Archive of May 4, 2008

Advocate for vulnerable to speak at SGU commencement

Shawnee, Okla., May 4, 2008 (CNA) - St. Gregory’s University recently announced that attorney and state advocate Shirley Cox will give the university’s commencement address. Cox has served as an advocate for the Church relating to issues regarding society’s most vulnerable.

Cox, a legal services developer for the state Department of Human Services’ Aging Division, has been an advocate for those on the margins of society for more than 20 years. In 2007, she became one of the most well-known spokespersons on immigration issues in Oklahoma, specifically in opposition to the immigration law known as HB1804.   She is also a frequent speaker on issues involving end-of-life decisions, senior fraud, the legislative process and advocacy for the elderly.

Prior to assuming the position with DHS, Cox served as a legislative and public policy advocate for the Roman Catholic Church relating to issues that affect the poor and vulnerable, including such issues as the elderly, pro-life, Medicaid, immigration, public benefits, welfare reform, euthanasia, corrections, the death penalty, “English Only”, and  end-of-life. She has been the Director of Catholic Charities Immigration Assistance Program (1987-1997), an Adjunct Professor of Law at Oklahoma City University Law School (Immigration Law) (1993-2005), and an Adjunct Professor of Theology at St. Gregory’s University (1998-2000).

Cox serves on numerous community boards and committees, including the Latino Community Development Agency, Metafund Board, Citizens’ League of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma Conference of Churches, and Oklahoma County Mental Health Association. She also has a long list of recent honors, including the 2007 Latino Community Development Agency Advocate of the Year Award, the Central Oklahoma Community Forum’s 2007 Labor/Religion Community Service Award, and the Oklahoma Bar Association’s 2005 Outstanding Service to the Public Award. She was also featured in the Encyclopedia of American Catholic Women in 2001.

Cox has a master’s degree in social work and a law degree, both from the University of Oklahoma. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Oklahoma State University.

St. Gregory’s University is a private institution located in Shawnee, Oklahoma. SGU is the only Catholic university in Oklahoma and the oldest institution of higher learning in the state.

The school’s 93rd commencement is scheduled for May 10 at 11 a.m. inside W. P. Wood Field House. SGU has also scheduled its baccalaureate for May 9 at 7 p.m.

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U.S. response to Iraqi refugees “shockingly inadequate,” refugee advocate says

Washington D.C., May 4, 2008 (CNA) - The director of the U.S. bishops’ refugee program testified before Congress on Thursday, saying that the United States’ response to the Iraqi refugee crisis is “shockingly inadequate.” He also lamented that the country is not doing “everything in its power” to address the looming crisis. 

At present, there are about two million Iraqi refugees outside of their home country, mostly in Jordan and Syria, while there are two and a half million people estimated to be displaced within Iraq.

Anastasia K. Brown, director of Refugee Programs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), presented testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia in a joint hearing. 

She told the hearing the United States “should and must” do more to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi refugee population.  She specifically referenced the small number of Iraqi refugees resettled in the United States.  While the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had referred 24,000 vulnerable cases to the United States for resettlement, only 4,000 have entered the country since the beginning of 2007.

Brown called the response “shockingly inadequate,” arguing that the United States is capable of operating large operations to avert humanitarian crises, given enough political will.  She said 135,000 Vietnamese refugees had been resettled in one year at the end of the Vietnam War.  In a six-month period in 1999, 14,000 Kosovars were settled in the U.S. 

The U.S. could resettle at least 60,000 Iraqis each year, Brown claimed, saying this would rescue vulnerable groups and relieve pressure on countries hosting refugees.

Migration and Rescue Services of the USCCB, in conjunction with the International Migration Commission, has released a detailed study on the needs of vulnerable Iraqi refugees in Syria.  The report examines the difficulties of special needs refugees, such as unaccompanied children and women heads-of-households.  It also assesses the existing responses to their needs and recommends the best approaches to helping the refugee populations.

The report is available at

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Priest-pilot leads flight squadron in charitable “fly-a-thon”

Adelaide, Australia, May 4, 2008 (CNA) - A flying priest is leading a squadron of 15 pilots in a 4,600-mile flight around Australia to raise funds for World Youth Day pilgrims and to raise awareness about the plight of East Timor.

According to the Southern Cross newspaper, Father John Fowles’ “fly-a-thon” is expected to raise almost $500,000 through donations and sales of a CD titled “Earth Angels Care.”  Proceeds will be used to send 10 young East Timorese pilgrims to World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, while the rest of the donations will go towards projects in East Timor, with orphanages being a priority.

“To these Timorese, the possibility of sharing such a day with the youth of the world is only a dream,” Father Fowles told The Southern Cross. “Fly Away to Heaven hopes to make this dream a reality.

“We are quite complacent in this country. We are not short of anything. I’ve always had that missionary zeal to do something for those less fortunate than ourselves.”

Father Fowles said that raising “awareness” was more important than raising money.  He said he hoped the flight will inspire others to “take up the challenge for the poor and needy.”

The priest will circumnavigate Australia in a Jabiru J400 aircraft named “Angel Wings.”  He built the plane himself from a kit bought with the gift of a parishioner.

The pilots on the trip, which will last from May 1 to June 3, come from various backgrounds.  Not all are Catholics.

“Flying around Australia is something many people want to do,” Father Fowles said.

“These pilots are doing it for something worthwhile and that appeals to them. We will enjoy the flight, there’s no doubt about that, but it will be tiring.”

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‘Jesus came into the world to bring the sheep back,’ says the Holy Father

Vatican City, May 4, 2008 (CNA) - Over 100 thousand people filled St. Peter's Square with tremendous enthusiasm to pray with Pope Benedict XVI at noon today. Tens of thousands of members of the Italian Catholic Action league came from all parts of Italy to meet the Vicar of Christ on the occasion of its 140th anniversary.

Before reciting the Regina Coeli prayer, Pope Benedict likened the enthusiasm of the crowd to an "open air upper room" where the disciples waited and prayed with Mary in the days leading up to Pentecost. Today is celebrated as the feast of the Ascension in several countries, including Italy.

The Pope spoke about the Ascension of Jesus who, he said, "came into the world to bring man to God, not as a philosopher or a master of wisdom - but really, as pastor who wants to bring the sheep back."

"God in man, man in God: This is not merely a theoretical truth, but is real. So the Christian hope, founded in Christ, is not an illusion but, as stated in the Letter to the Hebrews' is the "anchor of our lives' (cf Heb 6:19), an anchor that penetrates Heaven where Christ has gone before us."

The Pope then turned his thoughts to Mary, whose presence in our midst he said, is part of the "solid anchoring" for our existence.

"Turning our gaze to you, like the first disciples, we are immediately brought back to the reality of Jesus: the Mother refers to the Son, who is no longer physically among us, but awaits us in the house of the Father. Jesus invites us not to stay to look up, but to stand together united in prayer, to invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit. Only, in fact, to the one who "is born again from above", by the Spirit of God, is the gate of the kingdom of heaven open. (cf Jn3:3-5); and the first "reborn from above" is the Virgin Mary. To her, therefore, we turn in the fullness of Easter joy."

At the end of the Regina Coeli began the meeting with the Catholic Action League.
Benedict XVI called on members of the Catholic Action league to witness holiness in the world by remaining true to the deep roots of faith, adhering fully to the Word of God, by unconditional love for the Church, and participating with vigilance in civic life.

He urged members of the group to respond "generously to this call to holiness", in keeping with the appropriate vocation as lay people, and to "to serve selflessly the cause of the common good, for the building of a just ordering of society and the State."

In his final exhortation before imparting his apostolic blessing, the Pope again called on all present to be "courageous witnesses" in confronting the "relativistic, hedonistic and consumerist mindset" of society, to "respond without fear, always trusting in the mercy of God," to the call of the Church, who "calls people to a point of heroism of holiness."

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