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Archive of September 7, 2008

Program works to make saints behind bars

Wichita, Kan., Sep 7, 2008 (CNA) - By Christopher M. Riggs, Catholic Advance

 

Most of society has forgotten about the criminals locked away for the rest of their lives.

 

Jim Rundell knows God hasn't forgotten about them. Rundell, who works with the diocesan St. Dismas Ministry to the Incarcerated, wants them to become saints. When he’s not at the prison or at home, he works as the administrator of the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita.

 

Rundell said about 350 of the 1,350 prisoners at the El Dorado Correctional Facility are in a segregated area and are confined to a single cell for 23 hours a day because of behavior problems or for their safety.

 

“The single hour outside of their cell is for exercise,” he said, “but it’s also spent in isolation.”

 

The men have an extraordinary need of God, Rundell said, but because they may have no contact with outsiders, one-on-one ministry is almost impossible. The two chaplains at the prison must spend most of their time with the men in the general population.

 

Rundell has designed a program for the men to help themselves. The pilot program, called “Spiritual Formation in Segregation,” is an ecumenical program for men in long-term segregation. It incorporates prayer, scriptural reflection, personal discernment, and journaling. From six to nine prisoners will be involved in the pilot.

 

“The participants will get the support and encouragement of a trained spiritual director through written correspondence,” he said.

 

One of the biggest problems for men isolated in prison is the need to feel they are a part of the Body of Christ, Rundell added. “This is one way to reach them to help them understand that God is there with them, that they are part of a community.”

 

He said he designed the program to “draw from their hearts, rather than from their minds, so that they might experience the real presence of God in their lives right were they are.”

 

Rundell added that as the prisoners progress through a module they will compose a “spiritual letter” and a “spiritual reflection” that they are required to mail to their spiritual director through Rundell. Participants will work through about 10 modules in a year.

 

The program is also designed to help the men minister outside the prison, Rundell said.

 

“I hope to provide some avenues such as writing a witness letter that could be read to youth at risk, or perhaps a donation of a piece of art to a nursing home or school.

 

“That would allow the men who are isolated in a prison cell to again become part of the community,” he said.

 

Printed with permission from the Catholic Advance, newspaper for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas.

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New project launched to reduce abortion rate for pre-natal Down syndrome diagnoses

, Sep 7, 2008 (CNA) - Concerned Women of America (CWA) of New York has launched a new international project that aims to reduce the abortion rate for babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, which reportedly stands at 90 percent. The project was developed in consultation with major Down syndrome groups in the United States.

According to a CWA of New York press release, the project makes available a free informational brochure titled “When you've learned that your baby may have Down syndrome ... There is help and hope!”

The brochure offers reassurance to families facing a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis and informs them of resources and support groups to help them and their baby. It features the photographs of children and young adults with Down syndrome along with their family members.

"The brochure features the faces of a number of children and adults with Down syndrome,” Anne F. Downey, Esq., State Director for CWA of New York, said in a press release. “Each of the persons featured in the brochure came to me in a special way and has his or her own wonderful story to tell. In the photos you can see the joy that these young people and their family members have. Just looking at them, you can see that there truly is help and hope."

Published in English and Spanish, the brochure is available for free download at http://DownSyndromeBrochure.com, where printed copies may also be ordered for a nominal price. Special arrangements are available for large orders.

CWA of New York intends eventually to offer the brochure in many different languages with country-specific information.

The organization says the brochure helps OB/GYN doctors and others to provide expectant mothers with clear information, as recommended by a December 2007 bulletin from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

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Canadian broadcasting commission accused of bias against new Christian stations

Ottawa, Canada, Sep 7, 2008 (CNA) - The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is drawing criticism and allegations of bias for denying two separate applications from an individual and a corporation seeking to start two Christian radio stations in the Ottawa area, just weeks after the commission approved a pornographic television station. The case again directs attention to Canada’s onerous broadcasting regulations which require religious stations to provide programming space for other religious faiths.

Christian Hit Radio Inc. (CHRI) had arrived at the commission hearing in Ottawa with 780 letters of support for its new proposed FM station that would have played Christian music, hymns, and classical music while targeting an older audience, the Ottawa Citizen says. A certain Fiston Kalambay Mutombo also attended the hearing to propose a French-language Christian radio station.

Of the two open radio broadcasting slots, one went to Astral Media Corp., which had 77 letters of support for its soft adult music station targeting an audience of older women, while another went to a blues station.

According to the commission web site, the decision ruled that the proposed station format of the applications by Christian Hit Radio Inc. and Fiston Kalambay Mutombo was “already available in the market through the programming of the specialty radio station CHRI-FM.”

According to the Ottawa Citizen, CHRI co-founder and vice-president Robert du Broy said he didn’t know why the Ottawa area needs two more secular stations. Other American cities of comparable size average four Christian radio stations.

CHRI’s current station reportedly targets a young audience and has between 30,000 and 40,000 listeners for its contemporary Christian music lineup.

The CRTC’s recent approval of an Alberta-based pornographic cable channel was cited by critics who believe the commission is biased against Christians, though there were hundreds of available cable slots in comparison to the two open radio channels.

Don Hutchison, director of law and public policy for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said the cable channel’s approval was “quite offensive.”

"The CRTC has, for the past 15 years, sent a strong message they don't like Christian broadcasting, but they will allow it with heavy restrictions," he claimed.

“It's really getting tough to be a Christian in a country that was founded on Christian values,” charged David MacDonald, an Ottawan who once had his own Christian radio program.

De Bray knew his proposal would face difficulties because of CRTC regulations requiring balance for religious broadcasters, the Ottawa Citizen reports. The rules require that a Christian station’s talk programs must be countered by discussions of other faiths.

The CHRI proposal would have included about 71 minutes of programming for other faiths, particularly Judaism.

The CRTC has reportedly eased some of its requirements for specialty cable channels on religious programming, but some dissenting commissioners opposed the decision on the stated grounds that “religious intolerance” foments other forms of intolerance in worldwide conflict zones.

"We are disturbed by the extent of social, cultural, and racial intolerance which is often rooted in religious intolerance," they asserted. "One need only look to Bosnia, the Middle East, India, Northern Ireland, South Africa and other world 'trouble spots' to observe this phenomenon in its most violent form. Such cultural and racial intolerance is less dramatic and violent, but no less real, in Canada."

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Pope Benedict prays for ‘every earthly mother’ in Sardinia visit

Vatican City, Sep 7, 2008 (CNA) - Before the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Benedict spoke about the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria, dedicated to the Queen of All Sailors. Addressing an audience of almost 100,000 people, the Holy Father noted that tomorrow the Church celebrates the feast of the birth of Mary. He further reminded them that each grace the Lord granted to Mary, “he granted thinking of each of us, her children.”

Speaking from the elevated square in front of the Shrine at Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, Pope Benedict turned his audience’s attention to the “Sweet Queen of the Sards,” venerated by illustrious individuals in the course of the centuries.  Bl. Pius IX decreed her coronation; one hundred years ago St. Pius X proclaimed her patron of all of Sardinia; Pius XI gave the new church the title of “Minor Basilica;” fifty years ago Pius XII made himself spiritually present with a special message transmitted live by Vatican Radio; and in 1960 Bl. John XXIII sent a letter for the reopening of the Shrine to worship after its restoration.

The Holy Father said that the first pope to return to the island in 1650 years was the Servant of God Paul VI, who visited the Shrine on April 24, 1970. John Paul II prayed in front of the holy image of Our Lady on October 20, 1985. “Even I,” Pope Benedict continued, “have chosen the Shrine of Bonaria to make a pastoral visit that would ideally span all of Sardinia.”

Stating that “today we renew the care of Cagliari, of Sardinia and of each of its inhabitants to Mary,” the Holy Father invoked the intercession of Mary to watch over all, especially those most in need: children and young people, the elderly, families and the sick, so that the patrimony of the Gospel values may be transmitted intact to new generations and that Christ may reign in families, in communities and in society.

The Holy Father noted that the birth of Mary was a “fundamental stage” for the Family of Nazareth, cradle of humanity’s redemption. “With immense gratitude,” Pope Benedict continued, “we ask Mary, Mother of the Word Incarnate and our Mother, to protect every earthly mother, those who, together with their husbands, raise their children in a harmonious family context, and those who, for so many reasons, find themselves facing this difficult task alone. May all of them carry out their daily service in the family, the Church, and society with dedication and fidelity. May the Virgin Mary be support, comfort, and hope for all!”

The Pope concluded by referencing the people of Haiti, who he said were “harshly tried in recent days by the passage of three hurricanes.” He said, “I pray for the victims, who unfortunately have been numerous, and for those left homeless. I am close to the whole country, and I hope that it may receive the necessary aid as soon as possible. I entrust all to the maternal protection of Our Lady of Bonaria.”

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