You are here

Top Stories

Subscribe to Top Stories feed Top Stories
Top stories selected throughout each day from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.
Updated: 21 min 48 sec ago

Catholic groups pledge to make church's voice heard at climate conference

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 2:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Arnd Wiegmann, Reuters

By Jonathan Luxmoore

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- As government delegations from across the globe prepare for a Dec. 2-14 U.N. conference on climate change, Catholic organizations are pledging to make the church's voice heard.

CIDSE, a network of 17 Catholic development agencies from Europe and North America based in Brussels, joined other Catholic aid organizations in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th U.N. Climate Change Conference, which was expected to propose measures for restricting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"Over the past year, there have been fears of a loss of energy -- that ambition and commitment are being deflated by the magnitude of the tasks ahead," said Josianne Gauthier, CIDSE secretary-general. "But we've been called out by the world's most vulnerable countries to make the bold changes needed to restrict global warming -- not by seeking the lowest common denominator, but by joining in courageous actions."

The Canadian Catholic told Catholic News Service Nov. 26 that Catholic campaigners would press the conference to maintain a "comprehensive rights approach to climate change," rather than merely focusing on "technical questions."

Adriana Opromolla, international advocacy officer for Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based federation of 164 Catholic charities, said Catholic groups "want an open, transparent dialogue on the global common good, not just a preoccupation with the interests of certain countries."

"While governments have to comply with global emission reduction goals, actors below government level can also have a major impact with a shared vision for reversing current trends," said Opromolla. "What absolutely cannot happen is that we just continue with business as usual."

"We've seen a growing interest in the Catholic Church as a moral leader and globally recognized authority, so I've no doubt its voice will be listened to," she said.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for the Promoting Integral Human Development, will lead a delegation from the Holy See.

In an Oct. 26 statement, church leaders from five continents called for the conference to be a "milestone on the path set out in 2015," by encouraging "urgency, intergenerational justice, human dignity and human rights."

They added that Pope Francis had demanded "rapid and radical changes" in his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for our Common Home." They called on countries with heavy carbon emissions to "take political accountability and meet their climate finance commitments."

The statement said the Catholic Church worldwide was now supporting a "shift toward more sustainable communities and lifestyles," including disinvestment from fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy, and was "rethinking the agriculture sector" to promote agro-ecology.

"We must resist the temptation to look for solutions to our current situation in short-term technological fixes without addressing the root causes and the long-term consequences," said the signers, who included Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, and Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia, president of the Latin American bishops' council. Their counterparts from Europe, Africa and Oceania also signed the letter.

The bishops' statement was welcomed as a "strong indication" of global Catholic commitment to climate justice by Tomas Insua, director of the Boston-based Global Catholic Climate Movement, who said he counted on political leaders to "take up the challenge" when "every notch in the global thermometer is a tragedy for the most vulnerable."

Gauthier also welcomed the statement's support for "deep societal change," adding that Catholic experts would work with representatives of other religions at Katowice to "make noise and instill hope" around the shared goals of "justice, dignity and care for creation."

"I think there's a thirst for another kind of discourse now, something less technical and with a more human face. This is where churches and religious communities can offer vital help," she added.

A U.N. website statement said the conference's main objective would be to adopt implementation guidelines for the 1.5-degree limit adopted under a 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

It added that the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had recently warned net carbon dioxide emissions must reach zero by 2050 to meet the Paris target, thus reducing "the risks to human well-being, ecosystems and sustainable development."

In a Nov. 22 report, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization said levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, had reached a new record high, driving increases in sea levels, ocean acidification and more extreme weather, with "no sign of a reversal in the trend."

A separate Nov. 27 emissions report by the U.N. Environment Programme tracked policy commitments by countries to reduce emissions and said these were trailing behind official targets.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Everyone's hour will come, so be prepared for Judgment Day, pope says

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 11:26am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People would be wise to think about Judgment Day and wonder what God will see when he examines their lives, Pope Francis said.

"If the Lord were to call me today, what would I do? What will I say? What harvest will I show him?" the pope asked during Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae Nov. 27.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's reading about the end of the world in the Book of Revelation, in which St. John uses the image of the Lord and angels armed with sharp sickles, reaping the harvest.

With the liturgical year coming to a close and the readings focused on the end of time, the pope said it would be good for people to examine their lives and reflect on how they might be judged when their hour has come.

"We don't like to think about the end," he said. "We always put this thought aside," especially when people are young, "but look how many young people go, how many are called. Nobody's life is guaranteed."

No one is on this earth forever; everyone's life will come to an end, he said, and God will want to see what has been harvested -- "the quality of our life."

This examination of conscience will help people understand what things they must fix in their lives and what things should be continued because they are good, the pope said.

"Yes, there will be an end, but that end will be an encounter, an encounter with the Lord. It's true there will be accounting for what I have done, but it will also be an encounter of mercy, of joy, of happiness," he said.

"Thinking about the end, the end of creation, the end of one's life, this is wisdom, the wise ones do it," he said.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: CDC report shows continued decline in U.S. abortion rate

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 11:05am

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Maung

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The archbishop who chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities cheered news that the abortion rate in the United States continues to shrink, as does the number of abortions overall.

"I am gratified that the number of abortions in the United States continues to decline," said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, in a Nov. 26 statement. "The reduction in the number of abortions is due to many factors, from declining rates of sexual activity, especially among teens, to pro-life legislative gains."

According to a report issued Nov. 21 by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the drop in both abortions overall and the abortion rate has declined each year for a decade.

The CDC said the abortion rate in 2015 -- the last year for which statistics are available -- is at 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44. The rate has dropped eight of the past nine years since 2006's rate of 15.9; the rate of 15.6 held steady in 2008.

"The efforts of the staff and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers, as well as pro-life educational efforts, are to be commended," Archbishop Naumann said in his statement.

The overall number of abortions also continued to slide. The 2015 number of reported abortions was 638,169, about one-fourth less than the 852,385 reported in 2006. It is down 2 percent from 2014's figure of 652,639.

"At the same time, we cannot be content with hundreds of thousands of abortions occurring annually in our nation," Archbishop Naumann added.

Over the past decade, the ratio of abortions to live births has also trended downward. The ratio rose slightly from 2007 to 2008, and held steady in 2010 based on 2009's figures, but has declined from 2006's 233 abortions per 1,000 live births to 2015's 188 abortions per 1,000 live births.

The number of legal abortions in the United States peaked in the 1980s before beginning a slow but steady decline, interrupted only by the slight rise in, or holding steady of, numbers in the late 2000s.

The CDC's numbers are not complete. They do not include California, Florida, Maryland, New Hampshire and Wyoming because they either "did not report, did not report by age, or did not meet reporting standards," the CDC said.

The abortion rate is highest for women in their 20s. Women ages 20-24 had an abortion rate of 19.9, and women ages 25-29 had an abortion rate of 17.9 per 1,000 women in their age group. Together, they accounted for close to 60 percent of all abortions.

White women had an abortion rate close to one-fourth that of black women. White women accounted for an abortion rate of 6.8, while black women had an abortion rate of 25.1. The CDC report, though, noted that abortion rates, ratios and numbers have gone down among all racial and ethnic groups.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

From beach to basilica: 'Sand Nativity' brings unique style to Vatican

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 10:02am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- From the beach town of New Smyrna, Florida, just a stone's throw away from Daytona Beach, Rich Varano never imagined his unique talent of sculpting sand would take him to the heart of Christianity.

Varano is the artistic director of the "Sand Nativity," a massive 52-foot-wide sculpture made of sand imported from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice. It will be the centerpiece of the Vatican's annual Nativity scene on display in St. Peter's Square.

"What does it mean for me to be here? I think, quite understandably, it's the greatest honor there is" and certainly the biggest client he's ever had, Varano told Catholic News Service Nov. 21.

The American artist and three other sculptors were charged with creating the intricate sculpture, which, along with a 42-foot-tall red spruce tree donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto, was to be unveiled at the Vatican's annual tree lighting ceremony Dec. 7.

Bas-relief sand sculptures, like the one to be featured in St. Peter's Square, are a tradition in Jesolo, which, since 1998, has been the home of an annual sand sculpture festival. Varano is an accomplished sand sculptor with over 40 years' experience and has organized various international sand sculpture festivals, including the annual event in Jesolo.

Yet, his artistic journey in sand sculpting began many years before his artistry would hit the sands of the Venetian resort town and, subsequently, the cobblestone square in front of St. Peter's Basilica.

"I've been sculpting sand since I was 6 years old," Varano told CNS. "My father was an amateur and the beach where I grew up had good sand."

Varano began as an amateur, too, "until I discovered that people would pay for it in my late 20s. And within a year, sand sculpting was the only thing I've been doing professionally ever since."

The process of creating the sculptures, however, is more than just molding and shaping sand. Unlike the sand castles vacationers often see disintegrate from a single touch or the occasional passing wave, sand sculptures are made durable enough to even withstand light rain through a process of compression.

The sand, which was delivered from Jesolo to St. Peter's Square in massive trucks, is mixed with water and compressed into layers of blocks stacked on top of one another.

Varano said that this process allows for the sculpture to last "indefinitely as long as it wants to be left on display." The "Sand Nativity" scene and tree will remain in St. Peter's Square until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jan. 13.

"It's like a tiered cake going upward and when you get to the top, you're finished," Varano told CNS. "Then it can be sculpted immediately; it's suitable to carve right away."

Unlike sculpting harder materials like marble, which artists can work on at any given part, sand sculpting begins from the top. The artists must ensure their artwork is finished before continuing downward.

"You don't carve something below first because if you try to go above, it affects what's below. So, it's a process, like a scanning, from the top down to finish."

Another important aspect, he added, is the composition of the sand, which needs to hold enough moisture to allow it to be sculpted and subsequently "stay in its shape and dry like a mud pie in the sun."

"Really, the only difference that separates us as professionals and people that play on the beach doing it is that we understand the basics of why sand sticks or, more importantly, why it doesn't stick," Varano explained.

Of the 20 artists he works with creating sand sculptures at the annual Jesolo Sand Festival, Varano selected three of his top sculptors not just for their talent, but also "for their ability to work well together, (which) is kind of critical."

"This piece is over 700 tons but, with 15 days, it still needs to be done in a way that everyone can work productively and stay out of each other's way and help each other," he said. "So, this team is very well versed in that; they're used to working with each other, not just here in Italy, but around the world. So, it's a good fit."

Varano and his team have created sand Nativity scenes for the past 17 years in Jesolo, which allowed them to flesh out different more elaborate pieces that told various stories, such as "a day in the life in Bethlehem" and ending with the "crescendo piece" of Christ's birth.

However, the sand art piece in St. Peter's Square will feature the "basic, iconic and traditional scene" complete with "the angel with Jesus, Joseph and Mary and then the three kings on one side, the (shepherd) and the sheep on the other side and, of course, the donkey and the ox."

Nevertheless, for Varano, the intricate planning and subsequent labor that goes into creating one of the most unique art pieces to feature in St. Peter's Square is worth the effort.

"A lot of expense goes (into) it to bring joy to people. To be able to do the kind of work that we do that is joyful for us and brings joy to others, it can't be beat," Varano told CNS. "And to do it in a place like this, there really aren't words to convey how special it is."

 - - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Catholic migrant advocates have mixed reaction to Tijuana border events

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 4:10pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/ Kim Kyung-Hoon

By David Agren

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The chaotic scene in Tijuana Nov. 25 -- when migrants, including women and children, were repelled from the U.S. border with tear gas -- prompted the closure of one of the world's busiest border crossings. It also showed the increasing impatience and despair of thousands of caravan participants, who could spend months in an uncomfortable camp as they wait to present asylum claims to U.S. officials.

And while some Catholic migrant advocates criticized U.S. reaction as excessive, some who work with migrants through a network of shelters stretching the length of the country said they tried warning the caravan participants and a migrant advocacy group accompanying it, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, that -- unlike past years, when smaller caravans would cross Mexico -- times had changed. Resources for sustaining thousands of migrants in Tijuana are stretched thin and the current U.S. government has showed few signs of speeding up the process for accepting asylum applications.

Press reports from Tijuana described a peaceful protest, in which the migrants planned to present their case: that they had come only to work and save their own lives. But the protest was met by a wall of Mexican police officers, prompting the migrants to detour the barricade and head to a train border crossing.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a tweet that some migrants "threw projectiles." In response, "Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents' safety. Several agents were hit by the projectiles."

The caravan has crossed closed borders and pushed past police barricades since departing San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in mid-October. Parishes have assisted the original caravan and several subsequent caravans as they passed through southern Mexico; a group of religious offered medical attention, and dioceses have taken up collections.

But now the migrants have run up against the U.S. border and a U.S. administration that has warned that the caravan will not enter the country. The U.S. has allowed fewer than 50 claims to be made daily, even as thousands wait their turn in Mexico.

The caravan also risks becoming unwelcome in Tijuana, where hostile attitudes have already been expressed, border closures hurt the economy and the local government warned resources were running low.

Taking that many people to one border crossing and organizing a march "can't be a good idea. It's a horrific one," said Father Alejandro Solalinde, who operates a migrant shelter in southern Oaxaca state. "But there is no control there whatsoever."

"I ... gave them this advice, but they ignored it because the leaders (the activists) taking them made them believe that they were going to be able to do it, when in reality, it wasn't like that," said Father Solalinde.

Jorge Andrade, coordinator of a collective of Catholic-run migrant shelters, called the U.S. response "excessive." In the spring, Andrade said caravan organizers "have good intentions, but they're exposing (the migrants) to danger."

"Unfortunately, there are groups (of migrants) there that want to cross the border under these circumstances," he said in late November.

Father Andres Ramirez, who works with migrants in Tijuana, called the response "unprecedented" and said such a border closure as occurred Nov. 25 had not happened since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Father Solalinde has refused to accompany migrants farther north than Mexico City, saying the road poses risks such as kidnap. He recounted how one group of migrants, who were evangelicals, and told him: God will take care of us and "touch the heart" of president Donald Trump.

"They truly thought that God was going to move the heart of this person, but no! no! no! It wasn't like that," Father Solalinde said. He added that some in that group of 250 migrants had gone missing since setting out from Mexico City for Tijuana.

"They wouldn't take into account the current political climate, the (Dec. 1 presidential) transition in Mexico, the bad organization that they had, because they didn't see the opportunity for people to help them," Father Solalinde said, speaking to the haste of many to rush to the border and not fully consider the opportunity to work in Mexico or apply for asylum there.

"These are difficult times (but) it's as if they have this chip, 'They have to go north' and they think that it was going to be the same as the previous times, but it's not like that."

The Mexican government said in a Nov. 25 statement it had detained almost 500 migrants who tried to cross the border at Tijuana.

It added more than 7,400 migrants from various caravans were currently in the border state of Baja California, while 11,000 migrants had been repatriated or deported to Central America since Oct. 19.

The Washington Post reported Nov. 24 the United States and Mexico's incoming government had reached an agreement known as "Remain in Mexico," in which asylum seekers would wait south of the border while their claims are processed in U.S. courts. Incoming Mexican Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero later denied the story, but did not disavow her comments to the Post confirming a deal.

She also denied Mexico would become a "safe third" country, which would mean migrants in Mexico would be considered to have already found safety.

In effect, "Remain in Mexico is the configuration of Mexico as a safe third country," said Andrade.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

International group of women's superiors urge sisters to report abuse

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 12:10pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sivaram V, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The International Union of Superiors General has called on women religious who have suffered abuse to come forward and report it to their congregations and church and state authorities.

"If the UISG receives a report of abuse, we will be a listening presence and help the person to have the courage to bring the complaint to the appropriate organizations," it added in a statement published on its website Nov. 23.

The group -- whose members are 2,000 superiors general of congregations of women religious across the world, representing more than 500,000 sisters -- said it wished to express "deep sorrow and indignation over the pattern of abuse that is prevalent within the church and society today."

"Abuse in all forms: sexual, verbal, emotional or any inappropriate use of power within a relationship, diminishes the dignity and healthy development of the person who is victimized," it added.

"We stand by those courageous women and men who have reported abuse to the authorities. We condemn those who support the culture of silence and secrecy, often under the guise of 'protection' of an institution's reputation or naming it 'part of one's culture.'"

"We advocate for transparent civil and criminal reporting of abuse whether within religious congregations, at the parish or diocesan levels, or in any public arena," it said.

"We commit ourselves to work with the church and civil authorities to help those abused to heal the past through a process of accompaniment, of seeking justice, and investing in prevention of abuse through collaborative formation and education programs for children, and for women and men," it said.

Representatives of the UISG had been invited along with the men's Union of Superiors General, presidents of bishops' conferences and others to a February summit called by Pope Francis to address the protection of minors and vulnerable people.

The statement also comes months after police arrested an Indian bishop and charged him with raping a nun.

An Indian nun had accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, India, of raping her in 2014 and then sexually abusing her multiple times over the following two years. Bishop Mulakkal claims the accusations are baseless. He was arrested Sept. 21 after police investigated.

The nun had made numerous complaints, including to the Vatican, but claimed she had gotten no church response to her allegations at the time. Pope Francis accepted the bishop's request to be relieved of his duties Sept. 20.

The nun had explained in a letter that her abuse had gone on for so long because "I had tremendous fear and shame to bring this out into the open. I feared suppression of the congregation and threats to my family members."

She had said many women and nuns suffer clerical abuse. Silence and inaction on the part of church officials to stem clerical abuse will have a "very adverse effect" on women and result in the church losing its credibility, she said.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Consumerism is the enemy of generosity, pope says

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 10:08am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The desire to spend vast amounts on shopping and needless extravagances can prevent Christians from being generous with others, Pope Francis said.

"Consumerism is a great disease today. I am not saying that we all do this, no. But consumerism, spending more than we need, is a lack of austerity in life; this is an enemy of generosity," the pope said Nov. 26 during Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Luke in which Jesus noticed wealthy people placing their vast offerings into the treasury while an old widow makes an offering of two small coins.

"I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood," Jesus said.

The pope said Jesus often spoke about and compared the behaviors of the rich and the poor, for example, in his parable of the poor man Lazarus or his encounter with the rich young man.

Jesus' assertion that it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven may cause some to "label Christ as a communist, but the Lord -- when he said these things -- knew that behind wealth there was always an evil spirit: the lord of the world," he said.

The poor widow in the Gospel reading, he continued, "gave the little she had" because she trusted God and knew that "the Lord is more than everything."

Pope Francis said Christians today wondering if their small deeds or acts can help relieve social ills such as poverty and hunger are no different than the widow and the two coins she gave as an offering.

"It's the little things. For example, take a trip to our rooms, let us go to our closets. How many pairs of shoes do you have? One, two, three, four, 15, 20 ... everyone can answer. A bit too much. I knew a bishop who owned 40 pairs. But if you have so many shoes, give half," the pope said. "It is a way of being generous, of giving what we have, of sharing."

Pope Francis called on Christians to be generous with those in need and to pray to God "so that he can free us from the dangerous evil of consumerism" which is "a psychiatric disease" that can enslave.

"Let us ask for this grace from the Lord," the pope said, "this generosity which broadens our hearts and leads us to magnanimity."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Vatican, World Youth Day officials release pope's Panama itinerary

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 10:55am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Pope Francis visits Panama for World Youth Day in January, he will meet with young people not able to attend the festivities: some in jail and with some living with HIV.

He also will dedicate the altar of Panama's newly renovated 400-year-old cathedral, meet with bishops from Central America and have lunch with some of the young people attending the youth day gathering, according to the schedule released by the Vatican Nov. 20.

The pope's visit to Panama Jan. 23-27 will be his 26th trip outside of Italy. During his visit, he will deliver seven speeches and celebrate two Masses as well as a penitential liturgy.

The theme for World Youth Day 2019 is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke: "I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

The pope's meeting with young people who will be unable to take part in the activities is a response to the Gospel's call to clothe the naked, visit the sick and comfort the imprisoned, the organizing committee said in a Nov. 20 statement.

Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama said Pope Francis' meeting with young detainees will be "a very special event" in which "young people deprived of freedom will take part in a penitential liturgy with the Holy Father in an act of repentance, reconciliation and forgiveness," the committee said.

After the closing Mass for World Youth Day, the pope will visit Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano (Good Samaritan Home), a center dedicated to helping HIV and AIDS patients "regardless of their sex, religion, sexual orientation, geographical origin" and "who lack the resources to live and cope with their illness."

The pope will also pray the Angelus there with young people from the Malambo hospice, which helps people addicted to drugs and alcohol, and from Hogar San Jose, a house for the poor run by the Missionaries of Charity and the Kkottongnae religious congregation.

Here is the detailed schedule released by the Vatican. All times are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses:

Wednesday, Jan. 23 (Rome, Panama)

-- 9:35 a.m. (3:35 a.m.) Departure from Rome's Fiumicino Airport.

-- 4:30 p.m. Arrival at Tocumen International Airport in Panama.

-- 4:50 p.m. Transfer to the apostolic nunciature.

Thursday, Jan. 24 (Panama)

-- 9:45 a.m. Welcoming ceremony at Palacio de las Garzas presidential palace.

-- 10 a.m. Courtesy visit with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela at Palacio de las Garzas.

-- 10:40 a.m. Meeting with government authorities and the diplomatic corps at Bolivar Palace. Speech by pope.

-- 11:15 a.m. Meeting with Central American bishops in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. Speech by pope.

-- 5:30 p.m. Welcoming ceremony and gathering with young people in Santa Maria la Antigua Field. Speech by pope.

Friday, Jan. 25 (Panama)

-- 10:30 a.m. Penitential liturgy with juvenile delinquents in Las Garzas de Pacora Juvenile Detention Center in Pacora. Homily by pope.

-- 11:50 a.m. Transfer by helicopter to the apostolic nunciature.

-- 5:30 p.m. Way of the Cross with young people in Santa Maria la Antigua Field. Speech by pope.

Saturday, Jan. 26 (Panama)

-- 9:15 a.m. Mass and dedication of the altar of the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria la Antigua with priests, men and women religious and lay movements. Homily by pope.

-- 12:15 p.m. Lunch with young people at San Jose Major Seminary

-- 6:30 p.m. Prayer vigil with young people at St. John Paul II Field. Speech by pope.

Sunday, Jan. 27 (Panama)

-- 8:00 a.m. Mass at St. John Paul II Field to mark World Youth Day. Homily by pope.

-- 10:45 a.m. Visit to Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano (Good Samaritan Home). Speech and Angelus by pope.

-- 4:30 p.m. Meeting with World Youth Day volunteers, the local organizing committee and benefactors at Rommel Fernandez Stadium. Speech by pope.

-- 6:00 p.m. Farewell ceremony at Tocumen International Airport.

-- 6:15 p.m. Departure from Tocumen International Airport.

Monday, Jan. 28 (Rome)

-- 11:50 a.m. (5:50 a.m.) Arrival at Rome's Ciampino Airport.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Helping others can change the world, pope tells young people

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 9:28am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a video message to young men and women around the world, Pope Francis called on them to provoke an uprising of change by serving others.

In helping those who are suffering, both young believers and nonbelievers can find "a strength that can change the world," the pope said in a video message to youths for the upcoming World Youth Day in Panama.

"It is a revolution that can overturn the powerful forces at work in our world. It is the 'revolution' of service," he said in the message released by the Vatican Nov. 21.

The theme for the World Youth Day celebrations, which will take place Jan. 22-27, is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke, "May it be done to me according to your word."

In his message, the pope said those words uttered by Mary during the Annunciation are "the positive reply of one who understands the secret of vocation: to go beyond oneself and place oneself at the service of others."

Life, he said, can only find meaning when serving God and others. Like Mary, young people must engage "in conversation with God with an attitude of listening" so that they may discover their calling either in marriage, consecrated life or the priesthood.

"The important thing is to discover what God wants from us and to be brave enough to say 'yes,'" the pope said. "When God has a proposition for us, like the one he had for Mary, it is not intended to extinguish our dreams, but to ignite our aspirations."

Pope Francis encouraged young people to say 'yes' to God's calling, which is "the first step toward being happy and toward making many people happy."

"Dear young people," the pope said, "take courage, enter within yourselves and ask God: 'What do you want from me?' Allow God to answer you. Then you will see how your life is transformed and filled with joy."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

People must confront their evil desires, beg God for mercy, pope says

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 8:48am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God handed down his commandments not for people to hypocritically follow the letter of the law with a proud and righteous heart, but for people to recognize the truth of their weaknesses and acknowledge their need for help, healing and salvation, Pope Francis said.

"Blessed are those who stop fooling themselves, believing they are able to save themselves from their weakness without God's mercy," which is the only thing that can heal a troubled heart, he said Nov. 21 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

"Blessed are those who recognize their evil desires and, with a penitent and humiliated heart, stand before God and humanity, not as one of the righteous, but as a sinner," he said.

The pope continued his series of talks on the Ten Commandments, reflecting on the final commands, "You shall not covet ... your neighbor's wife" and "anything that belongs to your neighbor."

The last commandments, he said, encapsulate the essence of all of God's commands -- that every sin or transgression stems from "coveting" and being caught up in evil thoughts and desires.

The commandments aim to set clear limits, which, if they are crossed, do great harm to oneself and to one's relationship with God and others, the pope said.

But what compels people to cross those boundaries? he asked.

All transgressions and sins, he said, stem from "one common inner root: evil desires." These desires "stir the heart and one enters the fray and ends up transgressing. But not a formal or legal transgression. A transgression that wounds, wounds oneself, wounds others."

He said Jesus explains in the Gospel of St. Mark that what is evil comes from what is inside a person, what is in their hearts -- evil thoughts like, "unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly."

"Each one of us could ask ourselves which of these desires occurs often in me," as part of an examination of one's heart and recognition of the truth, he said.

The Ten Commandments will have no impact or effect if people do not understand the source of sin is inside them and the challenge is to "free the heart from all of these evil and ugly things," the pope said.

God's laws could be reduced to just a "beautiful facade of a life that is still the life of a slave and not children" of God, he said.

"Often, behind that pharisaical mask of asphyxiating correctness, something ugly and unresolved is hiding," he added.

"Instead, we must let ourselves be unmasked by the commandments" in order to reveal one's spiritual poverty and be led to "a holy humiliation," recognizing one's failings and pleading to God for salvation.

The laws of the Bible are not meant to "deceive people that a literal obedience (to the law) brings one to an artificial and, for that matter, unattainable salvation," he said.

The law is meant to bring people to the truth about themselves -- to recognize their poverty and to authentically open themselves up to the mercy of God, "who transforms us and renews us. God is the only one who is able to renew our hearts as long as we open our heart to him. That's the only condition."

The commandments help people face "the disarray of our hearts in order to stop living selfishly" and become authentic children of God, redeemed by the Son and taught and guided by the Holy Spirit.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

'Every day is Thanksgiving,' says Cherokee chief

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 1:29pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sarah Webb, CatholicPhilly.com

By Gina Christian

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Thanksgiving should be a daily attitude rather than an annual observance, according to an American Indian leader in Pennsylvania.

Chief Buffy Red Feather Brown, leader of the Southeastern Cherokee Confederacy of Pennsylvania Earth Band, says that a true appreciation for God's many gifts makes "every day a day of Thanksgiving."

"I thank God when I wake up that I can see, that I can walk," said Red Feather. "I look at the bottom of my foot for an expiration date, and when I don't see one, I thank God I've got another day."

A devout Catholic who fully embraces both her faith and her Cherokee heritage, Red Feather noted that many Native Americans do not observe Thanksgiving for several reasons.

Gratitude, continuously expressed, is already integral to American Indian cultures, so a single -- and often highly commercialized -- commemoration is regarded as a "false celebration," she told CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

In addition, the U.S. holiday's origins recall the deeply conflicted history of relations between American Indians and immigrant settlers.

In 1621, European colonists at Plymouth -- located in what is now the state of Massachusetts -- gathered with several Wampanoag Indians for a harvest feast that later inspired days of thanksgiving in various states. A national holiday was established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

Despite the celebration at Plymouth village, whose settlers relied on extensive assistance from the Wampanoag for survival, interactions between colonists and various indigenous nations were largely tragic. According to the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, "European contact resulted in devastating loss of life, disruption of tradition and enormous loss of lands for American Indians."

Red Feather's own family was almost wiped out during the Trail of Tears, the federal government's forced relocation during the 1830s of Indians in the southeastern U.S. to territory west of the Mississippi River. An estimated 100,000 indigenous residents were driven from their homes, with approximately 15,000 perishing en route.

"My people were in North Carolina 1838," said Red Feather, who regularly represents her tribe at the Philadelphia Archdiocese's annual cultural heritage Mass. "When the soldiers came to force them onto the trail, my ancestors went into the mountains and stayed there until the soldiers left. When they came back down, they had to start rebuilding their lives."

The Trail of Tears is one of many key historical events highlighted during Native American Heritage Month, designated as November by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. The National Museum of the American Indian stresses that indigenous nations should be viewed as complex, dynamic societies, rather than one-dimensional stereotypes, since "there is no single American Indian culture or language."

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, whose mother's ancestry is mostly Potawatomi Indian, said in an email to CatholicPhilly.com that "it is important not to forget the original peoples of this land."

In contrast to European explorers' perceptions, "we weren't 'discovered,'" noted Red Feather. "We were already here for centuries, and mostly living at peace."

The effects of earlier European contact continue to impact American Indians, who currently experience disproportionately high levels of poverty, disease, suicide, violence, addiction and marginalization. Despite such daunting challenges, indigenous cultures remain vibrant, demonstrating their "persistence, creative adaptation ' and resilience," according to the National Museum of the American Indian.

"The history of the relationship of our country with native people is a mixture of sadness, misunderstanding and even hope," Archbishop Chaput said.

The recent midterm elections provided two examples of such optimism, as Sharice Davids of Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico became the first two Native American women elected to Congress.

Facing the future while holding onto one's heritage is essential, Red Feather pointed out.

"We are trying to always remember the past, but not live in the past," she said.

These days, Red Feather particularly focuses on protecting the unborn and the environment, noting that "God made all things, and we are the caretakers of the earth."

She also emphasizes the need to pass on faith -- and a deep sense of gratitude -- to the next generation, especially as the Christmas season begins.

"So many things are pushed onto young people through the media, and they don't know the real significance of these holidays," she said. "We need to remind them that every day is a day of thanksgiving, and that they need to remember the true meaning of Christmas."

- - -

Christian is senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Huge Catholic-run food pantry creates Thanksgiving blessing for the poor

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 11:54am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Katie Rutter

By Katie Rutter

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Jesus himself might have set the all-time food record when he miraculously served 5,000 men with a few loaves and fish.

In this day and age, however, the Indianapolis Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul might hold that title.

The Catholic organization leaders host what they believe to be the largest food pantry in the Midwest, if not in the country, giving out groceries to 3,000 families each week.

A visit to the food pantry during one of their busiest times -- the week before Thanksgiving -- did not reveal any miraculous loaf-dividing. Rather, the nonprofit showed that the unbelievable becomes possible with a combination of organization, resourcefulness, generosity, sheer volunteer power and faith.

"We always have enough for our clients," said John Ryan, president of the Indianapolis Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. "Just due to the generosity of our donor base, there's never been a day when we haven't had enough food."

A fine-tuned system ensures efficiency from the entrance all the way back to the parking lot.

Clients check in with a number and that same number is attached to a shopping cart so that they can claim and load their groceries into their car.

Then, they shuffle through a long line of canned goods, boxed food and perishables, selecting their own food according to a point system.

Of utmost importance to Ryan is that clients are able to choose their own food from some 150 different options.

"A study showed that in a client-choice food pantry there's 40 percent less waste of food because they're actually choosing what they want to eat versus us giving them what they want to eat," he said.

Behind the scenes, the food selections are supplied from a sprawling warehouse. Some rooms are stacked with pallets of canned goods, others are lined with boxes of nonperishables. In one room, saran-wrapped bales of cornflakes stood at least seven-feet high.

Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Indiana food pantry received 200 frozen turkeys for volunteers to hand out.

"They'll pick a day, like probably tomorrow morning, and all 200 will fly out the door," Ryan told Catholic News Service during a November interview at the food pantry, without intending the pun.

The group budgets about $330,000 per year for food purchases, which equals out to roughly $2 per family per week. Yet each family walks away with bags of groceries that would have been $50-$75 to purchase in a store.

The almost-biblical multiplication is possible through a cunning resourcefulness acquired by decades of negotiation and market knowledge.

Some food is acquired for free from food drives and big donations. Some is purchased at an extremely low price from at least three Indiana food banks. Some is purchased in bulk -- as in, a tractor-trailer load -- on the open market.

Occasionally, the organization will be contacted by a trucker whose load was rejected by a grocery store that would otherwise be destined for a landfill.

"If they know about us, they'll call us and say, 'Hey, I've got a semi full of green beans here, I'll sell them to you for $3,000,' and we'll say, 'Well, how about $1,000?'" Ryan told CNS.

The Indianapolis Council runs almost entirely on volunteer power. Dedicated individuals, each with unique talents, handle everything from organizing food to directing traffic and managing tax requirements.

A core group of about 20 volunteers, mostly retirees, manage the whole operation, putting in hours akin to a full-time job. About 300 additional people come in on a weekly basis. Thousands more volunteer infrequently, including people from schools and business groups looking for service opportunities.

"I think it's the Holy Spirit at work that draws people, or sends people to our organization, said Ryan, himself a volunteer at the food pantry. "It just happens."

Ryan also credits the Holy Spirit for the financial support that sustains St. Vincent de Paul.

He estimates that 6,000 donors give to their charitable appeals, which are organized every three months.
The Indianapolis Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul also applies for grants to fund large projects, such as the recently completed restroom renovations.

Despite the masses the society serves annually, the group leaders don't get caught up in the numbers.
Ryan said he fights cynicism by simply understanding poverty and attempting to relate to those caught in it.

"I can cite numbers for you off the top of my head," he said. "I can tell you that one in seven people in Indianapolis technically live in poverty. I can tell you that a third of them, 35 percent of them, are children.
"The numbers don't mean anything. You've got to look at those people, look them in the eyes, they are as kind and as appreciative and as generous as anybody you'll meet."

Ryan firmly asserted that, ultimately, those in poverty simply want hope, and prays that God supplies that gift.

If the literal mountains of food moved by this St. Vincent de Paul council each day are any indication, God is certainly at work among the poor of Indianapolis. Just this time, his disciples don blue jeans and hand out frozen turkeys rather than raw fish.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Lumen Christi Award winner has spent life as a religious serving poor

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 11:20am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rich Kalonick courtesy Catholic Extension

By

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Sister Marie-Paule Willem, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary, who has been serving the poor in the U.S. and around the world for more than 60 years, will receive the 2018-2019 Lumen Christi Award from Catholic Extension.

"Working across many countries, Sister Willem believes strong families are the foundation of the church and society," said the news release announcing the award Nov. 19.

The Lumen Christi Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Chicago-based national organization, which raises and distributes funds to support U.S. mission dioceses, many of which are rural, cover a large geographic area, and have limited personnel and pastoral resources.

The recipient is chosen for best demonstrating how the power of faith can transform lives and communities.

Sister Willem, who is 85 and speaks five languages, is currently in ministry in the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she serves women in detention and leads a growing parish along the U.S.-Mexico border as pastoral administrator.

Nominated by her bishop, Sister Willem was one of 47 nominees this year and one of eight finalists.As the Lumen Christi recipient, Sister Willem and her diocese will share in a $50,000 grant.

Born into a large, Catholic family in the city of Bruges, Belgium, Sister Willem has early memories of World War II and the Nazi invasion, fleeing with her family as the bombs fell around them. They were eventually liberated by Allied forces. At age 23, she joined the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, "who serve where the need is greatest and where no one else wants to go, among the poorest and most forgotten," Catholic Extension said.

She ministered in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay in the 1970s during times of military dictatorships and political upheaval.

"She was part of the church's advocacy and social justice efforts to help the condemned, who were put in outdoor 'corrals' and left to starve. For her mission, she risked her life, received death threats and was ousted from the region," the news release said.

Still wanting to work with the poor but knowing she could not return to Latin America, she found an opportunity in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

In 1980 Sister Willem joined her community in Roma, Texas, a border town, and became director of religious education for a parish. She led bilingual programs in catechesis for children and worked with incarcerated women at a detention center

She then moved to the Diocese of Las Cruces to serve migrant farmworkers and immigrants. At age 80, she became pastoral administrator at San Jose Mission Church in Dona Ana County, New Mexico, a mission church in a working-class neighborhood. It had only a handful of parishioners and no full-time pastor.

"When I arrived, it was so sad here," Sister Willem recalled. "The buildings were falling apart, and no one seemed to care."

She started walking around the neighborhood, telling people about the parish and asking what they needed.

She started building up the community and the church itself -- the liturgy, the buildings, the ministries and the grounds, which are now full of gardens. The parish hall was recently remodeled, and the church received updating.

Today the parish has more than 200 active families; about 35 people attend Mass on Saturdays and nearly 100 on Sundays.

"Sister Marie-Paule has turned the parish around," said parishioner Irma Chavez May. "The church was in bad shape, and few people came. It is beautiful now and so many attend Mass, it's hard to find parking on Sunday."

Added Irma's husband, Robert: "She came with a vision, enthusiasm and a passion for the church. She has gotten everyone involved and keeps us connected. If she wasn't here, this parish would likely have closed."

At the Dona Ana Detention Center, she about 60 women. She gathers weekly with them, "using poetry and heartfelt meditation, helps them find hope, dignity and self-confidence," Catholic Extension said. She also works with immigrants, tutoring them, teaching them English and helping them prepare for citizenship.

"Sister Marie-Paule teaches us that war, persecution and suffering cannot extinguish the light of Christ," said Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension. "Most importantly, she shows by her example how ordinary people can become the light of Christ that brilliantly shines for others."

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Simple Christians: Ordinary Trappist martyrs gave extraordinary witness

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 11:03am

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Vatican Dicastery for Communication

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After Islamic terrorists stormed the Algerian monastery he called home, Trappist Father Christian de Cherge felt compelled to put pen to paper and write down his testament.

Father de Cherge, prior of the Monastery of Notre Dame de l'Atlas, said he held no ill will to those who would eventually kill him. In his letter, written between Dec. 1, 1993, and Jan. 1, 1994, he said he knew extremists in the country followed a "caricature of Islam" and urged his loved ones to not confuse Muslim "religious tradition with the all-or-nothingness of the extremists."

"I do not see how I could rejoice that this people that I love should be globally blamed for my murder," the Trappist monk wrote.

The sense of impending doom felt by Father de Cherge would prove correct when he and six of his fellow Trappists -- Fathers Christophe, Bruno and Celestin as well as Brothers Luc, Michel and Paul -- were murdered in 1996 by members of the Armed Islamic Group in Tibhirine, Algeria.

More than 20 years after their martyrdom, the seven Trappist monks will be beatified along with 12 of their fellow martyrs who were killed between 1993 and 1996, while Algeria was locked in a 10-year armed conflict between government forces and extremist Islamic rebel groups.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, will preside over the Dec. 8 Mass and beatification for the six women and 13 men in Oran, Algeria.

In anticipation of their long-awaited canonization, the Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, presented a new book on the lives of the Trappist martyrs: "Simply Christians: The Life and Message of the Blessed Martyrs of Tibhirine."

The book, written by Trappist Father Thomas Georgeon, postulator of the monks' canonization cause, and Francois Vayne, communications director for the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, details the lives of the monks before their martyrdom.

In a video message shown during presentation of the new book Nov. 19, Father Georgeon said that while the church will formally recognize the sanctity of the seven Trappist martyrs, St. John Paul II recognized their holiness soon after their death.

Father Georgeon said the book's cover features a picture of a mosaic located in the Vatican's Redemptoris Mater Chapel: it pictures Father de Cherge, flanked by two martyrs of the church. He said he asked Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik, who designed the mosaic, how the Trappist monk was included in the final design.

Father Georgeon recalled Father Rupnik "told me that he met the Holy Father (St. John Paul) to present the project, but there were doubts of including Father Christian only three years after his death. The canonical process of his beatification had not begun."

"The Holy Father gave him a big pat on the back and told him, 'This monk must absolutely be included in the mosaic. You will see that he will obtain great graces for us.' It was a prophetic word from St. John Paul II, who was the first to spread the monks' reputation of holiness," the postulator said.

Vayne, who was born and raised in Algeria until his teens, told journalists the memory of his martyred friends continues to move him. He recalled often visiting the Tibhirine monastery, which "was the lung of the diocese."

Through their work in helping others and their witness in staying with their people despite the risks, the monks are a testament to the brotherhood that exists between Christians and Muslims, Vayne said.

Just as Pope Francis said that martyred Christians of different denominations share "an ecumenism of blood, we can also speak of a Muslim-Christian interreligious brotherhood of blood," Vayne said.

Cardinal Becciu, who wrote the book's preface, told Catholic News Service that the example of the Trappist martyrs teaches Christians today to be "strong, courageous, faithful and coherent" in the face of persecution and to give "themselves to the cross, even though going to the cross brings extreme consequences."

Recalling Father de Cherge's final testament, Cardinal Becciu said the martyred prior knew until the day he died how to distinguish between "the Islam that he knew and he experienced" and the beliefs of extremists who "betrayed Islam in its essence."

"He knew an Islam that was tolerant and, in being in contact with (Muslims), he saw them as respectful, friendly people who needed help. They were ready to help and receive (the monks) in their homes. So, he couldn't react by saying, 'All Muslims are that way' and give a global judgement," Cardinal Becciu told CNS.

Franciscan Father Giulio Cesareo, editorial director of the Vatican publishing house, said the lives of the Trappist martyrs detailed in the book also dispel the myth that the path to holiness is lived only by "people who do extraordinary things, who do a lot of penance, work so many miracles or who are out of the ordinary."

Although the monastic experience is something that not all Christians live, the Trappist martyrs "gave of themselves in what did" through their daily activities, which ranged from blacksmithing to providing medical care for their Algerian neighbors," Father Cesareo told CNS.

"This is a great message for all of us because, in the end, we think that saints are far away," he said. "Instead, we are all saints in the measure in which we live within this logic of giving ourselves (to others)."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Scalia, Staubach among seven who receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 2:54pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and former NFL quarterback Roger Staubach, both devout Catholics, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in a White House ceremony.

President Donald Trump presented the awards to five others as well Nov. 16.

Calling Scalia "one of the greatest jurists ever to serve our country," Trump said the one-time U.S. Supreme Court justice was admired for "his towering intellect, brilliant wit and fierce devotion" to the country's founding principles.

Scalia's widow, Maureen, received the award for her husband. The president also named the couple's nine children, and joked to her, saying, "Wow. I always knew I liked him."

"Justice Scalia transformed the American legal landscape, igniting a national movement to apply the original meaning of the Constitution as written," said the president, who has often invoked the jurist as a model justice. "Few have done more to uphold this nation's founding charter."

"Through nearly 900 written opinions and more than 30 years on the bench, Justice Scalia defended the American system of government and preserved the foundations of American freedom. Our whole nation is indeed indebted to Justice Scalia for his lifetime of noble and truly incredible service," Trump added.

Scalia died Feb. 13, 2016, at 79 of natural causes while on a hunting trip in Texas. The Senate confirmed him as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in September 1986. He had been the longest serving member of the current court when he died.

He repeatedly maintained in interviews that he always took his Catholic faith seriously but never allowed it to influence his work on the high court.

Staubach, a native of Cincinnati, won the Heisman Trophy as college football's best player in 1963 and became two-time Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys. Retiring from football after an 11-year career, Staubach went on to have a success in commercial real estate. He regularly is invited to speak to various audiences, including Catholic school students, about success in life and the importance of faith in his life.

After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy Staubach volunteered for duty in Vietnam for a year and served in the Navy for a total of four years. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Others receiving the Medal of Freed were retiring Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, who was first elected to his seat in 1976 and is the longest serving Republican senator; Miriam Adelson, physician and philanthropist, whose husband is casino magnate Sheldon Adelson; Alan Page, a defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL who went on to become a Minnesota Supreme Court associate justice; baseball legend Babe Ruth, who also was Catholic; and rock 'n' roll star and heartthrob Elvis Presley.

The award recognizes people who have made an especially commendable contribution to the national interests of the U.S., world peace, cultural or other endeavor.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Helping the poor is not a papal fad, but a duty, pope says

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 7:50am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As the rich get richer, the increasing misery and cries of the poor are ignored every day, Pope Francis said.

"We Christians cannot stand with arms folded in indifference" or thrown up in the air in helpless resignation, the pope said in his homily Nov. 18, the World Day of the Poor.

"As believers, we must stretch out our hands as Jesus does with us," freely and lovingly offering help to the poor and all those in need, the pope said at the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. About 6,000 poor people attended the Mass as special guests; they were joined by volunteers and others who assist disadvantaged communities.

After the Mass and Angelus, the pope joined some 1,500 poor people in the Vatican's audience hall for a multi-course lunch. Many parishes, schools and volunteer groups across Rome also offered a number of services and meals for the poor that day.

God always hears the cries of those in need, the pope said in his homily at the Mass, but what about "us? Do we have eyes to see, ears to hear, hands outstretched to offer help?"

Pope Francis urged everyone to pray for the grace to hear the cries of all the poor: "the stifled cry of the unborn, of starving children, of young people more used to the explosion of bombs than happy shouts of the playground."

May people hear the cry of the abandoned elderly, those who lack any support, refugees and "entire peoples deprived even of the great natural resources at their disposal," he said.

Referring to the Gospel story of the poor man begging for scraps, Pope Francis many people today are just like Lazarus and "weep while the wealthy few feast on what, in justice, belongs to all. Injustice is the perverse root of poverty."

Every day, he said, the cry of the poor becomes louder, but it is increasingly ignored. Their cries are "drowned out by the din of the rich few, who grow ever fewer and more rich," he said.

The pope reflected on St. Matthew's account of what Jesus did after he fed thousands with just five loaves and two fish. The passage (Mt 14: 22-32) explains that instead of gloating or basking in the glory of successfully feeding so many people, Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray.

"He teaches us the courage to leave, to leave behind the success that swells the heart and the tranquillity that deadens the soul," the pope said.

But then Jesus goes back down the mountain to the people who still need him, he said.

"This is the road Jesus tells us to take -- to go up to God and to come down to our brothers and sisters," to tear oneself away from a life of ease and comfort and leave behind fleeting pleasures, glories and superfluous possessions, the pope said.

Jesus sets people free from the things that do not matter so they will be able to embrace the true treasures in life: God and one's neighbor, he added.

The other event in the passage according to St. Matthew, the pope said, is how the storm and the winds died down after Jesus got into the boat carrying his frightened disciples.

The secret to navigating life and its momentary storms, the pope said, "is to invite Jesus on board. The rudder of life must be surrendered to him" because it is he who gives life, hope, healing and freedom from fear.

The third thing Jesus does is stretch out his hand to Peter, who, in his fear and doubt, is sinking in the water.

Everyone wants true life and needs the hand of the Lord to save them from evil, the pope said.

"This is the beginning of faith -- to cast off the pride that makes us feel self-sufficient and to realize that we are in need of salvation," he said. "Faith grows in this climate" of being not on a pedestal aloof from the world but with those crying for help.

"This is why it is important for all of us to live our faith in contact with those in need," the pope said. "This is not a sociological option or a pontifical fad. It is a theological requirement" to acknowledge one's own spiritual poverty and that everyone, especially the poor, is pleading for salvation.

"Rouse us, Lord, from our idle calm, from the quiet lull of our safe harbors. Set us free from the moorings of self-absorption that weigh life down; free us from constantly seeking success. Teach us to know how to 'leave' in order to set out on the road you have shown us: to God and our neighbor," he said.

The pope established the World Day of the Poor to encourage the whole church to reach out to those in need and let the poor know their cries have not gone unheard, the pope said in his message this year.

U.N. groups estimate there are some 700 million people in the world who are unable to meet their basic needs and that 10 percent of the world's population lives in extreme poverty.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

California prelates urge prayers, humanitarian aid for victims of fires

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 5:38pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Terray Sylvester, Reuters

By

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- By midday Nov. 16 firefighters had gained more ground in trying to contain the Camp Fire in Northern California, which is north of Sacramento and one of the deadliest blazes in the state.

The same day in Southern California, more residents displaced by Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles were being allowed to return to their homes. Both fires started Nov. 8, but authorities have not determined the cause.

Fueled by low humidity and strong winds, the Camp Fire has destroyed over 11,000 buildings across over 140,000 acres. The entire population of Paradise, about 30,000, were forced to evacuate Nov. 9; the town was destroyed. The death toll stands at 66 and at least 631 people are missing.

"The tremendous loss from the Camp Fire ravaging parts of the diocese is devastating," said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento. "The families in Paradise and the surrounding communities affected by the fire can rely on the support of our prayers.

"We also pray for the brave men and women responding to this disaster and battling the fires," he added in a statement posted on the diocesan website, www.scd.org. "May all those who have died in this catastrophic inferno be granted eternal repose in the merciful hands of the Lord Jesus."

Bishop Soto was to celebrate Mass Nov. 18 at St. John the Baptist Parish in downtown Chico for all those affected by the Camp Fire. He especially invited the community of St. Thomas More Parish in Paradise; their church was in the direct line of fire.

Many of St. Thomas' parishioners have lost their homes. The Sacramento Diocese has confirmed that church and school buildings have survived the fire. The new rectory, old rectory and parish hall were destroyed.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Northern Valley Catholic Social Service were working with partner organizations on local relief and recovery efforts. Donations can be made through the Sacramento Diocese by visiting www.scd.org/donate (choose the Fire Assistance Fund).

In a Nov. 14 statement, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez asked all people of faith and goodwill to join him in offering prayers and support for everyone affected by the fires in Southern California.

"The devastation of the wildfires continues throughout our state. We need to keep praying for those who have lost their lives and their homes and livelihoods, and for all the men and women fighting the fires," said Archbishop Gomez.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has started a fund to help the victims of these fires. Donations can be made at www.archla.org/fires.

"These funds will assist families within our parish communities in their recovery efforts," he said.

The archdiocese of Los Angeles has been providing support to the communities affected by the fires through Catholic Charities of Los Angeles and local parishes and schools.

As of Nov. 16, these are the facts about each of the fires, according to Cal Fire and local officials:

-- Northern California: Camp Fire, Butte County: 142,000 acres burned; 45 percent contained; 63 fatalities confirmed; and 11,862 structures destroyed (including homes).

-- Southern California: Woolsey Fire, Los Angeles County, Ventura County: 98,362 acres burned; 69 percent contained; three fatalities confirmed; and 616 structures destroyed, 57,000 in danger.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Army of volunteers provides turkey, all the trimmings for those in need

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 11:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Arlington Catholic Herald files

By Ann M. Augherton

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- Picture the first Thanksgiving: a community coming together, one person bringing the fowl, another the bread, others sharing the fruits of their harvest, all gathering for a meal. The gratitude palpable for a plentiful harvest, for family and friends, for the opportunity to rest, reflect and break bread with others.

For the past 34 years, the Edward Douglass White Knights of Columbus Council in Arlington has hosted Thanksgiving for folks in the community who might need a little help or a little company.

Similar to an Amish barn-raising, the community comes together to provide turkey and all the trimmings, but with a side of organizing buses to pick up the dinner guests, gathering donated paper products and vegetables, and scheduling an army of volunteers to cook, carve and carry the meals to the homebound.

What started with a handful of turkeys and 200 recipients has grown to feeding 2,500 with any number of donated turkeys. Marijo Galvin, Thanksgiving coordinator with her husband, Thom, says "any number" because they never know how many turkeys will show up.

For their 11th year overseeing the effort, they expect about 200 turkeys -- fully cooked, unstuffed and at least 20 pounds -- to be dropped off at the council home in Arlington from Nov. 19 through Nov. 21. A team of carvers will pull the birds from the huge walk-in freezers and start their work in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning.

Only between 200 and 300 diners will come to the council home for the afternoon meal. Hundreds of other meals will be delivered by a team of volunteers. Marijo said a former postal worker has arranged the deliveries by location to facilitate the process. The first delivery goes out at 9 a.m.

"We cover Meals on Wheels clients, Arlington Adult Services and several apartment complexes with low-income residents," Marijo told the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.

Runners, another vital team, will pick up the elderly or disabled and bring them to the council home for the big feast, often eating with them, and then driving them home a couple of hours later.

Marijo mentions some of the key players in the community who support this huge effort, including Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, which donates use of its school buses, and the Jhoon Rhee martial arts school, which frees up its vans, and other bus companies that bring guests from two locations in the Arlington Street People's Assistance Network and from a nearby neighborhood.

St. Agnes Church in Arlington is on pie duty this year. Ruth Foster, the volunteer coordinator or "Pie Lady," said she ordered 225 pie tins and an equal number of shallow and deep pie boxes. The tins have been sitting on a table in the narthex of the church waiting for volunteer bakers.

Her goal is to get at least 150 pies back, 120 earmarked for the Knights' Thanksgiving dinner and 30 for Christ House, an outreach for people in need.

When people tell her that they've never made a pie, she tells them to "go to the store, pick up the refrigerated dough, roll it out, follow the directions, make up the stuff, put it in the oven and wait until it comes out."

Ruth's favorite is pecan pie. Her secret? "The key to a pecan pie is the temperature at which you cook it. It's a longer process, slower, at a lower temperature." She likens the filling to a custard. "When the center sets up, it's done."

The night before Thanksgiving, Marijo, her husband and two other volunteers go to a local German bakery, Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe in Arlington, to pick up any leftovers, usually breads, pies and desserts. Marijo joked that she thinks the owner bakes too much so they have enough to donate to the Knights.

"Back in the day, the entire community jumped in and tried to do something," said Marijo. That's where the scene of that first Thanksgiving, legend or legit, calls to mind a spirit of giving and gratefulness.

Marijo said financial donations are also needed to offset the costs of the endeavor, which include the rental of food warmers, and the side dishes, aka the trimmings.

The day wraps up as the pie crumbs are swept from the floor about 6 p.m. Any food leftovers are shared with several local shelters.

Marijo is undaunted at the task ahead. "I love the people. I love talking to the people. They are grateful, but they don't understand how grateful I am to them for the joy the give me."

She added quickly, "It helps you remember how lucky you are."

- - -

Augherton is managing editor of the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Catholic, international aid agencies press for end of war in Yemen

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 11:06am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Yahya Arhb, EPA

By Dale Gavlak

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic and international aid organizations are pressing for an end to Yemen's worsening war, where the United Nations says one child dies every 10 minutes.

David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, called Yemen "the world's worst humanitarian disaster in 100 years." Half of Yemen's 28 million people are on the brink of starvation and the country is suffering from the worst cholera epidemic in modern history.

"The humanitarian disaster in Yemen is of horrific proportions," Kevin Hartigan of Catholic Relief Services told Catholic News Service, describing the crisis erupting in the impoverished nation at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula which is embroiled in a nearly four-year-old conflict.

"More certainly needs to be done to assist a population that is on the brink of starvation, and we intend to expand our response with the generous support of Catholics in the United States," said Hartigan, the agency's regional director for Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Meanwhile, CRS continues to support its partner, Islamic Relief of Yemen, while working to establish a presence in the country, Hartigan added. Its support has included funding and technical assistance in response to the cholera epidemic and providing emergency relief in the besieged humanitarian port city of Hodeida.

Recent fighting between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels occupying Hodeida and government militias supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates threatens to push the country into a full-blown famine. Up to 85 percent of food passes through the Hodeida port.

"Yemen has become a hell on earth for millions of children," said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. More than 400,000 children are starving and another 1.5 million are acutely malnourished and need aid to survive, he said.

"Today every single boy, every single girl in Yemen is facing extremely dire needs," Cappelaere recounted after a visit to children in hospitals there earlier this month.

"We met with Adam, Abdulqudus, Sara, Randa and others. Each time I name them, I see the images clearly of them lying in their beds, Cappelaere recently told reporters. "Some of them (are) supported by their families. Some of them (are) just lying on their own, with hardly anybody to support them."

Aid workers report rising numbers of internally displaced Yemeni civilians. Often they live on breadcrumbs and leaves. Medics have said the number of deaths linked to food-related factors is spiraling.

"We see immense suffering in the faces of children whose young lives have been stunted by malnutrition, and the agony of their parents who can only watch their children waste away," said Giovanna Reda, head of Middle East humanitarian programs for CAFOD, the overseas aid agency of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales.

CAFOD was among nine agencies Nov. 14 calling on British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to do more to bring an immediate end to the conflict and to "urge parties to the conflict to end violations against civilians."

Hunt visited Saudi officials Nov.12 urging them not to risk a humanitarian disaster in pursuit of military victory. As many as 150 people had been killed in air raids on Hodeida in the previous 24 hours, according to news reports.

"A comprehensive cease-fire across the country is urgently needed now, to halt the suffering of millions of people," Reda told CNS.

"Humanitarian access is vital to reach vulnerable families on the brink of famine. ... Any disruption of (Hodeida) port's operation will severely affect our ability to get emergency aid to where it is needed most," Reda said.

Signatories to the appeal included CARE International UK, Christian Aid, International Rescue Committee and Norwegian Refugee Council.

Pope Francis repeatedly has urged the international community to make every effort to end the Yemeni crisis.

"I'm following with concern the dramatic fortune of the people of Yemen, now extreme following years of conflict," he said in June. "I call for the international community to not withhold efforts and to join all parties involved for negotiations, so the tragic humanitarian situation doesn't worsen even more."

Washington, however, continues to sell billions of dollars in weapons to Saudi Arabia. Until early November, the U.S. also helped to refuel Saudi planes used in bombing raids in Yemen. The U.S. and Great Britain pressed Saudi Arabia and its allies to end the war against the Houthi rebels Nov. 12.

The U.N. reported Oct. 24 that at least 6,660 Yemeni civilians have been killed and 10,560 injured in the war. The fighting and a partial blockade of the Hodeida port have left 22 million people in need of humanitarian aid. The cholera outbreak has affected 1.1 million people.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

University helps former foster youth, homeless find a new beginning

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 2:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Brian Barbosa, courtesy University of San Diego

By Denis Grasska

SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- The University of San Diego has a message for students who were once in the foster care system, homeless or at risk for homelessness.

"We recognize that things have happened to you in your past," said Cynthia Avery, the Catholic university's assistant vice president for student life, "but this is a time to rewrite your story."

And the university is ready to assist with those rewrites.

Established in 2012, the Torero Renaissance Scholars program offers comprehensive support specifically to students from the foster care system and those at risk for homelessness. Many public universities have established similar programs in recent years, but USD is among the few Catholic or independent universities to offer one.

Benefits of the program include access to academic tutoring and financial and career counseling; opportunities for internships and mentorships; one or two scheduled social events each month; emergency financial assistance when a car breaks down, a personal laptop computer is lost, or some other unanticipated challenge arises; and regular access to the campus food bank and supply pantry.

A grant from the In-N-Out Burger Foundation has made it possible for Torero Renaissance Scholars to receive financial compensation for summer internships with community partners. One student has been doing scientific research for two years at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Another student has been interning with New Americans Museum, helping to collect oral histories from fellow immigrants.

Potential Torero Renaissance Scholars are typically identified from their financial aid applications and encouraged by the TRS Support Team to sign up for the program.

However, Avery also has received referrals from members of the University of San Diego community, who have informed her about students who were found to be living out of their cars or sleeping in one of the gardens on campus. She has worked to find accommodations for these students.

Avery, who also serves as a court-appointed special advocate, brought her passion for foster youth to campus when she arrived 10 years ago. She quickly discovered that the university didn't have any programs specifically tailored to this demographic and, recognizing the need for such outreach, laid the groundwork for what would become the Torero Renaissance Scholars program.

"The statistics " are pretty grim for students who emancipate from a foster care system," Avery told The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.

According to the nonprofit Foster Care for Success in 2014, 84 percent of foster teens want to attend college, yet only 20 percent manage to do so and of those only 3 percent go on to earn a bachelor's degree.

These students lack a stable learning environment, Avery said, and many have attended more than two high schools and sometimes as many as four.

The Torero Renaissance Scholars program's name references the university's mascot, the Torero (Spanish for "bullfighter"), but also alludes to the historical epoch that followed the Dark Ages.

Like the Renaissance period, Avery said, the program represents "a new beginning, a rebirth, a time of enlightenment" for its participants.

Since its launch, nearly all of the program's 20-plus past participants have gone on to receive diplomas from USD. The only exceptions have been the few who have taken medical leaves of absence.

Of the 14 students who are currently enrolled, Avery said, about three-quarters of them are on the honor roll, which means they have a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Monserrat Lopez, a former Torero Renaissance Scholar, graduated in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in music and a minor in business.

The 23-year-old, who now works for the brokerage firm LPL Financial, is grateful for the sense of solidarity and the practical help afforded by the program.

"It was good to be around other people who were in similar situations," she said, recalling her first meeting with her fellow Torero Renaissance Scholars.

Lopez had been homeless during her high school years. Her father "disappeared for a couple of months" and, because the rent went unpaid, she and her brother had to find someplace else to live.

At first, each sibling found shelter at a friend's home, sleeping on the couch. But after about three months, they moved into a shelter for homeless teens in downtown San Diego. She continued to live there until her high school graduation and, after starting at the University of San Diego, she moved into campus housing.

"All of these students belong here as members of our community and (they) make us better," Avery said. "These students are some of the most resilient individuals you've ever met. Their stories are incredible."

Maria Coleman was homeless when she found out she had been accepted to the university. Her face still lights up as she recalls seeing her status change from "applicant" to "student" on her laptop computer.

It hasn't been easy for the 38-year-old, a survivor of domestic violence and mother of two teenagers. But with support from the Torero program, she's on a path to graduate with a bachelor's degree in political science in 2020.

In addition to living on campus and interning at the New Americans Museum, she's doing another internship this fall at U.S. Rep. Susan Davis' San Diego office and belongs to the rowing team.

"If it wasn't for the support from the TRS program I don't know where I'd be," said Coleman. She appreciates meeting regularly with other students in the program and they share experiences. "There's a sense that we're in it together and we will make it," she said.

For former foster student Alejandra Lopez-Cuellar, who graduated in 2016, also praises the program, and she especially appreciated that university administrators understood the challenges she was facing.

"Not having to constantly explain my situation" was a big help, said Lopez-Cuellar, who was able to live on campus the summer after her first year at USD.

Wearing the TRS stole at graduation that symbolized how she'd persevered and overcome the odds "was a really proud moment," she recalled.

Over the past two years, she has served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in several locations around the country.

"I have learned that I enjoy working with other people and helping them reach their goals, personal or professional," she said.

This fall, she began overseeing the volunteer program for the New York Immigration Coalition in New York City.

- - -

Grasska is assistant editor of The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pages

The Catholic Voice

The Archdiocese of Omaha • Catholic Voice
402-558-6611 • Fax 402 558-6614 •
E-mail Us

Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved.
This information may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed without written permission.

Comment Here