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Mexican Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera dead at age 87

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 10:36am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera, retired archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico who was created a cardinal by Pope Francis a little over a year ago, died at the age of 87.

According to Vatican News, Cardinal Obeso died Aug. 11 in Xalapa.

In 1931, he was born into a prominent family, which founded and operates one of Mexico's main supermarket chains. Despite his upbringing, colleagues described the cardinal as austere and unassuming.

He entered the seminary in 1944, studied philosophy and theology in Rome and was ordained a priest there in 1954. After his ordination, then-Father Obeso held various positions at the seminary in Xalapa and eventually was appointed rector.

He was appointed bishop of Papantla in 1971 but returned to Xalapa, the Veracruz state capital, in 1974 as coadjutor archbishop. He became archbishop in 1979.

Among his accomplishments before retiring in 2007, then-Archbishop Obeso led the Mexican bishops' conference for nine years and worked closely on ending the official estrangement between Mexico and the Vatican.

In May 2018, Pope Francis announced that the retired archbishop would be among the 14 prelates created as cardinal.

Cardinal Obeso and two other prelates over the age of 80 were chosen for having "distinguished themselves for their service to the church," the pope said.

Church observers said Cardinal Obeso's inclusion into the College of Cardinals was an overdue recognition for the prelate, whose pastoral approach and personal austerity were seen as similar to those of Pope Francis.

After the announcement of his elevation, the Mexican bishops' conference praised Cardinal Obeso as a "simple and austere man, extremely helpful and attentive to the social realities of Mexico."

While in Xalapa, he promoted the canonization of St. Rafael Guizar Valencia, patron of the Archdiocese of Xalapa, and as a retired archbishop, "continued celebrating worship and announcing the Gospel," the bishops' statement said.

According to Vatican News, Cardinal Obeso will be buried in the city's cathedral after a funeral Mass Aug. 13.

His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 216 members, 119 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.
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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju


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Smell, taste of sauerkraut marks successful Wisconsin parish festival

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 3:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass

By Sam Lucero

BEAR CREEK, Wis. (CNS) -- Food, music and games are all essentials for a successful parish festival but at St. Mary Parish, another key ingredient is the smell and taste of sauerkraut.

Since 1965, this farming community has been home to St. Mary's Sauerkraut Festival, which is more than a parish fundraiser, say organizers and volunteers who describe the event as a gathering of lifelong friends.

"I just like the hometown feeling. Everybody from my childhood comes home," said Barb Havnen, chairperson of the 55th annual sauerkraut festival, which took place Aug. 3 and 4. "Our little community comes together, whether they are part of our parish or not. We've got a lot of nonparish members up here helping. The community all pitches in and makes it a good day."

Bear Creek is home to GLK Foods, the world's largest producer of sauerkraut. According to GLK, it processes around 130,000 tons of cabbage a year. Sauerkraut (German for "sour cabbage") is made by pickling finely shredded cabbage.

Norbertine Father Tim Shillcox, who was appointed pastor of St. Mary (along with St. Rose in Clintonville) in July, said the festival is "unlike anything I've ever been at" in previous parish assignments.

"They are tapping into their local heritage and they are so proud" of being home to the largest sauerkraut producer, he told The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay. "The church is 150 years old. The village is only 450 people, and this is their big fundraiser. I think last year they cleared $20,000 and they just seem to have a lot of fun doing it."

Green Bay Auxiliary Bishop John B. Grellinger (1899-1984) seemingly had a lot of fun founding the festival just 10 weeks after being named pastor on June 18, 1965. According to "In His Vineyard 1968 to 1983: A Series of Life Sketches of the Bishops, Priests and Permanent Deacons of the Green Bay Diocese," Bishop Grellinger started the festival as a way to pay for construction of a new school that was built in 1960 and renovation of a convent.

"Capitalizing on an area resource ('cabbage is king'), he initiated the annual Bear Creek 'Kraut festival' and saw the debt disappear," it said.

Parishioner Bill Klegin was 20 when the first festival was held. He's volunteered at all 55 festivals and is one of its historians. "At one time, they claimed we had 3,000 people who came to our festival," said Lorraine Bricco, who also has attended all 55 festivals and served as co-chair of the 1968 festival with her late husband, Loy.

GLK continues to support the parish festival. This year the company donated $5,000 to help pay for expenses such as a band that performed Saturday night and prizes for children's games.

The sauerkraut festival has evolved over the years. It began as a one-day event, expanded to three days, and this year was held on a Saturday and Sunday.

Over the years, raffles, auctions, car shows, cabbage bowling, a parade and live music were added to the festival. The "famous sauerkraut festival dinner," served Aug. 4 in the church hall, is still the main draw. Among the items served this year were hot dogs topped with seasoned or regular kraut, sauerkraut hot dish, kraut salad and kraut cupcakes.

"We served 300-plus people," said Sue Mares, who co-chairs the festival finance committee. "We took in approximately $25,000 but the expenses have to come out of that."

St. Mary's Sauerkraut Festival isn't the only such event in the country, but it is the oldest.

Many of the veteran volunteers look to the next generation to continue the event. As longtime parishioner Klegin, who is 75, said: "We're trying to pass it on to the younger kids, because we are not getting any younger."

He said he and fellow volunteers have been taking on festival work where they can sit more.

"We can't run with the young folks anymore," he added.

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Lucero is news and information manager for The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay.


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In new interview, pope explains aim of synod, warns against nationalism

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 10:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Amazon is an "urgent" gathering, not of scientists and politicians, but for the church whose main focus in discussions will be evangelization, Pope Francis said in a new interview.

However, the importance of the Amazon region's biodiversity and current threats it faces also will be addressed because "together with the oceans, (the Amazon) contributes decisively to the survival of the planet. Much of the oxygen we breathe comes from there. That's why deforestation means killing humanity," he said.

The pope also talked about the dangers of surging nationalism and isolationist sentiments, saying, "I am worried because you hear speeches that resemble those by Hitler in 1934. 'Us first, We... We ....'"

Such thinking, he said, "is frightening."

The pope's comments came in an interview posted Aug. 9 by "Vatican Insider," the online news supplement to the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Asked about the dangers of "sovereignism" or nationalism, the pope said it represented an attitude of "isolation" and closure.

"A country must be sovereign, but not closed" inside itself, he said.

National sovereignty, he said, "must be defended, but relations with other countries, with the European community, must also be protected and promoted."

"Sovereignism," on the other hand, he continued, is something that goes "too far" and "always ends badly -- it leads to war."

When asked about populism, the pope said it was one thing for people to be able to express their concerns, but quite another "to impose a populist attitude on the people."

"The people are sovereign," with their own way of thinking, feeling, judging and expressing themselves, he said, "while populism leads to forms of sovereignism. That suffix, '--ism,' is never good."

Asked about "the right path to take when it comes to migrants," the pope said, "First and foremost, never neglect the most important right of all: the right to life."

"Immigrants come above all to escape from war or hunger, from the Middle East and Africa," he said.

When it comes to war, "we must make an effort and fight for peace" as well as invest in Africa in ways that help the people there "resolve their problems and thus stop the migration flows."

Concerning immigrants already in one's home country, certain "criteria must be followed," he said.

"First, to receive, which is also a Christian, Gospel duty. Doors should be opened, not closed. Second, to accompany. Third, to promote. Fourth, to integrate" the newcomers in the host communities, he said.

"At the same time, governments must think and act prudently, which is a virtue of government. Those in charge are called to think about how many migrants can be taken in."

If that threshold is reached, "the situation can be resolved through dialogue with other countries" because some countries need people, especially for working in agriculture or for reviving their economy and breathing new life into "half-empty towns" because of low birthrates, he said.

When asked why he convened a synod on the Amazon, Pope Francis said, "It is the 'child' of 'Laudato si'.' Those who have not read it will never understand the Synod on the Amazon. 'Laudato si'' is not a green encyclical, it is a social encyclical, which is based on a 'green' reality, the safeguarding of creation."

Among the environmental issues the pope is concerned about, the one that "has shocked me the most," he said, is the way resources are increasingly being consumed faster than they can be regenerated.

"It's very serious. It's a global emergency," he said, highlighting that "Earth Overshoot Day" fell this year on July 29 -- the day when resource consumption goes into "debt" because the annual demand on nature exceeds what the earth can regenerate in that year.

The seriousness of the problem means "ours will be an urgent synod. But beware: a synod is not a meeting of scientists or politicians. It is not a parliament; it is something else," he said.

The synod "is born" from the church "and will have an evangelizing mission and dimension. It will be a work of communion guided by the Holy Spirit," the pope said.

Pope Francis was asked whether the possibility of ordaining older, married men to minister in remote areas would be one of the main topics of discussion. The pope replied, "Absolutely not. It is simply one number" in the working document.

The 45-page working document, which serves as a guide for discussions, contains 146 numbered items, outlining various topics.

One sub-item in a list of suggestions for ways to create appropriate and needed ministries said, "Affirming that celibacy is a gift for the church, it is requested that, for the most remote areas of the region, the possibility of priestly ordination be studied for older people, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by their community, even if they have an existing and stable family, in order to ensure availability of the Sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life."

When it comes to the main purpose and aim of the synod, Pope Francis said, "the important thing will be the ministries of evangelization and the different ways of evangelizing."

In a question regarding ecological concerns and what stands in the way of safeguarding the Amazon, the pope said, "The threat to the lives of the people and the land derives from the economic and political interests of society's dominant sectors."

When asked what policymakers should do, the pope said they should rid themselves of all complicit and corrupt practices.

"They must take concrete responsibility, for example on the issue of open-cast mines, which are poisoning water and causing so many diseases. Then there is the issue of fertilizers," he added.

When asked what he feared most concerning the planet, he said, "The disappearance of biodiversity, new deadly diseases" and the kind of loss and "devastation of nature that can lead to the death of humanity."

He praised the increased awareness and movements among young people, such as Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager whose #FridaysForFuture campaign asks students to hold a strike to demand swift action on climate change. Pope Francis had met the 16-year-old environmental activist at a weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square in April.

The pope said the big and small things people can do each day "does have an impact" because change relies on real, concrete action. Also, people engaging in more environmentally responsible behavior "creates and spreads the culture of not polluting creation."


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Catholic Extension announces aid for families of deported breadwinners

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 6:22pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rich Kalonick, courtesy Catholic Extension


CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension will be helping families left without their main financial supporter in Mississippi, where families lost their breadwinner after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out massive raids Aug. 7.

Federal authorities said they arrested 680 people at various food processing plants in the Southern state, in what may be one of the largest, if not the largest, immigration dragnets carried out in the U.S.

The Chicago-based Catholic organization said it would send help immediately but also would begin fundraising to benefit those in need through its "Holy Family Fund," a program it launched earlier this year to financially help husbands and wives and children left without their main breadwinner because of detention or deportation. It will be managed by the Diocese of Jackson.

"The program seeks to help bring some stability to what is a terribly destabilizing moment for families," the organization said in an Aug. 8 news release.

Catholic Extension is the leading national supporter of missionary work in poor and remote parts of the United States. The Jackson Diocese, one of the poorest in the country, has long been supported by the organization, including some of it parishes in towns where the raids took place.

Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension, said ICE enforcement raids show the "human toll of our broken immigration system; suffering amid our nation's inability to find a commonsense legislative solution to this pressing issue."

It's important to keep a family strong, he said, and that includes immigrant families.

Joe Boland, vice president of mission at Catholic Extension, said that even though some of the nation's leaders say laws must be enforced to prevent "chaos in this country," the raids themselves cause "massive chaos" as parents are forcibly removed from their children.

"This is not only bad for these families and bad for the church, to which many of the detainees belong, but it is especially bad for the future of our society," he said. "When we break up families, no one wins."

Catholic Extension is asking for donations for its Holy Family Fund at More information about the organization is available at


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Bishop: Shootings show 'all communities are affected by racism'

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 3:09pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Three mass shooting incidents in the United States in the span of a week are now showing that "their emotional impact is resonating, understandably, across the nation," said Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. "The effects of the evil and sin, we are all impacted by it."

Bishop Fabre said many people think of racism of being a matter for blacks and whites, "but I think there are many, many faces to racism, so I think it resonates with the pastoral letter," assembled by his committee and approved by the bishops last year, "when we say that this evil affects everyone, and all communities are affected by racism."

The deadliest of the three shootings took place Aug. 3 in El Paso, Texas, where accused gunman Patrick Crusius opened fire at a Walmart store in the city, with 22 dead and dozens more wounded. Many of the victims were Hispanic. Crusius had posted a manifesto -- some called it a screed -- online against an "invasion" of the United States by Hispanics.

Less than 24 hours after the El Paso shooting, a gunman shot nine people dead, including his own sister, at a nightclub in Dayton, Ohio, Aug. 4 before police gunned him down. On July 28, a gunman killed three people at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California, before taking his own life. At least 15 others were injured.

The pastoral letter, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," included separate sections detailing racist treatment directed at African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

"Many groups are still experiencing prejudice," Hispanics among them, the pastoral says. "Hispanics have been referred to by countless derogatory names, have encountered negative assumptions made about them because of their ethnicity, have suffered discrimination in applying for college, for housing, and in registering to vote."

It adds, "Many people of Hispanic heritage come from families that were in this land long before the borders changed."

The pastoral notes, "Participating in or fostering organizations that are built on racist ideology -- for instance, neo-Nazi movements and the Ku Klux Klan -- is also sinful; they corrupt individuals and corrode communities. None of these organizations have a place in a just society."

In addressing racism, "to press forward without fear means 'to walk humbly with God' in rebuilding our relationships, healing our communities, and working to shape our policies and institutions toward the good of all, as missionary disciples," the pastoral says.

Asked about the prevalence of guns in American society, Bishop Fabre said, "I am a bishop in Louisiana," adding with a chuckle, "where hunting is a sportsman's paradise," but "I don't understand assault weapons. The (U.S.) bishops have stood against assault weapons, banning all assault weapons. They don't have any hunting purpose. They just have one purpose. That is to kill."

"I know people who hunt," Bishop Fabre said, "but I don't know anyone who uses an assault weapon."

Two days before the El Paso shooting, Bishop Fabre and two other U.S. bishops issued a joint statement chiding the "divisive and disrespectful" language of President Donald Trump's denigration of Baltimore -- where Bishop Fabre had conducted a listening session in May on racism in the church -- in a series of tweets that others had condemned as racist.

"Social media is used to fire things off without reflection or without conversation. I don't necessarily like that, and I think most people would say they don't like that," Bishop Fabre said in an Aug. 7 telephone interview with Catholic News Service.

"I don't think Twitter is the best way to fire off things, 134 characters or whatever it is, that deserve substantive ongoing discussions and conversation," Bishop Fabre said. "I would hate to limit interaction on very important conversations. It has its place, but I am a believer in conversation and dialogue, and that takes time."

Referring again to the Baltimore listening session -- one in an ongoing series of listening sessions that started before the pastoral letter was approved -- Bishop Fabre said those who have shared their experiences of racism and listened to those stories are "building bridges" to counteract racism. "We have many, many challenges and many, many struggles, but I don't think that hope is lifted up enough," he added.

"I think that healing can continue form the encounter that has begun in the listening session. That is where I see hope myself," he added. "I have seen it, I have experienced it, and I just know that there are people who are doing wonderful things out there who aren't getting recognition for what they've accomplished."

"If we have the kind of substantive discussions and encounters that we need to have," Bishop Fabre said, "headlines that we see today will be a thing of the past."

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Editor's Note: The full text of the U.S. bishops' pastoral on racism can be found online at or on the website of CNS Origins documentary service,


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On anniversary, Japan's bishops renew hope for nuclear-free world

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 11:40am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the bishops of Japan are renewing calls and prayers to build peace by abolishing nuclear weapons worldwide and promoting integral human development.

They also expressed hope that Pope Francis' visit in November and his expected calls for peace will strengthen people's desire and boost efforts to bring about a nuclear weapon-free world.

The first atomic bomb used in warfare was dropped by the United States on Hiroshima Aug. 6, 1945, killing more than 100,000 people. On Aug. 9 another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing about 74,000 people. Japan surrendered Aug. 15.

St. John Paul II visited both cities during a February 1981 trip and appealed for peace, calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons around the world.

"Let us work hard for peace through justice; let us make a solemn decision now that war no longer be tolerated and seen as a means to resolve disagreements; let us promise with our counterparts that we will tirelessly strive for disarmament and the abolition of all nuclear arms, let us replace violence and hatred with trust and care," he said, addressing world leaders.

Throughout that speech at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, St. John Paul repeated that "to remember the past is to work for the future," which inspired Japan's bishops to observe Ten Days of Prayer for Peace from August 6 to 15 every year.

Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, said in a message for the days of prayer that guaranteeing peace and security in the world required "not only to eliminate the nuclear threat by abolishing nuclear weapons, but at the same time to make all people richer in all aspects" through integral human development.

He said the bishops were looking forward to Pope Francis bringing "a new peace message to the world" during his expected visit, the second ever to Japan by a pope and nearly 39 years after St. John Paul stepped foot there.
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said he hoped the pope would convey Japanese dreams that "Nagasaki be the last atomic bombing site" in history, according to an interview in mid-July with, the online English site of the Sankei Shimbun daily newspaper.

Taue also said he hoped the visit would draw greater attention to the Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018.
The sites were where Christians secretly lived out their faith during the fierce prohibition of Christianity between the 17th and 19th centuries. When Japan was reopened to the West in 1853, Christian missionaries were astonished to find about 30,000 Christians, mainly in Nagasaki, who had kept the faith and passed it on in their families from generation to generation.

When the second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, the "cradle of Christianity" in Japan, some 8,000 Catholics died. The Nagasaki Diocese at the time had about 60,000 Catholics, nearly one-fourth of all the Catholics in the wartime Japanese Empire.

"The pilot of the U.S. plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki was actually a Catholic," Archbishop Takami said in an interview with

The city's cathedral was located about 540 yards from ground zero. A number of worshipers were inside praying the morning of Aug. 9, 1945; they were all killed and the cathedral was destroyed.

U.S. Cardinal John F. O'Hara, then the bishop of Buffalo, New York, and Bishop Michael J. Ready of Columbus, Ohio, officiated at the cornerstone laying ceremony in 1946 of a temporary church, which was completed and dedicated by Cardinal Norman Gilroy of Sydney later that year. The Urakami Cathedral was rebuilt in 1959 and it is one of the largest Catholic churches in Japan.

A gilded wooden cross that survived the bombing of the cathedral was recently returned to the city.

Tanya Maus, director of the Peace Resource Center at Wilmington College in Ohio, gave Archbishop Takami the cross during a special ceremony Aug. 7.

The three-foot-tall cross had been given to 2nd Lt. Walter Hooke, a U.S. Marine from Yonkers, New York, who had been stationed in Nagasaki from October 1945 to February 1946, according to the Japanese daily, the Asahi Shimbun.

A devout Catholic, he befriended the late-Archbishop Paul Aijiro Yamaguchi of Nagasaki, who gave him the cross that had been salvaged from the rubble.

Hooke, who died in 2010 at the age of 97, kept the cross in his family's living room, but later donated it to the Peace Resource Center at the Quaker college in 1982. The center then decided to return the cross to the cathedral.

"I am delighted the cross is alive," said the 73-year-old Archbishop Takami, who was growing in his mother's womb when the bomb fell.

"Atomic bomb victims will die, but the cross will remain as a living witness to what happened in Nagasaki," he told the newspaper.

"The cross tells how brutal humans can be, and at the same time, it gives us hope," he said.


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Priest at parish near El Paso shooting: 'Let's take care of each other'

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 11:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Callaghan O'Hare, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When Father Michael Lewis, parochial vicar at St. Pius X Parish in El Paso, Texas, first heard about the shooting that took place a mile and a half from his parish, he said he would do whatever was needed.

Right away, that turned out to be providing a place for prayer.

So, the night of Aug. 3, hours after the border town was harshly shaken from a normal Saturday routine and thrown into panic, fear and devastating loss, he opened the doors of the bilingual parish, Iglesia St Pius X, for a prayer vigil to pray for the victims, still at that point unidentified, for those injured in the gunfire and for the entire stunned community.

Parishioners came in droves and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also came, unannounced.

Father Lewis said he told those gathered: "The only way to combat hate is with love."

"I cried with them that night and then I told them I had to go to the hospital to help with anointings," he said, adding: "In the moment I was trying to do the most I could do to be with the people of God."

The priest, who was just ordained at the end of May, was thrown into a situation he had never imagined and also was called upon to step up even more than he might have, because the pastor was away.

For his homily the next morning -- of which he noted the "readings weren't perfect ones but you work with what you get" -- he pulled from the Gospel passage the message: "We have to remind ourselves of the things God thinks are important, celestial treasures." He told parishioners: "We become rich in love, patience, kindness and compassion by giving those things away."

This is something he has seen in abundance in the days after the horrific shooting, which upended the lives of so many in the community he said is known for its friendliness.

"We take this for granted," said the priest, who grew up in El Paso. He said everyone talks to people there, even in grocery lines, which he said might have something to do with the fact that "we're in the middle of nowhere in the desert," so there is this attitude of "we're all in this together, so let's take care of each other."

That sense is in full view right now, he said, even though it has been tested to the extreme.

The immediate response after the shooting was "overwhelming and selfless," he told Catholic News Service Aug. 7 during a break for a retreat he was giving to parish school teachers.

He said the teachers are "struggling to make sense of what happened and bracing themselves to discuss this with students on Monday" when schools open. Public schools in the area opened Aug. 5, which is why so many families were shopping Aug. 3, getting school supplies.

"This is when we remember God is with us; we are not far from him," is his message to teachers. It also was his message to youth group leaders who asked him what they should do now.

"You meet. You help them where they are at and pray for victims and for us. You need to be with each other. That's how we're going to get through this -- together," he told them.

Father Lewis attended the parish youth group meeting Aug. 5 and days later he choked up talking about it, pointing out that "every single kid either knew one of the victims, or injured, or someone who ran for their lives."

"I cried with them," he said.

Two of the 22 who were killed Aug. 3 are from St. Pius X: Angelina Englisbee, 86, and Arturo Benavides, 60.

Normally, parishes are contacted by funeral homes about a parish funeral, but in the case of Englisbee's funeral, the family came to the church first Aug. 5 to make the arrangements, and Father Lewis was glad because it turned out to be "another way to be with them in the midst of this senselessness."

Englisbee had been in the checkout line at Walmart the morning of Aug. 3 and had spoken to one of her sons on the phone just before the shooting began. The grandmother and mother of eight, who lost one child in infancy, raised the family by herself after her husband's death from a heart attack.

Benavides, an Army veteran and retired bus driver, was at Walmart getting groceries with his wife of 30 years, Patricia, and was paying at the register when the shooting began. His wife had been sitting on a bench near the bathroom and was pushed into a bathroom during the shooting, according to news reports.

Father Lewis will celebrate Englisbee's funeral Mass Aug. 9, and the pastor, Father Wilson Cuevas, who is returning, will be the main celebrant for Benavides' funeral Aug. 13.

Two days before the funeral for the 86-year-old parishioner, Father Lewis wasn't sure what he would say. He said even though the "circumstances of her death were sudden and painful, our hope, that she is with God, is the same. She is enjoying eternal life, that is our faith."

The difference here, he said, is that people are in pain because of the circumstances around this death and the deaths of so many others, which can't be ignored.

The message he hopes to deliver is to "focus on the hope that comes from this: the light in the darkness and how Christ can lead us out of this out of pain and sadness."

The priest, sounding worn down himself, acknowledged that seminary training didn't fully prepare him for this experience, but it partially did because of his clinical pastoral training at Children's Medical Center in Dallas where he was a chaplain in the intensive care unit and daily ministered to families coping with difficult situations and grief.

He also noted that in a previous time as a seminarian, he was in Florida during the 9/11 attacks and the pastor was out of town at the time, something he immediately thought of after the El Paso shooting.

He said no one could ever be fully prepared for the tragedy they just endured.

"We can only rely on the grace of God," he said. "We feel the prayers and will continue to need them for quite some time."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim


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Dayton Catholics see need to spur action from mass shooting

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 5:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bryan Woolston, Reuters

By Don Clemmer

Nick Cardilino thought he understood solidarity and the human family. Then he woke up to the news Aug. 4 of the mass shooting at a bar in Dayton's Oregon District and remembered that his son had been a few blocks away, at a baseball game, the night before.

"As you can imagine, I panicked," said Cardilino, who serves as associate director of campus ministry and director of the Center for Social Concern at the Marianist-run University of Dayton. He texted his son right away and thought, "If he doesn't reply to me in five minutes, I'm going to call him and wake him up."

His son texted right back, to Cardilino's great relief, but an hour later, he found himself sobbing. He was now in solidarity with his brothers and sisters in a litany of U.S. communities impacted by mass shootings, including El Paso, Texas, not 24 hours earlier.

"I wish I had gone there first," he said of how he didn't immediately think of other communities, but thought first of his own kids, then his students and his community. "I found myself kind of moving out from my own personal situation," he told National Catholic Reporter.

Cardilino said the experience put him in touch with how desensitized he's become to the endless news of mass shootings.

"The longer it goes on, the more I've become desensitized, and so I was kind of shocked in some ways at how personal this became, because it happened in my backyard," he said. The physical distance of other affected communities, he noted, "enables us to be not only physically distant but also somehow psychologically distant. And when it keeps happening over and over again, it makes us even more distant."

Sara Seligmann, regional director for the Dayton-based Catholic Social Action Office of the Cincinnati Archdiocese, said people have told her they're surprised by how numb they feel, again largely due to the frequent nature of mass shootings. She observed that other bad news in Dayton in recent months, such as a Ku Klux Klan rally and devastating tornadoes, have left the city "feeling beaten down."

"You need to comfort the community," Seligmann said, "but recognize this is no longer a freak thing. This keeps happening, and we need to figure out how to make it stop happening and treat it like the life issue that it is, because people keep getting killed."

Cardilino agreed about the need for action and said that while watching former Ohio Gov. John Kasich on television, he found his own anger reflected in Kasich's words, particularly when he said nobody talks about policy fixes in the aftermath of a shooting, letting the issue fade. He is convinced things are "not going to change unless people are marching in the streets."

This is something Precious Blood Sister Jeanette Buehler knows a lot about. She has been part of an effort to lead prayer vigils marking homicides in Dayton for the past decade, a practice that has commemorated nearly 530 deaths. She participated in a larger vigil, put on by the city Aug. 4, where Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine spoke, and the crowd responded with a chant of "Do something!"

"I think we kind of hate to say it's a political issue, but there are definitely political implications here. I keep wondering what is going to be the final tipping point that's going to say to us, as people, this really is enough and we are going to do something, and we're going to insist that our Congress does something," Sister Buehler said.

"We can keep talking among ourselves. We can keep holding prayer vigils, and we have to trust that the work of God is going to be brought to completion. But at the same time, we do have to do something ourselves," she said.

The woman religious stressed the importance of stepping out of one's comfort zone and building relationships with people who are strangers. "I think it's something we want to do something about, but it's so much easier to come together when something terrible happens," she noted.

Cardilino said he hopes his students take up the push for commonsense gun laws -- including greater care and funding for people with mental illnesses -- when they return for the semester, provided that the issue hasn't faded when school starts again.

"Our students are constantly surprising me with their compassion and with their ingenuity and creating new things," he said.

Seligmann of the Cincinnati Archdiocese sees political action as a natural and necessary part of a Catholic response to tragedy.

"We have got to stop this. We have got to vote for people to stop this, and we have got to lobby people," she said. "You can't be authentically pastoral if you're not trying to stop the problem."

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Clemmer writes for National Catholic Reporter, an independent biweekly newspaper based in Kansas City, Missouri.


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Update: Teen who died saving classmates in school shooting made a Knight

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 4:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Knights of Columbus


MINNEAPOLIS (CNS) -- As residents of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, mourned the loss of 31 people in mass shootings Aug. 3 and Aug. 4, the Knights of Columbus honored a teen who died in May trying to save the lives of his classmates during a shooting at his suburban Denver high school.

Kendrick Castillo, the 18-year-old hero who charged a shooter at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado, posthumously named a Knight of Columbus Aug. 6 at the organization's Supreme Convention in Minneapolis.

Castillo's parents, John and Maria, also accepted the Caritas Medal on his behalf. It is second-highest honor of the Knights of Columbus. Their son is just the fourth recipient of the award, created in 2013 to recognize extraordinary acts of charity and service.

"Kendrick wanted to be a Knight of Columbus because he wanted to help not only people, but his community. And in his last moments, Kendrick Castillo did both," Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said in an address to more than 2,000 convention attendees.

Castillo had taken part in 2,600 hours of service with the Knights, along with his father, who belongs to the Knights' Southwest Denver Council 4844.

"This evening we will posthumously present Kendrick with the Knights of Columbus Caritas Award," Anderson continued. "I now ask the delegates here assembled to stand. And I now ask: Shall we grant Kendrick Castillo full membership in the Knights of Columbus?"

The delegates decision to affirm this proposal was unanimous.

"My brother Knights, we have made a momentous decision," Anderson said. "Kendrick wanted to join the Knights of Columbus to be more like us. By your acclamation, you have told the world that we want to be more like him."

According to the Knights, it is a rare occurrence for an individual to be granted membership posthumously and has happened less than a handful of times in the 137 years since the organization was founded.

John Castillo said of his son, "Kendrick wanted to be a Knight because of what he experienced growing up and knowing the good that they did. Without a doubt, Kendrick loved being in the church, ushering and serving the community."

The Caritas award presented to him and his wife is a medal featuring an image of the good Samaritan.

"This award recognizes those who most profoundly embrace our order's principle of charity in their service and sacrifice for others," said Anderson.

Previous recipients of the award include Paul and Jacob Cortez, a father-son rescue team who took action to save countless lives during Hurricane Harvey; Msgr. Enrique Glennie Grau, rector of Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City; and Msgr. Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church, and St. Virgilius Knights of Columbus Council 185 of Newtown, Connecticut, for their work in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook School shooting.

Kendrick Castillo, who was killed just days before his graduation from the STEM school, was the only casualty in the May 7, 2019, shooting. Eight other students were injured. Two suspects, both teens, were arrested and charged with first-degree murder and other charges.

After his death, Southwest Denver Council 4844 set up a fund to help the Castillos with their son's funeral and also helped during services, private and public, to honor his life.

Among the photos Council 4844 posted on its Facebook page was one of Kendrick and his father wearing aprons with the Knights of Columbus logo.

In a reflection he wrote about his son that was published in the Knights Columbia Magazine, John Castillo said people have asked, "Where do you find your strength in a time like this?"

"Well, I have to tell you, it's easy for Maria and me, because there's so much love in the world. We had so much love from Kendrick," he wrote. "It's no secret to us that Kendrick did what he had to do, because the teen was compassionate, lived his faith and knew right from wrong.

"Walk your faith like Kendrick did, never wavering. And we need to reach out to people who are on the margins of society. They're everywhere. Our world needs help," John Castillo wrote.

"But there's goodness underneath, there's Kendrick underneath. The love of police officers, first responders, clergy -- we're all filled up with the good stuff. What you choose to do with it is really up to you," he added. "We love you, and thank you for loving our son."

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Spirituality 'just tip of iceberg' for airport chaplain always on the go

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 5:28pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Beth Griffin

JAMAICA, N.Y. (CNS) -- As the Catholic chaplain at John F. Kennedy International Airport ambled through Terminal 4 on a hot summer afternoon, security personnel, airport employees and flight crews shouted a cheery hello or stopped for a quiet word.

"That's my priest," one uniformed woman told her companion with a confident nod. The bearded man in a black polo shirt, black trousers and scuffed black Crocs smiled back at them.

"There's no average day here. Most of my ministry happens on the go," Father Chris Piasta said in an interview at the airport, located in Jamaica in the New York borough of Queens.

He is a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Jamaica and is now in his 10th year as the face of the Catholic Church at the nation's busiest airport.

"It's a ministry of presence," Father Piasta said. "At its core is being an open and friendly human being to someone else, being open to the humanity of others and simply embracing their needs at a particular time."

Sometimes that entails giving arriving passengers directions to connecting flights or answering what he says is the most common question, "Where is the nearest restroom?"

Once he found himself washing dishes in a sushi restaurant when a hurricane prevented employees from getting to the airport. That encounter started with a challenge from the overwhelmed proprietor of the eatery and ended with a deep conversation with two of the 60 million people who pass through JFK each year.

Most often, the chaplain is ministering to the spiritual needs of some of the airport's 40,000 employees. Five days a week, Father Piasta celebrates Mass at the small well-lit chapel of Our Lady of the Skies tucked into a quiet space on terminal's upper level. The patroness is depicted in a wooden statue at the side of the altar, perched on an airplane propeller.

A simple display case testifies to the ministry's long association with travelers including St. Paul VI who presented a chalice on his 1965 visit. The holy water font is a blue ceramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and the continents it touches.

At Mass on a recent Monday, the half-dozen worshippers included airport workers on their lunch break from posts in different terminals at JFK. Among the intercessions was a prayer for those who are stranded and the people who come to their aid.

Father Piasta said his first large-scale experience of aiding the stranded happened in February 2010 shortly after he was appointed chaplain. Ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland grounded flights in Europe and caused large-scale disruptions to air travel around the world. Airport authorities used the area outside Our Lady of the Skies and the other denominational worship spaces to set up 400 cots for travelers.

"We called it 'Camp Kennedy,'" Father Piasta said. He and the rabbi with whom he shares office space distributed bagels and cream cheese to the people who were stranded for a week. Father Piasta said volunteers brought food and supplies for the travelers and he was able to use funds from the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of New York to help meet the needs of his unexpected guests.

Father Piasta is one of four chaplains at JFK. In addition to the rabbi, there is a Lutheran pastor and an imam. "We are constantly educating one another," he said.

Our Lady of the Skies is not a parish, but Father Piasta offers the sacraments, spiritual direction, Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, critical incident stress management, assistance for grieving passengers and Masses for traveling groups.

It is not unusual for him to be asked to meet an arriving passenger whose family member has died during his or her absence. Father Piasta said he and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent meet the person on board the plane, share the sad news and invite them to pray if they want and go to Father Piasta's office. The customs official expedites the passenger's reentry and collects luggage.

Father Piasta said managers of various airport offices refer stressed employees to him. "Sometimes they need to talk or vent and then they feel better," he said.

He also described spending many hours with an international supermodel who was "sitting on the floor having a breakdown in the chapel" over the loss of a modeling contract. "Security was ready to take her out," the chaplain recalled, but they moved to his office and talked for four hours before she abruptly stood and left.

Among the many services at the chapel, Father Piasta said memorials for deceased employees are always poignant. "People rearrange their flight schedules to be here. You see a lot of goodness going on," he said.

Father Piasta said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn is supportive of his efforts in many ways, but the chaplain is responsible for raising the $35,000 to $40,000 annual budget for his ministry. He does this through an autumn luncheon held with the assistance of the Catholic Guild of JFK.

The Catholic Guild was established in 1952 to promote, foster and maintain the faith and the chapel. Early on, Masses were held in a restaurant, celebrated at an altar that was rolled from a hangar across the tarmac before and after the service.

The first Catholic chapel at the airport opened in 1955 when the hub was known as Idlewild Airport. Subsequent construction projects at the airport caused the worship site to be moved several times. The current Our Lady of the Skies chapel was dedicated in 2002.

The chapel's name is a tribute to Mary, of course, and its history reflects the battlefield promise and later efforts of Bob O'Brien, a soldier in World War II.

Nonetheless, a pious tale also circulates: Tony Scimeca told CNS when he started to work for TWA in 1956 he heard that a pilot who tried to land at Idlewild prayed for help when his engine stalled. He looked out and saw the Blessed Mother on the frozen propeller and landed the plane safely, hence the name, Our Lady of the Skies. Perhaps.

Father Piasta hails from Katowice, Poland. He was ordained in 1995 and served in Germany, earned a master's degree in communications at New York University and served in campus ministry in the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois.

After summer assignments in the New York area, he settled in the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2005 and offered to help his predecessor airport chaplain develop a website. Since 2010, he has been the chaplain for JFK and LaGuardia Airports, although construction at LaGuardia prevents him from offering Mass at this time.

Father Piasta said airport ministry is sometimes more intimate and more urgent than parish ministry. "We work together and we are buddies and people feel comfortable telling me things they might not mention to their pastor." He recalled a woman who asked him to pray for her son who wanted to commit suicide. Later she told him the young man had not taken his life.

"Spirituality is just the tip of the iceberg," he concluded.

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Mumbai Catholics open churches for thousands stranded by flooding

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 12:33pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Adnan Abidi, Reuters


NEW DELHI (CNS) -- Catholic churches and institutions in flood-hit Mumbai opened their doors to accommodate thousands of people stranded in the city by heavy rain and flooded streets.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, and Syro-Malabar Bishop Thomas Elavanal of Kalyan, India, asked their parish priests Aug. 5 to help stranded and homeless people as heavy rain continued in western India, reported.

Thousands of train passengers were stranded in different areas of the city, Indian's financial capital, and in other suburbs and towns of Maharashtra state as two days of continuous rain began to submerge rail tracks, forcing authorities to cancel or divert services.

"Several churches and other institutions in Mumbai and its surroundings have been partially submerged in the flood water following incessant rain in the past couple of days in the city," said Father Nigel Barett, spokesperson for the Mumbai Archdiocese.

"People have been advised to move to safer places or to our churches and schools on higher ground," he said.

The region's three major three rivers -- Godavari, Krishna and Tapi -- plus their 10 tributaries flooded after authorities released water from overflowing dams as the region has received from 6 inches to 8 inches of rain since Aug. 1, reports said.

Five people are reported to have been killed since the rain began. Another 35 people died during the monsoons that started in the region in July, according to media reports.

However, Mumbai authorities said there was "no reason to panic and most people remained indoors" Aug. 5 following widespread warnings of "very heavy" rain in the city.

Father Barret said the city had come to a standstill following the suspension of rail services, which he described as the "lifeline of Mumbai."

"Only those who ventured out were stranded on local train station platforms and other public places following the suspension of rail services," he said.

Roadblocks caused by debris washed into roadways caused additional disruptions, leading authorities to switch off electricity in many parts of the city.

"We have opened all our churches to accommodate flood-affected people," said Father Emmanual Kadankavil, vicar general of the Kalyan Diocese.

The diocese published the names and contact numbers of the parish priests in local media and social media platforms "to enable stranded people to seek help," Father Kadankavil told

Parishioners provided food and took care of the immediate needs of those sheltered in the churches, the priest added.

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Editors: The original story can be found at


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Storm warning: Quiet summer days risk flash controversies

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 11:14am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A normally quiet month was surprisingly struck by a brief, but intense summer squall at the end of July.

Questions and controversy, accusations and explanations blew through Rome and across the webiverse concerning big changes underway at the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences.

The past week saw so many points/counterpoints ping-ponging back and forth that many are still left wondering what is going on at the famed institute devoted to the study of church teaching on marriage and the family.

A summarized labyrinthine recap:

The institute's new statutes, structures and related norms, three years in the making, went into effect after they were approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education this summer.

The institute published the new charter and bylaws online in mid-July and sent letters to faculty it wished to hire or rehire given it was literally re-founded -- starting anew, which would include new procedures for hiring staff.

While practically every previously employed faculty member was asked to return, Msgr. Livio Melina, a former president of the institute, and Father Jose Noriega were not asked back.

The loss of two well-known professors, as well as "fears" and uncertainties about the new curriculum prompted two students to write a letter, dated July 24, to Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, institute president, and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, chancellor.

They expressed their dismay over the sudden and unexpected way students were notified about the "crucial changes that affect us directly as students" and worry those changes resulted in a "loss of the formational approach" and identity of the specialized institute, which were the main reasons "most students and their superiors chose this Institute for their education."

The grievances also made it to the press, leading the institute to send a written communique July 29, seeking to respond to the letter's concerns as well as reprimand and correct unfounded "rumors and comments" in circulation.

Believing no "satisfactory and clear answer" to the letter had been given, a specially dedicated website went live July 30 with a link allowing anyone to enter a name to the letter. As of Aug. 5, more than 1,000 names had been added -- 192 of them saying they were current students, 396 said they were former students with others signing on "in support."

The match was lit and from there, numerous articles and commentaries roiled forth -- a frothy mix of understandable confusion and worry to conspiracy theories about a rebellion against St. John Paul's legacy and the end of authentic church teaching.

Traditionally "official" church outlets sprinkled a little water on the fires: The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, ran an article explaining why this ecclesial academy needed to better understand what families were struggling with as well as church teachings; and Vatican News interviewed Msgr. Sequeri, who reiterated the institute's fidelity to John Paul's vision, and made an appeal for communion to prevail over distrust and "personal interests."

But the internet offers many platforms for ominous disagreement, including by a key stakeholder, the institute's current vice-president, Father Jose Granados, a member of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the same religious order Father Noriega heads as superior general. Father Granados said he agreed with Pope Francis' aim of renewal, but feared the institute's identity was "seriously threatened."

And if pictures speak louder than words, a photo of Msgr. Melina sitting next to retired Pope Benedict XVI was published online Aug. 5 with a caption saying the meeting happened Aug. 1.

From this tangle, two dominant narratives emerge: one tells a dark foreshadowing of an important center of learning that will be unable to stay true to the faith and its mission if its curriculum is revamped or staff changed.

The other story suggests the conflagration was caused by an awkward, circuitous effort to resolve a difficult situation, something Father Granados speculated in his July 31 interview.

"Were there doctrinal problems in the teaching of these teachers?" he asked rhetorically. Their students and their writings would say there weren't, he said, underlining that these two teachers were only explaining how to understand Pope Francis' teachings "in continuity with the previous popes."

"And in any case, if one thought, in spite of everything, that there were doctrinal problems in their teachings, why are they not judged and given the possibility of defending themselves?" asked Father Granados.

He noted that, when seen in this light, the dismissals look like an "arbitrary exercise of power" that threaten "the academic freedom" of all teachers, but specifically those who don't follow the "theological lines that university authorities dislike."

Avvenire, the national Italian Catholic newspaper, owned in part by the Italian bishops' conference, first suggested these internal tensions were an important piece of the puzzle.

The author, Luciano Moia, recalled in an article published July 30 how some people at the institute had criticized the work of the two synods on the family and the postsynodal document, "Amoris laetitia."

Without naming specific faculty, he said the attacks were especially unpleasant because they were coming from "the heart of an institute that should have represented in the field of high-level, specialized formation one of the drivers of renewal, not the organizer of an insurgent faction."

Msgr. Melina fired back with a letter to Avvenire, which it published in full Aug. 2, criticizing Moia for implying he and Father Noriega were guilty of disloyal "attacks" against the pope.

In fact, such an insinuation seriously harmed their dignity and good name, and made them victims of calumny, he wrote.

"Defamation is not only a grave sin, which Pope Francis has many times lashed out against, but it is also a criminal offense," the monsignor said.

While both critics and defenders of the institute are quick to hint of serious theological and academic issues at the heart of this imbroglio, it wouldn't be the first time an organization eliminated a position or used a legal loophole as a way to politely let someone go, especially in Italy where saving face reigns supreme.

So what will the new Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute really be? It is too soon to tell, but much should be revealed in the fall, when faculty hires, courses and curricula are complete.

For now, the takeaway may be this: At a time when people so keenly desire truth and greater transparency, this messy mid-summer storm has shown just how far off that horizon still may be.


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El Paso bishop meets with victims, family members of Texas mass shooting

Mon, 08/05/2019 - 5:54pm

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The bishop of El Paso, Texas, met with the families of those who were killed and wounded during the Aug. 3 shooting at a Walmart in the city where he serves, and in a statement following the meeting said his heart "was breaking," after seeing up-close the human aftermath of the crime.

"As a minister I am called to be present to those who suffered this attack and to their families. I need to do so with a sense of composure," said Bishop Mark J. Seitz in the statement. "But as I visited with victims and those they love, my heart was breaking within me. Their questions are mine as well. Why the innocent children? Why the mothers with babes in their arms? Why should any human being ever be subjected to such violence?"

By early Aug. 5, the death toll had climbed from 20 to 22 reported fatalities and 26 injured from what is, so far, the eighth-deadliest mass shooting on U.S. soil.  

Bishop Seitz participated in an Aug. 4 evening vigil for the victims with other faith leaders as part of the InterFaith Alliance of the Southwest, less than a mile from where the shooting took place, the local El Paso Times newspaper reported on its website. Gathered with members of the Jewish community as well as of other faiths, Bishop Seitz and other Catholics from the diocese lit candles and prayed for the victims. 

Authorities have Patrick Crusius, 21, who is suspected of the crime, under custody and expect to soon charge him. Several news organizations said local and federal authorities are investigating whether the shooting was a possible hate crime since the suspected gunman may be linked to a manifesto that speaks of the "Hispanic invasion" of Texas. If that's the case, authorities could ask for the death penalty.

"We are treating it as a domestic terrorism case," said John Bash, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, during an Aug. 4 news conference. "We're going to do what we do to terrorists in this country, which is deliver swift and certain justice."

In various news shows and in his statement, Bishop Seitz concentrated on the example of Jesus as a way out of the divisions that many believe led to the killings.

"Once again in our nation we see the face of evil. We see the effects of a mind possessed by hatred," he wrote. "We see the effects of the sinful and insipid conviction that some of us are better than others of us because of race, religion, language or nationality."

The residents of El Paso, a border city with a long history of brotherhood with neighboring Mexico, has set an example for others to uphold, said the bishop.

"In the last several months, the borderlands have shown the world that generosity, compassion and human dignity are more powerful than the forces of division," he said in the statement. "The great sickness of our time is that we have forgotten how to be compassionate, generous and humane. Everything is competition. Everything is greed. Everything is cold. Tenderness and the love that knows no borders are crucified in a whirlwind of deadly self-seeking, fear and vindictiveness."

Because of similar evil forces, God sent Jesus into the world, and when it appeared that evil had won after his crucifixion, Jesus proved otherwise, Bishop Seitz said.  

"This is my hope for all who have suffered this violence today and for our community," he said. "The Christ who suffered is in our midst. He is our companion. We trust he will raise up the fallen, bring healing to the victims and console our broken community."

El Paso, too, will rise above the "terrible" bloody day, he said,  

"Today let us mourn the dead and pray for them. Tomorrow let us recommit to love. And let us all brace ourselves for just action that will overcome the forces of division and build a more loving society," he ended.


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In letter, pope encourages priests dejected by abuse crisis

Mon, 08/05/2019 - 9:33am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis acknowledged the shame and frustration felt by priests who are discouraged by the actions of fellow clergy members who betrayed the trust of their flock through sexual abuse and abuse of conscience and power.

In a letter addressed to priests around the world Aug. 4, the pope said that many priests have spoken or written to him expressing "their outrage at what happened" and the doubts and fears the sexual abuse crisis has caused.

"Without denying or dismissing the harm caused by some of our brothers, it would be unfair not to express our gratitude to all those priests who faithfully and generously spend their lives in the service of others," he said.

Commemorating the 160th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, patron saint of parish priests, the pope praised those priests who, like their patron, carry out their mission "often without fanfare and at personal cost, amid weariness, infirmity and sorrow."

However, he also shared his concern that many priests "feel themselves attacked and blamed for crimes they did not commit."

The revelations of sexual abuse and cover-up by clergy members, he explained, has "been a time of great suffering in the lives of those who experienced such abuse, but also in the lives of their families and of the entire people of God."

The pope added that priests have not been immune to the pain felt by the faithful and "embody a spiritual fatherhood capable of weeping with those who weep."

"Countless priests make of their lives a work of mercy in areas or situations that are often hostile, isolated or ignored, even at the risk of their lives," he said. "I acknowledge and appreciate your courageous and steadfast example; in these times of turbulence, shame and pain, you demonstrate that you have joyfully put your lives on the line for the sake of the Gospel."

Nevertheless, the pope said, the current crisis is a time of "ecclesial purification" that "makes us realize that without (God) we are simply dust."

"He is rescuing us from hypocrisy, from the spirituality of appearances. He is breathing forth his spirit in order to restore the beauty of his bride, caught in adultery," he said. "Our humble repentance, expressed in silent tears before these atrocious sins and the unfathomable grandeur of God's forgiveness, is the beginning of a renewal of our holiness."

Pope Francis also encouraged priests to find the strength to persevere while warning them not to succumb into the temptation of despair "amid trials, weakness and the consciousness of our limitations."

Gratitude for all the ways God has shown love, patience and forgiveness "is always a powerful weapon" that can "renew -- and not simply patch up -- our life and mission," he said.

The pope also called on priests to not be tempted by sadness which can turn into a habit and "lead us slowly to accept evil and injustice by quietly telling us: 'It has always been like this.'"

That sadness, he said, "stifles every effort at change and conversion by sowing resentment and hostility."

Pope Francis said that by establishing a personal relationship with Christ and the people they serve, priests will "never lose the joy of knowing that we are 'the sheep of his flock' and that he is our Lord and shepherd."

The pain "of so many victims, the pain of the people of God and our own personal pain cannot be for naught," he said. "Jesus himself has brought this heavy burden to his cross and he now asks us to be renewed in our mission of drawing near to those who suffer, of drawing near without embarrassment to human misery, and indeed to make all these experiences our own, as Eucharist."

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Editors: The English text of the letter:

The Spanish text is here:

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju


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Update: Texas, New Mexico dioceses unite in prayer after El Paso shooting

Sat, 08/03/2019 - 9:16pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jorge Salgado, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) - The Catholic dioceses of El Paso, Texas, and neighboring Las Cruces, New Mexico, have joined in prayer after an August 3 mass shooting in a mall left several dead and many injured.

"Our prayers are with our neighboring city of El Paso and everyone affected by the active shooter situation near Cielo Vista and Walmart," tweeted the Diocese of Las Cruces the afternoon of Aug. 3. "We ask our Las Cruces community to unite in prayer at this difficult time."

The two cities are less than 50 miles from one another.

By early evening, authorities said 20 people died and another 26 were injured in the shooting rampage in a crowded Walmart Supercenter at the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso. New reports said the alleged shooter has been identified as Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, Texas, and was taken into custody without incident.

The Diocese of El Paso also asked for prayers as the situation unfolds.  

"Our prayers are with everyone involved," the diocese said via Twitter, adding: "We ask everyone in the El Paso area to unite with us in prayer for everyone involved."

The nonprofit Hope Border Institute of the El Paso Diocese asked anyone who could do so to donate blood at a center in the city. It also gave local directions via Twitter for those looking for loved ones believed to have been in the area.

In Washington, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of the USCCB domestic policy committee said that "as people of faith, we continue to pray for all the victims, and for healing in all these stricken communities," but they said the Texas shooting a week after a California shooting shows "something remains fundamentally evil in our society."

Action is "needed to end these abhorrent acts," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The Catholic leaders called the El Paso mass shooting "terrible, senseless and inhumane."

"Something remains fundamentally evil in our society when locations where people congregate to engage in the everyday activities of life can, without warning, become scenes of violence and contempt for human life," they said, calling gun violence a "plague" that "continues unchecked and spreads across our country."

"Things must change. Once again, we call for effective legislation that addresses why these unimaginable and repeated occurrences of murderous gun violence continue to take place in our communities," Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Dewane said in a statement.

Several U.S. bishops also asked for prayers in tweets Aug. 3.

News reports said police were looking at the alleged shooter's social media accounts to see if they could find a motive for the shooting.


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NASA flight director says faith, family have marked his life's journey

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 2:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald

By Jo Ann Zuniga

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Gene Kranz, NASA flight director during the 1969 landing of the first man on the moon, spoke about faith and family to more than 1,000 attending the Galveston Houston Archdiocesan Prayer Breakfast July 30.

In attendance were four of his daughters, among his six children, who praised all that Kranz has done to commemorate his fellow space pioneers and the historic event. His long list of public appearances included being acknowledged by President Donald Trump during the Fourth of July celebrations in Washington.

An aerospace engineer and former U.S. fighter pilot in Korea, Kranz retired from NASA in 1994 after 37 years of federal service working on Mercury, Apollo and Shuttle space missions. He told the crowd at the breakfast, "God's mark is everywhere and is on everything."

He recalled growing up in Ohio and being an altar boy at St. Agnes Catholic Church next door to his home. His father, a World War I vet, died when Kranz was only 7. So his mother opened up their house to take in boarders. Many of them were soldiers on leave.

"I remember serving at morning Mass that turned into weddings for the soldiers about to ship off. Our priest, Father John Jamison, was a father figure to many whose fathers were fighting in the war," he said.

With his interest in the military and flying firmly entrenched, he completed pilot training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas in 1955. Shortly after receiving his wings, Kranz married Marta Cadena, who sewed his vests made famous during Apollo missions, including one exhibited in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Looking for work as a test pilot, he was reading a trade journal. "Whenever there is a fork in the road and a major decision, it's always part of God's plan," he said.

"The government was looking into the feasibility of putting Americans in space flight," Kranz said. He applied for the program.

Kranz shared how he and Marta are now parishioners at Shrine of the True Cross Catholic Church in Dickinson, Texas, where he taught Continuing Christian Education in past years and is an active member of the Knights of Columbus. He showed a photo projected on a screen of his tattered copy of "The Shield of Faith: Reflections and Prayers for Wartime" written by then-Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen.

"I pulled this prayer book out many a time," Kranz said. "I've been asked if I ever felt stress. No matter, I always felt the presence of God in my work and life."

During July, Kranz was bombarded with media interviews from coast to coast and celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing. One of his daughters, Jeannie Kranz, a public relations professional, helped her father, now 85, keep up with the demand.

That included being part of the Fourth of July "Salute to America" at the Lincoln Memorial where Trump praised the dedication of Kranz in the historic Apollo 11 moon landing among others recognized.

"Gene," Trump said in news reports covering the event, "I want you to know that we're going to be back on the moon very soon and someday soon, we will plant the American flag on Mars."

Jeannie said, "To hear our father recognized by the president among so many great people like a Medal of Honor winner was amazing!"

Kranz returned to Washington later in the month to testify in a Senate aviation and space subcommittee hearing chaired by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on the future of NASA's space exploration.

During testimony, Kranz said this was an exciting time for NASA, which had lost focus since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. "We need to restore the passion, energy and imagination," Kranz testified.

But he also remembers the heartache over the dangers of space travel. At the prayer breakfast, Kranz showed a 1967 photo of three smiling Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee who were lost in a flash fire that swept through the oxygen-rich command module during a launch rehearsal test.

"We heard, 'Fire!'" Kranz said.

Both the crew inside and technicians outside the hatch door tried to quickly open it to no avail. "There was no way to save them," he said.

It took more than 18 months and extensive redesigns, including a new hatch door that opened in seconds, before another mission launched.

Daughter Lucy Kranz, who retired from NASA after focusing on the business side of its contracts, said she was 10 years old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

"I remember a TV being rolled into our classroom at Shrine of the True Cross school and everyone was excited. To me, it was just Dad's work. We always thought we'd be right back there on the moon again," Lucy said.

As part of the Houston Space Center's 50th anniversary celebrations commemorating Apollo 11's eight-day roundtrip to the moon, Kranz spoke to thousands of people attending.

But at the actual time of the lunar landing anniversary July 20, Kranz and his remaining crew gathered at the lit-up consoles of the remodeled Mission Control to relive that time with only each other, his daughter recalled.

"At that exact time when the Apollo 11 crew landed on the moon (3:17 p.m. Central time), my dad and his remaining team were right there in Mission Control," commiserating together complete with amber ashtrays and retro coffee cups, she said.

At the time of the actual moon landing, Kranz has recalled in many interviews, there were about 100 people, including politicians in a viewing room adjacent to Mission Control, and they erupted in cheering, stomping and clapping.

"You could hear the sound coming through the double glass windows there and it's seeping into the room," Kranz has noted. "And my team has to be as cool as a cucumber" as they checked on the astronauts' safety and preparation to walk on the moon's surface.

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Zuniga writes for the Texas Catholic Herald, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.


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Catholic Charities helps immigrant children with increased fear, stress

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 4:20pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Oregon Catholic Charities

By Katie Scott

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- The crushing, life-altering event can occur during the most mundane circumstances -- as parents pay a traffic ticket or drop kids off at school.

"It's happening every day in Portland, in Eugene, everywhere in the state," said Vanessa Briseno, director of Oregon Catholic Charities' Pope Francis Center.

Arrests of immigrants in the U.S. illegally are increasing nationwide, and the result is more children are losing -- or fearing they will lose -- a parent through detention or deportation.

On July 22, the Trump administration released a new policy allowing immigration officials to quickly arrest and deport undocumented immigrants without going before a judge. More than 20,000 people could immediately be subject to the expanded fast-track removal process.

The expansion is the latest in ongoing efforts by the administration to keep migrants from entering the country illegally or remove them after they enter. Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported more than 256,000 immigrants, an increase of 13% over the previous year.

Some years of the Obama administration, the numbers were even higher, though convicted criminals and those who'd entered the country multiple times were targeted. Under the current administration, agents are instructed to detain and remove anyone living in the country illegally, including individuals without criminal histories. Many of these individuals are parents and caretakers.

When it's a parent who's deported, the impact on children is traumatic and has emotional, developmental and physical repercussions, said Lucrecia Suarez, manager of the Intercultural Counseling Center at Catholic Charities. Even a baby's development "can be altered by the toxic and chronic stress the remaining parent, and the entire family, has to overcome with such a loss," she said.

Catholic Charities is attempting to help support these children through a range of services. "We don't know what the outcome will always be for the families," said John Herrera, director of the agency's Immigration Legal Services. "But we can do our best to provide support and use existing laws to keep parents with their children. Through it all, we are working to fulfill the Gospel."

Current policies have created "a blanket of fear over the entire immigrant community," perhaps most significantly over children, said Michael Bennett, a lifelong Catholic and a Portland immigration judge for nearly three decades.

In Oregon, an estimated 62,000 young people, many U.S. citizens, have at least one immigrant parent who is without documents, based on U.S. Census Bureau data from 2013. Nationally, nearly 6 million U.S. citizen children live with a family member who does not have legal status, according to 2010-14 census figures. Children in these families are living with relentless stress, Briseno told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

Although the well-publicized, large-scale raids of immigrant families haven't materialized in the state, there has been "a steady increase in ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) pickups," said Kat Kelley of Catholic Charities. When a raid does occur, "it's almost as bad as it can get for children," according to Bennett, now retired and a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Seaside. "It's not quite like a death in the family but almost."

"The psychological effect of all this on children, on families, is huge," added Kelley. "We are going to see a public health fallout over this for decades."

Suarez, who with Catholic Charities colleagues is attempting to mitigate that fallout, said fear and stress associated with family separation manifests itself in different ways physically and mentally for children depending on their ages.

At the counseling center, support for children focuses on the entire family. Counselors and case managers begin by helping parents in practical ways, such as with children who don't want to attend school or are unable to sleep. "Then, during the grieving process of loss," she said, "we offer sustained ways to stay connected to a deported family member and to preserve hope."

Some argue that the children of these immigrants suffer because of their parents' actions.

"One of the questions we most often hear is: 'Why don't these people follow the legal channels to get here?'" said Briseno, of the Pope Francis Center, which provides information about social justice initiatives. "Once undocumented people are here, the next response usually is, 'They should just go home and get in line.'"

But "there is no line," Briseno said. This is especially true for those who have left their countries overnight due to severe threats. "What we are seeing today are mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents who are fleeing their home countries with children at their side because the threat of violence, death, starvation is all too real for them."

Holy Cross Father Daniel Groody, an associate professor of theology and global affairs at the University of Notre Dame, who has written extensively on migration, argued that borders are not absolute.

Many involved in this U.S. immigration debate have legitimate concerns about an influx of immigrants, he said, and the Catholic Church accepts the necessity of national borders. But "there is also a way of seeing deeper questions about law and our relationship with others," the priest said.

Matt Cato, director of the Portland Archdiocese's Office of Life, Justice and Peace, said that if society were to truly "appreciate the significance of children's emotional ties throughout the first years of life, it would no longer tolerate children growing up fearful of losing a parent."

Catholic Charities is using legal expertise to try to preserve these ties, protect the vulnerable and keep families intact.

Nationwide and in Oregon, legal services for families facing separation are extremely limited. That's partially because retaining a private immigration attorney can cost thousands of dollars and is too expensive for the average immigrant family in the state, according to Herrera, head of Immigration Legal Services.

The Center for Removal Defense was established by Portland's Catholic Charities in 2017 to provide "equal access to justice and representation for undocumented migrants in our community," Herrera said. He added that a number of center clients are from mixed-status families -- those composed of at least one U.S. citizen.

According to data analyzed by the American Immigration Council, immigrants with access to legal counsel while in custody are four times more likely to be released from detention than their unrepresented counterparts.

The center's full-time lawyer and legal assistant have argued more than 220 asylum cases. Currently they are tackling about 40.

Over the past two years, "we've seen a significant uptick in the number of individuals and families who seek our services," said Briseno. They've had to turn away almost 200 cases because they lacked sufficient resources to help.

Along with the center's legal aid, Catholic Charities offers parents guardianship workshops, where attorneys go through paperwork ensuring that if one or both parents are detained or deported, their children will not enter the foster care system. A child's older siblings or a neighbor, for example, is given authority to make decisions on behalf of the parent.

"It's heart-wrenching to think about what parents are needing to do," said Briseno, adding that Catholic Charities also belongs to a partnership that aims to keep kids out of foster care by providing trained host families.

And the agency helps immigrant families come up with a plan for children if their parents "don't come home one day," said Kelley. It includes a list of what numbers to call, where important papers are kept and where children should go.

"We encourage families to have the plan taped to the door or bathroom so it's visible in a crisis," Kelley said.

One of the tragedies of separation for families is that even if reunited, "damage has been done," said Bennett. "You don't get that time back with your kids."

Still, Suarez believes there's hope for children to heal from the trauma. "Every child is different, but you can see a resilience in each of them that they learned from their parents," she said.

"That these families have survived up to this point shows how resilient they are."

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Scott is special projects reporter at the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.


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Gregory: Offensive speech, actions a 'growing plague' that 'must end'

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 11:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Catholic Standard

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said recent public comments by President Donald Trump and others about Baltimore and the responses those remarks have generated "have deepened divisions and diminished our national life."

"We must all take responsibility to reject language that ridicules, condemns, or vilifies another person because of their race, religion, gender, age, culture or ethnic background," the archbishop said. "Such discourse has no place on the lips of those who confess Christ or who claim to be civilized members of society. justice for all."

The archbishop made the remarks in a Q-and-A with the Catholic Standard, Washington's archdiocesan newspaper. The full text of the questions and his responses, published Aug. 1, follow:

Q: What is your reaction to the controversy over President Trump's tweets on some members of Congress, deploring Baltimore and related matters?

A: In my brief time in Washington, I have been doing a lot of listening and learning. I have promised to try to preach the Gospel, tell the truth and attempt to heal wounds in the body of Christ and our broader community. I have stressed that I am a pastor and fellow disciple of Jesus, not a political leader.

There are, however, sometimes, when a pastor and a disciple of Jesus is called to speak out to defend the dignity of all God's children.

I fear that recent public comments by our president and others and the responses they have generated, have deepened divisions and diminished our national life. In particular, I join my brother Archbishop William Lori in sadness and deep regret for the ways our Maryland neighbors in Baltimore have been denigrated in recent public attacks.

Our faith teaches us that respect for people of every race, religion, gender, ethnicity and background are requirements of fundamental human dignity and basic decency. This include newcomers to our country, people who have differing political views and people who may be different from us. Comments which dismiss, demean or demonize any of God's children are destructive of the common good and a denial of our national pledge of "liberty and justice for all."

Q: What can we do about this kind of rhetoric or divisions?

A: I have recently met with leaders of the Knights of Columbus and many lay ecclesial movements in the Archdiocese. We discussed what we can do together to advance our Gospel mission. I encouraged them and their members to seek to promote respect for all, the common good and humble dialogue in a time of growing and destructive divisions. This request builds on the good work and outstanding service of the Knights and these exemplary lay movements in our family of faith and our Washington community. I asked their help in lifting up and defending the dignity of every person, promoting respect, civility and principled discussion of what unites us and where we may differ. We all need to reject racism, disrespect or brutality in speech and action.

I believe the recent pastoral letter of the U.S. bishops on racism, "Open Wide Our Hearts" which points out that racism occurs when we ignore "the fundamental truth that, because all humans share a common origin, they are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God, when this truth is ignored, the consequence is prejudice and fear of the other, and -- all too often -- hatred."

I want to share this appeal with all of the faithful of this local church and with our neighbors in this community we share. We must all take responsibility to reject language that ridicules, condemns, or vilifies another person because of their race, religion, gender, age, culture or ethnic background. Such discourse has no place on the lips of those who confess Christ or who claim to be civilized members of society. Speech that vilifies or denigrates another is a violation of the humanity of the speaker and those to whom it is directed - and deprives each of us of our God-given dignity. We must reclaim, reshape and refocus the national conversation on how we protect and promote the lives and dignity of all, especially, the least of these" (Matthew 25.)

Q: What is your hope for what can come out of all this?

A: As an American, a Christian, a Catholic pastor, I pray that our president, other national leaders and all Americans will do all we can to respect the dignity of all God's children and nothing to further divide our nation. The growing plague of offense and disrespect in speech and actions must end.

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The Catholic Standard is the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Fire destroys 'treasured' historic Catholic church in Texas

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 3:23pm


WESTPHALIA, Texas (CNS) -- The Church of the Visitation in Westphalia, a nearly 125-year-old wooden church with bell towers on each side, burned to the ground July 29.

The fire, which began in the morning, is still under investigation. Parishioners ran into the burning church to save what they could, including its tabernacle.

"We got some stuff out, but it wasn't near enough," parishioner Marvin Meyer told the Waco Tribune Herald daily newspaper. "We just saw the smoke, and everyone came. Everyone just tried to do what you could to save what you could, but it went so fast. In like 15 minutes, it was over."

The church, which is in the Austin Diocese, serves 244 families.

"I am saddened for the people of Westphalia who have suffered this tremendous loss," said Austin Bishop Joe S. Vasquez in a July 29 statement. "I am grateful for all the firefighters and departments that responded to the fire. Please join me in keeping the people of this historic parish in your prayers today as they try to piece together this tragedy."

The bishop, who spoke to reporters near the grounds of the charred parish church July 30, noted that the community is "broken hearted" about this loss. He said the church was "truly one of our treasured churches" because of its history, tradition and the love and the faith of the people, which has not diminished and will grow stronger "out of these ashes."

He said the parish community will continue to come together and pray and support one another. He also noted that the parishioners had been busy making plans to celebrate the parish's 125th anniversary next year.

The bishop said he was grateful for those who risked their lives to save the tabernacle and thankful for the work of many volunteer firefighters.

He said parishioners will hopefully be able to worship nearby and when asked if the parish would rebuild, he said he thought they would because the church "means so much" to the parishioners.

The church was designed in the shape of a Latin cross with a bell tower on each side. It contained more than 20 stained-glass windows. Construction was completed in February 1895 and most of the carpentry was done by parishioners. The church was dedicated three months later.

In 1978, the church received official recognition with a Texas Historical Marker. And in 1996, the community was recognized as a Rural Historic District, which encompasses 5,500 acres of farmland, the church and many other historic sites in the area. The district is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Jerry Loden, a volunteer firefighter and parishioner at the Church of the Visitation, told the Waco Tribune Herald that wind fueled the fire that quickly spread through the wooden structure.

"I got married here. I go here every week. This is home," Loden said. Noting the parish's upcoming anniversary, he said: "Over those years, there have been thousands and thousands of people who have come through those doors."

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Religious sisters at forefront of fight against human trafficking, slavery

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 4:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Beth Griffin

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- A worldwide network of 2,000 Catholic religious sisters marked the 10th anniversary of its efforts to combat human trafficking and slavery July 29.

Speakers from the Talitha Kum organization headlined a United Nations panel on the eve of the U.N. annual observance of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

"Human trafficking is one of the darkest and most revolting realities in the world today, ensnaring 41 million men and women, boys and girls," said Father David Charters, second secretary of the Vatican's permanent observer mission to the United Nations.

"It is, as Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed, 'an open wound on the body of contemporary society,' a 'crime against humanity' and an 'atrocious scourge that is present throughout the world on a broad scale,'" he said.

Father Charters said the international response to the global phenomenon includes three specific targets in the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They commit the organization's members to fight trafficking and sexual exploitation, take immediate action to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and end all forms of violence against and torture of children.

Comboni Sister Gabriella Bottani is the international coordinator of the Rome-based Talitha Kum. She said it is a network of networks established by the International Union of Superiors General to coordinate and strengthen the anti-trafficking work being done by consecrated women in 77 countries on five continents.

"Talitha Kum" were the words Jesus addressed to a young apparently lifeless girl in the Gospel of Mark. The Aramaic phrase is translated, "Young girl, I say to you, 'Arise.'" The network seeks to free people, raise them up and restore their dignity.

Sister Bottani said Talitha Kum uses a victim-centered approach to identify people in need and support them with shelter, social reintegration and education.

"We do not have a model to export. Each of the organizations in the network promotes initiatives against trafficking in its particular local context," she said.

Some of the sisters dedicate their entire ministry to trafficked and enslaved people, while others provide housing and emergency intervention as needed.

As an example, Sister Bottani said members of the network met a caravan of Hondurans in October 2018 as they passed through Guatemala on their way to hoped-for sanctuary in the United States. They identified potential victims of trafficking and offered assistance, she said.

Talitha Kum also works with some men religious and has begun an interreligious collaboration with women in the Middle East, Sister Bottani said.

Sister Melissa Camardo, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas, is the director of development for LifeWay Network, a safe housing and education program that operates three sites in the New York metropolitan area.

Each house has a full-time core community of three religious sisters who work with a full-time house manager and part-time social worker to provide supportive care and access to education, social services and other tools to prepare for independent living.

Sister Camardo said the houses offer healing in a loving, imperfect, striving community" that is open to both domestic and foreign-born survivors of labor and sex trafficking. The sisters at each site are drawn from several religious communities.

LifeWay guests are referred by social service providers and may have short-term emergency stays or participate in a year-long transitional program. After leaving LifeWay houses, women also are invited to join a mentorship program that uses trauma-informed approaches to increase the survivors' sense of safety and support their empowerment and self-sufficiency.

Sister Camardo said LifeWay has served more than 100 women from 37 countries. They include Ansa Noreen, who came to the United States from Pakistan as one of four new brides of an American husband. She said entering a "fake" marriage is a matter of survival for many women in developing countries and is a form of human trafficking.

"It's a way to exploit vulnerable girls," she said.

Noreen said after her escape from an abusive situation, LifeWay helped her build on her previous experience in fashion design and train for her current job in Web design. She said the sisters "became my first and only family in the United States and restored my confidence. I was able to pursue my passion because I had a safe place to live, food on the table and encouragement."

Holding Sister Camardo's hand as she spoke in public for the first time, Noreen said, "I experienced an empathy you don't see elsewhere."

Noreen lived at LifeWay for one year and is now part of the mentor program, working to become financially stable and training to be a mentor for other women.

Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science, said human trafficking is a crime against humanity and a new form of slavery. Religious leaders and governments have a moral imperative to eradicate it, he said.

Bishop Sanchez Sorondo was tasked by fellow Argentine Pope Francis to address slavery and human trafficking.

"There is a new awareness that forced labor, prostitution and organ trafficking are crimes. In the horrifying statistics, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg because some of the crimes are not visible, he said. For example, he said it is not easy to know the number of people trafficked for organ transplants, so they may not be included in the statistics.

Bishops conferences should evaluate the extent of the situation in their own country and then seek solutions, Bishop Sanchez Sorondo said. These might include a commitment to sever relations with institutions that use or benefit from forced labor, or support for legislation that criminalizes customers rather than prostitutes, he said.

Work against human trafficking is a form of evangelization, Bishop Sanchez Sorondo said, because it removes a wound from the body of Christ, communicates the faith and expresses the Beatitudes.

The panel discussion was sponsored by the Vatican's mission to the U.N., the Pontifical Academy of Science, the Galileo Foundation and the Talitha Kum Network.

It was followed by the launch of "Nuns Healing Hearts," a weeklong exhibition at the U.N. of photos depicting the efforts of Talitha Kum. After a 30-year career documenting indigenous people in 160 countries, photographer Lisa Kristine turned her attention to human slavery and trafficking.

"Slavery is an endless gauntlet of harsh labor," she said. "People don't become enslaved because they're stupid, but because they they've been lied to. They've been given promises of education or a better life."

Kristine said the sisters she met during her photographic journey are humble women working with limited resources who take great risks to help vulnerable people.

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