Olympian's family gets support from home parish in Michigan

After a sprint, a cartwheel and one, two, three twists in the air, Jordyn Wieber landed precisely on the mat.

On July 31 Wieber, 17, earned a near flawless score on the vault — her score proved to be a major contribution to USA's women's gymnastics team's gold medal victory over Russia.

In the stands were her parents, Rita and David, who made it to the 2012 Olympics in London to watch their daughter in no small measure because of the help of their home parish in Michigan, St. Jude Catholic Parish in DeWitt, in the Diocese of Lansing.

Tickets for the women's gymnastics competition can cost thousands of dollars, causing some Olympic families to watch from their living rooms as their daughters perform.

But the St. Jude community wasn't going to let that happen, said parish office manager Christina Simon who organized a fundraiser to help cover the estimated $40,000 cost of sending the Wieber family to London.

"We'd watch her over the years progress and progress and become quite the little star," said Simon. "So as she traveled more we asked Rita if we could do anything to help the family see Jordyn. Her siblings haven't seen her compete in more than three years because it was so expensive."

Wieber was baptized at St. Jude and has been at the parish her entire career as a gymnast.

The teen told Faith magazine, Lansing's diocesan publication, that there is more to life than gymnastics.

"I like to look at my gymnastics ability as a great gift from God," she said. "Without God in my life, I feel like there would be no meaning."

In the magazine interview, she also credited her mother and father with giving her strong faith.

"My parents have always made going to church as a family important," Wieber said. "Sometimes we have to split up due to our schedules, but most of the time we are able to get to Mass together. It's a very special family time and it means a lot to me."

Simon's fundraiser drew more than 1,000 people to support Wieber, who barely managed to fit the fundraiser into her schedule just before leaving for the Olympics. One family came from as far as Indiana.

Different T-shirts were sold, including a popular "Wieber Fever" shirt mirroring the enthusiasm for teen idol Justin Bieber. So many were sold that "a good portion of DeWitt now owns a shirt in one way or another," Simon told CNS.

Also popular were her autograph on 5-by-7 cards that were being sold. Some kids even came with Corn Flakes boxes with Wieber's image in hopes of getting her autograph.

"Jordyn was amazed," said Simon. "We didn't know if 35 people would show up."

After expenses, the fundraiser managed to bring in more than $11,000, far exceeding expectations. Coupled with proceeds from a local golf club's own fundraiser, about $20,000 was donated to the Wieber family.

CNS



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January 25, 2015

  • Saturday, January 24

    Building Bridges through Intercultural Competency: A Symposium on the Future of Education and Ministry in the Church, 8:30 a.m.-12 p.m., Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles. Archbishop José H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will deliver a keynote address, which will be followed by two panel discussions on issues of intercultural competency and diversity featuring experts and practitioners working in Catholic education and other ministries in Southern California and across the United States. For more information, please contact the LMU School of Education Office of the Dean at (310) 258-8768.

    Life in the Spirit Seminar, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (Registration 8:30 a.m.), Incarnation School Auditorium, 1001, N Brand Blvd., Glendale. Led by Fr. Bill Adams C.S.s.R. (818) 421-1354.

    Journey Through Grief, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Mary & Joseph Retreat Center, 5300 Crest Rd, Rancho Palos Verdes. (310) 377-4867.

    “One Life, One Light” Requiem for the Unborn, 6 p.m., Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 West Temple Street, Los Angeles.

  • Sunday, January 25

    44th Annual Whale Fiesta, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro. Free. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium celebrates marine mammals and the beginning of the migration of the Pacific gray whales along Southern California. Activities include building a life-sized whale out of sand, “Great Duct Tape Whale Contest” and “Whale Dynamics,” where participants will be transformed into a single “living whale.” (310) 548-7562.

    “Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change” with director Jayasri Majumdar Hart, 3-5 p.m., St. Bernadette Parish, 3825 Don Felipe Dr., Los Angeles. A discussion with Ms. Hart will follow the screening.  Free.

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