Denver, Colo., Nov 27, 2008 (CNA) - On May 22, a mile-wide tornado tore through the community of Windsor, 80 miles north of Denver, killing one person and devastating the lives of hundreds of others. However, six months later, this community of 19,000 continues to rebuild as those who were displaced count their blessings and get their lives back on track.
With 150 mph winds, the storm destroyed 80 homes and more than 700 others were damaged. The Economic Development Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce estimated the financial impact on Windsor was in excess of $5 million and, by the end of the summer, according to figures released by the Department of Regulatory Agencies for Colorado, more than $147.6 million dollars in insurance payouts for auto and home damage.
As of last week, of the 418 houses that suffered structural damage by the tornado all but five have been issued building permits to begin reconstruction.
Father James Spahn, pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Parish, said that in the weeks immediately following the tornado came an outpouring of generosity he had never seen before. The help came from parishes, organizations and individuals.
“Some … donated gift certificates so victims could purchase food and necessities, others just showed up and offered to help,” he said.
Even now, months later, people continue to help their neighbors in any way they can, according to Our Lady of the Valley Business Manager Darcy Cangilla.
“To date we’ve received about $150,000 in donations,” she said. “It came from all walks: individuals, parishes from in-state and out-of-state as well as from Catholic Charities. The money is being used for everything from buying food to helping with shelter and reconstruction costs.”
Although the church itself wasn’t in the path of the tornado, the building did sustain some hail and roof damage. Parishioners saw to it that the church was repaired, but also concentrated their efforts on those who got hit a lot harder.
“The people of the parish have pulled together from the day of the disaster,” Cangilla said. “Even now, as people are moving back into their houses we have volunteers who help them move their belongings back in.”
One of the families who have moved back into their house is that of Hugo and Patricia Flores. The family wasn’t home when the tornado came through, and compared to the devastation suffered by some of their neighbors, they were fortunate, said Patricia Flores.
“We sustained damage but our home was structurally sound,” she said. “The storm blew out all of our windows and doors and we did have to get rid of our furniture, but our repair was confined to some holes in the roof and one wall that had to be reinforced. We were lucky.”
While their home was being repaired, the Flores, along with teenage son Mario, lived in a nearby townhome. Grateful to be back in their home, the family has invited their pastor to bless it. They plan to invite many of the parishioners who helped them during their ordeal to the ceremony.
“This community has been a blessing,” Patricia Flores said. “It makes one rethink what’s important. Things can always be replaced. Friends and family are what makes life important.”
Windsor residents Tom and Callie Schoenherr say had it not been for a long-distance phone call, their experience could have been a lot worse.
“We were upstairs watching the hailstorm outside when my mother called from South Dakota,” Callie Schoenherr said. “She’d heard on the news that tornados were sighted outside of Winsor and perhaps we should go to the basement.”
Seconds after the family—including 2-year-old Tori and 1-year old Tyson—got to the basement, the tornado hit their home.
“The garage collapsed and blew away and one of the vehicles was a total loss,” Callie Schoenherr said. “Debris was everywhere—glass, insulation, shingles—every window was blown out upstairs. It was a mess.”
Damage to the home was extensive. The foundation, most of the basement and walls on the first floor were still intact, but everything else was gutted down to the frame before the family could rebuild. Callie Schoenherr credits her parish with helping the family cope with the tragedy.
“Some gracious parishioners from church put us up for several nights; another family lent us the use of their home for a short time while they were out of town,” she said. “We eventually found a place to rent until our house was rebuilt; last week we were able to move back in. We’re so thankful to be home.”
Some families remain displaced and face the prospect of more months passing before they can move back. Such is the case for Kathy and Michael Zrubek who have run into some challenges in trying to get their house rebuilt.
The Zrubek home was a total loss and had to be torn down to the foundation. They have settled with their insurance company and are approved for low interest loans, but getting the construction going has been tough.
“First we had to get some quotes on building,” Kathy Zrubek said. “We spoke with several committees … and then we were told by the city that because we tore down the house to the foundation we’d be classified as a ‘new construction project,’ which meant added cost. It’s been quite an ordeal.”
Eventually, the building committee managed to locate the original builder who contacted the Zrubeks and agreed to rebuild their house for them. According to Kathy Zrubek, construction can begin as soon as they receive their permit.
“Hopefully, we’ll be in by April,” she said.
For the time being the Zrubeks, along with their four children, are staying in a rental nearby. Kathy Zrubek said that while the children have looked at the process as an adventure, they’re anxious to get back into their home. They maintain their outlook with cheer, a laugh or two and help from their friends.
“We take it one day at a time,” Kathy Zrubek said. “Faith has a lot to do with it. It shores me up when nothing else will. We get so much moral support from the church and the people—it’s the one thing in our life that has been consistent and keeps us grounded.”
Printed with permission from the Denver Catholic Register.
Corpus Christi, Texas, Nov 27, 2008 (CNA) - The Corpus Christi City Council on Tuesday delayed funding for eight youth programs after residents protested that one program was run by Planned Parenthood.
The City Council was reviewing $500,000 for Community Youth Development program providers in the city’s 78415 ZIP code, the Caller Times reports. The city distributes the federal and state funds in coordination with the state Department of Family and Protective Services.
Rather than voting on all eight programs, the city voted to remove $30,000 in funding for Planned Parenthood.
The Community Youth Development Program has funded Planned Parenthood for the past four years.
About twenty city residents spoke against including Planned Parenthood, criticizing the organization as a promoter of promiscuity, perversion and pornography, according to the Caller Times.
One speaker, Kristie Rutledge, described her visit to the Planned Parenthood web site TeenWire.com which distributes information about birth control and suggests teens engage in self-abuse rather than have intercourse.
"We don't want our children ages 10 and up to be targeted with this information," she said. "This is pornography."
Others objected to the organization’s distribution of condoms and information about abortions.
Mandy Stukenberg, director of Planned Parenthood of South Texas, did not dispute the complaints about Teenwire.com, but later told the Caller Times that the programs whose funding was in question do not give information about abortion or distribute condoms.
"What kids learn about is learning to prevent sexual assault and positive assets such as learning to budget, among other skills," she said. "We want people to have accurate information."
The Planned Parenthood programs under the proposed funding are before and after-school programs reportedly covering “life skills” such as goal-setting, decision-making, communication, planning for work or college and building healthy relationships, the Caller Times says.
Similar programs to be funded are also offered at Planned Parenthood offices outside the school day. Parents must provide written approval for the programs, in which more than 100 students reportedly participated last year.
The Corpus Christi City Council approved the remaining funding for the Boys & Girls Club of Corpus Christi, YMCA, and YWCA, in addition to mental health and work force development organizations.
Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 27, 2008 (CNA) - The fallout from the victory of California Proposition 8 continues as individuals and churches that supported the measure to restore marriage as a union between a man and a woman face social pressure and reprisals. The U.S. Catholic bishops have offered support to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints following opposing activists’ “explicit and direct” targeting of the denomination.
Many churches which supported Proposition 8 have been targeted by protests, while some donors who supported the proposal have faced social derision and have even been forced out of their jobs.
Richard Raddon, Director of the Los Angeles Film Festival since 2000, has resigned his position following controversy that resulted from reports he donated to the Proposition 8 campaign.
“I feel honored to have worked with such a wonderful group of people at the Los Angeles Film Festival over the last nine years. I am proud of our accomplishments. And I am proud to have worked at Film Independent, an organization whose principles and values of diversity and artistic integrity I cherish,” Raddon said in a statement.
Professing his belief that all people are entitled to equal rights “no matter race, religion, or sexual orientation,” he explained:
“As many know, I consider myself a devout and faithful Mormon. I prefer to keep the details around my contribution through my church a private matter. But I am profoundly sorry for the negative attention that my actions have drawn to Film Independent and for the hurt and pain that is being experienced in the GLBT community.”
The Board of Film Independent, which runs the Los Angeles Film Festival, said in a statement it accepted Raddon’s resignation “with great reluctance.”
“Rich’s service to the independent film community and to Film Independent has been nothing less than extraordinary,” the statement continued. “He has always shown complete commitment to our core principles of equality and diversity during his long tenure. It was through his leadership that the Los Angeles Film Festival has grown into a formidable and exciting showcase for talented artists and diverse voices. We are sorry to see him go.”
The U.S. bishops have also commented on the aftermath of Proposition 8 in a November 21 letter from Archbishop of Louisville Joseph E. Kurtz, chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, to Thomas S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church.
Archbishop Kurtz wrote on behalf of the committee, expressing “prayerful support and steadfast solidarity” for his church and its members.
“We have watched with great distress in recent weeks as some members of society have reacted intemperately, and sometimes even violently, to the decision of the voters in support of Proposition 8 in California. We have been especially troubled by the reports of explicit and direct targeting of your church personnel and facilities as the objects of hostility and abuse. We pray that prudence and healing may prevail.”
The bishops’ committee offered them “profound gratitude” for their role in “the broad alliance of faith communities and other people of good will” who joined together to protect marriage while also “witnessing to the honor and respect due to every human person created in the image and likeness of God.”
The Mormon Church is also being targeted with legal action.
The California Fair Political Practices Commission on Monday ruled that it would inquire into a complaint filed by the activist group Californians Against Hate, the Associated Press reports. The group’s executive director Fred Karger alleged that the Mormon Church did not accurately report its financial expenditures in the Proposition 8 campaign.
Vatican City, Nov 27, 2008 (CNA) -
Israeli president Shimon Peres has extended an invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to visit Israel in 2009 and he is considering the offer, according to the Vatican’s spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi.
Speaking to the press on Thursday in Rome, Fr. Lombardi reacted to an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that stated that Pope Benedict has indeed accepted an offer to visit the Holy Land in the second week of May, 2009.
While not denying that discussions are under way, Fr. Lombardi did not confirm the specifics. "I can confirm that contacts exist at a diplomatic level between the Holy See and Israel to study the possibility of a trip by the Pope to the Holy Land next year," he said.
The article in Ha’aretz also claimed that the Pope will visit the Palestinian territories by stopping in Bethlehem.
The prospect of a papal visit would likely be welcomed by both sides, since tensions have been somewhat strained in recent months as the Vatican celebrated the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII.
Some Jewish organizations launched a campaign against the beatification of Pope Pius XII, arguing that it would negatively impact relations between Judaism and the Church. The argument is based on the "black legend," which attempts to paint him as an "accomplice" to the wholesale slaughter of Jews by the Nazis during World War II.
The Holy See maintains that the late Pope did everything he could to save Jews from the Nazis during World War II, citing the fact that he sheltered thousands of Jews in 155 of Rome’s convents and monasteries.
Visit our section: "Preserve the Christian presence in the Holy Land"
Vatican City, Nov 27, 2008 (CNA) - This afternoon at the Vatican’s Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi issued a statement about two Italian religious sisters who were kidnapped over two weeks ago in Kenya. The Vatican spokesman said that Pope Benedict is closely following any news of the sisters and is praying for them and their families.
On November 9, two Italian Catholic sisters were kidnapped by bandits in a night time ambush in the small town of El Wak in North-Eastern Kenya on the Somali border.
Maria Teresa Olevero and Catarina Giraudo are both members of the Contemplative Missionary Movement of Fr. Charles De Foucauld. Sister Maria Teresa has been in Kenya since 1972 while Sister Catarina, a nurse, has been there since 1974. The sisters provided medical and nutritional care to malnourished children, expectant mothers and the elderly.
On Thursday afternoon, Fr. Lombardi noted that, "More than a fortnight has passed since the two Italian nuns, Sr. Maria Teresa Olivero and Sr. Caterina Giraudo, were abducted in Kenya, where they are well-known for their generous dedication to the very poor.”
He related that, “The Holy Father is following the protraction of their kidnapping with concern and remains close in prayer to the suffering, not only of the two kidnapped nuns, but also to that of their families and of the ‘Contemplative Missionary Movement of Fr. de Foucauld,’ of which they are members.
“The hope is that this painful and gravely unjust situation, of which entirely innocent and praiseworthy people are victims, may be resolved as soon as possible."
Vatican City, Nov 27, 2008 (CNA) - Late on Wednesday evening, gunmen overtook eight different locations in Mumbai, India and went on a rampage of killing. Pope Benedict XVI has sent a telegram to the Archbishop of Bombay asking him to convey his heartfelt condolences to the families of those affected and to assure the victims of his prayers.
Mayhem struck the Oberoi-Trident and the Taj Mahal Palace hotels on Wednesday evening when terrorists stormed the two locations and began shooting.
The attacks were not limited to the two hotels.
In addition, bands of masked gunmen armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and explosives attacked a popular café packed with tourists; the historic Metro Cinema; a crowded train station; the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish center and a hospital.
Some freed victims of the attacks told the BBC that the terrorists were seeking out people who were U.S. or U.K. citizens.
Thus far, 101 people have been killed and 300 injured.
Upon receiving news of the attacks, Pope Benedict sent a telegram to Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Bombay, saying that he is "deeply concerned about the outbreak of violence in Mumbai” and asking the cardinal to “convey his heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in these brutal attacks.” The Pope also expressed his spiritual closeness to the victims.
Benedict XVI also urgently appealed for “an end to all acts of terrorism,” which he said “gravely offend the human family and severely destabilize the peace and solidarity needed to build a civilization worthy of mankind's noble vocation to love God and neighbor.”
The Holy Father’s message closes with him offering his prayers for the repose of the souls of the victims and imploring “God's gift of strength and comfort for those who are injured and in mourning."
Managua, Nicaragua, Nov 27, 2008 (CNA) - Two statues of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the principal Marian devotion in Nicaragua, were destroyed by vandals this week in the capital city of Managua.
According to news reports, the destroyed statues were placed in the streets and have been used for political purposes by supporters of the government.
Father Rolando Alvarez, director of Radio Catolica, told reporters, “We don’t know who did it, but we do know what they did. They destroyed in darkness and without mercy a symbol of the Catholic faith of millions of people in the nation, because each blow against the Virgin Mary is a blow against millions of Nicaraguans.”
“This is called profanation, he said. It has no other name and the only thing to do is pray for those who carry out such hatred against the symbols of the Church.” Father Alvarez demanded that the statues be removed from the streets, “where they are exposed to the mocking and disrespect for an entire Catholic nation.”
Rome, Italy, Nov 27, 2008 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, has announced the publication next year of a Directory of Homilies, an important tool that will help pastors prepare their homilies, which are supposed to “strengthen the faith, call to conversion and help people live out the paschal mystery in their daily lives.”
Commenting on the recent Synod on the Word of God which took place at the Vatican October 5-26, Archbishop Eterovic explained that the one who gives a homily is the first one who should heed it. “For this reason, everything possible should be done to ensure adequate formation, which should begin in the seminaries,” he added.
In an interview with the L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop underscored that the Directory of Homilies is a tool that was “requested at the Synod of 2005 on the Eucharist and again in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis” and added that it “will be an important aid in addressing all of the essentials themes of the Catholic faith during the liturgical cycle.”
“Obviously,” he said, “it will not contain prepared homilies, but rather some ideas. It is being prepared by a team of experts and I think it will be published in 2009.”
Archbishop Eterovic also pointed to “the frequent reading of the Word of God and lectio divina” as other important aids in preparing homilies.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 27, 2008 (CNA) - The Spanish newspaper ABC reported this week that a congressional subcommittee charged with analyzing Spain’s law on abortion grew hostile towards an expert giving testimony to them because his report showed that their plans to liberalize abortion would be destructive to the country.
Eduardo Hertfelder, the president of the Institute for Family Policy, delivered an expert presentation on the impact of liberalizing Spain’s abortion laws, which caused "an uproar” from the socialist politicians.
According to ABC, a study by the Institute showed that the numbers of abortion in Spain have constantly been increasing, with grave consequences. “But what pushed Soledad Cabezon, who spoke for the Socialists, over the edge was the presentation of the European legislative map with regards to the issue of abortion,” the newspaper reported.
The Institute noted that Spain is the only country in the European Union, together with Greece, to not establish a time limit for those who claim psychiatric danger to the mother as a reason to abort her child, which Hertfelder said is the “big hole in this law.”
According to Sandra Moneo, spokeswoman for the Popular Party, “The Socialist Party totally lost its temper over what Hertfelder had to say. It’s the first time in this subcommittee, where there is often disagreement, that the data from an expert has been questioned.” She said committee members treated Hertfelder impolitely and cast doubt on the work of a respected analyst.
“It is clear that the Socialist Party drove this subcommittee to listen to what it wanted to hear and to ignore the opinions to the contrary,” Moneo said. “Every time somebody disagrees they get upset and more so when one of their fundamental pillars is taken down. Disrespect should never be shown to those who testify before the committee,” she said.