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Deacon Pete Gummere, M.S., M.A

Deacon Pete Gummere, M.S., M.A

Deacon Pete Gummere, director of the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Burlington, serves at Corpus Christi Parish, St. Johnsbury. He is a bioethicist and an adjunct faculty member at Josephinum Diaconate Institute where he teaches courses in medical morality and moral theology. Website URL:

Hungering for Justice...of Human Dignity


What is Marriage? Marriage is a sacrament: an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. Marriage is the commitment pledged, freely given before God and community, of a man and a woman to live faithfully – one to the other – for life.

Catholic teaching on marriage is one of the most inspiring parts of all of our theology because it is a part of our very existence. It is through marriage that lives are created in love and families are formed. In a sacramental marriage the couple commits to welcoming children, raising them in the faith, as they strive to be examples of Catholic life.

The Church rejoices when couples seek a sacramental union and recognizes that marriage as a vocation often reaches highs and lows that present great joys and difficult challenges. Marriages are oftentimes tested daily with family strife, job advancements or losses, problems with the children, illnesses, financial strain and deaths of extended family members. A marriage may be imperfect and yet, couples seek to endure and remain faithfully committed to each other and to their divinely decreed purpose.

In contrast, abusive relationships are not built upon respect for the inherent dignity of the other person, but upon domination and fear. These relationships are anything but supportive of the human person. They involve emotional abuse or physical violence. Hardly a day goes by when we do not read, hear or view reports of domestic abuse. The relationship involves an abusive partner member, typically the man. Victims so used to being abused may even be unable to recognize the need for protection from the danger in which they live. The abuser may apologize manipulatively after an episode of abuse, promising "never" to repeat it. And yet, they do.

The Church neither ignores the reality of domestic violence nor minimizes the human tragedy in those relationships. We all have an obligation to care for the vulnerable. Clergy and others trained in family ministry, in particular counselors at Vermont Catholic Charities, Inc., assist marital/domestic abuse victims by offering help to rebuild damaged self-esteem, as well as to secure other forms of additional assistance.

Beyond the physical and emotional pain, social and economic hardships are inflicted as well. The isolation to which the abuser subjects the victim prevent her from maintaining healthy friendships with others. Such actions serve to increase the victim's vulnerability and increase their reliance upon the abuser.

A victim leaving the abusive situation is often without a place to turn, even a place to live and to focus on moving ahead. In fact, about 25 percent of all homeless individuals are victims of domestic abuse attempting to start over again.

Throughout Vermont social service agencies work with abuse victims. Most of these agencies are able to provide a "safe house" on short notice. This is an excellent resource for people trying to escape abuse.

A key step towards helping victims is to recognize signs of domestic violence and emotional abuse. These go far beyond an unexplained bruise. They usually include chronic isolation. There may be verbal hints of being belittled or needing permission from their abuser to do anything.

Long term resources are often needed to help a victim to get settled and to make a fresh start. As a Church, we need to consider carefully what more we can do to assist victims. Are there resources such as vacant housing that could be deployed to help on an interim basis? Are there other resources that can be deployed to minister to victims?

There is a world of difference between a happy, holy and fulfilling marriage and an abusive marriage or domestic relationship. The difference is respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

Can we more effectively proclaim the message of human dignity both to adults and to young people? Prevention through effective education is a powerful deterrent. Long before they are ready to date, children need to know that emotional and physical abuse of another is gravely wrong and cannot be tolerated.

We should ponder this during the upcoming celebration of National Marriage Week, Feb. 7-14 and World Marriage Day on Feb. 7. The result of this reflection should be a positive and engaged response as the only merciful response.

Deacon Pete Gummere, M.S., M.A. serves at Corpus Christi Parish. He is a bioethicist and an adjunct faculty member at Pontifical College Josephinum, where he teaches courses in medical morality and moral theology in the Josephinum Diaconate Institute.

 

Reflections on Parenting

Each year we celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day. More than just a Hallmark holiday whereby we send cards of greetings, these special Sundays hold great meaning to parents and children alike. It is a way to honor those who give life.

It is within the family unit that children first experience love and learn to love themselves and others. Pope Francis emphasized this when speaking with a group of parents in Rome recently. "Dear parents, your children need to discover by watching you that it is beautiful to love another," he said.

We can agree that the American family has changed profoundly in recent decades. What constitutes a family? A mom, dad and children? Multi-generational family structure? Single parenthood? Today, even if the household is comprised of two parents, it can be tough. Work schedules often compete with family needs. Parents striving to provide for their families, while remaining present to their children, are working against the clock. Both employer and employee must value family time: meaning that a balance must be reached in agreed importance and financial compensation.

The challenge of single parenting is compounded by the demand that all responsibility will be provided by a single person. Routine tasks and day-today obligations can become overwhelming. Doing it all requires great love.

Many families rely on childcare providers to offer a safe environment for their children. Be it full-time, part-time, afterschool centers, these are the places where children form friendships within a family-like atmosphere. In order for daycare centers to be outstanding places for children to develop socially, providers must be appreciated and compensated.

Today's families experiencing the stress and strain around issues of time, childcare, finances can take great solace in the example of the Holy Family. The family actually started with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy "conceived by the Holy Spirit." There was an extended separation while Mary visited and cared for Elizabeth; a period of homelessness and economic uncertainty in Egypt, a trip back to Nazareth and even a 12-year-old Jesus apparently lost. We can ask the Holy Family for help and intercession as we deal with serious struggles today.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us each show appreciation and respect for all of those who are raising the next generation–parents, teachers, coaches and others. Let us also be aware and inclusive of those who need our help but are often without a voice. Consider volunteering in your parish, school, local hospital or other organization dealing with children and their needs. Your gifts are needed. Ask for the Lord's guidance as to how you might be able to help in these others by demonstrating mercy and compassion.

Deacon Pete Gummere, M.S., M.A. serves at Corpus Christi Parish. He is a bioethicist and an adjunct faculty member at Pontifical College Josephinum, where he teaches courses in medical morality and moral theology in the Josephinum Diaconate Institute.


Protecting Religious Freedom

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ."

From the First Amendment to the Constitution

Religious freedom is no trivial or mere theoretical issue. It has a direct impact on every person regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof and is an essential dimension of social justice.

Religious freedom is under attack nationally and here in Vermont.

Recognize the power within, the power of one

"What can I do? I am just one person." How many of us have thought that or have even said it out loud?

Perhaps motivated by a sense of humility, that mindset can lead to paralysis and inaction. After all, we live in a world that is inhospitable to our beliefs as Catholics. In contrast, let's examine five specific examples of individuals whose courage and willingness to take a risk made an impact.

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