Author Archives: Andrew & Cristina

On Pope Francis and Mother Teresa….

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Below is a link to what I consider “Internet Treasure”…..something that Cristina and I stumbled upon one night after a close friend of ours gave us a chromecast device…..which one uses to beam or “cast” videos on to their television.

Alas, a midst all of the funny fluff, we found the original Mother Teresa of Calcutta documentary, in it’s entirety, on Youtube. Needless to say, although it was a week night, “let’s just watch a few minutes…..” quickly turned in to a prayerful meditation on Love.

Mother Teresa, for any of those who haven’t been with us since the inception of this blog, is one of our patrons. We didn’t choose her, she chose us. And in some of life’s most difficult moments, even when we probably tried to keep her out of things, (for fear of what she, one of our closest friends, might have asked of us) she always had a way of popping back up…..and asking us to give love to someone around us. You know, love…..the kind that hurts.

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You see, as I grew into adulthood and got onto my high horse during my time of new-found Faith “ownership”, (which for me, beyond simply defending Christ’s Bride, included a bit of my own pride) I would get really annoyed when those that sought to attack the Church’s teachings, would often use saints like Mother Teresa as a sort of justification for not sticking to Doctrine and just simply “loving everyone”. Although I had no way of articulating it at the time, I knew that so-called “love” to be exactly what Pope Francis condemned this past Saturday, at the close of the Synod. A “love that is tainted by:

“….a destructive tendency to goodness, that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots.” – Pope Francis, 

Mother Teresa is not, nor ever was, all about that kind of “goodness”. The problem for most ultra-conservatives is that many, including Mother Teresa, chose not to explicitly preach and teach with theological words….but rather, to love. Truly love, with a love that suffers together…..a love that, when the timing (and one’s heart) is right, leaves the door open, ever so gently, for God to truly heal the deepest “causes and roots” of our own slavery to sin.

This is what Mother Teresa and now Pope Francis (along with MANY others in history) have been teaching us……and it’s a difficult teaching because it is UNCOMFORTABLE. We don’t “get the last word” in……and some times, that “surrender” of not getting the final word, takes everything out of us!

Sure, they can dine and carry-on with those who even appear to be “enemies” of Christ and His Church, but they know where they stand – firmly in Christ.

Pope Francis does an off-the-cuff interview and is asked a hypothetical question about someone suffering from SSA… .. and his response relates that if a person is seeking Christ and remaining chaste… (paraphrasing here) “Who is (he) to judge?”….the media goes WILD  “Pope Francis approves the gay lifestyle!” ……not quite. Shortly after the encounter, in one of his homilies at daily mass, he preaches about family and marriage only being between a man and a woman.

Mother Teresa spent hour upon hour being with the sick and dying, usually not explicitly nor deliberately teaching/converting them to the Catholic Faith, but then she spent hours in Adoration with Our Lord (every day) and countless people throughout the world convert to Catholicism through her example.

What’s my point? I’m not entirely sure…..but one thing I am sure of is that both Pope Francis and Mother Teresa know/knew WHO they live(d) for – Christ and His Bride. Although Pope Francis would never deliberately confuse anyone or desire for them to be unclear on Church Teaching, but it is as if he  is saying “I’t’s MUCH more important to me that each individual person walks away knowing that I love them and even more, that Christ loves them…..than it is for someone to be 100% educated on a doctrine or a dogma”

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It seems like every time the media interviews and confusions arise with Pope Francis, the Synod, prudential judgments made by Cardinals and Bishops (ie – St Patrick’s Day parade?), I hear a resounding “I just don’t know anymore” from my Catholic friends and family. I often have the same reaction.

Maybe, just maybe, Christ desires for me to be at an even deeper place than what I’ve been used to, than what I’m comfortable with. Maybe my response should be “I just don’t know anymore (about anything!). BUT, I trust.”

Besides, if I don’t know everything like I used to pridefully think I did, He is able to enter in and mold and guide me how He wants, not how I want Him to.

In the meantime, if you have the time, pray through this youtube treasure. No doctrine here, no mystical or fantastical miracles revealed at the end. Just pure, tough and real love. Perhaps that is what God wants us all to cling to?

The Latest Happenings….

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Wow! It’s been another long period since we updated this blog……and a lot sure has happened!

It was actually in returning home from New York City this past weekend that I felt inspired to update our blog and create this post. (and hopefully, be more consistent in it!) I’ll go in to more detail about NYC later in this post.

So, since our last update in April (right after our return from Honduras), it was as if Christ was calling us to truly learn to live our normal, routine family life. Yep, I’m talking about all of the small things: working a 9-5 job while Cristina stayed at home with Bella, then coming home to have dinner and spending the last couple of hours with Bella playing, coloring, bubble-bathing and saying our nigh-night prayers before bed. As Cristina puts it, Christ was “romancing us” in the beauty of simply-living and breathing.

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A lot less dramatic/exciting than one imagined their life would be after having spent years as a missionary in Honduras! But, alas, this is EXACTLY where Christ has us.

God speaks to us in the ordinary

God speaks to us in the ordinary.                         (Bella saying Grace before dinner)

You see, there is a really profound piece of advice I’ve gotten from a Catholic blogger I’ve been following for the past few months (charliej373.wordpress.com) . A former political consultant, Charlie has dedicated himself to giving a sort of spiritual direction to his readers as the events of the world unfold around us, (ISIS, Ebola, our Govt, etc etc etc) yet he reminds his readers that our call isn’t to await some huge world-changing CATASTROPHE or for the END OF THE WORLD, nor does he spend time focused on the panic or the fear that the world news could cause us. His daily reminder is that:

“The only thing that will put flesh on the bones of our plans is to relentlessly acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around us.”

I digress.

As I was sharing, these past few months have served as a reflection on the importance of our home. Not only for Bella and her future siblings (God-willing), but for both Cristina and I as well. Cristina and I, since our youth and young-adulthood, recognize that God has molded our hearts and our calling to be outward-focused…..but over the years and through the process of spiritually maturing, (which seems to be slower than we’d like!) we see the importance of starting at home and creating a refuge there.

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This time has been full of laughter and of tears…..of days that fly by and days that seem like they will never end. In the midst of all of them is our life, for better or for worse. We’ve had 2nd birthday parties:

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…gone to Princess Parties:

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…enjoyed the beach:

“I got and in my baysoo”

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….visited old stomping-grounds:

Family selfie in Philadelphia

…..had a day at the zoo:

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…saw old friends (and future mother superior…?)

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….got first Dominican-salon haircuts:

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Don’t let the skin color fool you, this girl is half Carribean!

…hung out with cousins:

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…but most of the time, goofed-off:

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More than anything else, we’ve had days full of love. Mostly the fun, sloppy-wet-kiss-on-the-lips kind of love, but even the tough kind as well. It’s all good…..it’s all real….and in it is where we find God.

That brings us back to this past weekend in NYC….3 years after we lay prostrate before Our Lord in our wedding…..who would’ve known?

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This past weekend, Cristina and I were invited to speak at the 7th Annual Pro-Life Congress for the Spanish Office of the Archdiocese of NY. This time, we were actually invited to lead workshops, separately, regarding Masculine/Feminine Sexuality and it’s role in rebuilding a pro-life culture. It’s incredible to look back at our lives and think about the gift that is our sexuality. How many problems in our world could be traced back to that: the misuse of the sexual gift? I’d argue the vast majority. On the flip-side, how many victories have been won for God’s Glory because of a healthy and whole understanding of our sexuality? I’d say many more.

Our Corazon Puro friends at the Congress

It was a blessed time, and since the folks that put on the event are old colleagues (at the Archdiocese) and good friends (Catholic Marriage Movement from the Bronx) of ours, it was like being with family.

As you can imagine, Bella stole the show. I’m pretty sure that more people showed up for her than to participate in our workshops!

That’s all for now…..pray that I can update this more frequently – that really is my goal!

Please pray for this little family,

In Christ and Our Lady,

Andrew, Cristina and Maria Isabella Pocta

…reflections on a video project i’ve been working on

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Ever since Cristina, Bella and I returned from Honduras earlier this month, I’ve been working away on a video that attempts to reflect on the heart of what Missioners of Christ really do in Honduras. But, as I started creating it and reflecting on the life and teachings of Saint John Paul II, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis, I realized that the more specific I got with things, the less I could explain it with words. It all comes down to love. Everything always has and always will. Thank you, Pope Francis for making me uncomfortably remember this.

What I mean by that is that we, as a society (all of us – subconsciously or not), have a hard time grasping things that aren’t results-based or empirically measured. It’s flat out how we’ve been bred in the 1st world….and through globalization, it’s spread everywhere. We simply struggle with the concept that Mother Teresa attempted to teach us, that “We are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful.”

It’s tough. It’s not fun, exciting or compelling to truck along and remain faithful when all of the novelty has begun to disappear. In fact, in my reflecting, I’d venture to say that this is one of the great problems of the current and past few generations (all over the world) and it is seen in religion – we just don’t stick with things anymore. Even less do with stick with things when they aren’t fun/exciting/affirming/fulfilling anymore. This will be one of the greatest crosses that post-modern man will have to overcome to remain free, to remain alive.

Case in point – one of the most significant struggles for the average participant on one of our 1-2 week long missions in Honduras, is that we don’t build or repair structures (churches or schools) or focus on any relief work (food relief programs, shelters, orphanages, etc). I can’t even count how many conversations I’ve had with someone who struggled with the idea that we spend a week in a remote mountain village in Honduras, visiting house-to-house, praying and living with the people in the given town. “But what about some sort of project that we can leave behind? What will the people have to remember us and to remember this trip?” There is a difficulty in not seeing any results or seeing the fruit of our labor. We’ve been trained to think that unless we can bring back pictures and videos of our labor, our work is uneventful.

This is simply not true.

Don’t get me wrong, those things are all good, beautiful and necessary. Christ has called us to provide these things and to be generous with our talents and treasures…..to the point that it hurts us.

But as Missioners of Christ in Honduras, we have simply not been called to that sort of ministry as part of our permanent presence in Comayagua. Although it happens, from time to time, just by nature of being someone’s permanent neighbor. I can remember when a hurricane hit the country and flooded a number of homes in our neighborhood – we stopped working on retreat preparations and we had to literally carry people to safety. This is part of life, even here in the US. But our ministry was not focused on that.

As Missioners of Christ, we’ve been called to simply love. To love til it hurts. To love even unto death. This means truly living  amongst the people of Honduras. This means being a fellow parishioner at our local church…..it means being a neighbor when the roof collapses or when a family member dies. It means playing soccer with friends after a day of school or even attending their 16th birthday party. It means eating in another’s home, even if there house doesn’t meet our sanitation standards. It also means embracing one another when cultures collide, or when a young father of 4 loses his job. The list goes on….as it should, but our call has been clear (although the practicals are FAR from clear) : LOVE.

Please, check out the rough draft of the video:

Return from Honduras

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Thank you all for your prayers! We just returned from our visit to Honduras….and wow, it was amazing!

Please see some of the pictures we took:

Our Godson, Juan Pablo, and his family, on the day of his baptism

Mario, Dina and little Juan Pablo, on the day of his baptism

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Juan Pablo on his way to the baptismal font!

Mom, dad and Godparents praying over Juan Pablo

Bella, enjoying her bath!

Bella’s cilantro-tiara

Bella and her Godmother with her new friend, Emily

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Cristina and Emily, a young girl with Spina Bifida in Honduras

Cristina sharing with the mom’s group in Honduras

Dina with Juan Pablo, our Godson

 

Bella, exploring Casa Guadalupe

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For 4 days during our visit, I helped out on a mountain mission to a village that had yet to host missionaries. It was so high in the mountains and so cold, that the villagers wore up to 2 coats at a time!

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Our mission team

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Teammate Katie, contemplating God’s creation

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Teammate Katie with one of the joyful families from the village

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It seemed like every house was 30-45 minutes away from the next….

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Another view from the top

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A long-term Missioner, Vilma, sharing her testimony

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Katie and Ashley teaching Gladys (one of the villagers) how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet

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The kids were so excited to come to our kids’ program each day!

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…but when they would arrive, they would try to act cool, like it was no big deal.

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Justin, a long term Missioner, would lead us in music

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The kids loved singing

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…and praying

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…and climbing trees

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Some of our friends on the mission

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The woman on the left had been through much suffering….but had an immense joy in her heart

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Tanya, one of the little girls from the village, making a commitment to follow Christ

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All of the kids from our program

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Katy, one of the little girls from the village, with teammate Ashley

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a big smile

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making funny faces

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the boys trying to act cool

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We took out a bottle of bubbles….which one of the older kids told me they had never seen before

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the kids chasing after the bubbles

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on our last night there, we had a MASSIVE (dangerously?) bonfire with the entire village

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Ashley loved brushing her teeth without running water

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On one of our last days in Honduras, we brought Bella to the Missionaries of Charity house….where the take care of the sick and dying, as well as orphans and children born with aids

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She loved the kids

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I think Bella thought that this sister was Mother Teresa….

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her only frame of reference is the image of Mother Teresa in our house

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Bella loved the food in Honduras

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Me with our Godson, Juan Pablo

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We let Bella take a SHORT spin on the back of the truck….

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She loved hanging out with the Friars

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Don’t know why she’s got her hand like that….

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Brother Gabriel scared her…..maybe it was his height…(he’s very TALL)

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The Poor Clares got special permission during lent to come out and see Bella in person….as they had been praying for her while she was still in the womb

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They might be cloistered….but they are SO JOYFUL!

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Bella with her Tia Diana and Tio Roger

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Bella hanging out with our compadres’ family

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Our compadre, Mario (Juan Pablo’s father) getting us some fresh coconuts from their front yard

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Our compadres’ grandmother (who is going to be 90 this year!) enjoying some coconut water

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Bella with her prima, Ana Cecilia

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Bella wanted a kiss….

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More Missions in Honduras!

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As the coordinator for all Young Adult missions to Honduras with the Missioners of Christ (www.missioners.org), I am blessed to be a part of such an amazing ministry that continues the transform the lives of thousands (yes, THOUSANDS!) of people from all over the world! God is good!

I wanted to take the time to pass along this blog post from a fellow Missioner, Nick Higgins, who was the lead facilitator of our New Year’s mission trip that took place from December 27th to January 5th. He has some pretty profound insight in to “the mission” and how we are called to respond! Check it out:

http://toloveandserve.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/the-sick-the-poor-and-the-blessed-winter-mission-team-arrives/

That post was about the specific mission, but check out his other posts to read more about what we do/live in Honduras and how we are called to transform (and be transformed) through serving the poorest of the poor.

Here are some pictures from their mission:

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This is how our teams live in the mountain village

This is how our teams eat in the mountain villages

This is a typical meal our teams eat in the mountain villages – tortillas, beans, eggs and cheese

 

This is how our teams travel in the mountain villages!

This is often how our teams travel in the mountain villages!

 

These are the relationships our teams build in the mountain villages

These are the relationships we build in the mountain villages

After years of “doing” these missions (and years of learning from our achievements AND mistakes…..and many times, the hard way!) we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all about LOVE. We aren’t in Honduras to “fix” anyone or anything. We are in Honduras to LOVE and SERVE….and to let God do the rest. Our focus is on the relationships we build as we live, side-by-side, with the people of Honduras. Now, with living together comes all of the joys and sufferings that us humans carry – cultural differences, language barriers, subtle differences in the way we pray and worship, organization (and DISorganizational) issues, etc etc etc.

But, God continues transforming the lives of all those involved……and so, we continue. We try each day to remain faithful in this call to love and serve, while enjoying it along the way!

Contact me if you are interested in participating on any of our missions to Honduras at Andrew.Pocta@missioners.org

The following dates are set for 2014:

Trip

Spring Break I

Spring Break II

Come & See

Summer I

Summer II

Winter

Dates

March 8 – 15

March 22 – 29

April 21 – 26

June 12 – 23

July 3 – 14

December 30 – January 8

God bless you!

Looking ahead in awe

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Our Christmas picture:

Christmas 2014

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There’s not much to say in this post. We have spending a lot of time in awe of our daughter and the Grace and Strength that Our Lord has given her…..especially in the last 2-3 weeks.

For a while we were worried that Maria Isabella was a little too attached or dependent on mommy and daddy, (we’re definitely happy about her having an attachment to us, her parents, but feared that her needing to be carried around would cause additional dependency) but have seen her break out of her shell in the past few weeks.

We sat talking on the couch one afternoon last week and it hit us. During a quiet moment in the conversation, we heard…..silence. Cristina anxiously looked around and our little ‘bug’ (as we affectionately refer to her – a term coined by her cousin Daniel, who couldn’t pronounce Isabella or Bella) was nowhere to be found! She had traveled off in her wheelchair, in to the bathroom to find her toothbrush!

This was the moment we had dreamed about (and I’ll admit, cried many nights about)……something we looked around and saw in our other friends with children her age…..exploring the world around them, playing with toys and examining the furniture/toys/decorations/etc. while their parents talked to other parents like us. For so many weeks/months, Bella was unable to do any of that……but now that is all slowly changing.

There is much work to do….and Maria Isabella’s toddler-potential has yet to be seen…..so we continue praying and working and pushing her!

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Show and tell

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This week, Bella’s physical therapist, Karen, (who has been a HUGE blessing to our family, and truly loves Bella) invited her and Cristina to the physical therapy class she teaches at Old Dominion University. (which also happens to be my parents Alma Mater)

As her class has been learning about different birth defects, Karen wanted to present Bella and explain the various therapies and exercises that are done in order to help Bella learn to crawl, “roll” and one day, walk.

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Bella and the Physical Therapy program at ODU

We don’t know where we would be or what we would do without Karen! What a blessing it is to have people who are so generous and who sincerely love Bella….we owe so much to all of her doctors and nurses (she’s pretty famous at our local Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters) What a gift it is to know that there are many who love and serve children with special needs…..God is too good to us!

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She’s smiling because of how much the Doctors and Nurses love her at CHKD…….and well, Elmo might be helping a little bit, too