Archive of January 27, 2008

Interest in the priesthood is on the upswing

Baltimore, Md., Jan 27, 2008 (CNA) - When Father Gerard Francik recently interviewed a 19-year-old man who was thinking about becoming a priest, the archdiocesan vocations director asked him to talk about his prayer life.

The former high school football player told Father Francik how he faithfully makes a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, attends Mass or Communion services, prays the rosary and observes the liturgy of the hours – every day.

“I was just blown away,” said Father Francik. “He was very dedicated to his faith.”

That young man is typical of the kind of people who are stepping forward to become priests these days, according to Father Francik. Many are still in their teens, and they show unbridled enthusiasm for living out their religious convictions, he said.

“This generation has a different view,” said Father Francik. “They’re much more service-oriented. They’re selfless, and they want to give their all.”

The vocations director said there are more young men inquiring about becoming priests than in previous years.

“We have 16- and 17-year-olds just beating down the door,” said Father Francik. “It gives me encouragement to see so many young people on fire for their faith. It gives us hope for the future.”

There are currently 26 men studying to become priests for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. They come from all parts of the archdiocese, and they include several international seminarians from Central and South America and one from Nigeria.

Last year’s incoming seminarian class stood at 13 – the biggest class in nearly two decades, according to Father Francik. He expects that this year’s class will also hit double digits.

The vocations director believes new archdiocesan efforts have helped renew interest in the religious life. They include programs like “Operation Genesis” and “Dare to Dream” – two daylong priesthood vocations camps for boys and teens. Cardinal William H. Keeler has also been very supportive, holding vocation suppers for young men considering the priesthood and serving as retreat master at annual discernment retreats – programs continued by Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien.

Although parishes and schools have become more proactive about encouraging Catholics to consider becoming priests, sisters, brothers or deacons, Father Francik said there are still some that need to do more.

“Some of our parishes have three or four guys who are in the seminary and many have zero,” said Father Francik, noting that there are about 20 parishes represented among the men currently preparing for the priesthood.

He observed that if every parish could encourage just one man to consider the priesthood, more than 150 new priests might be ordained in the next several years.

“The pastor really sets the tone,” said Father Francik, noting that personal invitations to consider the religious life are critical. “If you talk about vocations and pray for vocations, it makes a difference.”

It’s important for parents to be open about the possibility of their sons becoming priests, Father Francik said. And it’s up to everyone to show their support to those in the discernment process, he said.
The original story can be found at The Catholic Review.

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Catholic convert’s desire for unity led him to create Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Garrison, N.Y., Jan 27, 2008 (CNA) - Throughout his entire life Fr. Paul Wattson, the founder of the Society of Antonment, was always devoted to the urgent reconciliation of Christians. His fervent desire for unity led him to convert to Catholicism from his Anglican faith and in 1907 to begin one of his greatest apostolates: the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Wattson’s path towards Catholicism was not a simple one.  James Publisi, the current minister general of the Society of Antonement, told L’Osservatore Romano that after many years of reflection about reconciliation, the centrality of Rome and the papacy, Wattson decided to publicly renounce the doctrinal positions of the Anglican communion, which he called “absolutely untenable,” because it was neither completely Anglican nor could it be considered Catholic.

Wattson was accompanied in his journey by Lurana White, also an Anglican, with whom he founded the Society of Atonement in 1898. The society is dedicated to the work of reconciliation among Christians and to the missions. Like Wattson, Ms. White converted to the Catholic faith, together with various members of their society and 10 others in 1909.

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Pope releases two doves in prayer for peace

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2008 (CNA) - Accompanied by two children, Pope Benedict XVI released two small white doves from the window of the Apostolic Palace, to end the “Month for Peace”.

At the end of the Angelus, the Pope greeted the children and youth of the Catholic Action Rome, which annually concludes the "Month for Peace" in St. Peter's Square.

The Pope addressed the children, "Dear little friends…Follow the path that Jesus has shown us to build true peace!"

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Jesus heals the whole man, recalls the Holy Father

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2008 (CNA) - Before his weekly Sunday Angelus, the Pope noted that the kingdom of God announced by Jesus Christ is manifested in the integral healing of man.


Commenting on the Sunday reading of St. Matthew the Evangelist, the Pontiff recalled that the public mission of Jesus consists primarily of preaching the Kingdom of God and healing the sick.


The Pope recalled that in Jesus’ time, the term 'gospel' was used by Roman emperors for their own proclamations… Applying this word to the teachings of Jesus sent a critical message, it was like saying: God, not the emperor, is the Lord of the world.


The "good news," continued the Holy Father, "announces that God is the one that prevails, that God is the Lord and that his lordship is present, current, being done."


"The novelty of the message of Christ is that God is at hand in Christ who has come. That God rules in our midst as Christ’s healing miracles testify,” he added.


“The dominion of God manifests itself in the integral healing of human being.”


 "The kingdom of God…affirms life over death, the light of truth that dispels the darkness of ignorance and lies," he concluded.


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British MPs seek free conscience on cloning and IVF bill

London, England, Jan 27, 2008 (CNA) - British cabinet members are demanding a “free vote” over a bill that would promote cloning and the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos, and would remove the requirement to consider the need for a father in offering IVF treatments, the Observer reports.

The IVF regulations will remove restrictions on single women and homosexual couples’ ability to undergo fertility treatments.  Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, has called that aspect of the bill 'profoundly wrong' because it 'radically undermines the place of the father in a child's life'.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill is a government bill, which means that any government-allied Ministers of Parliament voting against the bill could be disciplined for voting against it, or even merely for abstaining.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly and Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy, both Catholics, are leading the calls to permit a “free vote,” which would remove the threat of disciplinary action against dissenting legislators.  At present, only amendments regarding abortion will be allowed a free vote.

Defense Secretary Des Browne, Northern Ireland Office minister Paul Goggins, and three whips, all Catholics, also have objections to the bill.

Kelly recently met with the Labor Party’s chief whip Geoff Hoon to discuss possible options.  In an unusual concession, Hoon said objecting legislators and ministers could absent themselves fro the vote.  'He told her that MPs who had difficulties with their conscience should just not be around when the voting took place - that is, be allowed to be absent,' said one MP who is close to Kelly, according to the Spectator. 

Critics have rejected that option and are advocating a free vote on the entire bill.

The bill will enter the House of Commons after Easter.

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Catholic priest killed in Kenya violence

, Jan 27, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic priest was killed in Kenya on Saturday, yet another victim of the massive violence following contested December elections, the Catholic Information Service for Africa reports.

Father Michael Kamau Ithondeka, a 41-year-old priest of the Diocese of Nakaru, was killed by armed youth at a roadblock on the Nakaru-Eldama Ravine Road.

According to Father Simon Githara, the parish priest of Eldama Ravine, Father Kamau was stopped by armed youths claiming they were on a revenge mission after one of their own was killed in Nakaru.  Despite his pleas for mercy, the youths attacked the priest with crude weapons, killing him.

Father Kamau had studied at the Pontifical Institute for Biblical Studies in Rome and was vice-rector of St. Mathias Mulumba Senior Seminary in Tindinyo.

The Catholic Information Service for Africa reporter David Omwoyo, speaking from Naruku, said the violence appears to be revenge against members of the Kalenjin, Luo, and Luhyia communities, in retribution for recent killings of members of the Kikuyu community. 

The military is evacuating non-Kikuyus from Nakuru.  Hundreds of displaced persons have sought refuge in four Catholic parishes.

Catholic Kikuyu personnel working in the Rift Valley province have also been threatened.  Two priests based at Moi University escaped a nighttime attack at their house in Eldoret.  One of the priests told CISA that they had received several threats.

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Ohio celebrates Catholic Schools Week

Lancaster, Ohio, Jan 27, 2008 (CNA) - Sunday marked the beginning of Catholic Schools Week, with schools in the Diocese of Columbus planning many events to mark the celebration, the Eagle-Gazette reports.

According to a press release from the Diocese of Columbus, Catholic Schools Week highlights the mission of Catholic schools to provide an education that supports the whole child academically and spiritually and prepares him or her for future success.  This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools Light the Way.”

"Our teachers and curriculum foster wisdom and understanding that help produce future leaders and adults who understand the obligations of human life, the dignity of the individual and the shared responsibility for our common good," said Linda D. McQuaide, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Columbus, speaking to the Eagle-Gazette.

Fisher Catholic High school, for instance, will have theme days and an academic competition between teachers and students.  Students can avoid wearing their uniforms to school if they bring food and toiletries to donate to charities like a local pregnancy center or a soup kitchen.

"The students are aware of [their] obligation to care for those who are less fortunate," theology teacher and campus minister Lynn Anderson explained to the Eagle-Gazette. "It comes down to what Jesus said, 'Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.' Through service projects like this, we can openly address and teach that concept."

The school will also celebrate a Wednesday Mass honoring English and Social Studies teacher Ben Thimmes, who was forced to retire after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

A Catholic elementary school will celebrate a Mass for a school nurse, retiring after 29 years of service.

Another elementary school will have students decorate and assemble birthday bags for local food banks and will make Valentine’s Day boxes for veterans at the local Veterans’ Administration Hospital.  The students will also write letters thanking their parents for the sacrifices they made to educate their children.

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Filipino priest’s healing ministry under observation after two die

Manila, Philippines, Jan 27, 2008 (CNA) - A priest’s healing ministry in the Philippines that attracts thousands of people will continue to be monitored following two deaths at a crowded healing service, said a senior official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Sun Star reports. 

Father Fernando Suarez, a 41-year-old member of the Companions of the Cross, has been holding popular healing services in both the United States and the Philippines.  He left the Philippines for Canada in 1995, and was ordained a priest in 2002. 

ABS-CBN News reported two people died at a Saturday service held by Father Suarez in Olongapo City that attracted a crowd of 10,000.  One of them suffered a heart attack from the press off the crowd and later died.  In addition, several people collapsed from the intense heat.

Some blamed the deaths on the lack of security measures at the event.

The Philippines bishops’ conference Public Affairs head Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr. said the church would not stop people from attending the priest’s healing Masses.  The bishop apparently acknowledged the authenticity of Father Suarez’s healing gifts.

"Few people are given the special gift of healing, and Father Suarez is one of them. But church officials are still observant," Bishop Iniguez said, according to the Sun Star.

Father Suarez began his Philippines “healing sessions” on January 11, at a Mass in Batangas City.  The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Archbishop of Manila.

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