Category: Living Beyond Sunday Blog

Prodigal Father/Son/Daughter (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

Prodigal Father/Son/Daughter


prod·i·gal; prädəɡəl


  1. spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.

  2. having or giving something on a lavish scale.


Everyone knows the story of the prodigal son who asks for his inheritance, and after wasting it he went crawling back to his father, who then welcomes him home. Is this a story about the over indulgent son, or of a father’s unconditional love for his child?


I have been toiling over this blog for a while now. Not knowing where it was going gave me great pains. The truth is, it is a story without an ending; it is a tale that, unfortunately, I hear and see all too often.


This tale started about a year and a half ago when we met a young lady hardened by street life. “M” was smart and witty in a sassy way that I find very endearing.  She had been on her own for several years, now at 16 about to be 17, she felt she needed to turn herself in to CPS to gain some support and financial assistance. “M” had attended school sporadically throughout her life, so graduating from high school was not really an option for her; she spoke of possibly trying for her GED.  “M” had this tough guy attitude, but she always had someone under her wing: she was a protector of the weak within the house. Motherly would be the word used to describe her.  “M” grew up with a drug addicted mother and 2 young siblings. This, I believe, is why she protects and mothers the weak.


The turning point of her opening up and trusting us came when one of the ladies from our ministry set up a day long retreat here at St Patrick’s for the girls from the homes. The retreat was led by our wonderful ministers from Life Teen. I was a bit apprehensive about it but it turned out amazingly well. Shortly after the day retreat, “M “and two other girls attended a full Life Teen retreat. When we picked them up after the Sunday night Mass it was obvious that each of the girls experienced the touch of God’s grace. It was wonderful to hear them discuss their experiences with us over dinner that night.


That spring is when “M” moved into an independent living program. She got a job with a painting company and was signed up for her GED class. Life was good for her, she seemed very happy, and for the first time there was excitement in her voice. Then she stopped calling. Our texts were unanswered. We went by the place where she lived only to find out that she had up and left and no one had any idea where she had gone off to. Her phone was off, no service, and she was gone.


On a Monday night in January, our phone rang. It was “M”. She said she was not in a safe place and needed to find a place to stay, that she was afraid. Homeless, no job, no clothes other than what she had on, she was asking for help. We helped her look for services, we made calls to all the shelters only to find out what she already knew: there was no space available for her anywhere. Thankfully, her cousin took her in; she could sleep there but had to leave during the day. On Saturday we met with her to bring her some donated clothes and take her out for a big breakfast; she was emaciated, a sliver of her former self.  


Over breakfast, “M” filled us in on what she could remember of her missing months. She had moved in with her mother because “mom said she would take care of me”. Only, she fell into the same darkness her mother has been in for her adult life, the comfort of drugs. When the drugs were too much she moved in with a guy 15+ years her senior, only to be bounced out again. “M” had several stints in various jails for things “that were not my fault”. All of that aside, she wanted to get clean, get back into the assistance program for foster youth, and get a job. She said all the right things, and all she was asking was for someone to listen, to be there for support.


We took her to Walmart to purchase an outfit that she could wear to a job interview. We dropped her back at the apartment complex and after long hugs we watched this emaciated young woman with a bag of clothes and a bigger bag of leftovers disappear into the maze of buildings. We met with “M” several times over the following weeks until she disappeared again for a week or so. When we finally saw her, she was wearing an ankle monitor. She had been arrested again. “M” told us she couldn’t go look for a job now because everyone just sees her monitor and would never hire her. It was quite large. Back to Walmart to buy pants that would cover it and hopefully give her the confidence to go get a job.  Back at the apartment complex there were lots of hugs, and smiles… You see, she was going for an interview the next day. “I will call you and let you know how it went”.


That was the last time we saw “M”. She is a lost child, not yet 19. Has she been arrested, gone to jail? Is she safe? Has she gone back into the darkness that enveloped her soul?


We will wait by the phone, watch the road that leads her back, waiting to see her crazy hair and distinct gait as she strolls toward us. We will welcome her back as we will welcome all of the lost children.



We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.

That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.

Two workshops with Fr. Ray Carey, PH.D

“Philippians: The Epistle of Joy”- January 29, 2018

From a Roman prison, Paul, “in chains,” writes to his converts in the thoroughly Roman city of Philippi to thank them for their supportive gift. In his letter, Paul specifies how being “in Christ” is an enterprise of joy, even in the midst of suffering. Paul’s advice to his beloved Philippians applies to us as well, teaching us that the joy of our lives is proclaiming “Jesus Christ is Lord!”

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” The Art of Forgiveness”- January 30, 2018

Clearly in Jesus’ teaching a requirement for discipleship is to have a forgiving heart. Jesus Himself modeled his teaching from the cross. But forgiveness is really a process with specific steps toward the goal of forgiveness. In our time together, we will identify those steps of forgiveness and in the end perhaps make the idea of forgiveness less daunting.

Download this episode (right click and save)


Christmas (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

Christmas is a time for family and fellowship. It is a time of reflection and remembrance of the miracle of God’s grace. I love Christmas time. You see, I grew up on a Christmas tree farm and Christmas was harvest time, a time to see the joy and laughter as families picked out their perfect tree. On Christmas Eve, our family would gather and have a wonderful meal and exchange gifts. After church on Christmas day we would go to my aunt’s house and the celebrations would continue well into the night with my uncle and cousin leading us in song while playing the piano and guitar. What wonderful memories I have of Christmas, with some old family traditions still part of our Christmas celebration today. What are your family traditions? What are your happy memories of your family Christmas?

To children of brokenness, this is not always the happiest time of year. What if all you wanted for Christmas was to go home, to be with family, but you can’t? It doesn’t matter whether there will be gifts, large meals, or even a warm bed; you just want to be there, not in the home in which you have been placed. For us who have grown up with happiness and joy surrounding Christmas it is very hard to understand the emotions foster children are experiencing, and why some are solemn and angry. Some of the girls we visit this is a time of year are lashing out at each other or at anyone who tries to reach out to them. It is our job to ease their pain, and to try to lighten their burdens.


Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Matthew 11:28-30


This is why we celebrate the joy of Christmas with the children living in group home foster care. We will try to lighten their burden, a burden not of their own making, and brighten up their day.  At our Christmas party we will sing carols of God’s glory, feast on fabulous food, and hand out gifts. The gifts are modest but given with love. All have been donated from either our generous ministers or other wonderful ministries within our parish. The Prayer Shawl Ministry, for example, provided beautiful scarves for each of our girls, and the Delightful Quilters made wonderful quilts for them as well.

For the Love of Kids Ministry would like to thank all of you for your support. We couldn’t do what we do without the incredible parishioners of St Patrick Catholic Community. Thank you for reading this blog and helping to spread the word of the plight of children in foster care. By raising awareness, we can and will make a difference in the lives of children. Merry Christmas and have a happy New Year.

Save the Children (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

I believe that the mission of For the Love of Kids Ministry is to help children. We focus our efforts on thirty teenage girls in 3 group homes. There are thoughts of having more retreats and educational programs as well as expanding our reach into more homes. When I sit and think of all the areas of engagement I cannot forget that we also hold a certified continuing education programs for foster parents on an annual basis. Our team has been asked to attend a retreat later this month to help educate volunteers, from other churches, on how to create and manage a ministry like ours and how to generate congregational engagement.

In our quest to help children we have focused on children that are in the foster system… But, what if we could help children before they are taken into the foster care system? What if there was a way to help families in need before the children had to be removed? What if we could fix the problem and help in the most basic ways? What if the answer to these questions is yes? — This is why we have partnered with the CarePortal. The CarePortal is a notification system. It notifies churches when there is a need for help. We get the notification of a family in crisis, about to lose their children. If we can help that family by filling that need, we do.

So far we, here at St Patrick, have helped fourteen children stay in their home. We helped keep the family intact. We have delivered beds, bedding, cribs, clothing, and basic needs such as formula and diapers. All of this was donated by wonderful people who have agreed to accept an email notification asking for help when a need arises. I cannot describe the emotional power of a hug or a thank you we have received for a simple act of kindness.

We recently were asked to help out the children’s ward at a hospital:

“We had a need to contain a child that would be unsafe to be left in a crib due to fall risk. (The child had accidentally ingested his parent’s drugs). The staff was exhausted taking turns holding this very active toddler in between caring for other patients. I borrowed a rather run down stroller we have in our NICU for similar situations with infants…. One for our Neonatal intensive care unit and one for our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.”

I am proud to say that this need, thanks to our CarePortal email recipients, was satisfied within 2hrs! Praise the Lord for such wonderful people!


“Thank you so much Mark and the St. Patrick Catholic For the Love of Kids Ministry! I am proud to be a member of St. Patrick. Your donation will truly make a difference in the lives of many children and nurses at your community hospital. On behalf of the infants, children and staff here at HonorHealth, we thank you and our humbled by your immediate and generous response!”

Maureen Stepanek, LMSW
HonorHealthShea, Women and Children Social Worker

Will you join us? Receive an email. When you do, if you can help, reply. If you cannot, just give a prayer in support of the family in need. Do you want to learn more? We will have a community engagement meeting for the CarePortal on October 25th at 6:30 pm in Fenlon Hospitality Center.

If you have any questions or would like to join the work of this ministry, please email me.


Thank you.

Mark Wheeler

stpatcareportal(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)

Discipleship (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

In a recent homily pastor Fr. Eric Tellez said something that really resonated with me, it caused me to pause and go back to his podcast and listen again. ( You can do the same by following this link: ) Fr. Eric is a masterful orator and his homilies always make me think of how the scriptures flow within my life, and how they relate to the everyday. I have been struggling with results and consistency within our ministry. We all have demons that we battle with on a daily basis and this line from the homily landed a knockout punch to one of mine.

If you are not meeting resistance in your daily life of discipleship then you are not doing it right.” – Fr. Eric

We work with children that, most of the time, have been thrown away by their parents and cast off by society. They are fighting unimaginable demons. So why do we expect results in our time? Why are we projecting our values and expect the same results we had with our own children? These are maimed and guarded children who react according to their own sense of self-preservation, not ours.

As I sat with a 16 year old girl we discussed her parents, or should I say lack of them. Her mother abandoned her as a very young child. She doesn’t remember her. Her father brought her here from California while looking for work. She spoke very openly of the sexual abuse that started once she arrived here and how she was rebuked and cast out when she reported it. As she bounced from couch to couch the abuse continued until the day she was finally taken into CPS custody. She has grandparents back in California who want nothing to do with her because the reports of abuse and neglect were against her sons and they believe that they were all lies. She is cast out, abandoned by all who she thought loved her.

Three years later we have an intelligent young woman looking to graduate high school in 2 years and she has her eyes set on college. So why does she cut herself? Why does she bleed? Demons are chasing, although she is working hard at quieting them. “I haven’t cut for a month now.” Her results and accomplishments are not the same as yours and mine. Her life is a struggle everyday as she tries to keep the demons at bay.

Discipleship is not easy. We cannot turn way. We cannot stop. We must relieve some of the pain of others by accepting it unto ourselves, consoling the wounded, and understanding that their pain is real. Understanding that everyone reacts differently to the pain, we must believe that every touch, whether physical or emotional, counts towards healing. When rejected we must continue on and not let it deter us in our quest to help and heal the unfortunate children in our midst.

“If we don’t suffer in discipleship then we don’t know the truth.” – Fr. Eric

We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.

That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.

Hurricane Harvey

We are one family. Right now, many of our family members are suffering greatly from the effects of Hurricane Harvey.

If you are looking for a way to help in response to Hurricane Harvey and the devastating effect it is having on Houston and the surrounding area, you can do so through Catholic Charities.

Donate through Catholic Charities: As the country continues to see the devastating and heartbreaking images from Hurricane Harvey, Catholic Charities agencies are rolling their sleeves and providing on the ground support. Catholic Charities USA is working in conjunction with the local agencies and parishes to setup shelters, distribute supplies, and are creating canvassing teams to go door to door to check on families. In addition, Catholic Charities USA is sending their newly commissioned Mobile Response Center vehicle to provide further disaster relief assistance. Catholic Charities USA is the official domestic relief agency of the Catholic Church. Block by block and brick by brick Catholic Charities is committed to providing help, healing, and hope to the people and communities who have lost homes and loved ones, but we cannot do it alone.

Here is how you can help:

Pray: God of hope and mercy, we lift up to you all victims of Hurricane Harvey, and those responding with assistance and aid. Protect all who are in any form of danger; provide practical help to all those in need; strengthen the weary; console the grieving and heal the suffering; and bless those engaged in disaster relief efforts with safety and courage. Help all people of goodwill to respond with compassion and generous hearts. Amen.

Give: Help relief efforts in wake of Hurricane Harvey by texting CCUSADISASTER to 71777 or click below. You can also give by calling 1-800-919-9338 or by mail: PO Box 17066 Baltimore, MD 21297-1066 and put “Hurricane Harvey” in the memo line of the check, or online at Funds raised will go towards Catholic Charities agencies’ efforts to assist families and individuals with shelter, food, and other immediate and long-term recovery needs.

We thank you for your time and generosity. Your donation to CCUSA’s Disaster fund supports disaster response and recovery efforts including direct assistance, rebuilding, and health care services.

Why Pray to the Blessed Mother?

Living Beyond Sunday Blog: “From the Community” – In this blog category we post community submitted pieces. As Christian Disciples in Mission who are Living Beyond Sunday, we all have unique experiences of life and faith. This blog offers a place to share those. Please note, these are personal reflections of the authors, and while they are community members, the content should be attributed to the author, and not St. Patrick Catholic Community.


Recently St Patrick’s celebrated the deaths of 10 family members who died in a flood near Payson. All of us were affected.  It was especially moving to see the children who died.  Why?  Many of us have children whom we love deeply. No matter their age, we often worry about them, especially if they have lost their faith life. We agonize wondering what we did wrong. How did we fail them?  Imagine if they are injured or killed?  Our grief knows no limits.  It doesn’t seem fair that this happened to them.

Now how does the Blessed Mother relate to these thoughts?  Mary, Jesus’ mom, wept as Jesus passed her carrying His cross, and stayed at the foot of the Cross watching her Son, Jesus, suffer and die.

When Mary died, God assumed her into heaven where God gave her the role as queen of heaven and earth. She understands intimately why Jesus suffered, died and rose again. He did this as Our Lord and Savior to offer us the opportunity to live joyous faith filled lives on earth and to live eternally in heaven.  Mary knows especially how much Jesus loves us and that He is always ready to have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and give us superabundant graces, especially the Most Holy Eucharist, His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

She has a deep love for each of us and prays continually for each of us, that we may be drawn to an ever deepening love of her Son, and for one another. She anguishes over souls who are lost eternally. She is troubled that so many souls fail to avail ourselves of the price that her Son paid for each us.

She is our mom, adopting each of us as her child.  Pray to her and ask her for her help in drawing our children, loved ones, and ourselves to an ever increasing relationship with her Son, His Dad, and her spouse, the Holy Spirit. What have we got to lose?

Prayerfully yours,

a very little and fragile child of God,




Author Contact:

John Nichols, johnnchls83(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)


The “Light” Did Come (Ministry Blog – Catechesis of the Good Shepherd)

The end of the school year is exciting for all children, but in the Atrium there is even more excitement! It is a time when many of the presentations to the children require them to hold lit candles. Yes! It is true. They are shown the proper way to hold them safely and understand that if they are careless, their candle will be snuffed.

Our final Atrium presentation of this year was a presentation on the sacrament of Baptism. The story begins with telling the children how the people of Israel were waiting a long, long time for the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Savior, the “Light” to come into the world. One day the “Light” did come. (We light the Paschal Candle.) He was born in a stable and his parents named him Jesus. Mary and Joseph took good care of Jesus. They taught him about the scriptures. They loved him. Jesus grew to be a man and began to share his light with others. But one day, an angry mob arrested Jesus, put him on trial, and then crucified him. The “light” was snuffed out. (The Paschal Candle is blown out). His friends were very, very sad. How could they go on without him. Then on the 3rd day, Jesus rose from the dead. His light was with them again. He continued to share that light with his friends and asked them to share this light with others. Jesus’ light was shared down through the ages. The “light” was shared with our grandparents and our parents, until it finally came to us on the day of our Baptism. At this point, an individual candle is lit from the Paschal candle for each child. We say their name and tell them to receive the Light of Christ. They answer, “Thanks be to God.” Being aware of the fact that one of the girls had not yet been Baptized, I said, “Grace” (not her real name), on the day you will be Baptized, you will receive the “light”, too. She was thrilled with all of it.

Class ended a bit later. The children left with their adults, off to enjoy a wonderful summer. Not long after the final class of the year, I was approached by Grace’s grandma. She told me that Grace was so touched by this presentation, that she is begging to be Baptized. She craves to have the “Light”. The heart-warming ending to this story is that Grace and her family will journey together to receive the light of Christ at the next Easter Vigil, through the Family Initiation program. The Holy Spirit is alive and well at St. Patrick Catholic Community!

– Gerri Porteous
Coordinator of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd & Formation Resources

Summertime (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

The “dog days” of summer are upon us. It is hot and the air is heavy with the monsoon moisture. Too hot to take the kids to the park so they hang around inside the house until you can’t stand it any longer. You take them to the local mall to walk around with their friends. Instead of picking up just your kids, you end up with a car full and they all come over to “hang out” in your pool or in front of your TV eating everything in sight. Sound familiar?


Now imagine you had 10 kids all between the ages of 12 and 18, who are not family and don’t even truly like each other and some of the older ones work part time but the rest are home all the time. You can’t drop them off at the mall and it is too hot for the park. What do you do to entertain them? How do you keep them from getting on each other’s nerves and fighting all the time?


Thankfully, there are many wonderful organizations we partner with, that offer support to kids in group home foster care. One of the wonderful organizations is OCJ Kids (Opportunity Community and Justice for Kids). OCJ runs an overnight cowboy camp that is a wonderful two-day event throughout the months of June and July. All of the group homes in Arizona have the opportunity for their kids to have an amazing experience where they play cowboy games, go horseback riding, have campfires and, most importantly, escape the confines of the house. For more information or to donate, visit their web site


Another wonderful partner of ours is Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation (AFFC). If there is a need, they help fulfill it. For example, one of our girls in one of the homes wanted to go to a flag football camp. The camp cost of $350.00 for the week long camp, It seemed out of the question until we contacted the AFFC Foundation. They sent the check and the energetic young lady will spend time at camp feeling like a normal kid – making friends, smiling and working hard. For more information or to donate, visit their web site


Now the best partners we, For the Love of Kids Ministry, have in the whole world is you. You donate to us through St Patrick Catholic Community, you hear and answer the call to help families in need through the CarePortal. You are there when the call is sent out for more ministers to help support the children in the group home foster care system. During these “Dog Days of Summer” you are there setting up swim days, movie days, bowling days, crafts and so much more. You are there at every turn reaching out with your supportive hand, the hand of God. You are there sowing the seeds of love and kindness, and it is amazing to see. Someday you may see the fruit of your labor, but it is enough to know that you are making a difference in the lives of the future generations.


Mathew 13

“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.

But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”


We want to thank all of you for your continued support, joining us as ministers, donating your wealth, and praying for the children and their future. We would be nothing without your support, or the support of our partners, so for this we thank you.


We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.


That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.