OYM Update

Steubenville Experience 2013

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Our Conference has taken some major strides in the past few years and here are a few of the facts and figures regarding this year’s conferences. This year between weeks 1 and 2 of the conference we witnessed over 6,600 people in attendance on the campus of Missouri State. Young people listened to talks given by devoted Catholics and leaders in ministry; they offered themselves to Christ in Adoration and washed away their sins in the sacrament of Reconciliation. There was also, as always, a presence and influence coming from the religious priests and sisters of the archdiocese which has been shown to increase discernment among Catholic youth who attend the conferences. This is written about in more detail in the Review which can be found hereRead more »

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Recap: Inside-Out Retreat

The retreat may be over, but the experience continues!

You can check out some pictures, listen to the talks, or read some hip quotes. Check it out!

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OYM Instrumental in Death Penalty Case

Recently, the OYM has campaigned to educate people about the injustice of executing juvenile offenders. While we abhor the crimes committed by the guilty on death row and feel a deep sense of sorrow for the victims and their families we know that the death penalty is not the solution.

This is particularly evident in the case of, Chris Simmons,who was seventeen when convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Shirley Crook. In cooperation with many other Archdiocesan agencies, the OYM launched a major prayer and letter writing campaign to educate the public and persuade the Governor and the Missouri Supreme Court to prevent Simmons' execution.

The people of the Archdiocese, the nation, and the world responded. An incredibly large number of letters rolled in from around the world and there was substantial attention from the media. The effort made an impact. The Missouri Supreme Court granted Chris a stay while awaiting future decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court. He remains under death sentence, but an execution date no longer hangs over him. We thank God for the delay and the recent decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, which have slightly limited some use of the death penalty.

Thanks to everyone who has been involved, either by prayer, letter-writing, or witnessing. Your involvement means a great deal to Chris. Should Chris receive another execution date, the OYM will mobilize another campaign to request a commutation of sentence. Be ready!

*This article appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of the OYM Update.*

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A Minor Penalty: Interview by Brian Niebrugge

**Are you sorry?**

I'm definitely sorry for all of the suffering I've caused, especially for the victims. I just wish there was a way to make things right. I wish I could let people know how genuinely I've had to deal with it for the eight years I've been in prison and had to look in the mirror every day. I wish there was anything to say or do to make things right.

**Tell me a little about how you feel about who you were? How are you different now?**

With a lot of the troubles I was going through with having hostile encounters with my step father, running away from home, being a drug addict, not caring about anything but getting high, and with not understanding about compassion for others or how much pain and suffering my actions could cause people, there is a considerable difference in just understanding the consequences of my actions and the suffering that people go through. I never really knew or understood God's Love and that little things like giving or sharing are so amazingly important. I never knew how love and life could burst into your heart and bring heavenly change with God's graces.

**What did you think when you heard the judge sentence you to death?**

There aren't any words for it. I'll never be able to forget the sound of my Mom and my family crying out. I can only say it seemed unreal. It was the beginning of a lot of pain. The only thing I can really do is try to pray and be able to handle the stress of it. (I am) trying to deal with the panic and just breathe and focus on God.

**Tell me about your relationship with God.**

I believe that life is really a matter of moments sharing love with God. Every moment is one that should be cherished in union with God and His teachings. My favorite bible verse is "No greater Love has man than this, to lay down his life for a friend." I wish people could understand Christ's unconditional Love. I want to be able to continue sharing Christ with the people around me. If I didn't have God in my life, I don't think I would be able to bear the suffering my family and friends are going through.

**What do you have to say to all the people that will read this article?**

I want to encourage everyone out there who is bringing God's love and encouragement to teens. I've learned that there is a great need for this. There is nothing that could be better for troubled teens than showing them God's Love and compassion. If compassion would carry over to many other areas of our society and government, we would see more people finding ways to help solve problems and heal. Teens need to be able to see positive and realistic alternatives. They need Christ and His teachings to be at the center of their lives.

*This article appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of the OYM Update.*

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Discussing the Case of Chris Simmons

*by Brian Niebrugge*

**What is all of this about?**

Chris Simmons is a young man who was convicted of the abduction/drowning murder of Shirley Crook when he was seventeen. Chris's case is special because he was under the age of eighteen at the time he committed his crime. Because of this, there is a real chance that, with a worldwide effort and a special show of support from Missourians, he may be granted clemency from the Governor. Clemency would mean that his sentence would be changed from Death to "Life without the possibility of parole," which is still, of course, an extremely harsh sentence, especially for a juvenile offender.

**What about the victim?**
The murder of Shirley Crook is a tragedy. I pray for the repose of her soul frequently. I have the deepest sympathy for Steven Crook, her husband, and all of her family. I cannot begin to imagine the pain I would feel at the loss of my wife. I pray that Mrs. Crook's family experiences daily the transforming, healing power of Christ and His Divine Mercy.

**So, tell me a little about this guy Chris?**

First and foremost, he is a Christian. In the prison, and through the ministry of other inmates and outside volunteers, Chris has come to believe in the Gospel. He now expends energies sharing this Love with other inmates.
Chris is currently 25 years old. He has been on death row since he was 17. Under these conditions, a person either gets angry and hateful, depressed and jaded, or grounds himself firmly in the Gospel. Chris has chosen the latter, and he has come to know the forgiveness and healing of Christ, even in his difficult and painful situation.

Chris and I have become good friends. When I have issues, I talk to him and he is often able to provide a different perspective, one that always helps me to appreciate the gifts I have been given. He has brought me into a deeper appreciation for the situation I was born into, and the gifts God has given me along the way to who I am now.

**If he is such a great guy, why is he on death row? How did he end up there?**

He is on death row because he was convicted of murder. That is the direct answer to that question. You can say "he made a mistake," or "he did something stupid," but neither of those statements really sums up a murder.

Chris grew up in an abusive environment. His stepfather was physically and psychologically abusive. Chris often would run away from home for a period of time to escape the abuse. He relied on drugs and magical thinking to escape reality. None of the circumstances of Chris's life, however, can excuse this crime. Chris is aware of this, and he has stated that he would sacrifice his life in order to bring Shirley Crook back.

**What does the church have to say about capital punishment?**

For the most authoritative answer, please refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2267. In short, the cases where the death penalty should be used are, "are very rare, if not practically non-existent." (John Paul II Evangelium Vitae 56 "Gospel of Life")

**What can I do?**

Pray! The most important thing you can do for this whole situation is pray. Pray for Chris and his family, but also pray for Shirley Crook and her family, for the men at Potosi Correctional who will carry out the execution, the Governor and the judges who have the power to stop this but decide to let it happen, and for the people of the State of Missouri who allow this to occur in their state.

You can also write a letter to Governor Holden, and mobilize others to do so as well. For Youth Ministers, this is an excellent opportunity to show your teens how the Church responds with love and peace to violent and painful situations and show that the Church is a "change agent" in the world, ministering to and defending the outcast. Teens can take to their classmates a passion for the defense of human life.

*This article appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of the OYM Update.*

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