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Archive of February 28, 2009

Beatification cause for Oblates’ founder takes a step

Youngstown, Ohio, Feb 28, 2009 (CNA) - An Italian nun who founded a religious order may be one step closer to beatification as the Catholic Church investigates her possible intervention in the remarkable recovery of a young Campbell boy who nearly drowned five years ago.

A Canonical Investigation is underway in the Diocese of Youngstown after Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., heeded the request of Father Luca M. DeRosa, postulator for the Cause of the Beatification and Canonization of the Venerable Servant of God, Mother Maria Teresa Casini, foundress of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Oblates’ only headquarters in the United States is in Hubbard, Ohio, where they operate a priests’ retirement facility and a preschool/kindergarten program. The order also serves in Italy, Brazil, India and West Africa.

The case for Mother Maria Teresa Casini’s sainthood began 57 years ago in Frascati, Italy, which was her birthplace. She was first deemed a Servant of God, and then declared Venerable in 1998. "Venerable" is the Church’s way of saying Mother Maria Teresa was an exceptional woman in terms of her morals and actions, so prayers and intercessions to her are encouraged, explained Oblate Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Joyce Candidi. Sister Joyce is director of the diocesan Office of Vowed Religious.

Teresa Casini was born in 1864 into a wealthy family. Her father was a devout Catholic; her mother, a Russian socialite. In her autobiography, she recalled her childhood awareness of God and how she would ponder His greatness alone in her room while her family hosted parties. Her love of prayer and concern for the poor were nurtured by her father, who died when she was nine. After his death, when her mother resumed her social life, Teresa would often accompany her, although the parties and dinners did not make her happy.

After committing herself to religious life, she founded the Oblates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a religious order that began as a cloister but grew into service, all in the name of increasing priestly vocations and sanctifying the clergy. She created schools for "The Little Friends of Jesus," which were pre-seminary institutions. She started the League of Priests, which she said was requested of her by Jesus to offer reparations for those priests who do not fulfill or appreciate their vocations. Today, the League of Priests is formed at the diocesan level, and members meet for prayer and fellowship four times per year.

"Of all her virtues, what really struck me was her obedience ... to God’s will," Sister Joyce said.

The event that is being investigated as a miracle was accompanied by a number of coincidences.

Late on the evening of June 25, 2003, one Oblate sister was sleeping at the order’s novitiate house rather than the convent. The telephone number to the novitiate is the first Oblate listing in phone books, Sister Joyce noted. That was the number that Jacob Sebest’s father called to tell the sisters of the boy’s accident and ask some of them to meet his family at a hospital emergency room. Jacob was 3-years old at the time and enrolled in the Oblates’ preschool, Sister Joyce said.

When Sister Teresina Rosa, general superior of the local Oblates, was told of the phone call, she first prayed in their chapel, and then left with another sister for the hospital. Some priests also had gathered there with nervous family members. Sister Teresina said she suggested they pray the Rosary to the intercession of Mary and Mother Maria Teresa Casini.

Jacob was placed in an induced coma because of swelling in his brain, Sister Joyce said. Doctors told the family that if Jacob survived the first 48 hours, they should not expect him to be the same boy he was before the accident, she added.

The rest of the Oblate sisters were told of Jacob’s condition the following morning. "We’d better pray and pray hard that the Lord would spare this boy," Sister Teresina recalled telling them. Thus, they prayed together at morning Mass. Two sisters who went to visit the family at the hospital took with them one of Mother Maria Teresa Casini’s holy cards to leave in Jacob’s hospital room. Jacob’s mother made copies of the card, which included a prayer, and priests helped to distribute them at parishes in Campbell, Lake Milton and Hubbard, Sister Teresina said.

Common prayer by a large number of people is a key point in the Church’s investigation of miraculous events, Sister Joyce said.

The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that year fell on June 27, and it’s an important feast day for the Oblates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. While they prayed for Jacob during Mass, his father left a simple telephone message at the sisters’ house. Please call back, he said. His voice sounded flat and serious, and the sisters didn’t know what to expect, Sister Teresina said. That was when they learned that Jacob had been moving his arms and legs on his own. After he was brought out of the coma, he was able to eat solid food and, within three days, was sent home with no permanent injuries or effects. "He went from intensive care to well. There was no in-between," Sister Teresina said.

The Oblate sisters believed that Mother Maria Teresa had interceded as asked, but Sister Teresina told them not to get too excited. She first wanted to hear the opinions of Jacob’s doctor, a Muslim by faith. The doctor told her he has had a great deal of experience with these types of cases, but he could not explain Jacob’s rapid, complete recovery. He must have had help from above, the doctor told Sister Teresina, and he agreed to offer his testimony.

From that point, the case for beatification began to be built. With help from Jacob’s mother, the Oblates got permission for Jacob’s clinical file to be released and sent to Church officials in Rome, Sister Teresina said. Everyone who was exposed to the event, including medical staff, was invited to talk about their experiences. Twenty-four persons agreed to be interviewed. Their testimony also was sent to Rome, Sister Teresina said.

Some time passed before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints told Bishop Murry in 2007 to begin an investigation. Bishop Murry appointed a diocesan Ad Hoc Tribunal, with Msgr. Michael Cariglio, judicial vicar of the diocesan Tribunal (and pastor of Youngstown Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish), as judge delegate and Dr. Robert Cuttica, permanent deacon at Youngstown St. Christine Parish, as medical expert.

No one knows for sure how long the review process will last. Sister Joyce finds it interesting that Bishop Murry and Msgr. Cariglio have proposed making their presentation to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on April 3. They didn’t realize that is the day that Mother Maria Teresa Casini died in 1937. If she is beatified, the Church will assign a feast day for her. Feast days usually are the dates on which holy people entered eternal life, Sister Joyce said.

The Church must verify another miracle if Mother Maria Teresa Casini is to ascend to sainthood.

Regardless of the outcome, Sister Joyce and Sister Teresina believe Jacob’s experience is of great value. "It becomes part of the history of our congregation [and] it’s a tool to encourage people," Sister Teresina said.

"Have faith in the intercession of the saints of our Church," Sister Joyce said. "They are our friends." The event also is a reminder to her that "God is so present around all of us. Sometimes we just don’t see."

If beatification is granted, Sister Joyce would like to make one more appeal to the Church. Unlike canonization, which must take place in Rome, beatification rites can occur where the blessed person lived or where the miracle took place. She would lobby for the event to take place in the Diocese of Youngstown, she said.

Printed with permission from the Catholic Exponent, newspaper for the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio.

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Bishop Martino writes Sen. Casey over vote against Mexico City policy

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop of Scranton Joseph Martino has written again to Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey concerning his vote against the Mexico City Policy. Saying he has “deep concern” that the senator’s staff is misrepresenting the vote as pro-life, Bishop Martino asked for “utter clarity” on matters that pertain to taking innocent life.

The bishop's second letter was made public on the same day the Diocese of Scranton published an Official Notice on the Reception of Communion. The notice emphasizes the need for communicants to receive Holy Communion worthily and the need for ministers to ensure the Sacrament’s worthy reception.

Sen. Casey, a self-described pro-life Democrat, recently voted against an amendment to the Children’s Health Insurance Act which would have reinstated the Mexico City Policy reversed by President Barack Obama on Jan. 23.

The Mexico City Policy bars U.S. taxpayer funding of international groups that promote or perform abortions.

Following Casey's vote against the ammendment, Bishop Martino wrote his first letter to Sen. Casey on Jan. 30 expressing his “deep regret” over the senator's vote.

“In effect, the reversal of the Mexico City policy will mean that over 450 million dollars of American foreign aid will go to organizations that are militant in promoting abortion as a method of population control, particularly in countries that find abortion objectionable on moral grounds,” he wrote.

“Senator, is not this vote a contradiction of your repeated claim that you support the protection of unborn life?”

According to the Scranton Times Tribune, Sen. Casey has claimed that the 1973 Helms Amendment and the Hyde Amendment provide the same restrictions as the Mexico City Policy. The senator also has argued that giving the groups money reduces the number of abortions by promoting contraception and “family planning” to avoid unexpected pregnancies.

In his second letter, dated Feb. 26, Bishop Martino told Sen. Casey that his Jan. 30 letter was “in no way mistaken” regarding the effects of President Obama’s reversal of the Mexico City Policy.

“It is imperative that this fact be made known to the public,” he wrote.

“It is a matter of deep concern that your recent vote against the Mexico City Policy is continually misrepresented by your staff as a pro-life vote.”

“The Mexico City Policy is, first and foremost, about abortion, not about family planning,” the bishop argued, quoting the policy’s requirement that federally-funded organizations “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.”

“Furthermore, the Mexico City Policy did not take funds away from family planning; its effect is quite the opposite,” the bishop said.

Bishop Martino quoted the Family Research Council’s Tom McClusky, who said that, because President Obama’s rescindment of the Mexico City Policy, millions of dollars will be taken away from family planning groups that do not promote abortions and will instead be directed to “organizations that are the most militant in promoting abortion as a population-control method—especially in countries that find abortion objectionable on moral grounds.”

“Contrary to the claims of your staff,” he wrote, the end of the Mexico City Policy ensures that money is taken away from family planning, that abortion is promoted as a method of family planning, and that countries that have moral and cultural objections to abortion are encouraged to abandon their anti-abortion policies.

“Finally, it is never permissible to use immoral means such as artificial contraception to achieve a good end, namely, the reduction of unplanned pregnancies,” Bishop Martino said, saying the use of contraception advances the attitude that having and raising children is “a burden to be avoided.”

“This attitude has contributed mightily to the acceptability of abortion as a means of contraception both at home and abroad.”

The bishop wrote that it is “imperative” to have “utter clarity” on Church teaching relevant to the taking of innocent life and to the special responsibilities that fall to Sen. Casey to oppose abortion and “other clear evils.”

Bishop Martino closed by quoting U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President Cardinal Francis George’s letter to President Obama urging that the Mexico City Policy be upheld.

“Once the clear line between family planning and abortion is erased, the idea of using family planning to reduce abortions becomes meaningless, and abortion tends to replace contraception as the means for reducing family size,” Cardinal George wrote in a Jan. 23 letter. “A shift toward promoting abortion in developing nations would also increase distrust of the United States in these nations, whose values and culture often reject abortion, at a time when we need their trust and respect.”

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Seven bishops join Catholic Leadership Institute’s Episcopal Advisory Board

Exton, Pa., Feb 28, 2009 (CNA) - Seven U.S. bishops have joined the Catholic Leadership Institute’s Episcopal Advisory Board, the institute announced on Thursday.

The Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) aims to train people in leadership skills to help them become Catholic leaders and Christian witnesses in their families, workplaces, communities and Church.

According to a press release from the Institute, The new board members include Archbishop of Boston Seán Cardinal O'Malley, Bishop of Austin Gregory M. Aymond, Bishop of Orlando, Florida Thomas Wenski, and Bishop of Pittsburgh David Zubik. Other new board members are Bishop of Springfield, Illinois George Lucas, Bishop of Sacramento Jaime Soto, and Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia Daniel Thomas.

"I am pleased to partner with my brother bishops in support of the ministry of Catholic Leadership Institute. Their work has made a tremendous impact on so many dioceses around the country and I look forward to the opportunity to further their efforts of building happy, healthy and holy leaders for the Church," said Bishop Gregory Aymond, Episcopal Moderator of CLI's Advisory Board.

The Advisory Board was formed to enhance the organization’s leadership development and formation programming to better serve priests and lay faithful, the Institute said.

At present the Catholic Leadership Institute offers a two-year leadership training program for priests titled “Good Shepherds, Good Leaders.” According to CLI, the program uses Jesus Christ as the “ultimate shepherd” in curriculum designed to help clergy overcome contemporary challenges such as a diminishing number of clergy and the “complex circumstances” of priestly ministry.

The program intends to help priests “minimize the frustration and energy” spent on administrative roles and maximize the “joy and time spent on the pastoral duties for which they were uniquely ordained.”

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Pro-abortion Kansas governor accepts position as HHS secretary

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2009 (CNA) - Saturday evening it was announced that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a professed Catholic who supports abortion, has accepted a position in President Obama’s Cabinet as secretary of health and human services.

The Washington Post has reported that Gov. Sebelius was nominated for the position by the President and will join the Cabinet upon receiving the Senate’s approval.

A senior administration official told FOX News that "Governor Sebelius brings extraordinary qualifications to this role: As a popular two-term governor known for her bipartisan approach, and as an insurance commissioner charged with standing up for better health care for her state, the governor has unique insight and experience to draw on as President Obama's partner in lowering health care costs and expanding coverage."

While the governor is lauded for reaching across the aisle, her extreme pro-choice support has landed her in hot water with the Catholic Church, particularly the Archbishop of Kansas City Joseph Naumann.

In the Spring of 2008, Archbishop Naumann met with Sebelius to ensure that she understood the gravity of her pro-choice support as a Catholic. Following the meeting, the prelate asked her to refrain from receiving Communion until she makes a worthy confession and publicly repudiates her stand on abortion.

He later clarified that his request to her was not directed toward one particular action, but rather, it concerned her "30-year history of advocating and acting in support of legalized abortion."

According to the Catholic League, Archbishop Naumann hasn’t been the only Kansas City prelate to speak out against her actions. "Sebelius’ support for abortion is so far off-the-charts that she has been publicly criticized by the last three archbishops of Kansas City," the organization remarked. "In 1992, when Sebelius was a state legislator, Archbishop Ignatius Strecker rebuked her for leading what he dubbed a ‘death-march of the unborn.’ When Sebelius became governor in 2003, Archbishop James Keleher, citing her abortion record, asked her to move her inauguration interfaith service from Topeka’s Assumption Catholic Church. She refused. The current archbishop, Joseph Naumann, called her out on the issue: he challenged her to name one instance in her long legislative career where she supported limiting abortion rights. She could not. He subsequently asked her not to go to Communion."

Sebelius is also known to have close ties to Dr. George Tiller, an abortionist who performs late-term abortions and is the subject of a Kansas Supreme Court case for allegedly violating the state’s laws on late-term abortions.

In a statement to CNA, Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), emphasized the governor’s relationship with Tiller. "Governor Sebelius threw parties for George Tiller, the notorious abortionist who specialized in partial birth abortions. It is astounding to me that people like Dour Kmiec are still lauding this president as a compromiser on abortion. He is proving in spades to be the most pro-abortion president in our history."

Also commenting on Sebelius’ nomination, the director of the Christian Defense Coalition, Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney noted that the President is continuing his "losing streak" of Cabinet appointments with Governor Sebelius’ nomination.

"The President also affirms his status as ‘The Abortion President’ by nominating a radical extremist on abortion rights to oversee the nation's health care and social programs," he continued.

Mahoney also noted the governor’s abortion record. "The Governor has blocked legislation that would have stopped late-term abortions, she impeded the investigation into the death of a young woman at Dr. George Tiller's abortion clinic and Catholic Church officials have told her not to receive communion because of her radical support of abortion."

He went on to ask why "President Obama would nominate such a divisive and extremist candidate after he campaigned on brining unity and civility to government."

"If the President is looking for a fight with the pro-life and pro-family movement, he certainly is going to get one."

President of the pro-life organization, Operation Rescue, Troy Newman, also weighed in. "Obama's lack of judgment when it comes to cabinet appointments is especially evident in his choice of Sebelius."

"Operation Rescue vows to aggressively oppose Sebelius' confirmation in the Senate. Her cozy connections to late-term abortionist George Tiller and involvement in numerous abortion scandals makes her unfit to serve," the statement concluded.

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