Advent Calendars

Catie’s Team,

Our prayer as always is that this message reaches you in God’s tender embrace.

It has been a busy couple of weeks at the Catie’s Wish Foundation and therefore in our home.  The weekend before last, the 13th and 14th, we celebrated Catie and St. Patrick with a weekend of activities.  We celebrated St. Patty’s Day on Saturday at PJ Whelihan’s.  Lauren and Mark and their team did a great job of providing a venue, great food and drink and a conducive atmosphere for the event.  The Johnny Dew Band was outstanding, the Irish step dancers added a wonderful flavor, Nancy and the very popular photo booth were back, and we even had a gentleman making balloon animals for the kids.  Two of our wonderful Catie’s Wish Ambassadors, Michelle and Jennifer, arranged for some outstanding baskets for raffles.  When I say outstanding, I mean it.  There were overnight accomadations to NYC and Philadelphia, $800 David’s Bridal accessories, movie tickets, a basket of Irish cheer, toys, games, gas cards.  All winners left the event very happy!  Everyone however left the event knowing Catie a little bit better, feeling like they had celebrated with her, and satisfied that they had helped make her Wish come true.  The next day began with Mass at Epiphany of Our Lord Parish celebrated by Bishop Thomas.  Christine and I and the Fab 5 brought up the gifts for the offertory and the intention for the Mass was the Foundation.  Bishop Thomas then joined us for brunch and we had an opportunity to spend some time with him and share Catie with him.  The day and the weekend culminated with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Titus Parish with 200 teenagers from youth groups all across Montgomery County, PA.  Several of the youth group created Catiebug Rings to sell in their effort to raise money and awareness for Catie’s Wish.  Thank you Claire Boyle!  Bethany Music provided terrific music as a backdrop to Adoration and prayer, and the youth groups had an opportunity to “adopt” and pray for one of Catie’s kids (the children that we are praying for who are battling pediatric cancer).  The entire weekend was a true testament to the Catie’s Wish Foundation mission to eradicate pediatric cancer through prayer and research.  There was prayer, both individual and communal, there was fund raising to put towards the goal of $1.4 million by Catie’s birthday, there was a whole lot of fun and fellowship, and there was Catie, present for all that we did and all that we hoped.  She was present in the stories told, the videos watched, the prayers offered, and in the Spirit shared.  The other constant for the weekend was the Pascarella family.  Michael and Sue and their sons Michael and Matthew hosted the weekend’s events and did a great job of sharing Catie with everyone who attended any of the events.  For those that do not know Mike, he has an amazing passion for Catie and I am sure that she has wrapped her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek and said thank you.  Mike, we thank you as well!

Coming off the weekend, we were enthusiastic and exhausted.  The enthusiasm was welcome as the week ahead promised to be taxing.  The exhaustion proved to be more challenging.  The seven of us all fell victim to a cold that led to bed rest and what appeared to be non-productivity.  The blessings of the “down-time” were many as we were able to recuperate, relax a bit as a family, and watch another group of ladybugs find there way into the house.  And when the weekend came, we were at peace as a family, healthy, and rested enough to tackle this weekend’s task of sending out a few thousand e-mails and letters as we look to finish up this year’s campaign before Catie’s birthday on April 23rd.  The bulk of the letters went to the mailbox at midnight last night.  We pray that each of the letters is received as intended; as an update on Catie’s Wish, as an invitation to join us in prayer, and an opportunity to share in Catie’s desire to treat all at St. Jude on her birthday.  Please join us in that prayer; prayers are priceless.

As Lent is coming to an end with Easter less than two weeks away, I began thinking about Advent calendars.  (Oh sure, like you never think about anything that doesn’t seem to make sense!)  Advent calendars are all about building excitement towards Christmas and since there are no Lenten calendars, I was thinking about Advent.  Have you ever seen a child’s face when they see an Advent calendar?  They light up!  Every day as they have the opportunity to open one of the little windows, they hold their breath in anticipation and when they open the door, they are never disappointed or dissatisfied.  They simply accept what is behind the window for what it is.  They don’t question it or wish it were something else.  In short, they trust that what is under the window is what was supposed to be under the window and in their acceptance of it, they inch one day closer to the really big window marked “24”.  If there were Lenten calendars, as children, they would respond to the calendar in the same way, accepting the surprise under each window without question and then move closer to Easter in the process.  How much I long to be able to respond to each day that God grants me with that same attitude of anticipation, acceptance and hopefulness.  Children trust in the maker of the calendar that what is supposed to be really is; why do I struggle with trusting my Maker at least as much?  I imagine that at times as I open the Advent calendar of my life my response is more often, “really, that’s all?” or “what, no chocolate?” or “can I open one of the other windows?”  As Lent ends and Easter approaches, I pray that my response to the day and the plan that God has for me is all about trust and gratitude.

As we were writing this update, two stories were related to us that speak to the on-going effect that Catie has on those that choose to make and keep her present in their lives.  A dear friend related that over the weekend her son developed a bad headache and despite darkening the room, providing silence and solace and some ibuprofen, the headache remained and seemed to worsen.  As a “last resort”, the mother and son talked about Catie and that there were probably times when she had headaches and perhaps if they prayed together and asked for Catie’s intercession, the headache might get better.  Before they finished the prayer, the headache was gone and the child was able to rest.  No big deal right, it was just a headache.  To the child with the headache and the parent seeing that child in pain it was a big deal.  For them it was the window on their Lenten calendar.  The other story came from one of Catie’s cousins who had a school assignment to write a story about a hero.  She chose Catie.  For the story, she went onto the website and printed off pictures and gathered information.  As she and her mom looked at the pictures, they noticed some of the last photos of Catie where the tumor had taken away her vision and closed her right eye and it caused them both to cry a bit and wonder why.  They could have gotten stuck in the why, but they moved ahead and told a story to classmates about a little girl who was a hero not because of what happened to her but because of how she handled it and rose above it.  I think that is what Catie always wanted us to do; share her story instead of just being sad about it or ignoring it.  Count the blessings each day instead of the roadblocks.  Remember to take the time to tell the people in your life how much you appreciate them and love them.  Open each day on your calendar with a sense of awe, appreciation and hopefulness.

May God bless you and the work of your hands,

Christine, Kevin, Maggie, Max, Mia, Molly, M.E., and always Catie

PS – Please pray for new additions to Catie’s kids – Lydia, Savannah and Shannon and for Sean, Mattie, Dylan and David all who are home on hospice.

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