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The nuns who witnessed the life and death of Martin Luther King

Sun, 01/14/2018 - 19:17

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2018 / 05:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be the first without Sister Mary Antona Ebo, the only black Catholic nun who marched with civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Ala in 1965.

“I'm here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness,” Sister Mary Antona Ebo said to fellow demonstrators at a March 10, 1965 protest attended by King. Ebo was, in fact, the only African-American nun at the protest.

The protest took place three days after the “Bloody Sunday” clash, where police attacked several hundred voting rights demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, causing some severe injuries among the non-violent marchers. 

She passed away Nov. 11, 2017 in Bridgeton, Missouri at the age of 93, the St. Louis Review reported at the time.

After the “Bloody Sunday” attacks, King had called on church leaders from around the country to go to Selma. Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter of St. Louis had asked his archdiocese’s human rights commission to send representatives, Ebo recounted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2015.

Ebo’s supervisor, also a religious sister, asked her whether she would join a 50-member delegation of laymen, Protestant ministers, rabbis, priests and five white nuns.

Just before she left for Alabama, she heard that a white minister who had traveled to Selma, James Reeb, had been severely attacked after he left a restaurant.

At the time, Ebo said, she wondered: “If they would beat a white minister to death on the streets of Selma, what are they going to do when I show up?”

In Selma on March 10, she went to Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, joining local leaders and the demonstrators who had been injured in the clash.

“They had bandages on their heads, teeth were knocked out, crutches, casts on their arms. You could tell that they were freshly injured,” she told the Post-Dispatch. “They had already been through the battle ground, and they were still wanting to go back and go back and finish the job.”

Many of the injured had been treated at Good Samaritan Hospital, run by Edmundite priests and the Sisters of St. Joseph, the only Selma hospital that served blacks. Since their arrival in 1937, the Edmundites had faced intimidation and threats from local officials, other whites, and even the Ku Klux Klan, CNN reported.

The injured demonstrators and their supporters left the Selma church, with Ebo in front. They marched towards the courthouse, then blocked by state troopers in riot gear. She and other demonstrators then knelt to pray the Our Father before they agreed to turn around.

Despite the violent interruption, the 57-mile march would draw 25,000 participants. It concluded on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, with King’s famous March 25 speech against racial prejudice.

“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” King said.

King would be dead within three years. On a fateful April 4, 1968, he was shot by an assassin at his Memphis hotel.

He had asked to be taken to a Catholic hospital should anything happen to him, and he was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis. At the time, it was a nursing school combined with a 400-bed hospital.

There, too, Catholic religious sisters played a role.

Sister Jane Marie Klein and Sister Anna Marie Hofmeyer recounted their story to The Paper of Montgomery County Online in January 2017.

The Franciscan nuns had been walking around the hospital grounds when they heard the sirens of an ambulance.  One of the sisters was paged three times, and they discovered that King had been shot and taken to their hospital.

The National Guard and local police locked down the hospital for security reasons as doctors tried to save King.

“We were obviously not allowed to go in when they were working with him because they were feverishly working with him,” Sister Jane Marie said. “But after they pronounced him dead we did go back into the E.R. There was a gentleman as big as the door guarding the door and he looked at us and said ‘you want in?’ We said yes, we’d like to go pray with him. So he let the three of us in, closed the door behind us and gave us our time.”

Hofmeyer recounted the scene in the hospital room. “He had no chance,” she said.

Klein said authorities delayed the announcement of King’s death to prepare for riots they knew would result.

Three decades later, Klein met with King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, at a meeting of the Catholic Health Association Board in Atlanta where King was a keynote speaker. The Franciscan sister and the widow of the civil rights leader told each other how they had spent that night.

Klein said being present that night in 1968 was “indescribable.”

“You do what you got to do,” she said. What’s the right thing to do? Hindsight? It was a privilege to be able to take care of him that night and to pray with him. Who would have ever thought that we would be that privileged?”

She said King’s life shows “to some extent one person can make a difference.” She wondered “how anybody could listen to Dr. King and not be moved to work toward breaking down these barriers.”

Klein would serve as chairperson of the Franciscan Alliance Board of Trustees, overseeing support for health care. Hofmeyer would work in the alliance’s archives. Last year both were living at the Provinciate at St. Francis Convent in Mishawaka, Indiana.

For her part, after Selma, Ebo would go on to serve as a hospital administrator and a chaplain.

In 1968 she helped found the National Black Sisters’ Conference. The woman who had been rejected from several Catholic nursing schools because of her race would serve in her congregation’s leadership as it reunited with another Franciscan order, and she served as a director of social concerns for the Missouri Catholic Conference.

She frequently spoke on civil rights topics. When controversy over a Ferguson, Mo. police officer’s killing of Michael Brown, a black man, she led a prayer vigil. She thought the Ferguson protests were comparable to those of Selma.

“I mean, after all, if Mike Brown really did swipe the box of cigars, it’s not the policeman’s place to shoot him dead,” she said.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis presided at her requiem Mass in November, saying in a statement “We will miss her living example of working for justice in the context of our Catholic faith.”



Catholics lament Trump's 'regrettable' comments on migrants

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 19:07

Washington D.C., Jan 12, 2018 / 05:07 pm (CNA).- Fr. Martins Emeh is a Nigerian who has been living in the United States for the past 20 years.

As a Catholic and a migrant, he told CNA that U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent remarks disparaging poor countries were “lamentable.”

On Thursday, during a meeting with lawmakers about solutions for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, Trump reportedly said he would not want more migrants coming to the United States from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.

“Why are we having all these people from s---hole countries come here?” Trump said, according to reports from the Washington Post.

On Friday, Trump tweeted that “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.” Sen. Richard Durbin, who attended the meeting, later told the Washington Post that its initial report was accurate.

Many Catholics, including Catholics who are migrants themselves, or those who have worked with migrants from these countries, said that they found the comments troublesome.

“Reports of recent disparaging remarks about African countries and Haiti have aroused great concern,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.

“All human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and comments that denigrate nations and peoples violate that fundamental truth and cause real pain to our neighbors...As a vigorous debate continues over the future of immigration, we must always be sure to avoid language that can dehumanize our brothers and sisters,” the bishops said.

Fr. Emeh, parochial vicar of Epiphany of the Lord parish in Katy, Texas and a Nigerian who has lived in the U.S. for the past 20 years, called the president’s comments “lamentable.”

“(T)he President, who should be the moral voice of the country, has turned out to be the divider-in-chief,” he told CNA.

Emeh said that the president’s comments show a lack of understanding of the continent of Africa, which is comprised of more than 50 countries, as well as a harsh dismissal of the poor.

“Trump isn’t Catholic so he probably doesn’t understand some of Catholic social justice teaching, but you don’t even have to be Catholic to appreciate social justice, the preferential option for the poor,” Emeh told CNA.

“The poor need our help,” he said, noting that the Statue of Liberty itself welcomes migrants to America with the quote: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

“I believe there’s a reason why that was engraved on the Statue of Liberty, that’s what this country is about,” he said. “A lot of the people who came here, including Trump’s (ancestors), to escape what he calls these ‘s---hole countries.’ His ancestors came here fleeing one, and now Trump doesn’t think that other people should have the same opportunity.”

Trump’s comments come amidst intense political debate over the status of various protected groups of migrants in the United States. These include DACA recipients and those with Temporary Protected Status, such as migrants from Haiti and El Salvador who came to the United States legally, fleeing natural disasters and violent political situations in their own countries.

David Quinn is a Catholic missionary from Hastings, Neb. who has lived in Haiti since the spring of 2015. Quinn told CNA that in his experience, Haitians who migrate to the United States come looking for work and want to contribute to society.

He added that the president’s reported comments were inhumane, especially in light of Catholic social teaching.

“We’re all brothers and sisters, and to say (those things) is to really reject part of our humanity, to reject our brothers and sisters. It’s just terrible,” he said.

Bill Canny, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA that the president’s comments go against what Pope Francis has asked of Catholics when it comes to the issue of migration.

“The Holy Father has asked us to gaze into every migrant’s face and see Christ in their face,” he said.

He echoed Quinn’s sentiments that on the whole, migrants are hardworking people who want to contribute to society.

“We’ve seen immigrants and refugees come into this country, and 90 percent of the refugees that we resettle are working within nine months,” he said. “There are a variety of types of work in this country available to these people, and the immigrants and refugees that come in start working right away.”

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said in statements posted to his social media accounts that DACA youth, which includes about 700,000 young people, represent the “best and the brightest” of the immigrants to the U.S.

“On Tuesday, the President suggested that he would sign whatever Congress brought him on the issue of DACA and a broader immigration reform. When he met with the bipartisan leaders to discuss their negotiations yesterday he brought with him some of the most hardline of the immigration restrictionists – people from FAIR and Numbers USA. His remarks laid bare the true motivations of those that want to close our nation to immigrants and hopefully these remarks have discredited the restrictionists' position,” he said.

“So now is the time for Congress to move ahead – to give a path to residency and citizenship to DACA recipients as well as to TPS beneficiaries, and to bring about comprehensive immigration reform that legalizes those irregular migrants already in the country and addresses border security in a rational way and provides an avenue for work-based visas when the labor market requires workers that cannot be found in the country,” he added.

Several other Catholic leaders spoke out against the president’s reported sentiments on their social media pages.

Obianuju Ekeocha, an international pro-life speaker and founder of Culture of Life Africa, said that people from the poor countries that the president reportedly disparaged understand the “inestimable worth and dignity” of every human being.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago said in a tweet that migrants “made America great. We continue to be enriched by the gifts they bring to our shores,” he said.

Fr. Emeh added that while the president’s comments are discouraging, Christians and people of goodwill should not lose hope.

“We can’t give up. The president gets four or maybe eight years to do what he wants to do, but as preachers of the Gospel, we continue to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ,” he said.

“Jesus Christ wasn’t hanging out with just the rich, he looked to the poor, to the sick and the dying, those in need of help, and that’s where our focus should be. And as long as I live, that’s the Gospel I’ll continue to preach and live.”


Bill to aid victims of child pornography passes US Senate committee

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 18:38

Washington D.C., Jan 12, 2018 / 04:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The damaging effects of child pornography are undoubtedly incalculable, but a bipartisan bill has been introduced to bring its victims financial restitution and means for emotional healing.

The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Jan. 11.

“Child pornography leaves in its wake a trail of tragedy and shattered life. While public policy may never eradicate this evil altogether, it can at least alleviate the suffering of its victims,” read a Jan. 10 op-ed by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Dr. David Corwin published in the Daily Herald.

Hatch, former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced the bill Nov. 16, 2017 alongside Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Corwin is president-elect of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.

Titled the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act, the bill is named out of respect for the victims of the some of the most widely circulated child pornography series in the world.

“Child pornography is different than other crimes in the way it continuously hurts victims,” Hatch said. “Victims of this insidious crime deserve assistance tailored to how often the offense imposes harm, especially when images are trafficked on the internet. The Amy, Vicky, and Andy Act will provide meaningful assistance for victims to help them recover and reclaim their lives.”

Feinstein said that “the sexual abuse and exploitation of children is one of the most heinous crimes and child-pornography victims are affected for the rest of their lives. Our bill makes it easier for these victims to secure restitution from those that produce and traffic child pornography.”

Unlike a bill passed over two decades ago which requires restitution for victims of sexual abuse, this new bill seeks healing for reoccurring damages of child pornography victims, which may worsen due to the explicit material being shared on the internet.

According to the op-ed, a recent study has shown that 70 percent of adults who are victims of child pornography are afraid of being recognized by someone who has viewed the images of their sexual abuse. An estimated 30 percent have reported having been recognized.

“Few could name a more traumatic experience than being sexually abused during childhood. But photographs or video of that abuse circulating on the Internet can turn a victim’s life into a never-ending nightmare,” said Hatch and Corwin.

“The Supreme Court itself has acknowledged that ‘every viewing of child pornography is a repetition of the victim’s abuse.’”

Under the bill, victims of child pornography trafficking would receive from each defendant between $3,000 and one percent of their total losses as restitution.

Victims of child pornography production could receive a single compensatory payment of $35,000.

Perpetrators would be fined up to $17,000 for possession, $35,000 for distribution, and $50,000 for production crimes.

“The ongoing nature of child pornography’s harm means that its victims can require lifelong treatment to address their chronic distress,” Hatch and Corwin said, noting the money could fund the physiological aid that may be necessary for healing.

Child pornography victims would have the same access to images depicting them as do defendants, so as to facilitate victim identification, forensic analysis, and treatment.

Although the bill is still in its early stages, the victims after whom the bill is named have expressed gratitude for its introduction, and have called on Congress to advance it.

“I’m lucky, and so is Vicky and Amy and so many other mostly silent victims out there, to have you on our side and everyone else in the Senate,” said Andy, one of the victims.

“This bill is an important and needed step in the process of healing and making those who have harmed so many accountable for the damage done. We are thankful for the efforts of all who have brought this to this point and urge Congress to go the last mile to make this happen,” wrote Vicky and her husband.

Father Matthew Lamb, influential American theologian, dies at 80

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 13:43

Ave Maria, Fla., Jan 12, 2018 / 11:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Matthew Lamb, the Cardinal Maida Chair of Theology at Ave Maria University, died early Friday morning, the university announced. A fitting conclusion to a life dedicated to education and a teaching career of 45 years, Lamb died in the company of two graduate students, who were keeping a prayer vigil at his bedside.  

He died after a brief illness caused by pulmonary fibrosis. Lamb was 80 years old.  Officials at Ave Maria University report that in the days leading to his death, he spoke openly about his desire to meet Jesus, and received the anointing of the sick and the Eucharist.

Lamb was born in Washington, D.C., in 1937, and entered the Trappist Monastery of the Holy Spirit in May, 1952. He was ordained a priest in 1962 in the Abbey Church. He later became a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

He earned a licentiate in sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1966, and in 1974, completed a doctorate in theology at the Westfalsche Wilhems University in Munster, Germany.  

During doctoral studies in Germany, he was formed by influential philosophers and theologians Josef Pieper, Fr. Bernard Lonergan, and Fr. Josef Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.

Lamb taught at Marquette University, and later Boston College. While teaching in Boston, he was a cofounder of an influential academic study group on the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, which drew scholars from Boston College, Harvard University, Providence College, and other institutions.  

He co-founded the Society for Catholic Liturgy in 1995, and the Academy for Catholic Theology in 2007. He served as a board member of the American Academy of Religion, the Catholic Theological Society of America, the Archdiocese of Denver Theological Institute, and the John XXIII National Seminary.      

He was the author of 12 books and hundreds of scholarly articles and papers. He was a member of the editorial board for Communio, a theological journal cofounded by Fr. Josef Ratzinger.

Fr. Lamb was an advocate for the development of rigorous and faithful centers of theological study, rooted in Catholic methodologies and practices. In 1997, he wrote that “there is no doctoral program in North America with a rigorous ratio studiorum that offers an integral formation in the doctrinal and theoretical traditions of Catholic teaching.”  

In 2004 he left Boston College, with the intention of beginning such a program at Ave Maria University. For 10 years, he served as chairman of the university’s department of theology, where he drew renowned faculty to teach scripture, patristics, and systematic theology. In 2014, he stepped down from his administrative position, but continued to teach and write.

He was known as a serious intellectual, a prudent spiritual director, and an instrumental part of the renewal of American Catholic universities after the publication of Pope St. John Paul II’s Ex corde ecclesiae in 1990.

He had been honored with an honorary doctorate from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, the Robert Bellarmine Award from the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Ex Corde Ecclesiae and Veritas Medals from Ave Maria University, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Maritain Association.

In 2014, writer Michael Novak wrote that Lamb “has passed along to others his own contemplation in the presence of the Love of the Holy Trinity, where all theology begins.”

Funeral arrangements for Fr. Lamb have not yet been announced.

'Made for Love' a new podcast focusing on marriage, family

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 05:04

Washington D.C., Jan 12, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Made for Love is a new podcast that aims to convey the truth about marriage and families by helping Catholics tell stories of God's work in their lives.

Hosted by Sara Perla, a program specialist for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Made for Love is under the aegis of Marriage: Unique for a Reason, an initiative of the bishops' conference.

While the podcast is focused on people “living out the call to love,” it is not afraid to explore the less-rosy forms of “love” in the world. During the show, Perla speaks with guests about each episode's theme, while also narrating a framework of what the episode is about.

In the series’ first three episodes, Perla discusses the relatively unique phenomenon of a priest who is able to baptize his own parents; a woman who had to care for her terminally ill spouse during the majority of their marriage; and a woman who sought a declaration of nullity for her marriage.

While these topics may seem dicey, or even dark, Perla told CNA she thought it important to share these stories, and she thinks her listeners can be helped by hearing what others have gone through.

“I do think it’s important to get real about the challenges that people face, and that we all benefit from seeing how other people get through hard times,” said Perla. She continued, saying that when someone has suffered through a trying situation, they can use what they’ve learned to help others.

“When you’ve suffered in a dramatic way, had time to process that, and come to a place where you are ready to speak about it, others can benefit from the lessons that the Lord taught you through that experience,” Perla said.

Perla hopes the podcast is able to reach Catholics who may feel alone in their faith or who might need encouragement. She also hopes that she’s able to reach non-Catholics with the podcast, and is able to convey successfully the beauty of the faith.

“If I do my job well, the podcast will inform people of the 'whys' of Catholic teaching and expose them to resources they may not have known were out there,” explained Perla. “I think it could be a useful tool for teachers and catechists as well.”

Perla hopes to to publish at least two episodes a month, and upcoming episodes will be coordinated with various awareness weeks, such as National Marriage Week.

Made for Love can be streamed on iTunes.

Couple sues abortion clinic for malpractice

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 21:00

Denver, Colo., Jan 11, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Boulder abortion clinic is accused of malpractice, after allegedly leaving nearly two inches of a fetus’ skull inside a patient’s uterus during a late-term abortion, apparently forcing a patient to undergo a hysterectomy.
Jennifer and Jason DeBuhr filed a lawsuit against Dr. Warren Hern and the Boulder Abortion Clinic in 2015, according to the Denver Post. The botched abortion, and subsequent hysterectomy, left the couple unable to conceive a baby.

“The harm that Dr. Hern caused is reflective of the general nature of carelessness for patients that abortionists hold,” said Matt Lamb, a spokesperson for Students for Life.  

Terry Dougherty, the couple’s attorney, said Hern allegedly failed to inform the couple of the procedure’s risks. Additionally, he said the doctor had failed to inspect the fetal remains to confirm the completion of the process, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star.

“Abortion is never safe, because at a minimum it ends the life of a preborn baby,” Lamb said.  

The clinic’s attorney, Cook Olson, has denied the accusations.

DeBuhr traveled to Boulder from Southeast Nebraska in December 2013, for an abortion during the 25th week pregnancy. A prenatal MRI had shown that her unborn child was missing a portion of his brain, and would likely live less than a year, according to court records.

Although DeBuhr says that she was not advised of any complications in the procedure, a 2014 ultrasound discovered that a 4 centimeter-long skull fragment was embedded in the wall of her uterus.

In 2016, Hern was the subject of a congressional investigation into the practices of late-term abortionists. The panel requested information on any infants who were born alive at his clinic and the babies’ records thereafter. According to the Denver Post, Hern refused to provide any of the requested documentation, calling the panel a “witchhunt.”

The Journal-Star reported that the lawsuit began Monday and is expected to last 10 days.


What’s the secret to happiness? The beatitudes, this priest says

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 14:27

Charleston, S.C., Jan 11, 2018 / 12:27 pm (CNA).- A parish priest in South Carolina has developed a beatitude challenge that seeks to combat cultural misunderstanding of happiness and encourage Christians to pursue authentic joy.

“The word ‘happiness’ has been hijacked by secular culture, and as Christians we want to take the word back, because that’s a word that properly belongs inside the life of the beatitudes,” said Father Jeff Kirby, pastor at Our Lady of Grace parish in Indian Land, South Carolina.

“In the end, happiness is knowing we are blessed and loved by God, and seeking always to be a blessing and an instrument of love to those around us,” he told CNA.

The “Be Blessed Challenge” has three parts: a book, a website, and a DVD.

The book is called Kingdom of Happiness: Living the Beatitudes in Everyday Life. Each of the book’s eight chapters examines one beatitude, offering examples of the virtues in daily life as well as prayers that coincide with the specific beatitude.

Also entitled Kingdom of Happiness, the companion DVD focuses on powerful stories of people who have lived the beatitudes, both in ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. An example of “Blessed are the merciful” is a woman whose brother and son were killed in the line of duty as police officers. After their deaths, she purposely reached out to the state to request the death penalty not be administered to the murderer.

The website maps out practical ways to live the beatitudes. It includes definitions of each beatitude, psalms and other reflections for each day, and challenges to implement the beatitude in a concrete way.

Father Kirby received his doctorate at Holy Cross University in Rome. He said happiness and the beatitudes were a major theme for the school’s moral theology department, but when he later became a pastor, he realized that his parishioners were pursuing happiness inadequately.

“I’ve realized that the work in the academic classroom, in theology, is not reaching as broadly as we would have liked – the peoples in the pews [and] in the trenches.”

He said the desire to instruct people in the true meaning of happiness arose out of a frustration over seeing people accept a hopeless and unhappy life as the norm.

People seem to have the impression that happiness belongs only to childhood dreams and that hopelessness is the normal human state in life.

But this belief is incorrect, he stressed. Being truly happy is found in being truly human, living out the beatitudes

“Happiness is not just about euphoria, it’s not just about an emotional high, [and] it’s not just pleasure,” he emphasized.  

True happiness is achievable, he said, but it requires a level of suffering and self-sacrifice that people rarely associated with happiness. Instead, the culture clings to hedonism, materialism, and egotism, he said.

“It will involve an aspect of sacrifice,” he acknowledged, but “if we are willing to take up that challenge and make the sacrifices, and we are willing to suffer, then we will understand the full breath and the full enrichment happiness can give to us and those around us.”



How Catholic Extension support migrants along the US-Mexico border

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 07:00

Denver, Colo., Jan 11, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A U.S. cardinal has called Catholics to support the needs of refugees and immigrants living along the 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico.

“The story of our salvation in Jesus begins with the story of refugees. The Holy Family were refugees,” reflected Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, chancellor of Catholic Extension, in a recent documentary detailing ministries supported by the missionary support apostolate.

Catholic Extension has invested more than $12 million dollars in Catholic ministries along the U.S.-Mexico border region in the past five years, according to Catholic Extension.
“It is at the core of who we are to ensure that those who are on a journey are protected by the Church and that we advocate on their behalf,” Cupich added

A papal society founded to support Catholic underfunded parishes and dioceses in the United States, the organization provides grants for projects that support migrants along the 2,000-mile US border with Mexico. Recent projects in the border region have included emergency shelters for women and children, and legal resources for asylum seekers.

In McAllen, Texas, parishioners of Sacred Heart Catholic Church have utilized their parish hall to aid 74,000 women and children entering the U.S. since the Central American child refugee crisis in June 2014. A $100,000 grant from Catholic Extension funded the construction of a new facility for their Humanitarian Respite Center.

The center provides a bed, warm shower, clothes, and phone service to those awaiting asylum court hearings after being paroled from detention centers. The center primarily serves families from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, countries plagued by poverty, persistent gang violation, and corruption.

“What I see is the need to respond to the dignity of the people that we see coming to our border and that need our help,” said Sister Norma Pimentel in a statement released by Catholic Extension. Pimentel was praised by Pope Francis for her leadership at the Humanitarian Respite Center during his pastoral trip to the U.S.-Mexico border last year.

The Extension-funded La Posada Providencia emergency shelter in San Benito, Texas, worked with more 350 university students and 100 other volunteers in 2016 to serve refugees and asylum seekers.

Catholic Extension funds the construction of churches, provides education for ordained and lay leaders, and supports catechetical and service ministries within geographically large, underfunded “mission dioceses,” including several in the border region.

Since its founding by Father Francis Clement Kelley in 1905, Catholic Extension has contributed more than $500 million to Catholic dioceses in need across the country, including $120 million to dioceses along the United States border with Mexico.

Cardinal: Fight racism with love to honor MLK's legacy

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 02:11

Washington D.C., Jan 11, 2018 / 12:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Americans must recommit to the fight against racism through love and faith, said the head of the U.S. bishops’ conference in the days leading up to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“In recent years – including last summer in Charlottesville – we have glimpsed an appalling truth that lurks beneath the surface of our culture. Even with all the progress our country has made on the issue, racism remains a living reality,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a Jan. 10 statement.

“As our nation celebrates the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we are given an important time to recommit ourselves to the Gospel message he preached, that the sin of racism can be defeated by active love and the light of faith,” DiNardo continued.

The U.S. honors the legacy of Dr. King by marking the third Monday of January as MLK Day – an American federal holiday. Celebrations throughout the country commend his life and achievements in the name of equality and civil rights.

Cardinal DiNardo quoted Dr. King’s 1958 essay, in which the civil rights leader said: “Along the way of life, someone must have the sense enough and the morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.”

In today’s world, DiNardo said, “breaking the chain of hate” requires not only courage, but also commitment. In addition to Dr. King’s witness, the cardinal pointed to the example of Sr. Mary Antona Ebo, a Franciscan sister who was the first African-American nun to march with Dr. King during the famous Selma to Montgomery march in 1965.

Sr. Ebo is known to have said that she marched because she was “a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness.” She died last year at the age of 93.

“She remained a bold and dedicated champion of civil rights throughout her lifetime, and her witness should inspire our own,” DiNardo said.

He challenged Americans to renew their commitment to human dignity by following the examples of Dr. King and Sr. Ebo, working to end the plague of racism and hatred.

“We pray in confidence that Jesus Christ will remind us all that he is the most powerful means to break the chains of hate that still bind too many hearts, a truth which lies at the center of Dr. King’s legacy,” DiNardo said.

“Our challenge is to bring Dr. King’s message into the present moment in a way that inspires lasting change.”

Nebraska governor plans to block federal funds from abortion clinics

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 21:00

Lincoln, Neb., Jan 10, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Unveiled on Wednesday, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts’ new state budget proposal would block federal funds from going to health clinics that provide abortion services.

Ricketts said that the move makes sense because of the values of Nebraska voters.

“Nebraska is a pro-life state, and the state’s budget should reflect those values,” Ricketts said in a statement on Monday.

The governor’s proposal takes advantage of a newly relaxed policy from Congress last year that gives states more leeway in determining the distribution of Title X funds, which are federal funds earmarked for providing family planning and related health services such as contraception.

“Thanks to action by Congress, Nebraska can now take new steps to protect unborn life by ensuring that these dollars are not used to fund abortion,” Ricketts said.

Title X funds are technically banned from being used for abortion services by the federal government, though this is often not enforced at the state level. The new Nebraska budget plan would require clinics that provide abortions either to physically and financially separate abortion clinics from their other services, or to refuse Title X funding altogether.

“With this change, no health clinics can receive funding unless they are truly separate and independent of any entity that performs abortions,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Tom Venzor, Executive Director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, applauded the governor’s efforts to separate Title X funding from abortions.

“This provision in our state budget will finally end the use of Title X money to prop up and help finance the abortion industry in Nebraska,” Venzor told CNA. “The policy will ensure that organizations and facilities that perform, counsel for, or refer for abortion will no longer receive state money through Title X, until they separate their abortion activity from their Title X services.”

“We are thankful for a governor who works to affirm the protection of unborn life in our state,” Venzor added. The budget proposal was officially unveiled by Ricketts on Wednesday in his annual State of the State speech. If enacted, it would potentially cut funding from Planned Parenthood clinics in Lincoln and Omaha which provide abortions and any other independent clinics that provide abortion services.  

It is the second consecutive year that Ricketts has attempted to separate Title X funding from abortions. Last year, while the proposal was in the governor’s original budget plan, but it was dropped by the time it reached the full state legislature.

In a statement Monday, Lt. Governor Mike Foley said that he and Ricketts “strongly urge State Senators to enact this recommendation, and we look forward to working with them to help Nebraska’s budget reflect our pro-life values.”

Bishops stand with 'Dreamers' as DACA battles continue

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 17:54

Washington D.C., Jan 10, 2018 / 03:54 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders have responded to developments in the legal battle over the DACA program, including a court order maintaining legal protections for undocumented youth, known as “Dreamers,” and a presidential commitment to legislative support for them.

U.S. District Judge William Alsap’s Jan. 9 order temporarily blocks President Trump’s attempt to phase out the DACA program, which was initiated by President Obama in 2012. Nearly 690,000 undocumented immigrants are beneficiaries of the DACA program. 

While President Trump has worked to phase out the program, he has also called for a legislative solution to resolve the immigration status of DACA recipients. In a televised meeting with bipartisan lawmakers Tuesday, President Trump that he hopes to reach a solution for DACA recipients with a “bill of love.”

In a recent column, Archbishop José Gomez expressed concern for the estimated 125,000 DACA recipients who live within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, all of whom could face deportation when the program ends in March.

“It would be cruel to punish them for the wrongs of their parents, deporting them to countries of origin that they have never seen, where they may not even know the language,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.

The archbishop called for systematic immigration reform, explaining that most DACA recipients have not experienced a healthy U.S. immigration system in their lifetime.

“This debate is passionate and partisan, as it should be. Systematic reform of our immigration policy is absolutely vital to our nation’s future. And we need to have this conversation. But Congress needs to separate the conversation about DACA from these larger issues.”

Deportation of DACA recipients, Gomez said, “would lead to a humanitarian crisis.”

The DACA program postponed deportation of undocumented immigrants under the age of 30, who had been brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. since June 2007.

DACA participants are eligible to apply for work permits, obtain social security numbers, and, in most cases, apply for a driver’s license. In 2017, a group of business leaders explained that if DACA recipients were deported, “our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.”

In a Jan.10 statement, Bishop Joe Vasquez, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, wrote that bishops are “encouraged by the consensus that emerged from yesterday’s White House meeting that Congress and the President should move expeditiously to craft and enact legislation that would provide urgently needed relief for Dreamers. For years, these young people have been living in and enriching the United States in many ways. They are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes and communities. They and their families deserve certainty, compassion, generosity, and justice.”

Vasquez also called for financially sound, effective, and safe measures to strengthen national security at the US border. “Our teaching acknowledges and respects the right of sovereign nations to control their borders,” he wrote. “However, we caution against introducing unrelated, unnecessary, or controversial elements of immigration policy—especially those that jeopardize the sanctity of families or unaccompanied children—into the bipartisan search for a just and humane solution for the Dreamers.”

The Minnesota Catholic Conference recently organized a postcard campaign urging lawmakers to support bipartisan legislation that “protects the dignity of every human being,” particularly the “immigrant youth who entered the United States as children and know America as their only home.”  Other Catholic organizations have organized similar campaigns.

“As a nation, we have a moral and humanitarian obligation to Dreamers,” Vasquez wrote.


Speaker Paul Ryan will headline March for Life

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 14:52

Washington D.C., Jan 10, 2018 / 12:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) will address the upcoming March for Life, organizers announced on Wednesday. This is the first time Ryan has spoken at the March for Life in person since he was elected speaker in 2015.

The 45th annual March for Life will take place on January 19th in Washington, D.C., and is the country’s largest pro-life protest. The event is held each year near the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

Last year, Ryan appeared at the march via a video message, encouraging marchers and thanking them for their passion and courage in fighting for the unborn.

On Twitter, Ryan said that he looked forward to attending the March for Life, and said that he will “march to defend the rights of those who cannot defend themselves.”


We march to defend the rights of those who cannot defend themselves. I look forward to attending the 45th annual #MarchForLife next week.

— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) January 10, 2018


March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a press release that she was honored that Ryan would be speaking at the March for Life. Ryan, said Mancini, is an “unwavering champion” for the cause.

“It is an honor to have Speaker of the House Paul Ryan address the 45th annual March for Life. Speaker Ryan has been an unwavering champion for the pro-life cause since taking office, and continues to utilize his post to promote the inherent dignity of the human person at all stages of life,” she said.

Ryan will be joined at the March for Life by his congressional colleagues Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), along with Tim Tebow’s mother, Pam Tebow, and Sister Bethany Madonna of the Sisters of Life. More speakers will be announced in the future.

The theme of this year’s march is “Love Saves Lives.” Over 100,000 people are expected to attend.


Commentators Douthat and Faggioli to debate Pope Francis

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 14:00

New York City, N.Y., Jan 10, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Two commentators on Pope Francis, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat and Villanova University theology professor Massimo Faggioli, will debate the Pope’s impact on the U.S. and the Church.
The debate, titled “Francis@Five: Assessing the Legacy of Pope Francis Five Years After His Election,” will be held in New York City Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. at the 12th Floor Lounge of Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus.
The Center on Religion and Culture is co-sponsoring the event with the Religion News Foundation and Religion News Service. The Canada-based Salt + Light Television will be the event’s media partner, the Religion News Foundation said Jan. 8.
The two debate participants “offer two important and distinct perspectives on Pope Francis and his impact on the church universal, and especially the Pope’s impact on the U.S.,” said Tom Gallagher, president and CEO of the Religion News Foundation and publisher of RNS, the foundation’s subsidiary.
David Gibson, Director of the Center on Religion and Culture at Fordham University and a past national reporter for RNS, will moderate the event.
In a Sept. 20 New York Times column, Douthat had advocated more “serious argument” and “respectful debate” amongst academics, theologians, and bishops, instead of “conflicting inquisitions, liberal and conservative,” .
“There is no way forward save through controversy. Postpone the inquisitions; schedule arguments instead,” he wrote.
Douthat, who is Catholic, had noted the firings or speech cancellations affecting prominent Catholics. He mentioned Prof. Joseph Seifert, a Catholic philosopher dismissed from the University of Granada in Spain after raising questions about the Pope’s 2016 exhortation Amoris laetitia. Douthat also cited Catholic University of America’s cancellation of Father James Martin, S.J.’s appearance following controversy over his book on LGBT outreach.
In his Sept. 20 column, the New York Times columnist cited an October 2015 advocacy campaign of over 50 academics, organized by Faggioli, objecting to Douthat’s commentary on the Synod on the Family and questioning his ability to comment on theological affairs.
“I myself am only a train ride away from Professor Faggioli’s Villanova and would happily allow him to educate me on my theological deficiencies on a platform of his choosing,” Douthat said.
Faggioli said he welcomed the debate.
“The opportunities to meet in person and discuss with fellow Catholics with different perspectives have become rare these days and I am grateful to all those--Ross Douthat first of all--who made this possible,” Faggioli told CNA Jan. 9.

“I believe that the most important differences about our views of Pope Francis is in term of perspective and point of view about the meaning of this pontificate,” he said. “I try to look at Pope Francis in the framework of a global Catholicism and not just from the perspective of the United States. An exclusively American perspective makes it almost automatic for the American debate on Francis to label him as a conservative or as a liberal.”
Faggoli sees himself as taking “an historical perspective” on this papacy, not seeing the Francis papacy as just “a reversal or confirmation of the previous pontificate.”
“The narrative on Francis as the cause of instability and uncertainty in the Catholic Church today is typical of an American perspective with insufficient attention to the dynamism of Church history,” he said.

CNA contacted Douthat for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.
Douthat’s 2015 academic critics, including Faggioli, were themselves the subject of critique from Bishop Robert Barron.
“If a doctorate in theology were a bottom-line prerequisite, we would declare the following people unqualified to express an opinion on matters religious: Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis, William F. Buckley, W.H. Auden, or to bring things more up to date, Fr. James Martin, George Weigel, and E.J. Dionne,” Bishop Barron said in October 2015 on his website Word on Fire Ministries.
“In point of fact, it is often the case that those outside of the official academy often have the freshest and most insightful perspectives, precisely because they aren’t sequestered in the echo-chamber of politically correct faculty lounge discourse,” he said.

Pregnant women find family at California shelter

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 05:28

Orange, Calif., Jan 10, 2018 / 03:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Raised by an alcoholic mother and without her birth father, Cordiella James found out she was pregnant while she was in jail in Orange County.

Her future at the time seemed bleak, but today, Cordiella says her life is full of blessings. She has learned how to manage her finances, is an office manager at a manufacturing employment agency, and has an apartment where she lives with her son.

Cordiella credits much of her transformation to the help and resources she received from Precious Life Shelter, a homeless shelter for pregnant women in Los Alamitos, California. She says the shelter and its programs saved her life.

“When I entered the doors of the shelter, of course I was scared, I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t even know I was going to stay there,” she told CNA.

“I’ve just been very, very blessed. I just thank God and I thank the community for putting their part into Precious Life Shelter.”

Cordiella is one of more than 3,000 pregnant, homeless women who have come through the doors of Precious Life Shelter since 1989. The goal, said executive director Theresa Murphy, is helping women not only to get off the street, but to become self-sufficient.

About half of the women who move beyond the first stage of the programs offered by Precious Life Shelter will go on to remain in the job market, continue parenting their child, save money, and move into independent living, she told CNA.

Unfortunately, she noted, other women fall back into their former life. The transition out of homelessness can be extremely difficult, and even a 50 percent success rate is extremely encouraging.

Precious Life Shelter was founded by Theresa Sherrin, a volunteer at a local women’s center. One day, she and her husband received a call from the center that a young woman there was in need of a safe place to stay until her child was born.

The Sherrins, who already had six children, offered her room at their home until she had the baby, whom she placed up for adoption. After she left, the family went on to open the doors of their home to more than 44 pregnant women. Seeing how great the need was, they eventually opened Precious Life Shelter in Los Alamitos at the beginning of 1989.

“They really realized how many women did not have a safe place to stay and have their child, and the danger of termination or abuse was very great. That was the birthing of Precious Life Shelter,” continued Murphy, who has been with organization since the beginning.

The first shelter contained just six beds and two cribs, but the organization has since expanded to 32 beds and an infant care center, where daycare services are provided for 10 children under the age of two. The organization will usually see around 80-100 women a year.

Precious Life focuses heavily on teaching women to be self-sufficient, with the help of three programs to address various needs.

The first step is the Emergency Program, a short-term solution for pregnant women to have immediate shelter for up to 30 nights. This allows women to remove themselves from negative situations, such as relationship violence, drug abuse, or prostitution.

Since the organization does not allow women to repeat any level of the program, residents at this stage have the opportunity to decide whether to pursue the next step, the Transitional Program. Here, women have lodging for about two to six months, or until about two months after their baby’s birth. During that time, they participate in several character and professional development classes. They are also encouraged to reunite with their families to develop a proper support system.

If reunification with family is not possible, then the women may apply for the Single Parent Efficiency Program, which allows the mother to stay until the child is two years old. In order to qualify, the residents must have a full-time job and participate in more self-improvement courses.

For Cordiella, the programs at Precious Life Shelter offered support in gathering the identification documents necessary to find a job, and maintaining accountability in fighting substance abuse.

“Anything that you need, they help you out with…When I entered the program, I had 25 dollars and a bag of clothes, that weren’t even mine…to (now) having a two-bedroom apartment for me and my son,” Cordiella told CNA.  

“They give you an apartment, so you have to learn how to clean it, to maintain it, to take care of your child, while holding down a full-time job.”

Although reconnecting with her parents would not be healthy right now, Cordiella said she has found support through the women at the shelter, calling them her “handpicked family from God.”

As Precious Life continues to grow, Cordiella will be entering the shelter’s new permanent housing program, which will offer four women access to two-bedroom apartments at a discounted rate.

Before entering the program, many of these women have no idea how to take care of themselves or their child, Murphy said.  

But their transformations are profound and joy-filled, she continued, explaining that some women even return to give back to the shelter.

“We see those clients coming back to us either as board members, educators and mentors to our clients, or are now paying it forward to share apartments so [other women will] have a safe place to stay,” Murphy said.


The story behind an anti-Nazi priest and a Florida miracle

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 18:57

Palm Beach, Fla., Jan 9, 2018 / 04:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- More people need to know about the Dutch priest Blessed Titus Brandsma and his heroic death in a Nazi concentration camp, according to a Florida priest who says Brandsma’s intercession led to a miraculous healing from cancer.
“He was bold. He was brave,” Father Michael Driscoll, 76, told CNA. “He knew when he was in the pulpit preaching that there were people in the congregations taking notes for the Nazis about what he would be saying. Yet he continued.”
Driscoll has faced his own struggles. He was diagnosed with advanced melanoma in 2004. Shortly after that, someone gave him a small piece of Brandsma’s black suit, which the American priest applied to his head each day.
He underwent major surgery, with doctors removing 84 lymph nodes and a salivary gland. He then went through 35 days of radiation treatment, the Boca Raton Sun-Sentinel reports.
Still, his cancer had a very poor survival rate, of only 10 to 15 percent after ten years.
“Doctors have stated Fr. Driscoll’s cancer is now gone and have said his good health over the past 12 years defies all odds,” the Diocese of Palm Beach said Dec. 13. “They have stated his healing and recovery from Stage 4 cancer cannot be explained medically."

Driscoll recounted his doctor’s words three and a half years ago: “no need to come back, don’t waste your money on airfare in coming back here. You’re cured. I don’t find any more cancer in you.”

The apparent miracle could lead to the canonization of Bl. Titus Brandsma. The Palm Beach diocese, where Driscoll serves as a retired priest, sent its findings and evidence to the Vatican in December 2017.

Brandsma, a Netherlands-born Carmelite priest, was a professor and a journalist. He was a strong critic of Nazi ideology. After the Nazis occupied his country in May 1940, they persecuted Jewish citizens and laid increasing restrictions on others.

The priest defended freedom of Catholic education and of the Catholic press against Nazi pressures.

“He was a spokesperson for the Dutch bishops,” Driscoll said. “He got the message across against the Nazis and what they were doing against the Catholic press, the Catholic schools, the persecution of Jews, you name it.”

Due in part to Brandsma’s refusal to expel Jewish children from Catholic schools and because he opposed mandatory Nazi propaganda in Catholic newspapers, he was arrested by the Nazis in January 1942. He was was eventually sent to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, joining 2,700 other clergy. He faced inhumane conditions and abuse from his captors.

“He apparently was very kind to other prisoners, telling them to forgive the people who were persecuting them and punishing them in this prison, giving up little bits of his food to others,” Driscoll recounted.

Non-German priests weren’t allowed to celebrate Mass in the camp, where the majority of the priests were Polish.

Still, Brandsma carried out priestly duties.
“The German priests used to smuggle the Eucharist to him so he could distribute it to various prisoners, by an eyeglass case. That’s where he hid the Eucharist,” said Driscoll. “He would go around giving encouragement to other prisoners and giving them the Eucharist too, as best he could.”

Brandsma, who was always frail, was sent to the prison hospital.
“It is said that anybody who went to this prison hospital never came out,” Driscoll said. “Probably when he went there, he knew all sorts of things might happen to him.

The hospital’s doctors regularly engaged in human experimentation.
Driscoll said a nurse gave Brandsma a lethal injection on July 26, 1942 and he died immediately. His remains were likely cremated within a day. He was 61 years old.
A nurse on duty at the time of the priest’s death later testified that the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, had ordered his death.
“Before he died, he gave this person his rosary, which was a rather primitive rosary, made with some kind of beads,” Driscoll said. “He told her to pray the rosary. She objected that she didn’t understand how and wasn’t a believer anymore.”
“He said all you have to do is go from bead to bead and say ‘pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.’ And just keep saying ‘pray for us sinners, pray for us sinners’. And that’s enough,” the American priest recounted.
Brandsma was beatified in November 1985 as a martyr for the faith.
For Driscoll, the priest’s life teaches us “to preach the gospel boldly, forcefully, and not be afraid.”
“I think that’s one of the important issues,” he said. “Being kind to one another, as he was to his fellow prisoners, and try to console them when they fell down. I assume many of them were totally depressed by their condition. He encouraged people.
Driscoll also reflected on the nature of faith, sickness and healing. Those who suffer illness should “try their best… try to not lose hope.”
“It’s faith that heals. I believe, and that’s important,” he said. “I tell people ‘It’s not the touching of this piece of cloth to you. It’s faith that saves.’ You should not give up hope, but have faith. Jesus says ‘ask and you shall receive.’ You keep praying for that. Certainly everybody’s prayer is answered somehow. It may not be the way that you like, but it is answered.”
Fr. Mario Esposito, a Carmelite priest from New York, is a vice-postulator for the case. He told the Sun-Sentinel that he knows of no other miracles attributed to Brandsma that are under investigation.
“We hope this could be the one, but there are very exacting standards, and Rome is going to go over this case with a fine-toothed comb,” Esposito said.


Indiana latest state to consider assisted suicide

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 18:46

Indianapolis, Ind., Jan 9, 2018 / 04:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A bill to legalize assisted suicide in Indiana has come under fire by Catholic and pro-life groups shortly after it was introduced in the Indiana Legislature.

House Bill 1157, which was introduced by State Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington), would allow adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness to end their own lives with the assistance of a doctor, following a 15-day waiting period and other psychological examinations.

Pierce submitted a similar bill during last year’s legislative session, however, the bill did not make it out of committee.

Glenn Trebbe, the executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, told the Chicago Tribune that he thinks the bill’s characterization as one that allows patients to choose “death with dignity” is a “misnomer” as it will result in doctors being given permission to kill people.

“We see that as a misnomer, really, because what the bill does is allow doctors to assist in killing their patients,” Trebbe said. Trebbe also told the Tribune that there are better ways to treat a dying person with dignity than by offering them drugs that will kill them.  

Currently, six states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized assisted suicide. The most recent of these was the District of Columbia, whose law went into effect in February of 2017.

The proposed bill in Indiana was modeled after laws in Oregon. Oregon was the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide, in 1994, but the law did not go into effect until 1997. In 2016, the most recent year statistics are available, doctors in Oregon prescribed lethal drugs to 204 patients. Slightly under two thirds of this number chose to end their own life. More than three-fourths of the patients who ended their lives via assisted suicide in Oregon had been diagnosed with cancer. The next largest percentage of patients had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

According to the USCCB’s fact sheet against assisted suicide, some seriously ill patients in Oregon have been told by their insurance companies that they will not cover the cost of treatment, but will cover the cost of drugs to commit suicide. Further, since assisted suicide was legalized, the state’s overall suicide rate has steadily increased and is now above the national average. The USCCB advocates for improving palliative care for the dying, instead of hastening someone’s death.

House Bill 1157 is awaiting committee hearings.

March for Life events planned across the US

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 02:03

Washington D.C., Jan 9, 2018 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Forty-five years after the Supreme Court ruling that mandated legal abortion nationwide, hundreds of thousands are expected to attend rallies supporting the dignity of life, from conception to natural death.

The National March for Life, held each year in Washington, D.C., typically draws large crowds from across the country. This year, the march will be held on Jan. 19 and will feature the theme, “Love saves lives.”

Speakers include Pam Tebow, mother of former NFL player Tim Tebow; Congressmen Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Chris Smith (R-NJ); and Sr. Bethany Madonna from the Sisters of Life.

The D.C. march is one of the largest annual political rallies in the United States. Numerous other cities across the U.S. will also hold Masses, marches, and other events on or near the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

March for Life Chicago is set to take place on Jan. 14 at Federal Plaza from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Speakers will include former Planned Parenthood director Ramona Trevinoa and clergy such as Cardinal Blase Cupich; Bishop Donald Hying of Gary, Indiana; and Orthodox Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Midwest.

“Marching in peace through the streets of Chicago, our goal is to serve as a visual and vocal reminder that the people of Chicago and the Midwest stand for Life,” read a statement from the March for Life Chicago website.

The Chicago pro-life march will kick off with a Rose Dinner on Jan. 13, and will also include a youth rally and Mass, as well as a brunch to aid women in need. This year, more than 6,000 people are expected to attend the Chicago March.  

California will host multiple pro-life rallies this month. The fourth annual OneLife LA event will take place on Jan. 20 from 12:00-4:00 p.m. in Los Angeles, where thousands of people will march to declare “a commitment to valuing and protecting all human life, particularly the most vulnerable in our community,” according to the event’s website.

The LA march will include a one-mile walk from La Placita Olvera to the LA State Historic Park, where there will be speakers, musicians and food.

Up the coast from LA, the 14th annual West Coast Walk for Life will take place in San Francisco on Jan. 27 at 12:30 p.m. at the Civic Center Plaza. The event will include speakers such as pro-life author Terry Beatley; former abortion doctor John Bruchalski, who now runs a pro-life family clinic in Washington, D.C.; and Rev. Clenard Childress of the New Calvary Baptist Church.

Denver, Colorado will also host a Celebrate Life March on Jan. 13. Before the march, Masses will be celebrated at seven different locations. Afterwards, a rally will be held at the steps of the state capitol at 1:00 p.m.

Speakers at the Denver March will include Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, the Denver Sisters of Life, and Dr. Don Sweeting, president of Colorado Christian University, among others.

FOCUS trains record-breaking crowd to evangelize at leadership summit

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 20:52

Chicago, Ill., Jan 8, 2018 / 06:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Fellowship of Catholic University Students wrapped up a record-setting Student Leadership Summit on Saturday following a week of keynote addresses, training, and prayer.

“Just being here with people who have the same beliefs as me, [sic] and who really love God, you can just feel the joy as soon as you walk in the room,” said Isabella Kotval, a freshman at Spring Hill College.

FOCUS was founded in 1998 to evangelize on college campuses, primarily those of non-Catholic universities. They are currently present on 137 campuses, most of which are in the United States.

The Student Leadership Summit, held biennially, aims to train college students to evangelize at their schools. The selected theme for this year’s gathering, which met Jan. 2-6, was “Inspire & Equip.”

SLS18 hosted 8,000 participants, far surpassing FOCUS’ expected 5,000. The previous conference saw around 3,400 attend.

FOCUS takes as inspiration in its evangelizing techniques the example of Christ and his apostles, and center their ministry on forming “small groups living in authentic friendship that want to pursue Christ radically,” as FOCUS founder Curtis Martin said in his keynote on the last night.

SLS “gives you the tools… to identify the people in your life that God is calling you to share your story with, and to help them encounter Jesus,” said Erin Shay, a senior at Temple University who has been accepted as a missionary for FOCUS in the 2018-19 academic year.

The first afternoon of the conference opened with Mass, followed by keynotes from Kelsey Skoch, a regional director for FOCUS, and Bishop Robert Barron, an Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles. Participants were then divided into the small groups with whom they would spend the conference learning and training.

Speakers throughout the conference included bishops, priests, and lay men and women. Among these was an appearance by Jim Caviezel, who played Christ in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

At training sessions throughout the week, members were instructed in a different skill each day. They then returned to their small groups to relay what they had learned, allowing them to teach what they had just been taught. Topics included leading Bible studies, providing effective personal testimonies, and inviting others to become missionary disciples.

The talks “gave us tools and insights, and then we got to be able to share it with the friends that we made, so that we could build those authentic friendships,” said Nicole Kotval, a senior at Spring Hill College.

In addition to keynotes and training sessions, a number of “Impact Sessions,” drew from a wide variety of topics, including philosophy, moral theology, speakers’ personal stories, application of Church teaching, and spirituality.

In addition to the approximately 5,000 college students who were in attendance, Martin told CNA, “our alumni are here, seminarians are here, and finally, parishioners are here, parish leaders are here.”

Among the alumni in attendance were Conner and Jennifer Wurth, missionaries assigned to Southeast Missouri State University. They are married and live there with their newborn daughter, Isabel.

Both Conner and Jennifer experienced reversions to the Catholic faith while undergrads at the University of Tulsa through the FOCUS missionaries there. The two told their stories to CNA.

Jennifer said that “I didn’t go to Mass going into college for most of my freshman year.” When she did return to Mass at the end of that year, “my heart wasn’t in it.”

In her next year, however, a FOCUS missionary at Tulsa invited her to a Bible study, through which she was able to receive the idea “that I was made to be in relationship with Jesus.”

“I felt like they loved me back to Jesus,” Jennifer said of the missionaries at her campus, “and they were Jesus for me in a lot of ways, that they loved me enough to share the truth with me.” A key part of this was the consistent desire of missionaries to meet her where she was, a trait she says she strives to bring to her ministry.

Her husband, Conner, tells a similar story, saying his family stopped practicing the faith regularly while he was in grade school. This, he said, led to a decline in his moral and spiritual life.

However, “something in my upbringing told me church is at least somewhere you should go,” he said, and he began attending Mass at irregular intervals shortly before starting at Tulsa. It was after the first Mass of the school year at Tulsa’s Newman Center that he met an older student, Adam, who would eventually become his fraternity pledge father and was involved with FOCUS missions.

At this point for Conner, “I was still living the same exact life that I had been living.” However, after several invitations from Adam, he ended up attending FOCUS’ other large biennial conference, SEEK, in 2013.

It was at the SEEK conference that he took the opportunity to return to confession.

“It was that which brought the desire in me to go back to confession for the first time since my Confirmation five years prior,” he said. “During the night that I was going to confession, there was also adoration. That was the first time that I had experienced adoration, so I had never had the opportunity to see Jesus face-to-face like that before.”

In addition to Mass offered every morning at SLS, perpetual adoration was available in a makeshift chapel, and the penultimate night of the conference on Thursday was dedicated to an adoration and confession service.

This adoration service profoundly moved attendant Chris Rueve, a freshman at the University of Missouri - Columbia.

“During adoration, I was overcome with the most joy that I’ve ever experienced, and I realized that I need to give this to other people and not just keep it for myself,” Rueve told CNA after the conference.

The final day of the conference consisted of three additional keynote speeches before Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

Mike Sweeney, former first baseman for the Kansas City Royals, urged attendees to “set the world on fire as who we are, as who God wants us to be.” He spoke about the importance of friendship with Christ, invitations to others, and an “eternal mindset.”

The next speaker was Lisa Brenninkmeyer, of the women’s ministry Walking With Purpose, who spoke on spiritual warfare, drawing from her experience as a mother raising children in the faith.

The final keynote speaker of the morning was Jason Evert, co-founder of the Chastity Project, who highlighted the importance of prayer over constant action, even in ministry.

“If you’re hyper in the apostolic life, it is a sign of spiritual laziness,” Evert said. “No commitment to the works of the apostolate, no matter how urgent, can ever replace the need for prayer.”

The closing Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Cupich, who said in his homily, “We need to claim who we are and focus on who Jesus calls us to be.” He highlighted the importance of family life, saying, “we can’t evangelize in the world unless we find the Gospel in our own families.”

He also called attention to various social issues, referencing Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on care for our common home, Laudato si’, and highlighting issues concerning both abortion and undocumented immigrants.

“You in your generation should be particularly focused on the unborn,” he told those gathered, “because there are many who are not able to be in this auditorium today because they were not allowed to come into the world, and they’re your generation.”

He urged those present to allow themselves “to be immersed in the concerns of the world, so that we don’t have a Church, or a group of people who say they are Catholics and Christians, who are self-referential,” borrowing a term used often by Pope Francis.

Cardinal Cupich also highlighted the importance of the Eucharist in Christian life.

“It gives us a touch of eternity that we should allow to influence our entire life,” he said, “that we live with this sense of transcendence, that we’re not alone as we take up the issues of the world.”

“Today, take the next step of the journey of your life, to see where you are going,” Cupich said, concluding his homily. “Embrace this moment, cherish it as an opportunity for you to begin the journey of life in a fresh way.”

SLS alternates each year with the SEEK conference. SEEK2017 was held in San Antonio, and attended by approximately 13,000. The next SEEK conference, as announced Wednesday night at SLS, will be hosted in Indianapolis Jan. 3-7, 2019.

US bishops: End of protected status for Salvadorans is ‘heartbreaking’

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 19:10

Washington D.C., Jan 8, 2018 / 05:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Department of Homeland Security announced today that it will terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nearly 200,000 Salvadoran migrants, leaving an open question as to the future for their 192,000 U.S. citizen children.

With the humanitarian migration program now due to expire in September 2019, many TPS Salvadoran families, who have lived in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, will have to decide whether to separate from their U.S. citizen children or bring them to a country where youth face threats of gang-violence and limited opportunities.

U.S. bishops from California and Texas spoke out about the DHS decision. Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, called the decision “heartbreaking.”

“We believe that God has called us to care for the foreigner and the marginalized: 'So you too should love the resident alien, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt' (Deut. 10:19). Our nation must not turn its back on TPS recipients and their families; they too are children of God,” he said in a statement.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles called for a permanent path to residency and citizenship for the affected families stating, “In the meantime, the Catholic community will continue to walk with our brothers and sisters from El Salvador, opening our hearts to their families in love and charity and welcoming the gifts they bring to this great nation.”

TPS is a short-term immigration status granted to migrants to the United States who are unable to return safely to their country of origin, due to armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extreme, temporary conditions.

The DHS decision comes after their evaluation that the current conditions in El Salvador have improved since the 2001 earthquake that led the U.S. to grant temporary refuge for the Salvadorans originally. Salvadorans currently represent the largest group of TPS recipients in the U.S.

However, a delegation of U.S. bishops to El Salvador in August examined the situation on the ground and concluded, “the large size of the TPS population and the extreme protection and security issues apparent in El Salvador render the government unable to adequately handle the return of its nationals now.”

Catholic Relief Services also released a statement today strongly condemning the decision stating, “From our experience working with the Catholic Church and other local partners in El Salvador, the Salvadoran government does not have adequate humanitarian capacity to receive, protect, or integrate back into society safely this many people.”

DHS is delaying the termination of TPS status for 18 months with the hope that “the delay will provide time for individuals with TPS to arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible.”

The delay also allows Congress time to address this situation with a legislative solution for the immigration status of TPS recipients who have lived and worked in the U.S. for many years.

“TPS recipients are an integral part of our communities, churches, and nation,” Bishop Vásquez said in his statement. “Without action by Congress, however, recipients' lives will be upended and many families will be devastated.”

Fr. Mike Schmitz: Don't turn friendships into projects

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 18:07

Chicago, Ill., Jan 8, 2018 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Authentic Christian friendship requires intentionality and a willingness to be vulnerable, Fr. Mike Schmitz told attendees at a Catholic leadership conference last week.

“Discipleship must be rooted in friendship,” Fr. Schmitz said. “It has to be this thing called virtuous friendship.”

Fr. Schmitz spoke at the Student Leadership Summit in Chicago on Wednesday night. Known as SLS, the summit is hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) every other year. It aims to train student leaders and other ministers with tools for evangelization and missionary work, largely on college campuses. Wednesday night was Day 2 of the event, which centered on the theme of “Authentic Friendship.”

Fr. Schmitz is known for his catechetical online videos through Ascension Presents, and serves as a college chaplain in Duluth, Minnesota. He began his talk on friendship with a quote from Ecclesiastes: “Two are better than one. If one falls, the other will lift up his friend. But woe to the one who has no friends, for if he should fall, he has no one to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).

Fr. Schmitz said it may be easy to get a faulty impression of FOCUS’ goal in developing friendships with those whom they evangelize, saying it may sound like “it’s about manipulating people through a relationship.”

“Sometimes we can get into this mindset that says that when I look at people I see a project, not a person,” he said. “That’s not true, because discipleship must be rooted in friendship.”

“It has to be this thing called virtuous friendship, or else it’s not going to work,” he said. “Friendship that is not incidental, but is intentional.”

The kind of friendship for which Catholics should strive arises from a common purpose and a desire to imitate the traits of the other, he continued, pointing to David and Jonathan in the Old Testament as an example of virtuous friendship.

The Book of Samuel recounts Jonathan and his armor-bearer making a surprise attack on the back of the Philistines’ camp, trusting on a sign from God to determine whether to advance or retreat.

Fr. Schmitz highlighted the courage of Jonathan in making this decision. Similarly, he said, David shows courage and a passion to defend the honor of God when he volunteers to fight the Philistine champion Goliath.

“When Jonathan sees this, he sees himself. This is virtuous friendship. This is ‘I see something in you, that I also have in me,’” the priest continued.

“In order to have virtuous friendship, you need to be someone pursuing virtue. Someone not pursuing virtue is incapable of pursuing virtuous friendship.”

Fr. Schmitz said that a problem can arise with college students who want to spread the Gospel, but find themselves surrounded by so many opportunities that they are pulled in many directions at once, and thus encounter indecision in what path to follow.

“Friendship can’t grow unless you commit,” he emphasized. However, this type of commitment requires a risk because it demands vulnerability.

And vulnerability is more than just transparency, Fr. Schmitz continued. “Being transparent is like being in a fishbowl. But being vulnerable is like letting people get in your fishbowl,” he said. “It’s letting them help you. It’s letting them challenge you. And it’s letting them hurt you.”

He told the story of one of his former students, named Anne, who began following a Christian lifestyle while living with members of her sorority. Because of this, her roommates stopped wanting to spend time with her, but she offered up this heartbreak to God for the conversion of friends. Soon, she found opportunities to be there for her roommates in times of trouble.

“One after one, the others just turned to Anne, because they knew her. She had let them see her heart.” Fr. Schmitz said that all five roommates eventually joined her Bible study, and three became Catholic.

Fr. Schmitz spoke to CNA about potential pitfalls that may arise when pursuing this vulnerability, warning against sharing too much of oneself too quickly.

“It’s not a race to vulnerability. It has to grow,” he said.

He also talked about the changing nature of evangelization, the task for which SLS is designed to equip attendees.

“The Church has always had mission as its heart,” he said, referencing Pope Paul VI. However, the way this mission takes shape has seen a shift in recent times.

Whereas most work of evangelization previously relied on “professionals,” at a time when people were “born into a culture that (was) also Christian,” evangelization now takes place “in a culture that is post-Christian.” For this reason, he said, we are all being called to be missionaries.

Fr. Schmitz also said that many people in the Church have received the sacraments, but have not been properly catechized, and so they often fall away.

Going forth from conferences and gatherings like SLS, Fr. Schmitz told CNA that he sees the Church responding to a renewed call for evangelization.

The future of the Church will be “Christians, Catholics, coming to know the Lord in a deeper way, allowing the Lord to move their lives in a new way that looks different from the rest of the people around them, and then having to go through the fires, and go through the water, and go through the valleys, and go through the mountain passes and peaks, and saying, ‘This is how you actually follow Jesus’ in a radical way,’” he said.

“It’s going to look totally normal, and yet entirely unique.”