Things That Matter

Parents Angered After Priest Refuses To Offer Autistic Son First Communion

First Communion is a very important moment in any Catholic child’s life. The family gets together to watch the little ones walk down the church aisles in white and partake in the sacrament for the first time. For one family, however, a priest has taken that moment away from them because their child is autistic.

The LaCugna family is upset that their autistic son was denied his First Communion.

Credit: Jimmy LaCugna / Facebook

Jimmy LaCugna took to Facebook to share his disappointment with his church for denying his special needs son his First Communion. First Communion is one of the most important moments in a young Catholics life and the family feels like it has been taken away from them.

“They said there is no way he can make his Communion. He doesn’t understand what the Holy Communion is about,” Nicole LaCugna told News 12 New Jersey. “Nowhere in the Bible does it ever show discrimination of anybody.”

Since the Facebook post by Jimmy, the church tried to change course then deleted their reversal from Facebook.

Credit: Jimmy LaCugna / Facebook

Allegedly, the church released a statement that painted the LaCugna family as being dishonest about the situation. However, it was deleted from their Facebook page without warning.

The post initially stated that “new information has come to light” stating that children with intellectual and cognitive disabilities “should be presumed to have an inner spiritual relationship with God.”

“My heart shattered,” Nicole told the New York Post. “My first thought was, how do you take a child who was one of God’s children and say that he is not good enough, basically, to be making the sacrament?”

At the center of the controversy is the fact that Rev. John Bambrick made the decision but hasn’t addressed the family personally.

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In a statement posted to the church’s website, Rev. Bambrick blames the controversy on a breakdown of communication.

“With the guidance and support of Bishop David O’Connell, we were able to discern a way for the child to receive First Holy Communion without any delay,” Rev Bambrick stated. “We have made the family aware of this development and hope to be able to meet with them to discuss it. Their child continues to be welcome in our program, and will be able to receive First Holy Communion this year.”

Catholic parishioners have been shocked and dismayed by this church’s handling of a child with special needs.

Credit: @TaylorCVaughn / Twitter

The decision to withhold the child’s First Communion for mental or health issues isn’t the first time. A quick Google search brings back several cases of children being denied their First Communion because of mental or health issues.

READ: 21 Things Latinos From Catholic Families Know To Be True

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Causing Us Unprecedented Stress, Here Are 9 Techniques To Help You Relax

Things That Matter

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Causing Us Unprecedented Stress, Here Are 9 Techniques To Help You Relax

So, Mental Health Awareness month has come just as pretty much of all us are having to face a strange world of Coronavirus fears, lockdown anxiety, loneliness, and boredom. With all that we are having to face right now I can’t think of a better time to visit some much-needed tips on how to deal with stress.

Obviously, stress is inevitable, but too much stress can negatively impact your mood, relationships, sleep routine, and even how your body functions. And given that we are living in such uncertain times, I think it’s fair to say we’re all facing a bit more stress than normal.

If you’re trying to figure out how to best manage your stress, there are some therapist-approved tips ahead.

1. Practice Tolerating Uncertainty

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study during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic showed that people who had a harder time accepting the uncertainty of the situation were more likely to experience elevated anxiety.

The solution is to learn to gradually face uncertainty in daily life by easing back on certainty-seeking behaviors. 

Start small: Don’t text your friend immediately the next time you need an answer to a question. Go on a hike without checking the weather beforehand. As you build your tolerance-of-uncertainty muscle, you can work to reduce the number of times a day you consult the internet for updates on the outbreak.

2. Tackle the Anxiety Paradox

Credit: Abraham Alvarez / Flickr

Anxiety rises proportionally to how much one tries to get rid of it.

Struggling against anxiety can take many forms. People might try to distract themselves by drinking, eating or watching Netflix more than usual. They might repeatedly seek reassurance from friends, family or health experts. Or they might obsessively check news streams, hoping to calm their fears. Although these behaviors can help momentarily, they can make anxiety worse in the long run. Avoiding the experience of anxiety almost always backfires. 

Instead, allow your anxious thoughts, feelings and physical sensations to wash over you, accepting anxiety as an integral part of human experience

3. Center Yourself When Anxiety Hits

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If you feel your anxiety levels rising, the first thing to do is take a couple of deep breaths. This is a simple technique to calm yourself and engage the parts of your brain that deal with focus, memory, and problem-solving (your prefrontal cortex). From there, it’s recommended to bring your awareness to your feet or “feeling your feet,” a mindfulness exercise that will “literally ground you.”

4. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation

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If you’re feeling stressed, Jessie Bohnenkamp, LPC, NCC, founder of Plum Counseling and Wellness, recommends trying a technique called progressive muscle relaxation. “Often, when we’re feeling stressed, we tense up parts of our body, which then sends signals to our brain that we’re unsafe and need to be on guard for danger,” she states on her website.

To counteract this, lie on your back, or in a comfortable position, and starting with your toes, focus on fully relaxing each muscle group, or body part, moving slowly up your body as you let all of the tension drain away.

5. Strengthen Self-Care

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During these anxiety-provoking times, it’s important to remember the tried-and-true anxiety prevention and reduction strategies. Get adequate sleep, exercise regularly, practice mindfulness, spend time in nature and employ relaxation techniques when stressed. 

Prioritizing these behaviors during the coronavirus crisis can go a long way toward increasing your psychological well being and bolstering your immune system.

6. Stretch Every Day

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Stretching isn’t just reserved for runners and people who lift weights. Dr. Tasha Holland-Kornegay, PhD, LPC, founder of Wellness IRL, a platform to reduce healthcare provider burnout, recommends stretching daily to help relieve stress and relax.

While it may seem like a lot of work, you can simply stand in a doorway and try to stretch your arms apart, trying to reach the upper sides of the doorframe. Hold for 90 seconds and then release. These simple exercises will entice the nervous system and boost your energy,” according to Holland-Kornegay.

7. Limit Social Media and the News

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OK, it’s hard but you should really only be using social media to stay in touch with friends and family when you might start to feel isolated. If you’re like me and use Facebook and Twitter to also get your news, then be smart about it. Follow a few verified news outlets that you trust, as well as the Center For Disease Control and the World Health Organization, for news that’s accurate and up to date. It’s fine to unfollow or block sources that are only causing you anxiety. 

It’s also really good practice to only allow yourself certain times of the day to check your news feeds and social media.

8. Establish A Routine

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Ok, so this one is really hard for me. I’m someone who is always rebelling against routine but it can be a huge help in times like these. Having a daily routine gives you sense of structure that can really be vital for managing emotional stress during uncertain times.

Decide what your priorities are right now and set boundaries between different activities, especially if you’re transitioning to a work-from-home setup. Remembering to take time to exercise, eat well, connect with people you care about, and do simple things that bring you joy is also foundational to maintaining your emotional resilience under pressure.

9. Talk To Yourself About Yourself

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Yea, this one might take some getting used to but it can really help. According to Jason Moser, PhD, director of Michigan State University’s clinical psychophysiology lab, “Third-person self-talk can be used across the board as you’re anticipating a stressful event, as you’re feeling anxiety in the moment, or when you’re dealing with something that caused stress and anxiety in the past, like rejection or failure.”

To self-talk, all you have to do is talk to yourself about the stressful event in the third-person, Dr. Moser explains. For example, you could ask yourself a series of questions. “When you’re using your own name, the brain switches to another mode as if you’re talking to someone else. In a nutshell, what happens is that you’re creating a psychological distance between you and the issue you’re facing.”

Headspace Is The Mental Health App Offering Free Subscriptions To Unemployed U.S. Workers

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Headspace Is The Mental Health App Offering Free Subscriptions To Unemployed U.S. Workers

Headspace.com

Right now mental health and mindfulness are so key. As we face so much uncertainty and stress in our everyday lives with the everyday reports of the current pandemic, keeping ourselves mentally in check is vital.

Fortunately, the meditation and mindfulness app Headspace is providing free one-year subscriptions to U.S. workers who are unemployed or have been furloughed. The free offer allows qualifying subscribers full access to Headspace’s library of content which features 1,200 hours of health and wellness courses, mini-meditations, guided meditations, sleep support as well as at-home workouts and guided runs. Subscribers also have access to daily videos promoting mindfulness and ongoing guidance from Headspace’s co-founder Andy Puddicombe.

The offer is currently only available to new or existing free members who are unemployed or furloughed.

Current subscribers, who pay $69.99 annually after a free two-week trial, will not have a chance to take up the opportunity, unfortunately. Monthly payments include $12.99 a month and amended prices for students and family are available.

“Be kind to your mind. During this crisis, our mental health is suffering,” a statement by Headspace reason their website. “Headspace is here to give you the tools and resources to look after your mind. And now, more than ever, it’s time to support those who really need it. If you’re unemployed, you can get a free year of Headspace Plus to help you get back on your feet.”

LA Country residents also have an opportunity to leap at when it comes to the app.

The L.A. County Department of Mental Health announced in late April that it had formed a partnership with the L.A.-based company to offer residents free premium access to app until the end of the year. The website will check your location to make sure you qualify. To sign up, just go here  Headspace.com/LACounty. The new partnership is a the latest effort to come from the County Mental Health Department’s response to coronavirus.

“Managing radical change over a short period of time can be difficult and may trigger anxiety, panic, frustration, and depression,” the department explained in a recent press release. “Taking the time to care for your physical and mental health is especially important right now.”

The best part? Spanish-speakers will also have access to guided meditations that are provided in both English and Spanish.

“The world is an increasingly stressful place these days, and amid the uncertainty of this public health crisis, it’s crucial to provide support and equip people with the tools to help decrease stress, anxiety, and loneliness,” Headspace’s chief science officer explained about the partnership.

Trying out the app? Let us know how it goes in a comment below!