Archive of August 9, 2009

Rare Mass celebrated on N. America’s highest peak

Anchorage, Alaska, Aug 9, 2009 (CNA) - It’s a massive feat to just to climb North America’s highest mountain, but even rarer to celebrate Mass on the 20,320 foot peak. In fact, one local Alaskan historian doesn’t recall it ever happening before July 3, when three childhood friends from Poland summited the famed Mt. McKinley.


Father Krzyaztof Grzybowski and his brother Father Robert Grzybowski celebrated a Mass with their childhood friend Adrian Przyluski attending.


In a letter to the Catholic Anchor, Father Richard Tero, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Seward and local church historian in the Archdiocese of Anchorage said he believes the Mass might be the first on the top of North America’s highest peak.


“In a most exceptionally clear and calm day, at about 4 p.m. after a long climb from 17,000 feet, on the West Buttress route, they were able to spend about 45 minutes at the 20,320 foot summit,” Father Tero wrote.


Other priests known to have summited Mt. McKinley include Father Carl Abele in the early 1970s, as well as Father Michael Shields and Dominican Father Tim Conlin in the 1980s, Father Tero said. None of those men celebrated Mass on the mountain.


“I’m sure other foreign priests have also had success but didn’t share it with the local priests,” Father Tero added.


Getting to the top of the mountain with a Mass kit, however, doesn’t guarantee that a priest could celebrate Mass, as weather conditions and wind levels are often extreme.


On July 3rd, the peak was clear and calm, conditions that are “extremely rare,” Father Tero said.


Father Tero hosted the priest brothers and their friend in Seward, where the Polish men enjoyed a Kenai Fjords tour of a glacier after their climb.


In sharing the story of the mountaintop liturgy, Father Tero said the men had to “blow on the wine to unfreeze it for the Mass.”


The three men grew up together in Bielsk Podlaski at the far east of Poland, on the border with Belarus.


The two brothers now serve in their home diocese as priests. Przyluski is a police officer in Warsaw. The men left Anchorage on July 23.

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Church to celebrate lives of Sts. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Maximilian Kolbe

CNA STAFF, Aug 9, 2009 (CNA) - This week the Church will honor both St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and St. Maximilian Kolbe, saints who were both killed at a Nazi concentration camp in the 1940s.


St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) celebrates her feast day on August 9.  Born in 1891 in Breslau, Germany to a Jewish family, Stein was very intelligent, studied philosophy and received her doctorate at the age of 25.

She converted to Christianity at the age of 31 and entered the Carmelites in Cologne, Germany, in 1934 at the age of 43, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

In 1938, with the rise of Nazism and anti-Semitism in Germany, her prioress helped her escape to the Netherlands. She hid there and continued her studies until Aug. 2, 1942, when the Gestapo arrested her and her sister due to their Jewish heritage.

Teresa never denied her Jewish heritage and was killed in a gas chamber seven days later in Auschwitz along with her sister.

Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1998. She is co-patroness of Europe.

St. Maximilian Kolbe’s feast day is August 14.  Fr. Kolbe lived his priestly ministry spreading the Gospel message through the use of media-newspapers, magazines and radio, but he died laying down his life for another man in a Nazi concentration camp.

He was born Raymond Kolbe in 1894 to poor and pious Catholic parents. At age 12, he had a vision of the Mother Mary in which she asked him to choose whether he would accept a white crown, which meant that he should persevere in purity, or whether he would accept a red crown, which meant that he should become a martyr. He told Mary that he would accept both.

He entered the Franciscan seminary the following year and was tempted to leave to join the military, but he persevered and made first vows with the Conventual Franciscans in 1911. He took the name Maximilian and was ordained a priest in 1918 at the age of 24.

In 1922, he began a magazine in Poland, called Knight of the Immaculate, which at its height had a circulation of 750,000 copies per month.  Eight years later, he became a missionary to Japan and began a similar publication there.

In 1932, he moved to India, but returned to Poland in 1936 due to poor health. 

At this time, Nazism was becoming more widespread. Fr. Maximilian was first arrested with several other friars in 1939, but they were released. The friars continued their media ministry and housed 3,000 Polish refugees, most of whom were Jewish. But many of the friars were arrested again Feb. 17, 1941, including Fr. Maximilian. 

He was transferred to Auschwitz in May and was assigned to harsh labor and beaten often. He was once beaten and left for dead, but the prisoners managed to transport him to the camp hospital where he spent his recovery hearing confessions. When he recovered, Fr. Maximilian ministered to other prisoners by offering mass and delivering Communion using smuggled bread and wine.

In July 1941, there was an escape from the camp. Camp rules required that 10 men be executed in retribution for each escaped prisoner. Fr. Maximilian volunteered to take the place of a married man with young children, who had been chosen by the Nazis to be killed.

Fr. Maximilian was killed with lethal carbonic acid injection. His body was then burned and his ashes were scattered.

Pope John Paul II canonized him in 1982, declaring him a martyr of charity. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, journalists and prisoners.

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Cathedral of Salt Lake City prepares to celebrate centenary with ‘Cathedral Week’

Salt Lake City, Utah, Aug 9, 2009 (CNA) - Salt Lake City’s Cathedral of the Madeleine is preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary with an upcoming “Cathedral Week” of Masses, celebrations, lectures and musical performances. Cardinal William J. Levada will be among the many participants in the event.

Franciscan missionaries first visited the land that would become Utah in 1776, according to the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City itself was first settled in 1847 by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, who remain predominant in both the city and the state.

The first permanent Catholic establishment came in 1866 when property was purchased in the city.

A small church on the purchased property served Catholics until the present cathedral was constructed by architects Carl Neuhausen and Bernard Mecklenburg at a different location. The cathedral’s cornerstone was laid on July 2, 1900 and was dedicated to God on August 15, 1909 by James Cardinal Gibbons under the patronage of St. Mary Magdalene.

The cathedral combines a Romanesque exterior with a Gothic interior. Its interior was renovated between 1991 and 1992, with the art, stained glass, and woodwork undergoing restoration.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the cathedral’s Madeleine Choir School is one of the few of its kind, with “highly regarded” adult choirs who sing in English and Spanish.

The diocese has declared August 9 to 15, 2009 to be “Cathedral Week.” The week will open on the evening of Sunday August 9 with a Centennial Civic Service in the cathedral, a diocese schedule reports. The service will highlight the cathedral’s role in education, arts and humanities, outreach to the poor and outreach to the growing Hispanic presence.

Bishop of Salt Lake City John C. Wester will preside over the celebration, which will include both the Cathedral Choir and El Coro Hispano de la Catedral.

Speakers will include President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, University of Utah President Michael K. Young, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and Mexican Consul to Utah Ignacio Rios Navarro.

A Cathedral Centennial Lecture will be delivered by Deacon Owen Cummings on the evening of Tuesday August 11.

Wednesday and Thursday evening will feature a Centennial Concert performance of Sir Edward Elgar’s "The Dream of Gerontius." The work is a dramatic setting of the 1865 poem by the English theologian and Catholic convert John Henry Cardinal Newman, whose beatification is still pending.

On Friday of Cathedral Week there will be Vespers for the Solemnity of the Assumption and a children’s procession from the old 1871 cathedral location to the present cathedral.

The former bishop of Salt Lake City, Archbishop of San Francisco George H. Niederauer, will be homilist at the service. Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will be in attendance as will other visiting bishops.

That evening Son by Four, a Latin music group from Puerto Rico, will perform a concert at the cathedral to be followed on the plaza by a fiesta with special music and traditional foods.

On Saturday Bishop Wester will celebrate an afternoon Mass for the Solemnity of the Assumption, with Cardinal Levada as homilist. The annual Bishop’s Dinner to benefit the cathedral will be held in the evening.

On Sunday morning, August 16, Bishop Wester will celebrate a Parish Centennial Mass at the cathedral, while a Spanish Centennial Mass will be celebrated in the afternoon by Bishop Emeritus of Sacramento William K. Weigand, who until 1994 was the seventh bishop of Salt Lake City.

Msgr. Joseph Mayo, cathedral pastor, told the Salt Lake Tribune that the cathedral was modeled on ninth century cathedrals of Europe, which had plazas for public events as well as art and architecture for congregants.

"The whole combination of art and architecture and music found their home in the cathedral," Msgr. Mayo said. "They were basically gathering places."

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New documentary recounts lives of ‘courageous’ women religious under communism

Washington D.C., Aug 9, 2009 (CNA) - A new documentary tells the stories of Greek and Roman Catholic women religious who lived their faith under communist harassment and persecution in Eastern and Central Europe.

The one-hour documentary, “Interrupted Lives: Catholic Sisters Under European Communism,” will be distributed to ABC television stations and affiliates on September 13. It will be scheduled at the discretion of local stations.

Between World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many women religious endured imprisonment, exile to Siberia, forced farm and factory labor, deportation, seizure of their schools and hospitals and even expulsion from their convents.

Some sisters were nurses or educators while others cared for orphans, the elderly and the mentally ill, a Friday press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says. “Interrupted Lives” tells their stories and interviews the “secret sisters” who joined religious life during the Communist period and lived their vocations in the underground.

The sisters and European scholars interviewed offer a “powerful testimony to the faith, courage and endurance of these religious women,” the USCCB says. “Their own stories raise awareness of those who still today undergo persecution for political or religious beliefs.”

The documentary was filmed on location in Ukraine, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and the United States. It tells the sisters’ stories, taking viewers to the apartments, prisons, concentration convents and seized properties where Communism affected the sisters’ lives.

Sr. Margaret Nacke, a Sister of St. Joseph, was one of the executive producers of the documentary.

“We are inspired and strengthened by the faith and commitment of these sisters who endured over forty years of oppression under communism,” she said.

“Interrupted Lives” is part of the Vision & Values series created by the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission. Its members include the USCCB, the National Council of Churches of Christ, the Islamic Society of North America, and a consortium of national Jewish organizations.

The program was produced by NewGroup Media of South Bend, Ind. with Sister Nacke and Sister of St. Joseph Mary Savoie as executive producers. It was funded in part by the USCCB’s Catholic Communication Campaign and Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. 

More information on the documentary is available at

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Nazi concentration camps occurred because man forgot God, says Benedict XVI

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 9, 2009 (CNA) -

Before the recitation of Sunday’s Angelus prayer at Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI recalled some saints whose memory will be celebrated by the Church in the upcoming weeks. He said that St. Edith Stein, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Pontian, St. Lawrence, are witnesses to "Christian humanism," differing greatly from "atheistic humanism."

"What wonderful models of holiness, the Church proposes to us! These saints are witnesses to that love that loves ‘to the end,’ and ignores the evil received, but fights it with the good," Pope Benedict explained. "From them we can learn, especially we priests, the evangelical heroism that inspires us, without fear, to give our life for the salvation of souls. Love conquers death!"

St. Edith Stein and St. Maximilian Kolbe will celebrate their feast days this week. Both died at Auschwitz in the 1940s.

"The Nazi concentration camp," he continued. "as every death camp, can be considered an extreme symbol of evil, of the hell that comes to earth when man forgets God, and when he is replaced, usurping from him the right to decide what is good and what is evil, to give life and or to take life."

"Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not confined to the death camp. It is rather the culmination of an extensive and widespread reality of often nebulous boundaries."

"On the one hand," the Pope added, "there are philosophies and ideologies, but also on an increasing scale, ways of thinking and acting that extol the freedom of man as the only principle, as an alternative to God, and thus transform man into a god, whose system of behavior is of an arbitrary nature. On the other hand, we note the saints, who, practicing the gospel of love, make reason of their hope, they show the true face of God who is Love, and at the same time, the true face of man, created in the image and likeness of God."

He concluded: "Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to the Virgin Mary, to help us all, above all we priests, to be holy as these heroic witnesses of the faith and of dedication even to martyrdom. This is the only way to provide a credible and comprehensive answer to the human and spiritual questions, which give rise to the deep crisis of the contemporary world: love in truth."

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