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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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Bishop Olson: Liturgical fidelity fosters unity, discipleship

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 17:00

Fort Worth, Texas, Apr 2, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At the Chrism Mass celebrated during Holy Week, a Texas bishop offered reflections on the Church’s liturgical life, telling priests the straying from liturgical texts can be detrimental to the unity of Catholicism.

“The importance of Christ-centered and shared repetition in our collaborative mission as the Church requires that we avoid the addition of words or gestures that are alien to the rites and liturgical texts provided us by the Church,” said Bishop Michael Olson of Ft. Worth, Texas.

“Even though such liturgical abuses might at first glance appear to begin as good willed efforts to avoid redundancy and tedium for a people with attention spans made numb by contemporary modes of communication, such efforts remain destructive because they take us away from the repetition that bears fruit in Catholic unity,” he continued.

The bishop’s words came during the Chrism Mass celebrated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Ft. Worth, TX on March 27.

Olson described the difference between redundancy and repetition, saying “redundancy can enslave us; repetition can liberate us.”

Redundancy, Olson said, is the practice of doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of a different outcome. On the other hand, he said that repetition fosters the formation of character and “develops our incorporation into the mystery of God.”

“Redundancy has to do with vicious circularity (doing the same thing again and again without making progress or accomplishing anything except narcissistic absorption);” he explained. “Repetition has to do with the spiral: there is always forward growth and momentum in a spiral even as it circles again and again over similar words, patterns, ideas, and themes.”

“The bitter fruits of redundancy are isolation, complacency, and entitlement; the sweet fruits of repetition are gratitude, humility, and joy,” Olson continued.

The practice of faithful repetition in the liturgy is crucial to the integrity of all Masses since it unifies the universal church, Olson said.

The Texas bishop also noted that straying from liturgical norms will produce “a greater sense of isolation and entitlement to our own individual preferences and opinions,” and will lead to the dangers of redundancy, causing “a sense of confusion of Catholic identity.”

“This can destructively differentiate our parish from other parishes to the point of exclusion by maintaining unique and aberrant liturgical practices,” Olson continued.

While fidelity to the liturgy may not always be received with “a favorable response” and may lead to rejection, Olson said that fidelity to the Church’s liturgical texts “grounds us effectively in Christ.”

Olson additionally encouraged growth in pastoral leadership, which he said involves the “protection of the sheep both from the cunning of the wolf and the complacency of the hired hand who complains about the perceived redundancy of his ministry.”

“Redundancy in the spiritual life of a priest leads him to functional minimalism; repetition in the spiritual life of a priest leads him into deeper waters of conversion and configuration with the life of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church,” Olson explained.

“The essential difference in the life of the baptized Catholic between redundancy and repetition is the centrality of Jesus Christ, true God and true man,” he added.

Liturgical repetition, he said, is an antidote to the danger of redundancy.
 
“If we are to remain faithful to the mission of Christ, the mission of redemption entrusted to us through our anointings, we must repeat together the prayers of the liturgy in solidarity with every Catholic liturgical assembly in the Diocese and throughout the world in order to be saved from the slavery of redundancy.”

 

Women's ministry group hosts workshop on infertility, miscarriage

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 14:44

Phoenix, Ariz., Apr 2, 2018 / 12:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An upcoming online workshop hosted by the Catholic women’s ministry Blessed Is She will be discussing the topic of infertility and miscarriage.

The workshop, “Love and Longing: A Conversation on Infertility and Miscarriage,” will be led by Katie Waldow, a wife, youth minister, and blogger, and Molly Walter, a Catholic convert, wife, and mother.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015, over 12 percent of U.S. women ages 15-44 struggle with infertility and more than 7 million of the same age group have sought infertility services.

Additionally, around 15-20 percent of all pregnancies within the U.S. end in a miscarriage, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The upcoming class on miscarriage and infertility is free for Blessed Is She members and $15.00 for non-members. It will take place the evening of April 5.

Blessed Is She is a Catholic ministry founded by Jenna Guizar in the Diocese of Phoenix and which has been endorsed by Bishop Thomas Olmsted. The ministry is focused on building community for women while also “deepening a life of prayer starting with daily Scripture devotionals and supportive sisterhood,” according to their mission statement.

Blessed Is She also offers daily devotionals, merchandise, a blog, and various workshops, resources and retreats.

Retreat fosters healing for adult children of divorce

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 05:39

Washington D.C., Apr 2, 2018 / 03:39 am (CNA).- According to the Pew Research Center, only 46 percent of Americans under the age of 18 live in a traditional family with two parents in their first marriage.

For those who are now adults and grew up in a divorced family, the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. is seeking to help heal wounds that remain after parents divorce.

Many suffer silently from their parents’ divorce, according to Daniel Meola, who leads the ‘Recovering Origins” healing retreats for the shrine.

“Regardless of the amount of individual love our parents give us, what we've lost is the love of our parents together,” Meola explained to CNA, drawing on his own experience of his parents’ divorce. “We have to recognize that we have something to grieve.”

“Children of divorce are not, as a rule, asked how they feel about their parents’ divorce -- not as a child and not in the decades that follow,” Catholic writer, Leila Miller, wrote in her 2017 book, “Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak.”

“Our society says that the kids should be alright. There should be no problem. There's a lot of happy divorce talk … so that can kind of silence us,” explained Meola.

Although many children of divorce learn to silence their feelings, their wounds really begin to show themselves in young adulthood and in the ability to form and maintain relationships, according to Meola.

There can be “this deeper anxiety that many of us have that any good thing can turn bad at the drop of the hat or always expecting the piano to fall,” said Meola, who added that trust issues, anger, and depression are other common struggles.

Many participants in past retreats have expressed fear of repeating their parents’ mistakes. The key to addressing this concern is practicing the Church’s teaching of merciful love, Meola said.

“The form of marriage is merciful love … I think that if we can forgive our parents or even just start to forgive them that we will be starting a really good foundation for our own love and our own marriages,” he commented.

“You can love your parents and still hate the divorce,” explained Meola. “We have this beautiful distinction in the Church, at least I found very comforting, between the person and his acts. I found this very comforting actually for grieving that 'Ok, I can hate this act my parents did, but I can still love this person deeply and profoundly.'”

“I've always found it really beautiful and fascinating that Christ's strongest words on marriage in Matthew 19, saying it is indissoluble, are preceded by his strongest words on forgiveness in Matthew 18 where he tells people to forgive 77 times 7 times,” he continued. “I think that what the Scripture is suggesting there is that the form of indissolubility is merciful love.”

The Church’s teaching on self-giving love in marriage can also seem counterintuitive to adult children of divorce. “I think that one of the temptations when you are wounded is you just want to self-protect rather than give, even though giving is what is key for happiness, especially in love,” explained Meola. “Another sign of self-protecting is leaving at the first sign of problems and not addressing conflicts.”

“Cohabitation can also be a form of self-protecting,” he added.

The goal of the retreats is for the participants to bring these wounds and anxieties to Christ’s healing love. “As John Paul II said in Salvifici Doloris, if we have eyes of faith and we encounter Christ in the wound, then it can awaken love. That is the deepest level of healing that we are looking for.”

At the heart of each retreat is a detailed meditation on the Our Father. Small group discussions focus on more practical aspects of navigating healthy boundaries with one’s parents and in relationships after divorce.

“When your parents divorce, they are in survival mode and so are you, and what often happens is that you feel like you need to be the parent to the parent, rather than the child. And what I mean by that is that they often turn to you as their emotional confidant because they do not have their spouse any longer, so what happens is you don't feel the permission to share your feelings with them because they are dumping so much on you and you feel the need to help them figure out their emotional life. But in a healthy marriage, it is flipped -- the child is supposed to be getting direction about their emotional life from the parent … when you are married, you need to be each other's emotional confidant... We do have to draw a boundary,” explained Meola.

“We tend to think of boundaries as pushing the other person away, but they are actually at the service of reconciliation and having a good relationship. Because what is going to push you away is if you have an unhealthy relationship. You are going to collapse and get really angry. Boundaries are actually at the service of a good relationship with your parents,” he continued.

“Verbal abuse can be very prolific. Because we are a child of both parents, when one parent bashes the other parent, that really hurts us, because we are a fruit of that, we have qualities of that parent that they might be bashing,” continued Meola who said that the retreat can empower young people to speak up when this occurs.

“Each parent is half of who the child is. When the parents reject each other, they are rejecting half of the child. They may tell the child, ‘We still love you; we just don’t love each other.’ The child cannot make sense of this impossible contradiction. In my opinion, this is the underlying reason for the well-documented psychological, physiological, and spiritual risks that children of divorce face,” wrote Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, in the introduction to Miller’s book on adult children of divorce.

The “Recovering Origins” healing retreat was born out of an earlier symposium hosted by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in 2012 that brought together scholars who have studied the impact divorce has had on children, including Elizabeth Marquardt, whose groundbreaking book, “Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce,” was one of the first studies on the impact of divorce on young people.

Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, saw how fruitful the symposium was, and decided that the Church should offer more opportunities for healing. The Knights of Columbus and the John Paul II Institute developed the retreat, which was first held in 2016.

Each retreat is usually capped at 25 participants to encourage discussion. Speakers at the last retreat at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine on March 23-25 included Fr. Jim McCormick, MIC and Dr. Jill Verschaetse, both of whom are adult children of divorce.

The next retreat is scheduled for September 7-9 in Arlington, Virginia.

 

For former inmates, returning to society comes with challenges

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 18:18

Washington D.C., Mar 29, 2018 / 04:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For the fourth time in his pontificate, Pope Francis will wash the feet of inmates at a prison on Holy Thursday this year.

The pope, who will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Regina Coeli prison in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, has previously spoken of the importance of reintegrating former prisoners back into society.

In the United States, 65 million people have a criminal record, which can limit access to employment, housing, and education, according to James Ackerman, the president and CEO of Prison Fellowship, the nation’s largest Christian ministry serving prisoners.

“Nearly 700,000 men and women will return to our communities this year alone. Thus, it is smart...for us to implement a more restorative approach for to criminal justice, re-entry, and, in particular, employment for people with a criminal record,” said Ackeman at a prison reform panel at the National Press Club on March 28.

Lily Gonzalez was one of the panelists at the “Second Chances: Removing Barriers to Returning Citizens” event. She shared the difficulties she faced in pursuing an education after being released from prison, in which she spent extensive time in solitary confinement.

Homeboy Industries, a ministry founded by a Jesuit priest, Father Greg Boyle, helped her through their “pathways to college program.”

“It really did take a village,” reflected Gonzalez, who said that the generosity of others helped her pay for her books and parking. However, she continued to face obstacles due to her criminal record after she graduated from college.

“I had a bachelor degree and no one wanted to hire me,” she said.

This barrier to employment and other necessities to reintegrate into society can often feel like a “second prison” after one has served their time, according to Ackerman. A conviction can become a life sentence to joblessness, which can increase the likelihood of future arrests.

This issue has led several U.S. states pass laws that “Ban the Box,” which prevents inquiries about someone’s criminal record on initial job applications, postponing the inquiries until later in the application process.

“I think that when you have a box on the application you are asking the person, 'Tell me about the worst thing that you have ever done in your life,' and then as a recruiter I'm going to judge you based on that. I wouldn't ask anyone that, and I don't need to know that at that point in the process,” said a human resources executive with Butterball Farms, Bonnie Mroczek.

She shared the positive results Butterball has seen hiring former inmates.

“We've been hiring returning citizens for 23 years. We've had tons of success with it and we are sharing information with other companies about the success that we've had,” she said.

“In states and localities where there has been an evaluation of Ban the Box programs, we see that there is about a 40% increase in people with records getting hired as a result of simply postponing an inquiry about their record,” added Judy Conti, who is the federal advocacy coordinator at the National Employment Law Project.

“If you haven't met me, you haven't had a chance to talk to me and get to know who I am,” said Dennis Avila, one of the former prisoners who shared his story.

“I have convictions that involve drugs and firearms … If you just look at some of the worst things that I have done, you would just think that I was this crazy person, which isn't true at all ...coming out of prison and trying to get a job to sustain me and my family was really really hard.”

Avila had a son when he was convicted, and he was not alone in that fact. There are 2.7 million children in the U.S. with a parent in prison, according to Prison Fellowship.

Avila eventually went on to found his own nonprofit organization that uses music to positively impact people from challenging backgrounds and circumstances.

“We are proud that today a full 25% of our field staff are people who were once caught up in the cycle of crime and incarceration, but today are now part of the cycle of renewal,” shared the CEO of Christian Prison Fellowship, who spoke of the importance of engaging prisoners in “a dignified manner and help them to become healthier and more productive citizens.”

Prison Fellowship is currently active in 428 prisons across the country. According to their website, the ministry is “founded on the conviction that all people are created in God's image and that no life is beyond God's reach. As Christians, we believe that Jesus - Himself brought to trial, executed, buried, and brought to life again - offers hope, healing, and a new purpose for each life. He can make even the most broken people and situations whole again.”

The fellowship was founded in 1976 by Charles Colson in 1976 after he served seven months prison for his involvement in Watergate as a former aid to President Richard Nixon.

Colson rediscovered his faith during his time in prison. In a book entitled “Loving God: The Cost of Being a Christian,” Colson wrote the following about founding a prison ministry that has impacted the lives of thousands of people:

“My life of success was not what made this morning so glorious -- all my achievements meant nothing in God's economy. No, the real legacy of my life was my biggest failure -- that I was an ex-convict. My greatest humiliation -- being sent to prison -- was the beginning of God's greatest use of my life; He chose the one thing in which I could not glory for His glory.”

 

 

 

 

How a Church on the 'peripheries' celebrates Easter

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 13:21

Gallup, N.M., Mar 29, 2018 / 11:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Catholic Church prepares to receive thousands of Catholic converts this Easter, Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, N.M., is preparing to receive seven. Gallup’s bishop says he is grateful to celebrate the Triduum in a place many describe as the “periphery” of American culture.  

“We go back to the first Mass being celebrated here in 1539 by the Franciscan friar, Marcos de Nizo, down at the Zuni Pueblo,” Bishop James Wall of Gallup told CNA, referring to a Native American village about 40 miles outside of Gallup.

“They were some of the first people to receive the good news here, so it’s important that [this] culture and that act of worship and praise of God in the Church’s liturgy is present,” he told CNA.

Wall has served as Gallup’s bishop for nine years. The diocese includes territory in New Mexico and Arizona, over 55,000 square miles, with 53 parishes, 5 social centers, and 13 schools. Native American reservations comprise much of its territory. 64,250 Catholics live in the diocese, 12.5 percent of the area’s total population.
 
Wall said the diocese includes Hispanic families living in the area for 14 or 15 generations, along with one of the country’s highest diocesan populations of Native Americans.  The diocese has extraordinary poverty rates. Census data shows that more than 25 percent of people in the diocese live in poverty, compared to a national average near 13 percent. In some areas of the diocese, particularly on reservations, the poverty rate climbs even higher.
 
Wall said the community, though poor, is generous, and contributes musical talents and artistic gifts to celebrate the Easter Triduum.

“They are giving from their poverty, and they are giving what they are able to give. So it might not be a humongous check, but they are really giving of themselves.”

“They give up their time. They give of their talents,” said Bishop Wall. “They will do whatever they can to make the liturgy beautiful, to give of themselves, because we know that the liturgy itself is all for the glory and praise of God.”

The Easter liturgies, Wall said, will include authentic Native American drums and indigenous Catholic songs, reflecting the cultures of the Acoma, Navajo, and Laguna tribes living in the area.

Many tribes celebrate the Triduum in their home parishes, Wall explained, but the Chrism Mass at Gallup’s cathedral included songs in the language of the Laguna. Pottery and rugs from other tribes are also displayed at the cathedral.

“We try to incorporate it as best as possible in our environment. We will have Native American rugs. We’ll have pots made from the Native Americans. We’ll use some of the visuals to incorporate the cultures,” said the bishop.
 
Of 196 dioceses in the United States, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has received 85 reports from U.S. dioceses on the number of catechumens - those who will be baptized - and candidates - baptized Christians who will be confirmed - who are expected to enter the Church this year. “Based on these numbers, more than 30,000 people are expected to be welcomed into the Church at Easter Vigil Masses this Saturday,” the bishops’ conference reported.

Bishop Wall told CNA that Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup will welcome seven people into the Catholic Church this Easter, and other parishes in the diocese will receive new converts on as well.

Large dioceses like Los Angeles, Houston, and Atlanta will induct thousands of candidates and catechumens this Easter, but Wall said that, though small, the diversity and history in a diocese like his contribute to the beauty of its Easter liturgies.
 
Wall reflected on his own favorite moments of Holy Week, saying that it is moving to see Catholics return year after year to Triduum liturgies, to receive new Catholics, and also to experience Chrism Mass and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper as a priest and bishop.

“Especially as a bishop [and] as a priest, [Holy Thursday] is very, very special because of that institution of the Eucharist and the institution of the priesthood.”

“And those are the two great gifts to the Church because without the priesthood we don’t have the Eucharist, and what does the Eucharist do? It feeds us with the presence of our Lord, who is substantially present to us by his body, blood, soul, and divinity.”

 

Knights of Columbus announce Easter pledge to aid persecuted Christians

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 00:08

Hartford, Conn., Mar 28, 2018 / 10:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In light of Holy Week, the Knights of Columbus announced that it will be donating more than $1 million to aid persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

“As we recall the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, it is particularly timely for us to remember and support our brothers and sisters in Christ who have, in places like Iraq and Syria, endured so much persecution for their faith,” said Carl Anderson, Knights of Columbus CEO, in a recent statement.

“Having faced suffering and even death at the hands of ISIS, we hope that our assistance will help these communities to rise up again and rebuild for the future,” Anderson continued.

The funds contributed by the Knights of Columbus will be used in a variety of different ways. Around $500,000 will go toward a food program run by the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil.

Another $300,000 has been committed to the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, which aids upwards of 3,000 families from Iraq and Syria who have been affected by conflict in their homelands. They offer food, clothing, shelter, and aid with education or medical care.

As part of an ongoing initiative to rebuild the Iraqi town of Karemlesh in the Nineveh Plain, the Knights of Columbus are additionally contributing $250,000 to financially aid the process. Karemlesh was destroyed when it was overtaken by the Islamic State, but has since been recaptured. Since then, locals have been committed to rebuilding the primarily Christian town.

While this Easter initiative amounts to over $1 million in financial aid, the Knights of Columbus have now contributed a collective $19 million to support Christians and minorities in the Middle East since 2014.

Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil noted the significance of the funds, saying that financial support from the Knights of Columbus has contributed significantly to the ongoing presence of Christianity in the area.

“Our people know that without the direct support from the Knights of Columbus to Christians in the region, and without assistance in making our case to the United States government, Christianity might already have been driven out of Iraq completely,” Archbishop Bashar said.

Additionally, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Joseph III Younan said he has relied on the “compassion and understanding” from the Knights of Columbus in “our plight in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq.”

The Knights of Columbus is an international Catholic men’s organization with over 1.9 million members, founded upon the pillars of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.

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