prevent life.”  We as responsible adults are expected to make decisions based on our situation in life and whether we have the resources to raise more children.  The Church doesn't tell us to carelessly have as many children as we can.  We need to be able to provide for those children both financially and emotionally.  There are ways to manage family size without forcing barriers into our bodies.  Don't live your life with regrets, nobody ever regrets another child but they will always regret not having the option to have one more child.

Now let me jump to another, very important side of this issue.  For those of you blessed with biological children ask yourself this question: Would you be the same parent if your children were adopted?  That's a hard question for me to think about because as much as I want to say yes I honestly don't know.  We have been fortunate that we have never had issues conceiving.  I've heard so many heartbreaking stories from men in this community on the struggles of not being able to conceive or bring a pregnancy to full term.  These men and women put everything on the line for that opportunity to be a parent.  Its not until many years pass, lots of tears are shed, and outrageous expenses incurred that many of them finally decide to adopt.  That is if their marriage is still intact after everything they went through.  It's at this point they are faced with yet another daunting challenge in their journey to become parents: more time, more money, and more tears.

After all this they finally get to become parents.  These are people that made sacrifices most couldn't, just to put all that love into raising a child.  How can we deny them that opportunity by not being pro-life?  If these young women only knew what these people go through for the opportunity to adopt their child and the wonderful life they will provide them I think we would see a change of heart.  This is why its so important for us to support pro-life women's centers like Cornerstone.  Places that can get the right information and support to these women.  Never forget these unsung heroes because they are the critical piece of this respect life war we are fighting and they don't get the appreciation they deserve.  Go out and thank an adoptive parent for being the ultimate example of how precious life is and the love that is out there just waiting to embrace these children.

God Bless,
Joe VanHoorik
Grand Knight

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October 2015 Bulletin:
Catholic Community

Lead article from the October 2015 bulletin, online now.

Community: noun
1. A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
2.  A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

This last month we got to enjoy the St Michael parish festival.  It amazes me how many people come out to enjoy the festivities of the weekend.  Of course the KC's sponsor the German Dinner on Saturday night, which I must admit is probably my favorite event to work at.  The German Dinner was the first event I worked at when I became a Knight and I remember how much I truly enjoyed myself and how it changed my opinion of the KC's.  I believe this event showcases better than any other what we are all about as Knights of Columbus.  First and foremost we are supporting the church, we conduct the event on church grounds and all profits go directly to the church.  Secondly, we serve the community.  This event draws more that just people looking for good food.  It pays homage to the German heritage that created this community and the people that live here.  The crowd is cheerful and the polka music creates a very nostalgic and friendly atmosphere that gets people to stick around long after they are done eating.  Third, and what impressed me the most as a new knight, was the fraternity between brother knights.  We joke around, we serve a great meal, we support our church, we enjoy a beer together, and we have a great time doing it.  What else defines the KCs better than that?

While at the festival I had the opportunity to meet Angela Erickson, the new director at Cornerstone Options for Women.  I am very excited for the future of Cornerstone.  Angela brings a whole new level of energy and optimism that will take the center to the next level. She will be speaking at our pro-life dinner this month and I encourage you to attend and meet this great addition to a cause we support so greatly.  Aside from our conversation around Cornerstone she made a comment that really got me thinking.  When I introduced myself as the Grand Knight she said: “Aren't you kind of young to be Grand Knight?”  This was awkward, I didn't really know how to answer that statement so while I was trying to think of a response she followed it with: “My husband would like to join the KC's but the men are so much older that he doesn't feel comfortable with it yet.”  Now I understood where the first comment came from.  They are not members of our parish and he is not referring to our council.  I've noticed that its a very common perception of people outside of our community to assume the KCs are strictly a group of older men.  We have a very young and active council.  Just like our parish, our council reflects the unique and vibrant church community we represent.                                                  
What is community?  Community doesn't just apply to where we live.  It applies to the particular characteristic we have in common (Catholics) and the feeling of fellowship with our fellow Catholics.  We have a unique community here that is very rare.  Our church community is not defined by where we live.  We have many parishioners that do not live in the STMA communities.  Its also not defined as just being Catholic.  There are many Catholics churches much closer to many of our parishioners but they still choose to drive out here.  There are also many Catholics in our city that choose to travel to surrounding churches.  Yes, believe it or not, our community is not for everyone and that’s perfectly okay.  Our church community is also not defined by age, social status, or race.  We have such an awesome variety of people that you cannot group us into any other category than by our church community.  Nowhere is our church community more obvious then when you attend the annual festival.  People from all over show up, it even draws a lot of people that aren't even Catholic.  Just like the community we support, our KC council is not your typical council.  We have men of all different ages and social status.  We have more programs and members that most councils.  Every year we see a new group of you men that are on fire with their faith and ready to support this community.  What is it about this church community that drew you in or kept you here?  What can we as Knights of Columbus and Catholic men do to maintain and promote this community so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy it like we are right now?

God Bless!

Joe VanHoorik
Grand Knight

Thursday, September 10, 2015

September 2015 Bulletin:
A Reflection on Family

Lead article from the September 2015 bulletin, online now.

The past couple weeks have been both difficult and joyous. I had to experience both death and marriage, and it's amazing how they both affect you so similarly when you start to reflect on them.

We laid my grandmother to rest this month. This was not unexpected; in fact it was somewhat of a joyous occasion. We all knew she had been suffering greatly the last several years and was really looking forward to being reunited with her husband and children in heaven. What makes this difficult for me is two things. First of all, between my wife and me, she was the last grandparent we had left. You don't realize how much your grandparents mold your life as a child. What I wouldn't give to have a couple hours with those that already passed on, just to ask questions about their lives and the history of our families. Grandparents hold such a wealth of information that cannot be fully appreciated until we are adults and have our own families.

The second reason this is difficult in that you don't always fully appreciate someone's life until they are gone. I want to share a little bit of information from her obituary that never hit me until someone put it in writing. She had 17 children, 33 grandchildren, and 55 great grandchildren. This is so amazing to me that this one man and one woman created this huge family that just continues to grow even after they are gone. That is 105 lives created due to two people choosing to say yes to each other in marriage and start a family. Then later in the obituary we get to this: She was preceded in death by five of her children. Yes she lost five children, four before they reached their first birthday. I cannot imagine losing a single child, and she had to experience that horrible loss five times. This woman didn't spend her early parenting years running kids from activity to activity or figuring out what smartphone or gadget she should buy them for Christmas. No, she spent her years figuring out how to feed these children and hoping that there would be a little bit of money to put something/anything under the Christmas tree. But regardless of all that, I heard over and over again throughout that weekend about how generous she was and how faithful of a woman she was. Through all her hardship and struggles she never gave up hope and never let it interfere with her love of her Catholic faith. She must have had thousands of opportunities to turn her head to her faith but instead she chose to lean on God in those hard times. The priest talked about how she was always at the church praying and helping out in whatever capacity she could. I never knew she was as faithful as she was, I chalk this up as another lost opportunity to ask a ton of questions. Let us embrace our families while we can and not let the trials of life interfere with what's truly important.

Now let’s jump to a more joyous topic. I had the honor of attending my sister-in-law’s wedding this last weekend in Ossian, Iowa. I wouldn't expect that you heard of it; this is a stereotypical small town in Iowa surrounded by farms and corn fields as far as you can see. What makes this so special is the family that I had the honor of experiencing while I was there. My now brother-in-law's family was so unbelievably welcoming and joyous about this occasion. I heard stories and got to see reunions between people that hadn't seen each other in years. I got to see a proud father share his son's wedding with an entire community. It was truly amazing. My wife commented several times on how she didn't run into a single person that wasn't super welcoming. That family welcomed everyone near and far into their arms this weekend. It pains me to know that my new brother-in-law has no interest in his family farm or moving back to that little community down in Iowa that cares so much about him. But I also realize that people change but our families never do. Regardless of where his life leads him and his new family, that family down in Iowa could not be prouder of him.

It's interesting how a funeral and a wedding can generate such similar emotions and reflections. But unfortunately it takes a major occasion for us to make the time to get together with our families and share those stories that molded us into the people we are today. Don't wait until it's too late to ask questions or share stories with your family. Those are the things that carry on long after you do. What will your legacy be?