04-14-2019Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

The friends of Jesus and his mother will make the journey this Holy Week to bring his lifeless body to his grave. In a similar way more families and friends than we can count are bringing their lifeless children to their graves, lifeless because of drug overdoses. Mostly but not exclusively, overdoses from opioids laced with fentanyl. You see in the world of illicit drug sales there is no quality control and satisfaction guaranteed equates with death. And now with the tightening on prescriptions for opioids and the reduction of their manufacturing, one of the unintended consequences is reduced availability of pharmaceutical grade drugs and that reduction is often being filled with heroin and fentanyl. And both are streaming across the border from Mexico at rates that could kill most of the US population.

Fentanyl is easy enough to smuggle without being detected since only a tiny amount is needed to produce the desired effect. That’s because Fentanyl is very potent. Only a small amount, four or five grains, the size of salt grains can cause an overdose. Police officers, first responders who come in skin contact with the drug often experience overdose. What makes the endless flow of drugs across the Border a never-ending game of cat and mouse is that the Drug Cartels are constantly devising ways to be always one step ahead of Customs and Border Patrol. And as good business people the Cartels factor in loss. On a given night they will send maybe 5 truckloads of drugs across the border in any one location knowing that one of them will get intercepted and the other four will drive safely across, headed to a place like Phoenix, AZ, the current wholesale drug depot of the Cartels in the US. Basically, in Phoenix you can get if for wholesale. The suckers in Chicago, New York or Boston have to pay full retail price.

There are a lot of angles from which we need to tackle this problem, including interception of the drugs, prevention, and treatment for addiction and why our culture is producing such a huge number of addicts. But we also have to step in and try to stop the rate of overdosing until those other areas are sufficiently dealt with. This means equipping large numbers of people with the anti-opioid drug Narcan (naloxone) and the training to use it on overdose victims.

The AZ Attorney General has a State-wide Opioid Task Force, which I have served on, to try to find ways to prevent and treat the Opioid Epidemic in Arizona. Currently myself and our FullCircle Staff are trained in the use of Narcan and have it available. If you encounter someone who you believe is unresponsive due to drug use please feel free to contact us and we can come and administer Narcan. (Which prevents the opioid from being absorbed into the body.)

The Attorney General’s Office is offering this training to members of the community who are willing to make themselves available to respond to a possible overdose. The training is simple and uncomplicated and the use of Narcan is not dangerous. Obviously, this is a band-aid approach to a much larger problem. But if we can stop the bleeding, we have a chance at getting people help and off of opioids.

The training will be held in Phoenix on April 18, 10am-Noon. If you would like to attend please email me (frjohn@olmctempe.com) and I will get you registered. You don't need any special medical training and you are covered under the Good Samaritan laws. If you work with young people, as a teacher, coach, mentor, school nurse you especially should consider attending. By equipping as many people as possible hopefully we can stem the tide of overdoses. Plus, I would be very grateful not to have to bury another overdose victim…

That’s a bit of a downer. But for some good news now. We opened our third FullCircle Program in Denver at the beginning of the month. That means we are in Phoenix, KC and Denver with more planned. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support you give to the FullCircle Program by using the Coffee Shop on Sundays, coming to the annual Banquet, making donations and spreading the word. I often speak to people who run Dioceses and schools and they look at me like I have five heads. “Why would you want to do that”, they ask? And I often think “don't they realize these are our children too”? Their families sit in our pews and send their kids to our schools? So why wouldn't we want to help them and keep them connected to the Church?

One of the versions of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” says, “It’s so hard to grow old without a cause. I don't want to perish like a fading horse.” Maybe this is my cause but really the health and well-being of our young people should be all our cause. Don’t you think?

Pope Francis just issued a new Exhortation, “Christus vivit” based on the recently held Youth Synod and he stated his desire for: “youth ministry capable of being inclusive, with room for all kinds of young people, to show that we are a Church with open doors.”

Well, my dear Holy Father, we have opened our doors to young people who get messed up with drugs, alcohol, cutting, eating, pornography and other self-destructive behaviors that destroy the beautiful image of God in them.

Fr. John B.

PS Don't forget we have two other Youth Ministries at OLMC! Our Jr. High Program called Bridges run by the Sisters and our Teen Program called Compass run by our college students from St. Paul Outreach at ASU. Check them out on our website.