How many people every day walk by a homeless person without a second glance?  Bishop Chatard High School sophomore Abby Wuensch admits to having done so.  After taking part in a homelessness immersion program conducted through her Indianapolis school, however, the teen says she’ll never do so again. “I’ve had my eyes opened,” Wuensch confided to Criterion reporter John Shaughnessy.  “I’ve learned that I shouldn’t be awkward around homeless people.  I should give them a smile.” This program, created by… Read more

St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, takes the Bible’s urging to “feed the hungry” seriously.  The parish is known for its outreach programs, including an active youth ministry and a Philoptochos chapter of the largest organization of Orthodox women in the country.  These Philoptochos societies raise money for all sorts of worthy charities. “Perhaps our most innovative outreach program is a vegetable garden, the proceeds of which are donated to a local food bank,” parish priest Father… Read more

“God has given me this awesome talent to represent Him.  Glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on us,” said 16-year-old gymnast Gabby Douglas, after winning the gold medal in the 2012 Olympic women’s all-around competition. Douglas has turned to God throughout her life during times of physical training and emotional turmoil, such as her parents’ divorce and living apart from her mother, Natalie Hawkins. Though Hawkins was reluctant, she allowed her daughter to move from Virginia… Read more

After graduating from high school, Demetrius Phillips had one wish—to help others. The Oakland, California teen found the right fit in an organization called Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships.  The group focuses on preventing teen dating violence and abuse. Phillips visits places frequented by teens his age and talks with his peers about understanding and preventing abuse.  “Teen violence is not taken seriously,” he says, believing it has direct connection to a young person’s own family and friends, in… Read more

Steve Wayne of Louisville, Kentucky, had a challenging relationship with his father, Bill, who often treated him harshly.  Yet Bill also had a generous side which allowed him to be a foster father to teens without a responsible parent to care for them. Later in life, when Bill, now a double amputee, was in poor health, Steve would help his mother care for him.  One day, Bill asked why the son he treated the worst would care for him, especially… Read more

“I don’t think I would be alive today if it wasn’t for the hope God had to offer that there is so much more to life than the suffering I was going through at the time.” For 26-year-old New Jersey native Maura Byrne, that suffering stemmed from 15 years of physical abuse, an eating disorder and serious self-image issues.  The turning point in Maura’s struggles occurred during a summer she spent in Calcutta, India, volunteering with the late Mother Teresa’s… Read more

When singer/songwriter Audrey Assad married William Price III in February 2011, it was a happy moment for both of them.  Then, cancer intruded on their joy. Price was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma within weeks of their wedding.  The doctors assured him this was the best type of cancer to have because it was treatable and curable. That began what Price calls his “cancer year.”  Though chemotherapy was difficult, he chose to focus on the positive. On his blog, the now… Read more

Criterion writer Marcellino D’Ambrosio schedules some “alone time” with God when he feels the stresses of life overtaking him.  Specifically, he visits a monastery to enhance his prayer life.  “Prayer is like breathing,” D’Ambrosio writes in the Indianapolis archdiocesan newspaper.  “All Christians need to do it continually to survive.” The monks and the nuns that D’Ambrosio visits are living reminders of lives blessed by constant communion with God. D’Ambrosio remembers one aspect of a Trappist monastery that particularly resonated with… Read more

The Department of Defense bestows Freedom Awards on companies that go to extraordinary lengths to support their employee-members of the U.S. National Guard and Reserve. But recently a small Lutheran parish in Yankton, South Dakota was also among those honored. “Many churches send care packages, but St. John’s Lutheran Church wrapped me up and sent me as a care package,” said Lt. Col. David Gunderson, their senior pastor.  Before being deployed to Afghanistan, he offered to resign and forfeit his… Read more

When he was a poor student desperate to get home to see his dying mother, British writer Bernard Hare was in a bind.  He had missed the last train for the day that would take him directly home, but bought a ticket for another train, knowing he’d likely miss his connection.  He was also unable to afford a taxi. Fortunately the “Good Conductor,” as Hare calls him, noticed his distress and offered help even after being rebuffed.  The trainman radioed… Read more

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