Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reconnecting With An Old Friend and Making New Ones

I recently visited the Shallowford Terrace location of Good Shepherd Services, where I reconnected with Sister Christine Truong My Hanh. Sister Christine is the executive director of Good Shepherd Services, a community based charity she founded in 1993.

While many of the people they serve are from the Vietnamese community, their help to the poor and underserved extends far beyond nationality, color, or religious affiliation. Shallowford Terrace is the original office location for Good Shepherd Services, which serves DeKalb County; however, today they also have locations in Clayton and Gwinnett counties. Good Shepherd offers a number of programs for adults, the elderly and youth. The programs include services like citizenship preparation classes, domestic violence and anger management, counseling and education, social support and an after-school tutoring program. 

I stopped by to photograph the summer program for youth, which like Good Shepherd Services, started in 1993 out of the Woodgate Apartments on Chamblee Dunwoody Road. “I value the importance of the program because it speaks to the mission of Good Shepherd Services and my order, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd,” said Sister Christine.

The first time I met Sister Christine was in 1999 when The Georgia Bulletin did a feature story on Good Shepherd Services. Some 13 years later, she continues to tirelessly work to serve the abused, the needy and children at risk.

During my most recent visit I made some new friends, including this year’s participants in the summer program for youth. There were 18 young people in the program, ranging in age 6 to 15, and they were affable, eager to learn and having lots of fun. 

The summer program provides a nurturing environment for the kids, where they read, write, perform math exercises, work on art and craft projects, take field trips and socialize.

I was there on the last day of this summer’s program. The kids were very appreciative of Sister Christine and their summer program instructors. During a party on the last day of the program, they presented flowers to Sister Christine and Kim Matthews, one of the instructors for the middle school children. They also presented handcrafted thank you notes to Sister Christine with heartfelt expressions of love and warmth for her and her ministry on their behalf.

The August 2 issue of The Georgia Bulletin will include a photo spread of my visit to the Good Shepherd summer youth program.  

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Georgia Olympians with Catholic Roots

If you are an Olympic fan, make sure to be on the lookout for Team USA swimmers Kathleen Hersey and Eric Shanteau. Both have roots in the Catholic community in Atlanta.

Kathleen graduated from the Marist School, class of 2008. She was a member of the swim team and also competed with Swim Atlanta. She left state records in her wake, with 3 individual state titles in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley, breaking school, state and national prep school records.

It is her second Olympic appearance. "The Georgia Bulletin" wrote about her at the 2008 Olympics. Read it

Her twitter page includes a Bible verse from the prophet Jeremiah 29:11, which is, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”

Her race, the 200-meter butterfly, is scheduled for Tuesday, July 31.

Eric is a native of Lilburn, but lives in California now. His mother, who declined to be interviewed, attends Holy Cross Church, Atlanta.

He holds the fastest American time for the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke. He’ll be competing in London in the 100-meter breaststroke, scheduled for Saturday July 28.

You can follow them on Twitter at @Shanteau and @kathleenhersey

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Wonderfully Made"

A week ago Tuesday, I heard the first cries of my daughter.

She was 10 days early when she arrived with long fingers and a full head of dark hair at 6:16 p.m.  People tell me that won't be the last time my life is turned sideways by a child.

She's called "Bean" by loved ones.  Her given name is Mae.

Rewind 20 minutes. I was cooling my heels in a waiting room at Piedmont Hospital, Atlanta, as my wife was taken care of by the hospital staff for the birth. Two thoughts came to my jumbled mind before a nurse directed me to seat on a stool by my wife's head. 

The first was Psalm 139. I had heard it as Mass in June and it spoke to me as if it were written just for me. I had copied it to my iPhone so I recited it as I waited. 
“Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother's womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.

R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

My soul also you knew full well;
nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret,
when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.

R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.”
I recalled hearing it at Mass and it stuck with me. My wife and I often spoke in awe how unfolding away from our eyes our cells merged and a small person was “made in secret.”

The second thought that filled my thoughts, in addition to concern for my wife’s well being, was the chain of events that brought me to standing in a hospital gown with blue booties.

I thought of my father waiting for my arrival. My grandfather waiting for him. My great-grandfather waiting for him. That long line of men whose names are lost in the fog of history, but whose decisions and dreams shaped my life. And that is only half the family tree. While the men waited, the women did the hard work. 

We are not here by ourselves. We stand on the shoulders of those whose names we never know.

Now, I admit I look a bit awkward. But in my defense, it was the first time in memory I ever held a baby that weighed less than six pounds. Even my cats tip the scales at 10 pounds.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Interview with Carolyn Woo, leader of Catholic Relief Services,

I recently interviewed the leader of Catholic Relief Services, the international development arm of the  Catholic Church in the United States.

Carolyn Woo, a native of Hong Kong, took over the position early in 2012. She’s the first woman to lead the Baltimore-based agency. She was the dean of the Mendoza Business College, at the University of Notre Dame, from 1997-2011.

In the first clip, she talks about what spurred her to apply for the position at CRS.

Here she talks about a program CRS runs in Haiti that encourages entrepreneurship and helps rebuild neighborhoods.

You can see her complete interview in the July 5 edition of The Georgia Bulletin.