Archive of August 1, 2009

California mother forgives her son’s killer

Alameda County, Calif., Aug 1, 2009 (CNA) - Sally Lancaster has been practicing major forgiveness for much of her adult life.


Eighteen years ago, Lancaster’s baby girl, Rebecca, was accidentally run over and killed by her grandfather in the driveway. “My dad never forgave himself,” Lancaster said. But she did.


Then on August 4, 2008, Lancaster’s 19-year-old son, Troy, was shot and killed by Michael Edgar, a 20-year-old acquaintance, recently out of jail on parole. Sally Lancaster has forgiven him, too. She told him so, this past May 26, the day he was sentenced in Alameda County Superior Court to serve 51 years to life in state prison for the crime.


Lancaster said she prayed God would show him mercy.


“When we forgive someone, it allows us to release so much anger and pain,” Lancaster acknowledged in a Contra Costa Times newspaper story May 29. “It’s not for us to judge what makes some people do what they do.”


“The world has so much hatred and violence that sometimes people take death lightly, especially young people,” Lancaster told the Times.


“Forgiving him was the least I could do. We all have to work with what we have. I think that’s what is intended for us.”


Ironically, the day of the sentencing happened to be the feast of St. Philip Neri, patron of the Alameda parish where Lancaster and her children worship.


In a Catholic Voice interview, Lancaster related the events of her youngest son’s last day on earth. Just hours before he died, Troy had attended an evening vigil Mass, reading over the Scripture passages to himself, “almost like he knew,” recalls his mother.


A 2007 graduate of Alameda High School, Troy had recently started a job at the Alameda Theater and Cineplex on Central Avenue. His mother said her son received a call from Michael Edgar’s girlfriend, asking if he could pick up a theater application from her at the Esperanza public housing complex in Alameda. Both Troy and Michael liked the girl.


According to the Contra Costa Times story, Edgar was angered when his girlfriend told him that Troy had been text messaging her. Edgar was also upset because Troy had chided him for taking a cheap shot at a mutual friend during a physical fight that took place just hours before the slaying, according to prosecutors.


The news story reported that during Edgar’s preliminary hearing, a girl testified that she was watching television with her younger sister when she heard a gunshot and looked into the complex courtyard from her second story bedroom window in the Esperanza building. Lancaster was on the ground and the shooter was standing over him with his arm outstretched pointing down, apparently holding a weapon.


Lancaster was shot with a small caliber handgun around 2:50 a.m. police said. He died several hours later at Highland Hospital in Oakland.


From the very onset of the tragedy, Sally and Cliff Lancaster and their remaining six children have been supported by St. Philip Neri parishioners. Several of them accompanied the family to court.


Greta Rosenberger, director of RCIA and adult faith formation in the parish, said that Sally Lancaster goes to daily Mass and “prays the rosary with us after Mass.” She is also a regular attendee at the Monday evening prayer/Scripture study and a monthly women’s group.


Lancaster’s reaching out in forgiveness to her son’s killer is characteristic behavior, said Rosenberger, noting that the grieving mother sees tragedy as something to surrender to. “She has a great trust in God’s perfect plan and knows that God is using Troy to pray for her entire family right now.”


Lancaster told Rosenberger that she expects that Troy is praying for the young man who murdered him, so that both men may one day be friends in heaven.


Lancaster said she is able to cope with her son’s death in this faith-filled manner because she believes Troy “was at the peak of who he was when he died. He could have spiraled down, but he was trying to pull himself together. I think God permits things to happen and we don’t see the bigger picture.”


Part of the bigger picture might be the impact her son’s death has had on his friends. “They’re starting to change and to better their lives by getting jobs and going to school. That’s really neat.”


Lancaster adds that they’ve “put more value on life and gone deep about spiritual matters because they could be taken away too, like Troy.”


Printed with permission from The Catholic Voice.

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Emmitsburg to celebrate St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Baltimore, Md., Aug 1, 2009 (CNA) - Two hundred years after St. Elizabeth Ann Seton arrived in Emmitsburg to found a ministry of education, hundreds of Catholics will commemorate her entry into town as they witness a live Aug. 2 reenactment complete with a horse-drawn Conestoga Wagon. The special event is one of the highlights of a weekend of bicentennial celebrations July 31-Aug. 2 that will also include a Mass with Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, the showing of an archival exhibit and tours of historic sites.

Born in New York to a prominent Anglican family, St. Elizabeth Ann converted to Catholicism in 1805 after the death of her husband two years earlier. The widowed mother of five arrived in Baltimore in 1808 at the invitation of the Sulpicians to work as an educator.

She journeyed to Emmitsburg with four companions in 1809 to develop the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, a women’s religious community modeled on Paris’ Daughters of Charity. Samuel Sutherland Cooper, a wealthy seminarian at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, purchased 269 acres of land in Frederick County for the future saint to found a school.

St. Elizabeth Ann established St. Joseph’s Free School in 1810, an all-girls institution that came without tuition. Its foundation is regarded as the start of the Catholic parochial school system in the United States.

Many women were attracted to St. Elizabeth Ann’s religious community. Between 1809-20, 86 women joined the Sisters of Charity.

From St. Elizabeth Ann’s original religious community grew four independent communities in North America: the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul of New York, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of Halifax, the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station, New Jersey and the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, Greensburg, Pennsylvania (1870).

The Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph joined the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of Paris in 1850.

Pope Paul VI canonized St. Elizabeth Ann in 1975 as the first U.S.-born saint.

The Sisters and Daughters of Charity today minister in education, healthcare, social justice and other outreach efforts throughout the country and around the world.

Celebration Weekend

July 31 – The Seton Shrine historic sites in Emmitsburg will be open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. with the exception of the Stone House and White House, which will close at 5 p.m. The opening celebration in the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton begins at 7 p.m. A premiere showing of “The Seton Legacy” DVD will be featured.

Aug. 1 – Cardinal George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will celebrate a 9 a.m. Mass at the Seton Shrine. Throughout the day, visitors may tour Seton Shrine sites, view a Civil War encampment, watch “The Seton Legacy” DVD and participate in morning and afternoon information sessions. Session topics include:

“Charity Matters,” an exhibit of archival treasures including 19th-century embroidery, tapestry, paintings and a display by Daughter of Charity Sister Betty Ann McNeil.

Emmitsburg Catholic Heritage Tour, a guided bus tour to historic Emmitsburg sites including the restored St. Joseph College Chapel, the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes and St. Joseph Church.

Walking Tour of Seton Shrine Historic Sites, highlighting the history of Mother Seton’s religious community in St. Joseph’s Valley.

Aug. 2 – Two Masses will be held at 8 a.m. at the Seton Shrine and at the Glass Chapel at the Lourdes Grotto. A procession from the grotto to the Seton Shrine will begin at 9 a.m., with a blessing of the Seton Legacy Garden to follow. Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden will celebrate the noon bicentennial Mass (tickets required). Throughout the day from 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., parking and shuttle services to the Seton Shrine will be available at the Lourdes Shrine Grotto.

For more information, visit

Printed with permission from The Catholic Review.

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Archbishop Gomez: Caritas In Veritate a ‘valuable contribution’ that requires a thorough read

San Antonio, Texas, Aug 1, 2009 (CNA) - In his newest column, Archbishop of San Antonio José H. Gomez has discussed Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical “Caritas In Veritate.” Highlighting some of its main points, he exhorted all Catholics to read this “valuable contribution” to Catholic social doctrine, since it cannot be captured by media sound-bites.
Writing in his column for his archdiocesan newspaper Today’s Catholic, Archbishop Gomez said Caritas In Veritate is “not only a true source of guidance for all Catholics, but it is also a valuable contribution to the building of the fundamental structure of society that is the social doctrine of the Church.”

Neither the secular media nor supporters of different economic theories have given a “proper interpretation” of the encyclical, he wrote.

“Some have tried to find in the Pope’s third encyclical a reaffirmation of their own ideological and political tendencies, others, including some journalists who, in good faith, have only reported on selected principles in the encyclical in a way that makes it sound more like ‘news’, linking it to some fleeting events.”

However, the encyclical is best understood “in the full context of the social doctrine of the Church,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“I believe that each Catholic should read it, ponder it, and live it,” he wrote, highlighting five points.

First, he remarked, it is important to know that the Church has a “social doctrine,” a set of proposals for the organization of public life that emanate from Christian charity under the governance of truth. Archbishop Gomez quoted Pope Benedict’s words that a Christianity that has charity without truth would be interchangeable with “a pool of good sentiments” but without any real place for God in the world.

The second point that the archbishop drew from the Pope's encyclical was that Catholic social doctrine  places the human person and his “true development” at its center, a progress that “cannot be limited to material success.”

He linked Caritas In Veritate with Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio, which said wise reflection and a “new humanism” are even more necessary than technical experts to help people enjoy love, friendship, prayer and contemplation.

Archbishop Gomez then mentioned his third point, saying that Catholic social doctrine cannot be separated from the defense of the right to life and the “explicit proclamation” of the Gospel.

The fourth insight the archbishop noted was that “all the aspects of the contemporary world, such as globalization or the accelerated development of technology, can and should be analyzed and judged from the foundation of Faith and reason, to promote what is good and to prevent what is harmful to human beings.”

Finally, the San Antonio archbishop emphasized that Christians have the right and the duty to take the Gospel to the public sphere because “the building of a world without God necessarily leads to the building of systems that go against the human person.”

This is reflected in Pope Benedict’s encyclical, which says authentic development requires prayerful Christians moved by the knowledge that “truth-filled love” is given to us from God.

“I strongly encourage not only all the Catholics of the Archdiocese but all Christians and men and women of good will to read the Pope’s encyclical letter to rediscover the perennial wisdom of the teachings of the Church and the deep and innovating theology of Pope Benedict XVI,” Archbishop Gomez’s column concluded.

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Nigerian church leaders rebuke anti-education Muslim militants after military clash

Abuja, Nigeria, Aug 1, 2009 (CNA) - Emphasizing that modern education and modern civilizations do not preclude “ardent” religious devotion, Catholic Church leaders in Nigeria have condemned a militant Muslim sect opposed to Western education whose confrontation with security forces this week left over 100 people dead.

Several members of the sect, called the Boko Haram movement, were killed after a strong military crackdown. One of the dead was Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf.

According to the Catholic Information Service for Africa, the name of Boko Haram translates as “Western education is sin.”

Fr. Louis Odudu, Deputy Secretary-General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, signed a statement calling on Boko Haram leaders to “adopt a creative approach to their religious practice in order to give honor and glory to Almighty God.”

The statement said that any religion must include the principles of justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

“Modern education and modern civilizations do not preclude ardent religious devotion,” the statement said. “In fact, it should be underlined that Islam, as a religious practice, from places like Al-Azhar, carried the light of learning through so many centuries and paved the way for Europe’s renaissance and enlightenment.”

The statement praised reported Muslim contributions to the arts and technological progress, naming algebra, navigation, printing, medicine, poetry and music.

“We therefore condemn any religious movement that would subvert the progress that has been made in education and technology in Nigeria and at the same time thwart law and order,” the statement said. We condemn a descent to religious fanaticism that would destroy our national peace and stability.”

The church also accused the Nigerian government of condoning the growth of the Boko Haram movement, CISA reports. Church leaders called for urgent efforts to control the surge of religious militancy and for legal action against the perpetrators of violence.

The church attributed the cause of the uprising and other forms of violence to widespread poverty and urged the government to address the problem.

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Fort Worth Diocese to begin year-long anniversary celebrations

Fort Worth, Texas, Aug 1, 2009 (CNA) - Catholics in the Diocese of Fort Worth will gather in the thousands to celebrate 40 years of Church life in northern Texas, one of the country's fastest growing regions. The festivities will begin with a special Mass on August 9 in the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena.

The Anniversary Mass will be held at 3 p.m. and will be attended by Bishop Kevin W. Vann, the  current bishop of the diocese, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Houston/Galveston Archdiocese as well as 12 other Catholic bishops from Texas and other parts of the U.S.

The Diocese of Fort Worth was established by Pope Paul VI in 1969. Prior to its founding, Fort Worth and the surrounding 28 counties were included in the territory of the Diocese of Dallas.

Fort Worth-area Catholics plan to hold a series of celebrations that last throughout the year. The anniversary celebrations will be brought to a close on Monday, August 9, 2010, with Evening Prayer at St. Patrick Cathedral.

“The celebration of our 40th Anniversary is a time not only to celebrate the great gifts and blessings that God has poured out upon our Diocese over the past 40 years, but it is also a time to look ahead to the future and continue the work that the Lord has entrusted to use in building up the Body of Christ, the Church in North Texas,” Bishop Vann said.

“This will be a day to reflect on and thank the Lord for the heritage of faith of all these years in North Texas, and especially for all who were involved in the first days of our Diocese.”

According to the diocese, the festivities will focus on promoting spiritual renewal through “communio,” which is reflected in the anniversary theme: One Lord, One Faith, One Hope. The cornerstone of the spiritual renewal will be the “Why Catholic” program which helps adults deepen their Catholic faith and connect the Church’s teachings to their everyday lives by exploring Catholic teaching in a prayerful small group setting.

Bishop Kevin Vann is the third Bishop of Fort Worth and was named to the post by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. 

In just four years, Bishop Vann has made dramatic improvements to the catechetical and pastoral aspects of the diocese's outreach. He has also placed a special emphasis on vocations to the priesthood, resulting in 31 men currently being enrolled in the seminary.

The Anniversary Mass will be broadcast live in English and Spanish on the diocese’s new website,

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