Converting to Catholicism

Evan Thomas came right from work. The sun shone through the window, which gave his white shirt what almost looked like a glow.

He was excited. He loves any opportunity to talk about Catholicism.

The 20-year-old LaGrange, Ind. native is a student at Purdue University Fort Wayne and also works two jobs: one on campus, as a resident assistant; and the other off-campus, as an intern with Regal Beloit, an electric motor company.

“I like to work out,” he said, regarding how he spends his very limited spare time. “I like to practice faith, play sports, watch movies.”

Of these things, one has become much more important to Thomas than the rest.

“Evan is this very joyful person,” said Nicole Rudolph, an acquaintance of Thomas. “He’s really gotten into his faith on the Summit Awakening retreat last year and then he converted recently.”

Summit Awakening, according to Rudolph, is a retreat for college-aged students in Fort Wayne to learn more about the Catholic faith. It lasts for three days, many of the details are secret, though some things are still allowed to be discussed . Staff and participants alike are under instruction not to reveal what happens on the weekend.

“He’s participating in the retreat this year, but as a leader. And he’s giving a talk on the retreat about the Eucharist.”

The Eucharist, more commonly referred to as communion, is the most important part of Catholic worship and it is the final stage in a person’s being accepted as a full member of the church, according to flameoffaith.org, a website run by the Archdiocese of Brisbane in Australia.

“At my church, it was very liberal,” said Thomas, regarding a misunderstanding between he and his Catholic girlfriend prior to his conversion. “And their communion beliefs, it was not quite transubstantiation, Jesus was not completely present in communion when we took it.”

He said this church, which was non-denominational, did not require its members to take communion; however, they did offer it.

“I went up, and she refused to take communion at my church,” Thomas said. “I got pretty upset with her at the time, you know, thinking that she was stuck-up in her faith and, you know after my formal training, then I came to understand exactly why she would not want to take communion there.”

Thomas was raised in a Methodist home until he was 14 years old, when he stopped going to church altogether.

“I think there were a lot of members of my church who influenced me in a negative way,” Thomas said. “They were what I saw as negative influences of the church, people who claimed the faith and didn’t live it. And so, for me, I thought that was very detrimental to my faith life.” Thomas said many of these people were members of his own family. He said he was also told a lot of negative things about the Catholic church.

“That priests were people that held power above the layman, as you may call it. That they had an organization that was very corrupt; a very political and hierarchical society just integrated into what it meant to be a Catholic.”

He also said he viewed Catholics as more people who claimed the faith, but did not live it.

“I don’t think I really knew anything about it,” said Thomas about the Methodist theology. “I didn’t look deep enough into faith to distinguish between the different points of what each denomination believed compared to another so I didn’t learn a lot about that until maybe this previous year or two.”

Thomas said before that, he saw Christianity in terms of Catholics and Protestants, and the Protestants were the correct side.

Protestantism began in 1517 when a German monk named Martin Luther broke away from the Catholic Church over practices he deemed could not be found in the Bible; chief amongst them the buying and selling of indulgences, which promised the purchaser would go straight to Heaven when they died. Since then, a degree of enmity has existed between those who stayed with the Catholic Church and those who followed Luther and formed their own churches.

Thomas began dating his girlfriend who got him to look into Catholic theology.

“I think it wasn’t necessarily one point,” Thomas said. “It was several points building up. I would look into a question and I would find that the Catholic church had the — to me — correct answer. And this process would happen again, and again, and again and eventually I believed it without already knowing the Catholic answer.”

Thomas said once he realized this was the case, his decision became obvious. When he made the decision, his family had mixed attitudes.

“My mom is Catholic, she was very excited. My girlfriend is Catholic, she was also very excited. The rest of them didn’t quite understand. I think a lot of them thought I was doing it because of my girlfriend was Catholic.”

Thomas said they commonly responded by making jokes, but eventually learned to accept it.

Next for him came the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults, or RCIA for short. RCIA is the process where one is accepted into full communion with the Catholic Church, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. To begin the process, the prospective convert must talk to a priest or an RCIA director. This comes after the Period of Evangelisation, in which the convert must partake in a period of deep personal reflection.

This process is difficult for many converts, including Thomas.

“I think it was because I was such a big opponent of the Catholic Church in my own mind. To owning up to that and accepting it proudly and then also dealing with the fact a lot of people thought I was converting because of my relationship.”

Thomas is a man who wants his peers to see him as someone deep in his faith and does not want that perception to change. At the end of this period, he began RCIA classes at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Fort Wayne.

These classes are just like any at a college campus. You have the instructor, usually a priest or a nun, running through the different points and aspects of Catholicism while the students take notes and ask questions. Students are generally also joined by their sponsors.

A sponsor, according to the USCCB, is a person chosen by the convert to help them through the process; one who exemplifies how to live the faith and answer questions the convert may have.

“I would say my sponsor Philip Litchfield was very helpful,” Thomas said. “It was nice to be able to turn to him and get an intellectual answer to faith.”

“People question things like the papacy and different things Catholics do,” said Ruth McMahon, a sponsor in another diocese in the 1980s.
According to McMahon, many Protestants question Catholic obedience to hierarchy, which she said is also present in Protestant churches to some degree.

The Hierarchy, which many Protestants are hesitant to get behind, is the Catholic Church’s leadership which is based in Vatican City, just outside of Rome.
It is headed by the Pope, who every Catholic around the world considers to be infallible and incapable of teaching anything wrong.

This explains why, even in the midst of accusations that the current Pope covered up a sex scandal, Thomas’s faith remains unshaken.

“I think that it motivates me to be a stronger Catholic,” said Thomas, matter-of-factly. His confidence justified his tone.

“Now more than ever, there needs to be good representatives of the faith and I think it’s important for people outside of the Catholic church to look at what we have and to see that we’re still proud, that we’re not shaken or hesitant at all, that I’m not reserved, that I’m still confident I made the right decision.”

A Guide to Dungeons & Dragons

So you want to play Dungeons & Dragons? You’ve heard about it. You’ve seen your uncle’s bag of oddly-shaped dice. You may have even seen it played on shows like “Community” and “Stranger Things.” But what is it?

What is Dungeons & Dragons?

The Player’s Handbook describes Dungeons & Dragons as a “childhood game of make-believe,” but with structure and consequences decided by dice.

According to the Dungeon Master’s Guide, D&D is a game of swords and sorcery. It’s a collaborative story telling game with heroes and villains, dragons and zombies, magic and politics. It can be anything you want it to be.

To an outsider, a game of D&D might look like a group of people sitting around talking about swords and dragons but that’s only because it’s primarily made up of imagination.

Jarod DePew, the Dungeon Master (DM) for his game, defines D&D as a game of imagination with three different parts: “the explanation of the surroundings, the players reacting, and the DM explaining the effects of their actions.”

According to DePew, a game of D&D may sound something like this:

Dungeon Master: You walk into a pitch black room. There’s a scent of smoke, but no fire. What do you do?

Player: I light a torch and investigate the area for clues.

Dungeon Master: You find a half-burned treasure chest and a pile of bones.

 

What do I need to start playing?

The two main components of a D&D game are the player and the Dungeon Master. The Player’s Handbook suggests a game consist of four players and a Dungeon Master chosen before game night for ample preparation time.

When it comes to game night, the players and Dungeon Master will need character sheets, writing utensils, and dice.

Perhaps one of the most iconic things is a Dungeon Master’s screen. A Dungeon Master’s screen can be something as simple as two binders or folders propped up in front of the Dungeon Master so the players can’t see their rolls or statistics of the monsters they’re fighting, according to DePew.

Another necessity for a game of a D&D game is food. Considering a game may last anywhere from two to eight hours on average (some play as long as 12 hours), being able to replenish calories burnt from fighting a dragon is a must, DePew said.

 

How do I become a Dungeon Master?

The Dungeon Master is “everything the players are not,” DePew said.

They are responsible for outlining a narrative, possible encounters, and potential situations for the players to react to.

There are several styles of Dungeon Mastering. Many Dungeon Masters like to prepare for any situation the players may wind up in. This means creating maps, characters and situations for anywhere the players may go.

Other Dungeon Masters find this method to be redundant.

“I prefer improv. Don’t get me wrong, I have papers full of information, but I like to improv,” DePew said.

“I like being a DM because I have a very insane imagination and I’m able to see things a majority of people can’t. I enjoy explaining to my friends and cohorts what’s going on in my imaginary world,” Depew explained.

 

How do I become a player?

The first thing you need to do as a player is create a character. This consists of choosing a race and class you think will be fun to play. For example, you could be Darius, the gnome fighter from the lost island of Loraxia, or you could be Hirron, the elvish warlock who once slayed a red dragon – with hundreds of character combinations, you can build any type of character you’d like.

Jordan Kortenber, who is primarily a player, said he likes being able to “run in, beat people up, and kick doors down, but some people like to cast a bunch of magic and spells. Some people prefer to be sneaky.”

During the character creation process you and the rolls of your dice will decide different attributes of your character like hit points, items and spells.

Game night is primarily about roleplay and pretending to be someone else, but there are many styles of play.

“A lot of people get embarrassed because they don’t want to say something embarrassing, but sometimes that’s the point. Our stories can be really dark and edgy sometimes, but more times than not, it will end up being funny,” Kortenber said.

 

Why should I play?

Kortenber explained that while there dozens of books and guides, the rules aren’t what matters. The game is really about friendship and storytelling.

“It’s a way to make new friends and even get closer to the friends you already have. Like, you’re playing for hours sometimes and getting to know a person on a whole different level because they’re expressing themselves through their character,” Kortenber said.

 

So you’re interested? Now it’s time to roll up some cool characters and get ready to dive into some dungeons. Have your dice ready and snacks prepared. And most importantly — May your swords be sharp and your rolls be high…

What Is 4K All About?

You may have seen or heard about 4K by visiting stores or websites that sell TVs and other digital display products. You may have wondered how this technology improves on what exists already or if it’s even a necessary investment. Professionals and consumers have their own thoughts about this 4K trend and the implications it has on the market.

4K is shorthand for the ultrahigh definition video format, which typically displays at a pixel resolution of either 3840 x 2160 pixels or 4096 x 2160 pixels. Since 2010, usage of the 4K video format has seen a steady rise in popularity, with the first 4K disc media and disc players appearing in stores in early 2016. While there is excitement around the potential of the 4K video format, questions of whether it was released at the right time or whether investing in the format is practical, remain unanswered.

Some consumers are very enthusiastic about 4K and what it offers as a new media format. Chris Rearick, a gamer and computer enthusiast, had optimistic remarks about 4K.

“I’d say it adds to the experience. Good 4K has higher depth of colors and PPI (Pixels Per Inch). HDR (High-Dynamic Range) is part of the range of colors. HDR is pertinent if you get a 4K anything.”

Rearick is confident that 4K is the future of gaming.

“I think it’s becoming the standard. 4K is super affordable and I would say at this point you aren’t early adopting; you are just buying the new standard.”

Tihomir Lazarov, a commercial portrait photographer and filmmaker, believes that the release of 4K hardware may have been premature since the average consumer can’t justify the five-figure purchase of high-end cameras.

“In my opinion, the jump to 4K was a bit too early for most low-budget video devices,” Lazarov said. “It seems the winners of that transition are mostly the hardware manufacturers. With benefits come higher requirements for storage and hardware performance. These can only make the camera and computer hardware manufacturers happy, but not your wallet. According to the prophets of higher-resolution videos, 4K must become a standard and that will make videos future-proof with the ever-growing display resolutions.”

However, Lazarov is not entirely against the industry adoption of 4K because there are benefits that a higher resolution such as 4K affords.

“More resolution gives you the freedom to crop in post and deliver in 2K without losing significant quality.”

Some industry professionals have a very different take on 4K. John Brune, video production industry veteran with over 30 years of experience and three regional Emmy awards, provided an interesting counterpoint about the 4K trend.

“To fully appreciate the maximum resolution of a 4K image you need a screen at least 30 feet wide. With monitors as they are today if you sit six to eight feet away you won’t be able to distinguish the difference between 4K and an HD image. Anything larger than 4K is likely to be used for wall-panel screens since typically anything at or greater than an Ultra HD image is beyond human eyesight capacity.”

As a small business owner, Brune doesn’t see 4K as being a practical investment since there is virtually no demand for it in his line of work.

“I don’t have clients asking for 4K. The only people that really care about it are TV and camera manufacturers. I would have to spend twice as much on storage, a new computer, new gear, etc. if I wanted to adopt 4K.”

There are certainly compelling arguments both for and against the tech industry adopting 4K. While the push for 4K products may have been premature, it does have certain advantages and offers flexibility for consumers and professionals alike. 4K is becoming more affordable as time goes on, but that doesn’t make it a sensible investment for everyone in the industry. It’s one thing to buy a 4K TV, but it’s another thing to purchase or finance a new set of equipment for a business. For professionals that don’t have the spending power of a large corporation, investment in a new format isn’t always sensible, despite the advantages it may bring.

Will 4K receive widespread adoption like high definition, or will it merely become a stepping stone to yet another emerging format? Ultimately, it will be up to the average consumer to decide.

Disclaimer: John Brune is the father of the reporter. To avoid conflicts of interest, the reporter is not involved in his father’s business and this article has been through a rigorous editorial process.

 

Controversy Over CBD Oil Being Widely Sold in Indiana

Since the legalization of Cannabidiol (CBD) oil on July 1, 2018, the cannabis derived products have been popping up on the shelves of gas stations, grocery stores and tobacco shops.

These products span a variety of categories, including vape juice, moisturizers, soda and even animal products. According to Organicfacts.net, CBD oil has been shown to offer various health benefits including the reduction or elimination of cancer cells, pain relief, metabolism balance, mood stability and skin healing.

CBD oil has been a major phenomenon in Indiana since it hit shelves, but there still has been some controversy over the hemp product. CBD oil is one of many compounds found in the cannabis plant which has caused many to question the quality of the products. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is found in marijuana, is what causes a high but is not typically found in CBD oil unless otherwise specified. CBD without THC does not cause a high and in Indiana only .3 percent of THC is allowed in the oil.

In a statement to the Associated Press, IU Health Pain Center Doctor Gary Gettelfinger said there are hundreds of companies that are selling CBD oil, but many could be scammers.

Others don’t see it that way. Rob Coulter, manager at Copper Canyon Tobacco, says, “CBD is not regulated by the FDA. Anybody can sell it, but Indiana has certain revisions. All the CBD products sold in Indiana have to be traceable with QR codes that can be scanned and will show everything that is in the product.”

Coulter believes that those opposed to the usage of CBD oil are just not properly educated on the topic and that the commotion is all derived from ignorance.

“We get a lot of referrals from doctors actually. It’s a hot topic from both sides of the coin. We have some doctors that will completely turn away patients from it and we have some that are big champions of it.”

Coulter said that whatever view you have the on the products, you can’t deny the success stories.

“One of our workers has a niece that has had seizures all of her life and she’s been on CBD now for about 10 weeks and has had no seizures since. So from a 6-year-old child to the average clientele in their 50s and 60s, CBD oil is making an impact on lives.”

Coulter says young adults seem to be the most open to using CBD oil as a remedy, but they don’t purchase the product as often as other age groups. He finds them to be more interested in other vape products. Consumers in their twenties can have different perspectives on using the cannabidiol.

23-year-old Indiana Tech student Grace Moore is optimistic yet apprehensive about using the product.

“CBD oil shows promising results from testing so far, but hasn’t really been subjected to thorough testing that modern medications should undergo and I think without it, I don’t feel comfortable normalizing its use.”

Matt Connett, a 22-year-old active user of CBD oil and an advocate for its use, said he believes that the oil can not only help with anxiety and other health issues, but he thinks that if something can cause such tremendously beneficial outcomes immediately after its use then the long-term effects will be even better. He doesn’t understand the negative connotation to the products.

“Hemp and marijuana are plants that should be readily available to anyone who wants to consume them. The CBD derives from hemp so it isn’t psychoactive in the same way THC from marijuana is, so I don’t see why people are worried about its safeness.”

CBD oil is currently only illegal in four states, but in 16 states where the product is legal there are currently restrictions and revisions that must be met. Nearly all of this progress towards available access to CBD has occurred within the last year and changes are still being made that would allow for easier access to these products specifically in regards to medical conditions.

Staying Secure Online

Before she stopped going out alone, before she changed her phone number and before she began looking over her shoulder everywhere she went, Jessica Hostetler used Facebook like everyone else.

She thought it was just spam when the first account appeared. It used one of her photos and began sending her friends friend requests on Facebook. She reported it. It was removed. She moved on.

But then the phone calls started. They came from a blocked number and were filled with heavy breathing on the other end. She began to worry.

“I thought it was stupid a prank at first, but then it kept happening,” Hostetler said. “For the longest time, just hearing the phone ring made me nervous.”

Then, just as more fake accounts began appearing, she found herself locked out of her Facebook profile. This was when she realized she had been hacked. Hostetler has since turned to Facebook and law enforcement in the hopes of finding a way to end the harassment.

Today, cases like Hostetler’s are common. According to the 2017 Internet Crime Report compiled by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, over 60,000 complaints about personal data hacks and stalkings were received throughout the year.

In order to stay safe online, here are some helpful ways in which you can protect your accounts, your privacy and yourself while living in this digital age.

Two-Factor Authentication

Mandi Witkovsky, manager of security and identity at Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Information Technology Services, said a popular way to secure accounts today is by using two-factor authentication.

Once activated, users’ accounts will require an additional step before they can successfully log on. Typically, this confirmation step is in the form of a four-digit pin code, sent via email or text message, which users will have to enter before being granted access.

“It is a little bit of a pain, especially if you get a new phone, but it’s the cost of being safer,” Witkovsky said.

Spotting Phishing Emails

One way hackers will try to access students’ accounts is through phishing attacks. These are emails sent to people under a variety of false pretenses to trick them into giving up passwords, credit card numbers and other important personal information.

Dennis Ratliff, a staff member at Purdue Fort Wayne Information Technology Services, said students are often targeted by hackers trying to access their bursar accounts to steal financial information and redirect refunds.

According to the Better Business Bureau, people ages 18-24 are most likely to be scammed online, with 34 percent of those targeted losing money to scammers and hackers.

In August, Purdue Fort Wayne students were sent a phishing email from nonexistent employee “Tracy McDonald,” who worked at the incorrectly named “IT Department.” The somewhat clever email told students about a fake previous phishing email and urged them to change their passwords by clicking a link which brought them to a replica My.PFW.edu login page, designed to capture their credentials when students attempted to login.

This phishing email was sent to Purdue University Fort Wayne students in early August.

“It’s not so much with phishing that people are dumb,” Witkovsky said. “It’s about getting so many dang emails in a day, and being in a hurry.”

According to Witkovsky, you can easily spot most phishing emails by looking for these qualities:

  • Many grammar and spelling mistakes.
  • A generic greeting, such as: “Dear student.”
  • A demand for immediate action, like urgent notice of your account being deleted.
  • Suspicious links or URLs.

Privacy Settings

“While I love the concept of social media, I hate it because it promotes oversharing,” Witkovsky said.

Witkovsky recommends people check that their privacy settings on Facebook and other social media are set to “friends only.” Additionally, while it might be fun to share information about yourself, your family or your pets on social media, it’s important to make sure that the information you’re sharing doesn’t correspond to your security questions. Making this information publicly accessible can make it easier for hackers to guess the answers to your security questions and gain access your account.

Know Your Vulnerabilities

Even though you may have taken precautions when online, your data could still have been exposed in a third party leak or hack, similar to the leak at the credit agency Equifax, which exposed the data of 14.5 million customers.

To check if your data may have been leaked or stolen, Witkovsky recommends HaveIBeenPwned.com. There, users can enter their email addresses and search the internet for any associated usernames and passwords that may have been leaked.

But whether or not you have enabled two-factor authentication or limited all of your privacy settings in order to keep your data and information safe, Witkovsky urges caution at all times online.

“The internet is like an amusement park. We want it to be fun and have a good time,” Witkovsky said. “But not all the rides are safe and it’s hard to tell what rides are safe; so you have to treat it like none of the rides are safe.”