Washington D.C., Jun 11, 2009 (CNA) - An hour-long documentary about work as a vocation will be released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and made available for NBC stations and affiliates. It features a major league baseball player, a Catholic Charities social worker, a marine biologist and others who describe how their work is more a religious calling than a job.
The documentary “Callings,” was produced by the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, a USCCB press release says. Seattle Mariners first baseman Mike Sweeny, dancer Francie Huber and Catholic Charities social worker Rita Flynn are among the ten people profiled.
In the film, Sweeney says “I don’t play for the fans, or to please my coaches. I play to please my Lord.”
Sweeny, who is also active in community outreach, always cites a Bible verse when signing his autograph.
Also in the documentary, dancer Francie Huber describes how she has been inspired both by the Christmas song “The Little Drummer Boy” and Pope John Paul II’s 1999 letter to artists. She says she has been encouraged to make her artistry a gift to the Lord and to imitate God’s life-giving creativity.
Msgr. Ernest Fiedler, the former rector of Kansas City’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, describes in the documentary how to recognize a special call, whether the call is to marriage, the religious life, the priesthood, or to medicine or law.
“I think with a believing, happy, well-balanced Christian, it comes from listening,” he said, adding that any call must be listened to before it can be answered.
The documentary will be released to NBC stations and affiliates on Sunday. Local broadcast is at the discretion of the station, according to the USCCB.
A clip from the documentary may be viewed at http://www.usccb.org/video/
Washington D.C., Jun 11, 2009 (CNA) - Two Bhutanese refugees resettled in the United States in 2008 through the U.S. bishops’ refugee resettlement program will speak at the World Refugee Day event on June 18. They show the problem of “statelessness” that thousands of Bhutanese, mainly ethnic Nepalis, face after being forced to leave their own country.
Khagendra Baral, who was born and raised in Bhutan, recalled how he came to leave his home country.
“I still have fresh memories of my beautiful country and peaceful environment growing up. Then one day, I was forcefully evicted from my homeland with my family and left to become a refugee,” he explained.
In 1991, when he was 17 years old, Khagendra and his family left Bhutan in the middle of the night for India. His father, a Ltshompa leader who advocated for equal rights in Bhutan, was imprisoned. The Indian government did not allow the family to stay and they settled in the Beldangi Refugee Camp in Jhapa, Nepal.
“I spent 17 years in the refugee camp, where there is a scarcity of every basic need, even the right to identity,” Khagendra remarked, according to a USCCB press release.
Though many Bhutanese refugees desire to return home, the Bhutanese government has not permitted any to return to the country. In Nepal, the government denies refugees the freedom of movement and the right to work and earn a living, making refugees’ integration there impossible.
Only a few refugees have been able to obtain Nepalese citizenship through marriage or descent. This reportedly made resettlement in a third country the only enduring solution.
“We were in need of a solution, of a second home to build our life. Luckily, our request and prayers were answered by the U.S. government,” Khagendra said.
He and his wife, who also lived at the refugee camp, were part of the initial group of Bhutanese refugees resettled by Catholic Charities, Phoenix in March 2008.
In the initial group of refugees, the Migration and Refugees Services program of the USCCB brought over those who had higher education levels in hopes they would be hired for employment.
Both of the Barals, who have college degrees, were hired by local refugee resettlement agencies as case workers.
Their message at the World Refugee Day celebration will express gratitude “for all your generosity, for giving us hope, support and encouragement to rebuild our life.”
“With your support and blessings we are doing good,” they added.
“Khagendra and Ganga are the perfect example of how successful refugees can be with community support and a chance for resettlement,” Joanne Morales, director of Refugee Programs for Catholic Charities in Phoenix, said in a statement.
“Not only are they economically independent through employment, but they are also giving back. The Phoenix community is truly a better community for having hosted this special family.”
The USCCB is the largest voluntary refugee resettlement agency in the U.S.
Khagendra and Ganga Baral, husband and wife, will speak at the “Real People, Real Needs” event hosted by the U.N. Commissioner for Refugees and the National Geographic Museum, a press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reports.
London, England, Jun 11, 2009 (CNA) - A Catholic mother in Britain who is unable to care for her son has objected to him being placed in the foster care of a homosexual couple. She has expressed concern the couple could encourage him into a way of life she does not agree with, amid reports the boy is already asking about homosexuality.
The ten-year-old child was scheduled to arrive Monday at his permanent new foster home, a hotel in Brighton run by two homosexual men, the Daily Mail reports. Social workers at Brighton and Hove Council, who have full custody of the child, decided on his long-term placement last month.
His mother reportedly suffered a mental breakdown after an abusive marriage and cannot care for her son.
The mother has told friends she is concerned about the environment in which her son will be placed. She has said she wants him fostered by a traditional family in line with Catholic belief.
The boy is described as “bright and lively” and attends a faith school. He is due to receive his First Communion soon. According to the Daily Mail, he loves tennis and singing and he text messages his mother some nights to tell her he has brushed his teeth and has said his prayers.
The Thomas More Legal Centre, a Catholic legal charity, was instructed last week to represent the boy’s mother.
“We are advising her on her legal options and seeking to resolve the matter with the council by agreement,” said Neil Addison, director of the center.
The mother’s parish priest and the son’s head teacher are also said to be deeply concerned, the Daily Mail reports.
“This isn’t about a gay couple in a private home, this is about a gay couple running a hotel where they also live, where they cannot restrict who the child is going to meet. That’s my anxiety,” the priest said.
A fellow parishioner of the mother described her as a “committed Catholic” and reported that her son was baptized and brought up a Catholic.
“She knows she is unwell and cannot cope with looking after him. All she wants is for him to be raised in a regular family atmosphere, by a man and a woman.
“She would prefer a Catholic couple, but if that is not possible, at least a heterosexual one. But social services have given her no choice. She cannot understand how he can be looked after by two men she’s never met.
“Her belief is that they could encourage him into a lifestyle that is against her religious beliefs,” the parishioner explained.
“The other day he asked her, ‘Mummy, are you lesbian or gay?’ She had to tell him she was neither.”
The local council reportedly has one of the highest rates of homosexual fostering and adoption in Britain. It told the mother that the homosexual men who will foster her son are experienced and fully qualified and will care for the boy well.
It did not answer questions about its choice to place the child with homosexual foster parents against the mother’s wishes. A spokesman told the Daily Mail the council would not comment on any issue relating to the welfare of a child in the council’s care.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Jun 11, 2009 (CNA) - The Vietnamese government has renewed its seizures of Catholic Church properties in the country, demolishing several monasteries to build hotels and tourist resorts. The move has generated fears that the government has adopted a new and “harsh” approach to Catholics.
Last week the government ordered the destruction of the monastery of the Congregation of the Brothers of the Holy Family in Long Xuyen, Vietnam. A spokesman for the diocese said the former two-story home of the priests and religious of the Holy Family Order was destroyed on June 4.
The Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres’ monastery in Vinh Long was also recently destroyed..
The Brothers of the Holy Family monastery, built in 1971, was still in good condition and its destruction surprised Catholic officials, Fr. J.B. An Dang reports. The local government did not inform the diocese about its intention to tear down the building and has not announced its intention for the future use of the land.
The monastery’s altar and religious statues were all discarded in a garbage dump. Neither the diocese nor the religious order has been officially informed to go and retrieve the items.
The Congregation of the Brothers of The Holy Family of Banam was founded by Bishop Valentin Herrgott, the then-Apostolic Vicar of Phnom-Penh, Cambodia in 1931. The order moved to Long Xuyen in Vietnam after a 1970 coup against Cambodian monarch Norodom Sihanouk created security concerns.
In 1984 all brothers of the congregation were arrested and charged with “anti-revolutionary activities.” Their monastery was seized and they have been jailed for years without a trial.
The congregation has repeatedly asked for the return of its monastery and has protested the unjust detention of its members.
Especially over the past two years, Vietnamese Catholics have sought the return of church properties confiscated by the government. They have met with defeat and frustration, Fr. An Dang says.
On May 21, Nguyen Thanh Xuan, the government's deputy chief of religious affairs, announced that the state "has no intention of returning any property or goods to the Catholic Church or any other religious organization."
According to Fr. An Dang, the destruction of the Long Xuyen monastery and Xuan’s statement have increased concerns that the government has applied a “new, harsh policy on Church’s properties in which there would be no more dialogue.”
The government’s new policy approach might act “as if the State is the true owner with full authority on Church’ assets.”
Boston, Mass., Jun 11, 2009 (CNA) - In a Monday speech at Boston College, Archbishop of San Antonio José H. Gomez addressed a national symposium about the challenges and opportunities facing Hispanic Catholics in the United States. Noting the “aggressive” secular culture and “material and spiritual poverty” among Hispanics, he called for better education about their own history and the “fullness of the Gospel.”
Speaking as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity before the National Symposium on the Present and Future of Catholic Hispanic Ministry in the United States, Archbishop Gomez discussed how leaders should address major challenges at a time when Hispanics are poised to become a numerical majority.
In his address, titled “La predicación y la enseñanza: Evangelization, Education, and the Hispanic Catholic Future,” the archbishop mentioned such problems as a consumerist approach to religion and certain Protestant preachers’ exploitation of the “poverty and insecurity” of Hispanics.
He also named racism as a difficulty, saying its impact had been exposed in the country’s “ugly, unproductive, and unfinished” immigration debate. He suggested Hispanics’ feelings of being scapegoated in society and marginalized in Catholic life could make them look elsewhere.
However, Archbishop Gomez said the most serious problem Catholic Hispanics face is the “dominant culture” in the United States which is “aggressively, even militantly secularized.”
“This is a subject that unfortunately doesn’t get much attention at all in discussions about the future of Hispanic ministry. But it’s time that we change that.”
He charged that in the United States the advance of secularism has involved a “deliberate strategy of ‘de-Christianization’” carried out over many years by “cultural elites.”
The archbishop said secularizing forces put even more pressure on Hispanics and other immigrants because immigrants already face “severe demands to ‘fit in’” and to downplay their cultural and religious distinctiveness. They feel like they must prove that they are “real” Americans, he explained.
“A generation ago, we can hardly imagine a Hispanic saying he or she had ‘no religion,’ yet that number has doubled in just the past few years,” he continued.
However, he emphasized the need for an approach to culture that is “broader” than simply ministering to Hispanics.
“Definitely, we need to raise up Hispanic Catholics leaders, and we need a pastoral plan to educate Hispanics in the faith and to nourish them with the sacraments,” Archbishop Gomez said. “But this must be part of a wider evangelical strategy. We need to commit ourselves again to the work of re-evangelization, to preaching the Gospel again to America.”
Noting the rise in high school dropout rates and single-parent families among Hispanics, the archbishop said, “I worry that we may be ministering to a permanent Hispanic underclass.”
Hispanics have some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy, out-of-wedlock births and abortion, he added, saying these cannot be written off as just “conservative” issues.
“[W]e need to find new ways to keep our kids chaste and in school, and to instill in them the value of education,” he advised. “We need to push for real improvements in public education, and in public support for private education, especially in our poorest school districts. And we need to assemble all the resources of our own network of Catholic schools to meet this challenge.”
The archbishop then further underlined the need for evangelization.
“Hispanic ministry should mean only one thing—bringing Hispanic people to the encounter with Jesus Christ in his Church. Too often, I’m afraid, we lose sight of that,” he said, warning that Catholics should not mistake the “means” of programs and bureaucratic administration for this most important end.
“The proclamation of Jesus Christ must be the criteria against which we measure everything we do in Hispanic ministry,” he continued. “Are we making new disciples? Are we strengthening the faith of those who have already been made disciples? Is the knowledge and love of Christ spreading through our work?”
“My brothers and sisters, it is essential that our people know their own story, our story—the great story of Hispanic Catholicism in the Americas,” he continued, noting the centuries-old presence of Hispanic missionaries, saints and martyrs.
He mentioned by name Bartolomé de Las Casas, a "great Dominican evangelist" who defended the dignity of the American Indians and put forward “some very simple yet powerful ideas” about evangelization.
Archbishop Gomez also recommended reflecting on the missionary work of Blessed Miguel Pro, a Jesuit martyred during Mexican persecutions in the 1920s.
“We need to reject every short-cut, every attempt to reduce the Gospel to its lowest common denominator,” he remarked. “Catholic principles can make society a better place to live, but only the fullness of the Gospel can bring men and women to eternal life.”
He added: “To seize the moment, we need to embrace our identity as Catholics. ¡Somos Católicos! That means embracing the fullness of our heritage as Hispanic Catholics.”
He closed his address with the last words of Blessed Miguel Pro, “¡Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!” before praying that Our Lady of Guadalupe watch over Catholics and guide them in their service to her son.
Boston, Mass., Jun 11, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley and Caritas Christi Healthcare System have again commented on Caritas Christi’s cooperation in a joint venture which may provide abortion services, saying its participation is “consistent with Catholic identity.” The archdiocese said in a statement that there are “active discussions” being held to make “acceptable modifications” to the arrangement.
The Caritas Christi Health Care network, which is affiliated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, joined in a partnership with Centene Corp. subsidiary Celtic Group, LLC to enter into Commonwealth Care, Massachusetts’ subsidized health program.
The Centene-Caritas Christi partnership, in which Centene’s Celtic Group is the senior partner, established CeltiCare as a for-profit HMO to manage the Commonwealth Care contract awarded by the state government.
On Monday afternoon, benefit information at the CeltiCare site listed abortion services for $0, $50 and $100 depending on the participant’s health plan. Another CeltiCare document, dated May 21, lists “Family Planning and Reproductive Services Providers” and provides information about four Planned Parenthood affiliates.
In a Wednesday statement from the Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal O’Malley, who is Archbishop of Boston, and Caritas Christi President Dr. Ralph de la Torre commented on Caritas Christi’s involvement.
The statement said that the proposed arrangement has been submitted for analysis to the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), which provides guidance for Catholic health systems.
“Caritas is in active discussions with Celtic Group and CeltiCare with a view to making acceptable modifications to their arrangement,” the statement said.
Commenting in the statement, Dr. de la Torre explained that when a patient seeks “such a procedure,” Caritas health care professionals will be “clear” that the hospital does not perform them and that the patient must “turn to his or her insurer for further guidance.”
According to Dr. de la Torre, this is the current practice in the Caritas system in its work with other insurance companies under state laws that mandate access to “procedures not provided within the Caritas system.”
“Caritas Christi is dedicated to providing quality health care to the citizens of the Commonwealth, especially the poor, in a way that expresses our unwavering commitment to Catholic teaching,” he added.
Catholic health care efforts are especially important at the present, Dr. de la Torre added, saying many Massachusetts communities are facing “an unprecedented need” with some areas’ unemployment rates approaching 18 percent.
For his part, in the Wednesday statement Cardinal O’Malley reaffirmed that it has always been clear to him that Caritas Christi has been “consistently faithful” in its commitment to comply with Catholic moral teaching.
In any revised agreement among Celtic Group, CeltiCare and Caritas Christi, the cardinal wrote, “under no circumstances” will Caritas perform procedures prohibited by the Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) for Catholic Health Care Services or refer any patients to other providers who “perform or procure such procedures.”
Cardinal O’Malley said that ministry to the poor and caring for the unborn are “central tenets” of the ERDs and are “at the very heart of Catholicism.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Jun 11, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to the address by Archbishop Ubaldo Santana to Pope Benedict XVI during the Venezuelan bishops’’ recent ad limina visit, Venezuela’s Interior Minister, Tareck El Aissami, accused the bishops of becoming a “political party” that incites hatred.
During the bishops’ visit to Rome, Archbishop Santana delivered an evaluation of the current situation in Venezuela and told the Holy Father that the political agenda of Hugo Chavez has caused “a growing political polarization has increased violence, insecurity and hatred, seriously jeopardizing peaceful democratic coexistence.”
“If anyone has spread hatred in Venezuela,” El Assami stated, “it has been the bishops’ conference.’
“The only thing to say in response to the bishops’ sad depiction is, may God forgive them, they don’t know what they are saying,” he accused.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 11, 2009 (CNA) - Mari Carmen Dominguez, mother of Olga Bejano, the most famous paraplegic woman in Spain who died last December, said this week that the books she helped her daughter write have caused four people to change their minds about committing suicide.
“It was worth it for Olga to write the books just for those people,” Dominguez said during the presentation of Olga’s book, “Alas Rotas” (Broken Wings), published in Madrid.
Olga was not able to see, speak, move or breathe without assistance. However, with much patience she was able to write four books which she scribbled out with the help of her nurse.
Dominguez recalled that after writing her first two books, “We began to receive dozens of letters, hundreds a few months later, and thousands through the years.” “Among them were letters from at least four people who shared a hair-raising experience: they had considered taking their own lives, and after reading Ogla’s books, they found a new joy for their existence.”
For this reason, she said Olga’s mission was one of “bring people closer to God.” “I have no doubt God chose her for this mission, and the fruits have been innumerable,” she said.
La Paz, Bolivia, Jun 11, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Jesus Juarez of El Alto in Bolivia called on Catholic teachers this week to be witnesses of Christ and help their students to encounter the Lord in the classroom, and thus educate the new generations in Christian values.
During a Mass on the Day of Educational Ministry, the bishop pointed out that the mission of the Catholic teacher is “to be a disciple of Jesus in the world of education,” to be “witnesses of an experience of having encountered Jesus and deciding to be his disciples.”
After noting that Jesus is the model for all teachers, Bishop Juarez also called for unity among Bolivian families, who are very “culturally diverse.” “In order to achieve unity we must liberate ourselves from hatred, resentments and be able look each other in the eyes with joy,” he said.
Bishop Juarez said Bolivia needs “love, fraternity, reconciliation, in a word, justice, in order to live in the truth, in peace and in progress, which are the values we must embrace through authentic quality education.”
Lima, Peru, Jun 11, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops of Peru have formally asked their Canadian counterparts to stop funding pro-abortion groups in Peru through the Canadian Catholic Organization of Development & Peace. Investigations have left “no doubt” such funding has taken place, a Peruvian pro-life leader says.
“It is very disturbing to have groups which work against the Bishops of Peru by attempting to undermine legal protection for the right to life of unborn children, be funded by our brother bishops in Canada,” read a letter from the Bishops Conference of Peru to the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
The letter, published by Lifesite News, was signed by Archbishop Jose Eguren, President of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference’s Family, Childhood and Life Commission. The archbishop said that upon hearing of the allegations that Development and Peace was funding pro-abortion groups, the Family Commission began an in-depth investigation of the Canadian-supported groups in Peru. The commission found that three of them support abortion.
“Each group either explicitly endorses abortion, and/or contraception, either by name or by its various euphemisms like ‘sexual and reproductive rights’ or some derivation thereof,” the letter stated. “In that sense, we respectfully would like to formally request that the funding for the pro-abortion groups in Peru by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace be halted.”
The Peruvian bishops’ letter concluded by offering to help the Canadian bishops find “worthy Catholic organizations” involved in “authentic development projects” in the country.
“Our nation could benefit greatly from the generosity of Canadian Catholics,” said the letter.
Carlos Polo, a member of the Peruvian bishops’ Family Commission, said a “deep investigation” of the Canadians’ alleged financing of pro-abortion NGOs had begun as soon as it was announced.
“This doesn't only have to do with the Church in Canada but concerns all of us in the Church,” he said.
“Unfortunately, in the case of Peru there is no doubt. We see with much sadness how the money of Catholic Canadians goes to organizations that explicitly fight against what the Church teaches. The same people are usually our adversaries in debates and public discussions.”
Polo, who is also Latin American Director of the Population Research Institute, confirmed to CNA the facts of the investigation and its results.
Lifesite News has published investigations about Development and Peace funding for pro-abortion groups, but the charity has denied the allegations and called them “dangerously irresponsible and slanderous.”
Archbishop of Winnipeg James Weisgerber, current President of the CCCB, in a March 19 letter noted “several serious concerns” about Development and Peace allegedly funding five pro-abortion groups in Mexico. He also announced investigations into the allegations.