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Archive of May 2, 2009

Pennsylvania diocese blessed with second Carmelite community

Harrisburg, Pa., May 2, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has announced that a second community of Discalced Carmelite nuns will be established in the diocese. The new community will be founded from the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph of Valparaiso, Neb. They come to the Diocese of Harrisburg because of a constant increase of vocations to their monastery that has caused crowding.

Their community is currently at 33; the maximum number of nuns in a Carmelite monastery is about 21. The Valparaiso, Neb., Carmelites join the Danville Carmelites and the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary in Lancaster as the third contemplative community of nuns in the 15 counties of the Diocese of Harrisburg.

Bishop Rhoades said, "I feel incredibly blessed that we will now have three contemplative communities of nuns in our diocese. We welcome the Carmelite nuns from Nebraska whose lives of prayer and asceticism in the cloister remind all of us of our call to holiness. To these Sisters, I extend my deep gratitude for their coming to our diocese and for their prayers for all of us. Their presence and prayers are a gift to us from the Lord! May God the Father bless these, His daughters, consecrated for the glory of His Name!"

Mother Teresa of Jesus, Prioress of the Valparaiso, Neb., Carmelite community, expressed these thoughts: "We are very excited and grateful to make a foundation in the Diocese of Harrisburg. True to our Carmelite vocation our main work is our prayer life. We are praying for Bishop Rhoades, the clergy and all the faithful of the Diocese of Harrisburg, and we will do even more so upon our arrival."

Sister Joan Lundy, Prioress of the Carmelites of Danville commented, "We warmly welcome Mother Teresa and her Sisters to the Harrisburg Diocese. We are happy that the monastery will continue as a house of prayer for that has been the wish of so many people. We are grateful to Bishop Rhoades and to Father [William] Waltersheid for the close contact they have had with us, this past year, in preparing for the transfer of the monastery and its property to another community of Carmelites."

Father William Waltersheid, Diocesan Secretary for Clergy and Consecrated Life, commented, "We are grateful to the Carmelite nuns of Danville who continue their great offering of prayer as they have since 1953 and we offer our gratitude to the Carmelite nuns newly arriving so that this great legacy will continue."

The new foundation of Carmelite nuns comes from the Diocese of Lincoln. They came there in 1999, with roots reaching back to Las Vegas and San Francisco in the United States, Guadalajara and Puebla in Mexico, and Caravaca in Spain. The monastery in Caravaca was one of the original foundations of St. Teresa of Avila.

The nuns will be living temporarily in St. Peter Convent on West Avenue in Mount Carmel while they work to ready the monastery for habitation. This is a case of history repeating itself. When the nuns arrived from Loretto in 1953 they lived in a home on East Avenue in Mount Carmel until the monastery was built in 1961.

Carmelites trace their origins from Old Testament times as the nuns consider themselves daughters of the Prophet Elijah. At the time of the Crusades, the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel who lived an eremitical life on Mount Carmel in Palestine came to Europe. St. Simon Stock who received the Brown Scapular from Our Lady was elected Prior of that Order in Aylesford in England in 1247. The first recorded appearance of Carmelite nuns was in 1452 when a community of nuns was granted affiliation with the Carmelite Order. Under St. Teresa of Avila, with the help of St. John of the Cross, the famous reform of the Carmelite Order of nuns was accomplished. It is to this group that both communities of discalced Carmelite nuns in the Diocese of Harrisburg belong.

Discalced means "shoeless" and refers to the fact that these nuns wear sandals as opposed to shoes as a sign of poverty and sacrifice. The nuns will live a strictly cloistered life setting themselves apart from the world in order to dedicate themselves to God and His saving plan. By means of their prayers and sacrifices, Carmelite nuns participate vitally in the redemption of the world. In imitation of Mary the Mother of God who stood at the foot of the Cross, they are intimately united to the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The separation of the cloister attunes the heart of the Carmelite nun to the Heart of Christ and the needs of people. Freed from noises and distractions, the Carmelite nun becomes more aware of the struggle of people today to know and love God. She then offers herself in prayer and sacrifice for the salvation of all. No radio, television, newspaper or Internet is permitted, in order to avoid distractions from their life of prayer and sacrifice. While walls and grilles separate them from the world, their hearts are not bound but, rather, radically freed to love God and neighbor.

Printed with permission from The Catholic Witness, newspaper for the Diocese of Harrisburg.

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Chinese officials force paid surrogate mothers to have abortions

Guangzhou, China, May 2, 2009 (CNA) - Echoing other reports of coercion in enforcement of China’s one-child policy, Chinese authorities have reportedly forced mothers to abort their children in a crackdown on the country’s underground surrogate pregnancy industry.

One U.S. investigator of China's one-child policy said the alleged coercion was “not surprising.”

In the latest incident, Reuters reports that three young surrogate first-time mothers were discovered by authorities hiding in a communal flat in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. District family planning and security officers broke into the apartment, corralled them into a van and drove them to a district hospital where they were compelled into a maternity ward.

"I was crying 'I don't want to do this'," a 20-year-old woman called Xiao Hong told Reuters. She was pregnant with four-month-old twins.

“But they still dragged me in and injected my belly with a needle,” she said, reporting that the incident took place in late February.

She said the government officers had forced her thumbprint onto a consent form before carrying out the abortion.

Another surrogate mother, a 23-year-old from a village in Sichuan province, said officers made her take pills and then surgically removed her three-month-old unborn child while she was unconscious.

"I was terrified," she said to Reuters.

The official Guangzhou Daily newspaper quoted district family planning officials as saying the women were unmarried and acting as “illegal” surrogates. The paper also reported that the mothers had agreed to undergo “remedial measures” in accordance with the law.

Official media coverage critical of surrogacy has led some observers to expect more action against the practice in the future.

According to Reuters, underground networks of surrogacy agents, hospitals and doctors have grown in recent years as wealthy infertile Chinese couples hire surrogates to produce babies for them.

The surrogates are often confined to secret flats for most of their pregnancy to avoid detection. Medical staff at public hospitals and health clinics who are part of the surrogacy network discreetly perform fertility, obstetrics and childbirth procedures.

Surrogacy has been on the rise globally. India in particular has become a center of surrogacy for infertile and homosexual Western couples.

In China, prospective surrogate mothers are paid between 50,000 to 100,000 yuan ($14,460) per pregnancy by some businesses, attracting many women from poor rural areas. The average per capital income for rural households is around $600. An estimated 25,000 surrogate children have been born in China.

A March investigation by the Population Research Institute (PRI) reported that the one-child policy and coercive abortion had links to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The UNFPA claimed to have mollified the one-child policy and to have “played a catalytic role in introducing a voluntary reproductive health approach in China.”

Colin Mason, Director of Media Production at PRI, had conducted the investigation. In March he told CNA that coercive measures undertaken by the government are “worse now than ever.”

"Crippling fines, intense pressure to be sterilized, the flagrant display of quota information, and even the seizure of ‘illegal children’ by the government are commonplace," Mason continued. "The UNFPA insists that its presence has led to the removal of these measures. It has not."

Under President Barack Obama’s recent omnibus spending bill, the UNFPA is slated to receive $50 million in U.S. funding.

During the George W. Bush presidency, the UNFPA was denied a reported $235 million because of investigations linking it to coercive abortion practices in China. Funding for such groups is banned under the Kemp-Kasten Amendment.

CNA spoke about coercive abortions in China with PRI’s Colin Mason in a Friday phone interview.

He reported that he didn’t run into “that many” cases of forced abortion.

“It’s not something people are willing to talk about when they think will get into trouble,” he said.

However, he said the law is clear that any couple with a child over the policy limit will be fined a certain amount, “five to seven times the yearly wage.”

The policy also encourages such couples to “opt” to be sterilized, but Mason explained “the law made it clear that that’s not really an ‘option.’”

Responding to the report about one woman being coerced to sign a consent form before her alleged forced abortion, Mason told CNA “That doesn’t surprise me at all.”

“It’s entirely possible that that happened,” he said.

“The UNFPA claims that they essentially eradicated coercion. That’s clearly not the case.”

“Based on what I saw, the government will go to any length it thinks it needs to.

“The tragedy is not only that this is going on but that Americans are so ignorant about it. The Chinese are trying to keep this a well-kept secret, and to certain extent Western aid groups are aiding and abetting it by keeping it under the radar.

“They realize that if the international community is made aware of this situation, they would be horrified.

“We in the West, even in this media age, know so little about it.

“We keep hearing more stories, we keep being surprised.

“Anything at this point shouldn’t surprise us.

“The idea that things are getting better in China is complete nonsense,” he told CNA, saying his opinion was based on the ease with which he discovered cases of coercion in China.

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