Chicago, Ill., Nov 1, 2005 (CNA) - Fr. Bart Winters hopes that beauty will help inspire the parishioners at his Chicago parish to greater holiness.
Built in 1904, St. Gregory the Great’s Catholic Church, in the city’s northern neighborhood of Edgewater, doesn’t need much help. But despite the beauty of the church building itself, the parish’s unique artist-in residence program is helping to bring the beauty of the church and the Catholic faith, alive in new ways.
Five years ago, shortly after Fr. Winters came on board as pastor of the gothic-style parish, which had fallen into some disrepair, he enlisted the help of Joseph Malham, a local artist and iconographer to help refurbish the building to its former greatness.
Malham, who was given studio space in the parish in exchange for his handiwork inside, soon multiplied into more artists, taking up residence at the parish--all enhancing its artistic life in their own ways.
Fr. Winters told CNA that in the spirit of theologian Hans Urs Von Balthazar, he wants the beauty of Christ, and the beauty--sometimes physical--of the faith, draw people into the Catholic Church.
“We want to reach out to people”, he said, “with the beauty of art and good liturgy.”
Currently, the parish is home to Malham; a priest, jazz-guitarist, Fr. John Moulder, and an Indiana-based Catholic theater ensemble, called Quest.
Like much of the city, the neighborhood around the parish has, in recent years, been going through a period of gentrification and Fr. Winters laments the somewhat transient nature of St. Gregory’s parishioners.
Nevertheless, he is hopeful that the artist-in-residence program will help to draw in more people because, as he puts it, “Christ is beautiful.”
On its website, St. Gregory’s parish states that, “The duties of stewardship compel us to conscientiously preserve and multiply [our] inheritance by employing the arts as a tool of evangelization.”
“In the beauty of our worship, and by means of regularly scheduled sacred concerts and cultural events,” they continue, “we strive to use the arts to spread Christ’s gospel.”
Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have announced a new document, set to be voted on later this month, which explores the role of Catholic lay ministers in the Church.
The topic had been hotly discussed during the recent General Synod of Bishops in Rome, with some contesting that more attention needs to be paid to lay ministers in light of a priestly shortage in many regions of the world.
The U.S. document, “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry,” will be voted on at the Bishops plenary meeting in Washington on the 14th through 17th of this month.
The USCCB states that lay ministers compose a group of some 30,000 men and women in the U.S. Church alone. They include diocesan chancellors, youth ministers, religious educators, pastoral associates and chaplains, among other roles.
The document explores theological basis and understanding of the lay roles, and addresses the minister’s relationship with the local bishop, pastor, deacons and parishioners themselves.
Statistics show that the 30,000 member strong group is growing each year and a number far greater than that serve in the name of the Church in Catholic schools, hospitals and other similar organizations.
In this light, the document also addresses proper education and formation for lay ministers so that they can accurately teach the faith in their respective areas of expertise.
Vienna, Austria, Nov 1, 2005 (CNA) - Several parishes in the Austrian cities of Vienna and Linz organized special activities on the vigil of All Saints’ Day to emphasize holiness and provide alternatives to the celebration of Halloween.
The Kath.net agency reported on a number of activities proposed as alternatives to Halloween, such as an activity organized by the “Friends of God”, who invited the faithful of the city of Linz to a “Night of Lights” in which they invited participants to a deeper conversion through a meditation on the Last Things.
“On the night of October 31, we will hold a vigil in which we will recall that this feast announced the Lordship of God in His Saints, the triumph of the light over the darkness. On this night there is no room for darkness,” said one of the event’s organizers.
In Vienna a night of prayer was held at the Cathedral, and at the Monastery of the Holy Cross, a night of mercy was held, which included sacramental confession, praise and worship. The invitation read: “All those with a clear head and an open mind are welcome. Those with a ‘pumpkin head’ are definitely not.”
Moscow, Russia, Nov 1, 2005 (CNA) - During the celebration of a Pontifical Mass on Sunday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Russia, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, said the Eucharist is the eternal Bread of Life that satisfies the hunger and thirst of the Christian pilgrim and that should be shared with others.
“The Eucharist is the eternal Bread of Life, not as something sublime and unreachable, but rather as an experience of love that satiates our hunger and thirst as pilgrims. The Eucharist is Bread of the pilgrim, joy in the pilgrimage, and gift that the Christian pilgrim receives in order to share with others as well,” the archbishop said during the Mass concluding the Year of the Eucharist and the Eucharistic Congress of the Diocese of Moscow.
As he began the Mass, Archbishop Lajolo thanked Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusieviz of Moscow for the invitation to celebrate Mass and he extended to all those present the blessing of Pope Benedict XVI.
According to Vatican Radio, the Holy See’s top foreign policy official traveled to Russia to learn of “the position and view of the Russian government about diverse problems of an international order and to make known the Holy See’s viewpoint.” His visit was in response to an invitation by the country’s foreign minister, Sergej Lavrov, who met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, last June.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 1, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Jorge Casaretto of San Isidro, Argentina, said this week that authentic change in society is not possible without a properly formed conscience and the knowledge that every action has repercussions.
Since every good or bad actions has repercussions in the life of a society, the bishop explained, change must take place first “inside each of us,” as part of a commitment to “seeking out and building up the common good.”
“Faced with the challenges of a society that demands justice, with men and women who want their rights to be respected, with juridical and institutional standards that need to be purified and renewed, the word ‘change’ acquires a much more profound meaning than simply putting on a different face,” he noted.
Bishop Casaretto recalled that the renewal of ideas and institutions must be focused on the good of man. Thus everyone must adopt new attitudes that bring out the commonly yearned-for principles and values, “which we are not always willing to respect.”
After warning that no formula works if “it is not accompanied by adequate ethical and moral standards,” he exhorted the faithful to renew their desire to experience profound change by making present “the basic values and principles that distinguish us as persons and characterize us as Argentineans in the building of a new society.”
Madrid, Spain, Nov 1, 2005 (CNA) - The Association of Victims of Abortion (AVA) in Spain has issued a response to a study by criminal law professor Patricia Laurenzo Copello, which argues that abortion needs to be legalized in that country.
The AVA contradicted the conclusions of the study, explaining that the increase in the number of abortions in Spain is not due to the criminal system but rather to “the lack of recognition of the right of all women who are unexpectedly pregnant to have alternatives to abortion and to know all of the information about the risks, consequences and the methods used to carry out the procedure.”
Victoria Uroz, secretary of the AVA, told Europa Press that the study ignores the fact women who obtain abortions undergo “enormous social pressure and suffer from a lack of real freedom” in making their decision. Women who abort are victims of violence and ignorance because they are never told that abortion causes irreversible psychological, and sometimes physical, damage, and that it takes the life of their child.”
Uroz pointed out that the laws legalizing or regulating abortion should not be modified out of economic or political interests, but rather they should “protect women,” who often receive counseling from health care professionals who are themselves tied to abortion clinics and are the ones who in “97% of the cases” vouch for supposed risk to the mother’s psychiatric health if she goes through with her pregnancy, thus clearing the way for an abortion.
Lastly, the AVA called on health-care professionals to act with “freedom of conscience” in response to these kinds of laws, reminding them that “doctors are taught to serve and care for human life from the moment of conception, as is indicated in their code of ethics.”
Manchester, United Kingdom, Nov 1, 2005 (CNA) - Parishioners in the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, are considering what to do with their priest shortage, given their growing church population in the southern part of the state and shifting demographics.
Representatives from the diocese's 31 "clusters" of churches, each a geographic group of parishes, are discussing ways to continue meeting parishioners' needs despite the increasing lack of available priests and professional staff.
Parishioners are considering closing or merging churches or cutting back on masses at a given parishes. All parishioners agree, however, that more involvement from the laity is necessary and that all Catholics must have access to mass.
The clusters have formed task forces and each region will prepare a report. These will be forwarded to the diocese's 10-member Long Range Planning Commission, which will present a final report to the Bishop John McCormack by the fall of 2006, said Fr. Robert Gorski, the commission's director and chairman.
Fr. Gorski told reporter Terry Date that the number of men entering the priesthood is not keeping pace with demand in local parishes, and the ranks are aging.
The diocese has 109 priests for 117 parishes and 22 missions. By 2012, the diocese will have only an estimated 75 priests available for assignment. Currently, 70 percent of priests is older than 51, and in seven years, nearly 33 percent of active priests will be over 69.
Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2005 (CNA) - Christian groups are applauding President George W. Bush’s nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court.
He was nominated Monday to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. If confirmed, Alito would be the fifth Catholic justice on the Supreme Court, joining Chief Justice John Roberts and associate justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy.
"Judge Alito's qualifications are outstanding," said Samuel Casey, executive director of the Christian Legal Society. "Judge Alito has participated in hundreds of appeals and authored scores of opinions in his 15 years on the Third Circuit. Like Chief Justice Roberts, Judge Alito was a respected appellate advocate before he went on the bench, arguing 12 cases before the Supreme Court and numerous appeals in the lower federal courts.”
Gregory Baylor, director of Christian Legal Society's Center for Law & Religious Freedom, lauded Alito for his correct interpretation and application of the First Amendment's religion clauses. "Judge Alito appears to understand that the Constitution protects the religious exercise rights of all Americans," said Baylor.
Baylor cited three cases—Blackhawk v. Pennsylvania, Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Newark, and Abramson v. William Paterson College—in which Alito ruled in favor of religious rights. The cases dealt with three different faiths: Native Indian, Islam and Judaism.
Alito’s decisions and his rejection of ACLU's efforts to dismantle holiday displays that included Christmas trees, menorahs, nativity scenes and Kwanzaa symbols also show that he “rejects the idea that the First Amendment's Establishment Clause requires the removal of all things religious from the public square," said Baylor.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson has described the nomination as "a truly excellent choice."
"Judge Alito is a man of exceptional background and experience," Anderson said. "His 15 years as a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, together with his service as the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey and as a Justice Department lawyer arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court make him one of the most qualified persons ever nominated for our highest court.”
Anderson commended Alito on his decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, calling it “a model of well-reasoned jurisprudence.” It was cited by Chief Justice Rehnquist when the case reached the Supreme Court, Anderson noted.
"The Senate Judiciary Committee should give him prompt and expeditious consideration, followed by a timely up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. Given his long service as an appeals judge, and the fact that his views and written opinions are voluminous and well known, there is no excuse for delay or obstruction," Anderson concluded.
Catholic League president William Donohue said the nomination unites Catholics, evangelical Protestants and Orthodox Jews. “Whatever theological differences they have pale in significance compared to their joint interest in religious liberty,” he said.
He observed that some groups have already issued notices urging citizens to call their senators to oppose Alito. “It is precisely because Alito is a voice of moderation that the secular left is opposed to him,” said Donohue.
In addition, some are already commenting that if Alito is confirmed he would be the fifth Catholic on the Supreme Court, he noted.
“So what?” Donohue said. “Currently, Jews comprise 22 percent of the Justices, even though they are only 1 percent of the population. Is that a problem?”
Vatican City, Nov 1, 2005 (CNA) - During the prayer of the Angelus today, Solemnity of All Saints, Pope Benedict XVI said this feast and the tradition to visit the graves of our deceased is an opportunity to “think without fear about the mystery of death and to develop this constant vigilance in order to face it with serenity.”
Before thousands of faithful and pilgrims who gathered at Saint Peters square from all over the world, the Holy Father reminded that “today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints, that makes us enjoy the joy of being part of the great family of God’s friends.”
Drawing deeper on the significance of the Solemnity, the Pope said that “to become Saints means to realize fully what we already are, elevated through Jesus Christ, as adoptive sons of God.”
“The new life received in the baptism, is not prone to corruption nor to the power of death,” and reflecting on death, he reminded that “for those who live in Christ, this is the passage from the pilgrimage on earth to our mother land in Heaven, where the Father welcomes all of his sons, 'regardless of nation, race, people and tongue’, as we read in the Book of the Apocalypse.”
“In the mystical Body of Christ, the souls of the faithful go beyond the barrier of death, they pray for each other, they accomplish an intimate exchange of gifts” the Pope said, taking into account that “in this dimension of the faith, we understand why we pray on this day to the deceased.”
Moreover, Benedict XVI put forth that “uniting myself spiritualy to those who will gather at cemeteries to pray for their deceased,” he too “will pray in the Vatican Groto, close to the tombs of the Popes and will have a special thought for our beloved John Paul II.”
Vatican City, Nov 1, 2005 (CNA) - Over the weekend, the Holy See reported, Pope Benedict made a surprise, personal pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of the 'Mother of Grace' at Mentorella, near Rome. This was the same site visited by John Paul II on his first pilgrimage outside the Vatican 27 years ago.
The Holy Father quietly left Rome for Mentorella Saturday morning where, according to Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, “he celebrated Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, returning to the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican in the early afternoon."
The shrine is located in the mountainous region of Tivoli, some 35 miles from Rome. According to tradition, St. Benedict himself lived in a cave near the 4,000 foot high shrine for two years.