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Faces of Poverty View Comments
By Photos by Gregory A. Shemitz

Years of smoking—combined with his job as a truck driver for a gas company prior to his retirement—have damaged Patsy Marino’s lungs. He relies on a tracheotomy and endures breathing treatments every three hours.
THERESA AND PATSY MARINO are two people who need much but have little. Patsy, 73, who worked for a gas company as a truck driver until he became sick in 1990, requires constant care. Suffering from end-stage chronic obstructive lung disease, he cannot breathe without a ventilator, which he’s been on since 1999. Patsy needs his wife’s help in every area of daily life. He cannot eat, bathe, walk, or dress himself without Theresa. If his ventilator stops working, even for a moment, he could die. She cannot leave his side. The two are, literally, prisoners of their home.

It’s a home they’re holding on to tenuously. The Marino family is among the 46.2 million Americans who struggle with poverty every day. They live off a limited income from Social Security. Food stamps, the food pantry at Mary Queen of Heaven in Brooklyn, Meals on Wheels, and a Greek neighbor with a flair for baking assist them as often as possible.

Catholic Charities also has helped. When the Marinos’ refrigerator broke and the landlord refused to replace it, Theresa, 68, sought help from caseworker Fia Sarmi of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens.

Despite the help—for which they are grateful—it’s still a rough road.

“I get disgusted sometimes—I’m not going to lie,” Theresa says. “It’s very hard, very hard.”

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Gregory A. Shemitz is a photojournalist based in Stony Brook, New York. He is a regular contributor to The Long Island Catholic and Catholic News Service. His website is 3VPhoto.com. Text for this story was written by Assistant Editor Christopher Heffron.

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Our Lady of Lourdes: On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the apostolic constitution <i>Ineffabilis Deus</i>. A little more than three years later, on February 11, 1858, a young lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous. This began a series of visions. During the apparition on March 25, the lady identified herself with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” 
<p>Bernadette was a sickly child of poor parents. Their practice of the Catholic faith was scarcely more than lukewarm. Bernadette could pray the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Creed. She also knew the prayer of the Miraculous Medal: “O Mary conceived without sin.” </p><p>During interrogations Bernadette gave an account of what she saw. It was “something white in the shape of a girl.” She used the word <i>aquero</i>, a dialect term meaning “this thing.” It was “a pretty young girl with a rosary over her arm.” Her white robe was encircled by a blue girdle. She wore a white veil. There was a yellow rose on each foot. A rosary was in her hand. Bernadette was also impressed by the fact that the lady did not use the informal form of address (<i>tu</i>), but the polite form (<i>vous</i>). The humble virgin appeared to a humble girl and treated her with dignity. </p><p>Through that humble girl, Mary revitalized and continues to revitalize the faith of millions of people. People began to flock to Lourdes from other parts of France and from all over the world. In 1862 Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions and authorized the cult of Our Lady of Lourdes for the diocese. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes became worldwide in 1907.</p> American Catholic Blog While the term social justice has received negative connotations in some circles in recent years due to certain media misrepresentations of the tradition, the vocation of all Christian women and men to work toward the common good, protect the dignity of all human life, strive toward ending violence in all forms, and providing for the welfare of all people remains integral to who we are as bearers of the name Christ.

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