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Contents ACCOMPANY ....................................P.
FROM THE EDITOR Marilyn Rodrigues
THE FIELD HOSPITAL James Parker
A PARENT'S PERSPECTIVE..................P.
OUR CHILD IS IN TROUBLE Anonymous HEART TO HEART.................................P.
TACKLING THE TRICKY QUESTIONS Francine Pirola
SUFFERING AND SERENITY
Jean C. Lloyd
BOOKS, VIDEOS, SUPPORT GROUPS
RECIPES, ACTIVITIES AND PRAYER Christ the King and Advent
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CathFamily Â© 2016
From the Editor Marilyn Rodrigues In this edition we feature the testimonials and commentary of people who are walking with those whose life circumstances and choices make it difficult for them to feel that they belong in the Catholic family. Many same-sex attracted or gender questioning Catholics, for example, feel rejected by the Church rather than loved. The same is true for those who have a sexual addiction, had an abortion, or a child or grandchild born out of wedlock. Pope Francis has asked Catholics to accompany people who are wounded in their family life, sexuality or marriage. He calls on all of us to extend the hand of mercy to each other, encouraging one another to draw close to God in our difficulties. Read on for some inspiring insights. Blessings, Marilyn
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The Field Hospital James Parker James’s conversion to the Catholic faith and the shedding of his old ways was a gradual journey, aided by the Catholics who befriended and welcomed him. It took me a number of years to move from coming out as gay in my late teens, through a season of promiscuity, before settling into a committed gay relationship as a young adult. It was only once my search for Mr Right had ended that another search slowly began to rise within me. I never expected it to lead me to the heart of God in the way that it did.
There I was, happily settled with my boyfriend, and at the same time being drawn into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It was totally unexpected. CathFamily © 2016
As I began to pray and read scripture, Jesus gradually became my primary focus. As his love filled my heart day-by-day and month-by-month, my hunger to know him better intensified. I reached a point where I had to choose; the life I was leading just wasn’t compatible with my growing faith. And so I chose my Lord. Over the next few years, I deepened my prayer life and attended prayer gatherings with other young Catholics. I’d been raised Protestant and so I was suspicious of many practices of the Catholic Church. Imagine my surprise as I gradually encountered Jesus’ presence in the Rosary, in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and at Mass. My heart started to yearn for the Sacraments in such a way that I couldn’t wait any longer.
Photo: Ben White | Unsplash.com
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When I was received into the Catholic Church, I knew that I had finally come home, and man, it felt good! During this time, I also underwent counselling to process the events of my past including my experience of sexual abuse when I was a child. The healing continues as I now work helping others who are sexually broken to find truth in their lives and learn how to receive God’s unconditional love. It is a long, slow journey for every one of us who dares to embark upon this quest across uncharted territory.
For the wounded heart, accepting love, truly trusting it and believing in it, is a monumental task that doesn’t happen easily or quickly. My journey towards wholeness, and holiness, is a gradual process over decades. If someone had said to me years previously that I would have given up my ‘dream’ boyfriend and left behind the gay community to find Jesus in all his fullness in the Catholic Church, I would have thought they were crazy.
I am so grateful to those who loved me into faith and into health, even as I was living in ways they must have found abhorrent. They were my â€˜field hospitalâ€™, as Pope Francis calls it, the ones who accompanied me into life in Christ.
Many people today tell me that they would not know how to accompany others as they go about examining aspects of their sexual attraction. But all it takes are small gestures of unconditional love from as wide a group of different individuals as possible to help those questioning realise that they too are part of an imperfect common humanity seeking out truth and light. So 20 years on, is my life perfect? No, it's not. It's complicated and at times painfully hard. My story now includes marriage to an Aussie lady, fatherhood and most recently divorce. As I continue to walk with survivors of sexual abuse and same-sex attracted men I am grateful to those who walk with me in my own journey.
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Brothers in Arms In my support groups for men with same-sex attraction, I often get requests to join from heterosexual men. These brotherhood groups provide encouragement and allow members to be open about their sexual struggles. Although the expression of sexual confusion is different for same-sex attracted and other-sex attracted men, we all share in the same struggle. It's not uncommon for some of the gay men to comment quietly to me "I thought I had problems, these heteroes are just as messed up!"
And really, isn't that true of us all to some extent? We all struggle to live our sexuality authentically. It's not about sexual orientation or gender identity but about how we process the internal wounds that are preventing us from fully embracing the manhood God gives us. Of course the same applies to women. We all have a preferred way of avoiding intense emotions and painful truths in our lives. To walk with each other, offering encouragement and acceptance in the midst of our many messes, is truly the work of love. We all need this, even those among us who appear to have it so confidently together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR James Parker was a gay activist in London as a young adult. He was received into the Catholic Church in his mid-twenties and has since worked in and for the Church in Britain and Rome. He now calls Australia home.
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Persevere in faith!
I can guarantee one thing: if you persevere, beyond every valley to plumb and mountain to climb youâ€™ll find glimpses of new life that brings profound relief and restoration to traumatised hearts. James Parker
My Loved One Is In Trouble Parents and other family members who are the ‘first responders’ are the ones best-placed to accompany a person who feels on the outer of the Church community. Often, these first responders themselves are in need of encouragement and affirmation. An addiction, an unexpected pregnancy out of wedlock, or a ‘coming out’ announcement can come with a sense of alienation for the loved ones as well.
Iâ€™m not ready to be a grandmother I am feeling rather numb right now. My 20-year-old daughter who is still in college announced that she is pregnant. There is no one that she would like to claim as the father at this time. My husband and I have told her that we support her decision to keep the child or put it up for adoption. Abortion is out of the question.
But it bothers me that this baby she is carrying is my grandchild. Am I being a bad person or parent for supporting her possible decision to put the baby up for adoption? Am I abandoning my own flesh and blood? This is such a killer for me! We always hear so much about the parents - particularly the unwed mother in these situations, but what about grandparents and even great grandparentsâ€™ feelings?
I could be very old and still feel that I could and should be responsible in some way for this baby. My husband I and feel that our daughter isn't ready for parenthood at all yet, let alone single parenthood. I don't know anyone who raised a grandchild in situation such as this. The thought of raising my own grandchild seems so strange to me. This is a whole new perspective for me, a dizzying one. But once a parent - always a parent. Within 24 hours of finding out about this pregnancy I bought my daughter prenatal vitamins, maternity clothes and an outfit for the newborn to come home in. By doing this I feel that I've confirmed in my daughter's mind that life is coming and we are all expecting with her. Such is life! Often times life happens in a way we would never expect.
My husband is a porn addict Anonymously in your pews are women holding families together against the destructive forces of pornography on our husbands and sons. We are hurting and ashamed, tolerating – not enjoying – marriages and dealing with our inadequacies and depression. Personally, I feel like the 15 years of my marriage before my discovery were one big lie; that I have been “duped” by an otherwise faithful, church-involved husband. In the three years since my awareness was heightened, I have come to believe that an affair would have actually been easier to tolerate; for perhaps I could compete with flesh and bones, but not with this. That pleasure and satisfaction can come to my husband from something so twodimensional has shaken me to the core; my very sense of who I am and what I am worth is utterly destroyed. My world was turned upside down and I know if not for our children, I would have left the marriage. From ‘Letter from the Wife of a Porn Addict’
Our Beloved Son is Gay I love the Catholic Church, and I am an obedient Catholic who is very thankful for the authority of the Church. That being said, I have come to know that something that is clearly black and white takes on shades of grey when it happens in your life. We are a homeschooling family. We attend daily Mass, celebrate feast days and thoroughly enjoy our children. We are not perfect parents, but we love our children and have tried very hard to parent in a loving and firm manner without being harsh. And, we have a gay son. Our son told us right before his 18th birthday. He is now 21. He is respectful of the fact that his father and I want to tell his siblings ourselves when we feel that they are at an appropriate age. He is a good big brother... very nurturing, very loving.
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We do not condone being sexually active in a homosexual relationship (or in any relationship outside of marriage). However, when you watch your son struggle with an eating disorder, depression, and run away... the way to respond to him does not feel quite so black and white. Photo: Peter Hershey | unsplash.com
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My husband and I are just taking it one day at a time. We have talked to him about remaining chaste just as any Catholic single is called to do. Right now, he does not feel that is an option. He wants very much to meet someone... to have a life partner. I fear the day that he tells us he has met someone. What I find most frustrating is how matter-of-fact people become when asked how they would react to such news from a child. A common response is: â€œI would love my child without condoning their behaviourâ€?.
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Obviously, I do not condone this lifestyle either, but when my son told us he was gay I felt like I was punched in the gut and had my heart ripped out all in a split second. There was nothing matter-of-fact about it. Lots of heartache and struggling is involved. And even though I have only told very few people, I still ‘feel’ judgement from Christians because of the way some of them talk about gay people. My fear is that because I am not following my son around all the time trying to convert his heart, that I am being lukewarm and that I am teaching his siblings to be lukewarm.
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Because we are living peacefully and not constantly being confrontational with our son over this issue I am afraid it looks to be acceptance.
I just pray, pray, pray. I have to believe that God hears this mother's cry for her son and that He loves my son even more than I do.
This is an extract from a piece originally published by an anonymous guest contributor on the Little Catholic Bubble blog belonging to Leila Miller. Leila is the author of a newly released book, Raising Chaste Catholic Men ) which offers Catholic mothers practical strategies and advice for guiding boys through a sex-saturated secular culture. She has eight children, six of them sons.
Read the whole article
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Grieving for my daughter’s innocence Here I was in my mid-30s, married six months, and my teenage daughter was telling me I was about to be a grandmother. She was 18 – the same age I was when I had her. I left the room in a daze. I could hear her heartbroken wails but could not bring myself to comfort her. I just couldn't. The only emotion that could compare to how I felt was the initial shock of a bereavement.
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I had begun the process of grieving. Yes, there had been a death. The death of my daughter's innocence. I had no idea that she had a boyfriend, much less that she was sexually active. Was that naive?
As a Christian, I had to stand by my conviction that abortion is wrong, so it would not be an option. My daughter felt the same way so that was that. ‘We’ were having a baby. In the next two weeks, I was a maelstrom of emotions. I cast my mind back to all the things I saw as evidence of my failure as a mother. I looked back over the years and questioned everything. Perhaps I didn't spend enough time with her – when was the last time we had a ‘mother-daughter’ date? Perhaps I didn't discipline her enough. Perhaps I didn't do enough to instill a moral code.
Perhaps I didn't realise early enough that despite our closeknit family, there were always going to be severe consequences from growing up in a one-parent household. Perhaps a male role model early on would have made a difference? My grief was worsened by the fact that only close family members knew. I told no one else, and I was isolated by the secret. Excerpted from 'My teenage daughter is pregnant'. Originally published in The Guardian.
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What do I do when my child makes poor choices? Only one woman in the history of mankind has raised a perfect child and she would be the first to assure you that it was all by the grace of God. Where does that leave us in our mission as parents? What hope do we have? We can walk together, just as Jesus walked and worked with Peter, every day, day in and day out, endeavouring to be Christ to one another, sure that we have free will, but we can have grace, too. We can be confident that they will leave home and that they will all make poor choices and some of them will make very poor choices.
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However, we can cling to the truth that as we wait for God to work in the hearts of these children in whom we've invested so much, it is we who can rely on the grace of all those years of doing. Quoted from Elizabeth Foss, ‘What I’m Never Going to Tell You’.
Read the whole article
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Tackling the Tricky Questions Francine Pirola For parents, the art of accompanying their children begins at the child’s birth. Simple, daily interactions establish the most important ingredient: an emotionally close and trusting relationship.
Awkward moments I still remember the time when our young son started talking in detail about his recent, medically -required circumcision at the dinner table, when a friend of ours was visiting! Fortunately, our guest responded very graciously, and we were able to steer the conversation onto an easier topic. Although his timing was not so great, we were pleased that our son felt safe enough to
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speak with us about absolutely anything that was on his mind. We can’t always predict when the more awkward questions or comments will come from our kids. But it’s important to use every opportunity that arises to affirm a climate of trust and receptivity in our families. This atmosphere of trust builds slowly and around mundane daily interactions. With our children,
Photo: Gareth Harper | unsplash.com
Our children need space and time; wasteful, leisurely time in a parent’s presence, even a bit of boredom, so that the questions mulling in the back of their mind can bubble to the surface.
sometimes there have been several hours in each other’s company doing and talking about ordinary things before the really meaty stuff has emerged.
parent doesn’t make the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with each child often, even daily, then there simply won’t be the ‘space’ for the child’s questions to emerge.
It’s not enough to simply be willing to answer our children’s questions about sex, sexual morality, Church teaching and the realities of life. We have to actively foster an environment that allows the questions to be asked. If a
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Five tips for dealing with tricky questions Having said that, here are five tips for talking with our kids about sexuality and other sensitive topics should a question or comment arise.
Understand the question Kids ask questions all the time. Because of our sensitivity to the topic of sexuality and same-sex attraction, we can read more meaning into our kid’s questions than needs to be there. It’s always a good idea to explore the background of the question before diving in. Perhaps they’ve simply seen something on TV or have overheard an adult conversation. Alternatively, they may be looking for reassurance about or are experiencing confusion about their own sexual identity, or that of a classmate or close friend. A few thoughtful enquiries will help us understand what the real question is and determine how much our child already knows and what information he or she is seeking.
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React positively and age-appropriately So often our embarrassment or lack of confidence can lead us to react harshly when children ask sensitive questions or we discover them watching something we donâ€™t approve of. Keep in mind that a negative reaction that puts the child down or dismisses his curiosity can have a long lasting and undesired impact. If we want our children to come to us for answers rather than go to friends at school or the internet, we must make sure that our child always feels valued by taking his or her questions seriously and answering them as honestly as we can. If you donâ€™t know the answers, just say so. And maybe offer to assist your child in finding them out together.
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Be prepared and informed We can be prepared by being clear in our understanding of what the Church teaches as well as being aware of some key facts about human sexuality and same-sex attraction: • God created us male and female, so our sexuality is essential to our humanity and our journey with God. • Sexual intercourse is a sacred body language intended exclusively for men and women who have made a lifelong commitment to each other with an openness to children. This is called ‘marriage’. Sex in any other context distorts and misrepresents this meaning, whether it be between two men, two women, singles or people who are married to someone else. All of us, whether same-sex attracted or opposite-sex attracted, married, single or celibate, struggle to live our sexuality in a way that gives honour to God and protects our dignity as beings created in God’s likeness. The vision for life and the moral code of the Church applies equally to everyone. There’s not one rule for one group and a different rule for the others – all Christians are called to follow Christ and live according to his teachings.
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• All of us - whether same-sex attracted or opposite-sex attracted, married, single or celibate - struggle to live our sexuality in a way that gives honour to God and protects our dignity as beings created in God’s likeness. The vision for life and the moral code of the Church applies equally to everyone. There’s not one rule for one group and a different rule for the others – all Christians are called to follow Christ and live according to his teachings. Same-sex attracted and gender-questioning people often have endured much suffering. This suffering may often include them being bullied or teased because of their situation – this is never right and should not be tolerated. • Being same-sex attracted or gender questioning doesn’t change the fact that a person is genetically male or female. Even for those who are genuinely intersex (ie. are chromosomally ambiguous), it doesn’t change the fact that they are children of God and are deeply loved.
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Join a Village Itâ€™s virtually impossible to do it all as parents on our own. Even when we create the ideal home setting with positive modelling, two parents are not enough. We need the help of other like-minded adults because the chances are that at least one of our kids will need an adult other than their parents for some questions. Plan ahead and start building a community of matched families so that you can support each other in this task.
Pray, Pray, Pray Prayer is foundational to our task as Catholic parents. It is also essential to our own sanity! God entrusts us with the care of his children. It is a burden of responsibility that God requires us to hold lightly. Our children will eventually become independent in their decisions. Almost certainly they will make choices that distress and worry us. Itâ€™s imperative at these times that we lean on God, seeking guidance and strength to love in a way that always draws our children closer to God rather than driving them away.
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If they don’t ask, when do we tell? One of the dilemmas we parents face is the desire to introduce our children to the various aspects of sexuality on our own timetable. We’d prefer to wait until each child is ready and to introduce concepts in a particular order beginning with puberty and the changes they will experience, followed later by the purpose and meaning of sexual love in the context of marriage. We’d prefer not to have to address many other topics at all!
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Unfortunately, the predatory nature of the pornography industry means that even if we successfully quarantine our children from it, our children will have friends who have been prematurely sexualised. Compulsory school curriculums will mean that children will be exposed to concepts irrespective of their individual readiness for them. Today’s world is a confusing place for children when it comes to sexuality. As parents we often feel overwhelmed by the task of raising our children in a culture that is so hostile to our Catholic values.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Francine Pirola is the founder of Cathfamily and the mother of five children. She resides in Sydney, Australia, and with husband, Byron is co-director of the Marriage Resource Centre.
Moreover, many of our children will experience some measure of sexual confusion or have an encounter that impacts their sexual identity profoundly.
We can’t prescribe what’s best for every child in every family but every parent should be proactive rather than reactive.
Our most important task as parents is to ask for God’s help and guidance, seek expert advice, then prepare our children as best we can in the ways and at the times we have prayerfully discerned is best given the circumstances.
None of us will get it completely right. Sometimes we will mess it up. But knowing we have tried our best, we can leave the outcome in It is preferable to be pre-emptive God’s hands and accept his peace in our parenting so that we can - a peace which will sustain us and be the source of information for help us bring Christ’s presence to our children rather than mere our homes as our children muddle reactionaries after their exposure to their way through to adulthood a harmful attitude or misinformation. and beyond. Accompany | 37
Serenity and Suffering
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Jean’s life story is not the way she would have written it. It includes early years of childhood abuse, same-sex attraction and depression, and later years of heterosexual marriage and children. She writes of the blessing of being able to trust God as the author of her life. The Serenity Prayer is a blessing and gift used in almost every twelve-step model of recovery there is. Most of us know the first four lines:
God grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference. Currently, however, there is less and less acceptance of things we cannot - or should not - change. True serenity becomes a distant illusion and true acceptance non-existent.
All gives way to our culture’s new form of ‘courage’. This ‘courage’ refuses any limits and seeks to alter, medicate, and assuage every experience that gives us pain or pause. Wisdom is lost completely. Believe me, I am all for alleviating suffering. Explore every moral means available to you. But there is ultimately a limit - ethical, medical, or otherwise - to many of our efforts in this regard.As a samesex attracted woman, I was offered a rewritten script from some Christians in which celibacy was not required of me. While I’m sure they thought it was compassion, it was also an easier path for them than accompanying me in the midst of my storm.
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If I thought I was transgendered today, I’m sure they would encourage me to seek surgery and applaud my ‘courage’ to change, considerations for husband, children, and my long-term health and wellbeing notwithstanding.But there is a second half of the Serenity Prayer. It provides the component needed to achieve the genuine serenity, courage, and wisdom sought in the prayer’s opening lines:
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Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world As it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right If I surrender to His Will; So that I may be reasonably happy in this life And supremely happy with Him Forever and ever in the next. Amen.
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace. Suffering can lead to serenity. If only we respond to that suffering with trust in a loving God who will make all things right. If only we receive His hope that extends beyond this life and world. The Lord is patient. He will help us come to that trust. He never stops pursing us, longing to have compassion on us, if only we surrender and turn to Him in our aching anger. Suffering and sorrow. Which of us would ever script our lives in such a way?
I never would have allowed sexual abuse or same-sex attraction to be written into my story. And yet it is that very suffering that helped lead me to serenity because it has led me to God. I have also now lived long enough to catch glimpses of at least a few â€˜other sidesâ€™ of these sufferings. There is a beautiful work in progress.
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All of us are wounded from the womb. Sin has separated us from our Father. Life is our journey to find our true identity as beloved children of God and to let the Good Shepherd of our souls lead us home to Him. The Author behind both your story and mine is the King of Love. God can triumph over any twist of plot the enemy of our souls scrawls across our pages, and He writes a much better story than we do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jean C. Lloyd, PhD, is a teacher and a happily married mother of two young children. This is an excerpt of an article originally published at Public Discourse: Ethics, Law and the Common Good. Reprinted with permission.
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Encourage and give hope “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29 (NRSV) Having a wayward child, whether young or older, is extremely difficult to bear for any parent. We all want our child to be perfect in every way— someone that others will praise and identify as our offspring. So it can be difficult for us to acknowledge that our child might have “issues” or that they are struggling with something. We might have feelings of guilt about our parenting skills, or we might feel anger at their lack obedience for what we know that they were taught when they were young.
Anxiety, concern, and frustration are all normal feelings when dealing with a troubled child. And yet, God tells us something very important in this verse. He reminds us about the power of our words. Our words can bring life and healing, but they can also tear down and hurt the ones that we love. So even when our children make mistakes or choose poorly, we should continue to love them not only as our children but as children of God - even while not condoning their actions or present lifestyle. And we should also speak words of encouragement and hope into them. From 'Top 7 Verses For Help With a Wayward Child', Karla Hawkins
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Resources for information and support Brave Foundation, an Australian not-for-profit charity that equips those experiencing teenage pregnancy and parenting with resources, referral and education opportunities to facilitate happy, healthy and skilled families over time Janet E. Smith’s Sexual Common Sense, the website of the popular speaker on sexuality and bioethics and author of ‘Contraception: Why Not?' Help for wives of sex addicts. This article is a good starting place to find support. Courage, an international apostolate of the Catholic Church, which ministers to persons with same-sex attractions. And Encourage, which accompanies relatives and friends of people who experience same-sex attraction. Desire of the Everlasting Hills. A documentary-style film with intimate and candid portraits of Catholics who try to navigate the waters of self-understanding, faith and homosexuality Brothers Road. An international fellowship primarily of men from homosexual or bisexual backgrounds who typically do not accept or identify with the label ‘gay’. Truth Wins Out and the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality
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A Bridge of Mercy Accompanying someone in their journey does not require us to endorse their choices nor abandon our own values. Rather, as difficult as we find it, it can provide the bridge they need to return to the truth and wisdom to which we hold. Only God is all-loving and all-just, while for us there will always be a tension between the two. By being a bridge of mercy we extend hope to others, and pray that God will do the rest to bring them peace. - Byron Pirola
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Activities, Recipes, Prayers CRAFT
Christ The King Plaque Print out our easy template to create this plaque for your family or classroom prayer space.
Christ the King Gown and Robe Make and wear this crown and robe for the feast of Christ the King on November 20.
Majesty Liturgy With your crown and royal robe and a few other items, use this powerful reflection for the feast of Christ the King.
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Litany of Praise With your crown and royal robe and a few other items, use this powerful reflection for the feast of Christ the King.
Natural Advent Wreath Use native greenery or seasonal greenery from your garden for a fresh twist on the traditional lighting of your Advent candles. CRAFT
Advent Wreath Banner Try this innovative and space saving version of the traditional advent wreath and candles. This pattern makes a great fabric banner or cardboard poster.
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The Happiness Edition
The 2017 edition of our lifestyle bookazine is devoted to happiness! Itâ€™s available for bulk order to schools and parishes.
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In this edition we feature the testimonials and commentary of people who are walking with those whose life circumstances and choices make it...