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Faith in Action: Life and Love Go On

There is so much I would like to say about this month of Faith In Action and all that it has accomplished in people’s lives, some that we could see and much that we’ll never see until heaven. I just can’t thank God enough for inspiring those of you who took part, whether we heard from you or not, for the encouragement and inspiration you gave to those whose lives you touched and to those of us who read or heard about your projects and acts of kindness. I’ve seen first hand the impact in people’s lives and how those of us who took part have been changed, and now look at life and the opportunity to live a ‘giving’ life in a new way with our faith and desire to love revitalized.

I know that many if not most of us attempt and oftentimes succeed in living loving and meaningful lives. But I can’t help but think that the setting aside of this month to remember Joshua and focus on others and on causes that make a difference in our world hasn’t enriched us all in ways we may not have expected or imagined.

For just me alone, God used it to transform my heart and mind in my process of grieving to genuinely make this month a positive one, even amidst the obvious sorrow and loss that still exists. Each week I found myself feeling stronger and more hopeful to the point where I no longer feared August 25th arriving. While it was still difficult and I felt the very real loss and sorrow of Joshua’s absence, I was actually able to focus for the most part on his new life and the belief that his work and passions will continue on. It’s hard to put into words but I feel that God used this project and this month to take me to the next level of healing. And from where I started the month, that’s definitely a miracle. (“…there is no hypothetical situation in which God’s ability to perform miracles, through the faithful actions of the merciful ceases to be a possibility”…Joshua Casteel)

Emma (Naomi’s oldest) and I went to lunch on Sunday, the 25th and afterwards bought a white lilac tree that we’re going to plant in his memory in our front yard. Naomi, who unfortunately was sick, and I were able to make a rudimentary cross with his nickname, Yeshua, on it for his gravesite (picture above) in honor of a HUGE rustic cross which he constructed in his high school years out of old boards which he then proceeded to place on the roof for the world to see. (sound like anyone you know?)

Travis (Naomi’s husband) and I spent a long time at the gravesite talking and reflecting and then ended the day having pizza where I was able to leave our waitress a big ‘Joshua tip’. I told her it was in his memory and that I was doing it because it is what he would have done. She was so excited and appreciative and even promised me that she would ‘pay it forward’. She also so kindly tried her hardest to console and encourage me. What a blessing and a great way to end the day.

So it’s in this spirit that we post the remaining projects and words from you, our friends, and Joshua’s loving friends and supporters.

We pray that God will greatly bless you as you continue on to bless others with your faith in action.

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Shawn S.: Earlier this spring, a friend of mine who was once a Marine and has reflected with me at length about his time in the Marine Corps contacted me and gave me a newspaper article about a young former Marine. The young man featured in the article shared that he did not think there was any possibility of forgiveness or redemption for him as he considered things he had done while he was deployed to Afghanistan. I have found the address of that young man from that newspaper article and have begun writing him a letter. I have asked Joshua to pray for him.

Jill H.:  I waited for much of the month, not knowing what I should do, but thinking that something would happen and I would feel called to help someone in need. I don’t know if I was right to wait, but I definitely felt called last night. A woman I knew from graduate school at Iowa, but hadn’t spoken to in six years or so, shared a very personal post on Facebook about her first year of being a mother. Rather than a joyful account of parenting, she shared how difficult it had been, how little support she had received, the health problems that had surfaced, and that she had struggled with postpartum depression mostly on her own because of the stigma. All of this had put a strain on her relationship with her new child. She shared this because she wanted to draw attention to the myriad problems with how we support (or don’t support) new mothers in America, including shorter maternity leave and less comprehensive health care options compared to many other countries. She ended her post by saying, “I needed help. I still need help.”

I wrote her a letter, thanking her and applauding her for speaking up. And I told her I was rooting for her. I also attached a gift card for a spa, so she could enjoy some well earned relaxation. Lastly, I told her about Joshua and Faith in Action. She wrote back to me this morning, and said she was touched by the gift and honored to receive something in remembrance of Joshua.

I believe that if Joshua had been friends with this woman, he would have been a part of her support system, showing her and her child kindness and generosity at every turn. So this is how he inspired me. I hope he likes it.

Libby P.:Our elderly neighbor Jimmy was dying.  Though we visited him often, at the end when I called him, he asked that I no longer visit him, as he didn’t want me to see him like that.  At first, I respected Jimmy’s wishes.  But then I realized that his request was for my sake, and not for his.  So I visited him anyways.  I brought pictures and drawings from my kids.  It was hard to see him that way.  But I could see the joy my visits brought to him, and it was clear he was lonely.  I had the opportunity to tell him how much our family loved him, and how much we appreciated his thoughtfulness over the years.  He just passed away and we miss him, but I am so thankful for those last visits with him.  I had the chance to make him smile at the very end of his long life, when smiles were few and far between.

Julie S. – I opened the door of love today.  This door was opened to no one of much consequence within the world.  You would not recognize him/her except in your small internal places.  This had to do with myself.  I find that I have difficulty allowing God’s loving compassion to fill me.  This directly hinders my ability to be non-violent and peaceful.  I need reconciliation for myself, so I might stop the hateful ways I relate to myself and then others.  I do this in many small ways throughout the day by looking to counterfeit affections such as overeating, working too much and living too hectic of a life that does not allow for rest, renewal and God to heal me.  I find it hard to be at peace and with harmony within myself, so how do I expect to be peaceful within the world?  The harshness of the busy life I lead extends to others in seemingly small ways, but I believe accumulate in larger ways.  So…I open my door today and see a glimpse of God’s love through Joshua’s great smile so that I may have the opportunity to live my life better.  I hope this will lead to a more purposeful journey and I will be a better person so my “ripple” within the pond of life will be more peaceful, non-violent and loving…today, I am risking opening the door just a little wider.

Today I commit:

  • To being kind to myself
  • To promoting peace within myself
  • To living a more compassionate life
  • To Non-violent reconciliation when I fail
  • To Living a more purposeful life
  • To be a better person
  • To Justly deal with myself in my life’s journey
  • To Opening God’s door of love more widely day by day…..

Chad N. – I thought I would share a link related to one of the things I did to remember Joshua earlier this week: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-dying-american-soldier-s-story-bringing-awareness-to-iraq-afghan-war-lung/x/4524599. I wish it were a more perfect project, that more closely approximated the vision Joshua might have brought to such an endeavor, but I was nonetheless honored to donate to this documentary to bring awareness to the burn pits and health effects in Joshua’s memory.

Evalee  – (submitted by Kristi because of the importance of her actions in Kristi’s life) Hosted 2 Conscientious Objector’s from England speaking on peace & nonviolence. She also invited me to a luncheon to meet these two young men but I was unable to attend. She followed that up with a note to me that is representative of the encouragement she showed to both Joshua and I throughout his illness and since his death.

HB: Decided one year ago, long before our August project, to write Kristi notes of encouragement once a month in honor of Joshua and the relationship they had. She is also strongly considering joining in the “pen pal” project at Guantanamo Bay.

Sandy: Is meeting with other Japanese/American young people, as well as other ethnicities, for companionship and encouragement. Also chose to reach out to a friend in an unhealthy relationship to help her change and order her life in order to protect her and her child. She had to fly across the country to do so.

Stephanie R.: Today, I am donating a large box of boys’ clothes to friend who works in non-profit and has two boys a few years behind mine. I’m also sending her two large bags of brand new toys that I bought on clearance at target a little while back. She works at the Ronald McDonald house and I told her I am sending them for the families that stay there – for birthdays, playing while they are there or however she best sees fit.

Thompson Family:  Emma has decided that for her faith in action she would like to draw a picture and write a note to someone in an elderly care home who doesn’t get any visitors. She will take it there and ask that it be given to someone who’s in need of encouragement!

Garmai will be offering my sister-in-law an hour or two of extra help with her one year old, Blakeney, hoping to lighten her load just a bit. Blakeney LOVES Garmai!!

Travis is going to donate money to an organization helping Iraqi families rebuild, who’ve been impacted by the war. They seek to help those injured, who were not involved in any kind of warfare. These people were just living normal lives, doing normal things. One gentleman they are helping had his car run over by a US tank while driving his pregnant wife to the hospital. He lost his wife and child, and was injured in the crash as well.

My own faith in action (Naomi) is kind of multi-faceted. We’ve recently moved into an apartment complex that has been wonderful for us as a family. Its given us room to breathe, its affordable, and we face no other buildings, just a wide open corn field, which we’ve come to love. So beautiful! Our unit is made up of four 4-bedroom apartments, and in those 4 units we have a total of 14 kids running around! Our unit kind of serves as a central hub of activity, since I only know one other family well enough to allow the kids to play there. Because the kids so often come to our unit, and bring other kids from other units, we see a lot of kids who spend hours alone every day, with no supervision. We’ve already bought one little girl a swimsuit because hers got lost and she couldn’t swim otherwise, I’ve given another little girl some beginning scrapbooking supplies so that she can begin scrapbooking her photos (She was enamored with all my supplies!), and we’ve agreed to pick up one boy from school and watch him until his mom gets home from work. So, I see an ongoing faith in action of mine to be reaching out to these kids, getting to know them, loving on them, setting boundaries for them if they need to learn boundaries, as well as helping my kids learn how to relate and deal with many different types of kids and various situations!

The second part of my faith in action is a scrapbook my sister gave me several years ago that I had yet to begin. It’s called project life, and its set up to be “a year in the life…” kind of thing. Well, it’s been intimidating to find just the right focus to give it, until now. I finally think the purpose of this book for me has solidified. It is going to be my Faith in Action Year. Starting today, August 25th, I will be looking for continuous ways to live out the love that Joshua so willingly demonstrated, and that Christ modeled for us all. I look forward to it being a life-changing year for me, and I pray that I can pass on what I learn to my children, my husband, and all those I love!

Latchis Family:  James started kindergarten a week ago and we decided to put together an extra kindergarten backpack with school supplies. We donated the backpack to his school for them to use as they need to.

Mark has been with his company for 10 years and on his work anniversary he got a $150 gift card. Mark decided to hang on to the gift card until he saw someone who he thought could use it and he will give it to them in memory of Josh.

Catholic Peace Fellowship: Mass was offered in Joshua’s memory on Saturday at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral in South Bend and on Sunday at the Notre Dame Peacenet Retreat at Sacred Heart Parish Center at Notre Dame (where we gathered in October). Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy who was at the dedication of Joshua Casteel House was the presider.

Alliance Catholic Worker/Tomas: Tomorrow at liturgy will be offering a parastas (the memorial service we had for Joshua after Liturgy at the dedication) for all soldiers who have passed away especially those who have died from suicide. I know Joshua had spoken about this so we thought this might be a nice gesture for the faith in action project. On Sunday during our community meal we are going to encourage conversation about acts of kindness that we have experienced.

Catholic Peace Ministries/Jeffrey:  (from Kristi) Jeffrey has been an important encouragement to me this past year. Jeffrey and CPM work day in and day out to promote peace and non-violence and are wonderful examples of living out their faith.

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From Kristi:  I want to also thank all those who sent cards, emailed, called, or texted in remembrance of Joshua and August 25t in an attempt to encourage us and convey love and respect.  All of the acts of kindness this month made a major impact in our lives as a family and gave us the strength and inspiration to face one of the worst days of our lives in a new way, and find true inspiration and the faith to believe in redemption.

On behalf of the board of the Joshua Casteel Foundation, Rebekah, Naomi, and I (Kristi) want to thank all who participated in this month’s project. You have all been a blessing to more people and in more ways than you can imagine.

We want to end this posting with our last but definitely not least Faith In Action participant (indirectly!),  Pope Francis: The following is an excerpt from his Sunday Angelus radio address of August 18,2013. What an encouragement to all of us who desire for the church universal to take a stand on peace, with love and non-violence being at the core of Jesus’ message.  

“God has a particular face, he has a name: God is mercy, God is fidelity, he is life that is given to all of us…Jesus is our peace, he is our reconciliation! But this peace is not the peace of a grave, it is not neutrality, Jesus does not bring neutrality, this peace is not a compromise at all costs. Following Jesus means rejecting evil, egoism, and choosing the good, truth, justice, even when that requires sacrifice and renunciation of our own interests… 

[T]he true strength of the Christian is the power of truth and love, which leads to the renunciation of all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible! Faith and violence are incompatible! Instead, faith and courage go together. The Christian is not violent, but is strong. And with what strength? That of meekness, the force of meekness, the force of love.”

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