Sacramento, Calif., Aug 26, 2009 (CNA) - Hoping to encourage at least 100,000 non-practicing Catholics to return to church, the Diocese of Sacramento is preparing a “come home” advertising campaign for this December and January.
At Mass over the next several weeks, church leaders will outline the program and ask parishioners to help pay for the ads. The ads are produced by the Catholics Come Home project.
"There's a large number of people who have left the church and are waiting for an invitation to come back," Msgr. James Murphy, vicar general of the diocese, told the Sacramento Bee. "This is their invitation."
The diocese has an estimated population of 950,000 Catholics, but only about 136,500 attend weekly Mass.
Msgr. Murphy said he was bothered to see so many Catholics filling fundamentalist churches.
“I'm glad they're going to church … but we want them back,” he said.
According to the monsignor, parishes throughout the diocese are preparing to address questions and concerns by returning Catholics.
Mike Halloran, executive director of the Catholic Foundation, told the Sacramento Bee that nearly 60 percent of the money for the $380,000 campaign had been raised. The money will go to the commercials only.
The ads will run in the Sacramento market 1,200 times over the six weeks from December 18 to January 31. Officials hope they will encourage 100,000 Catholics to return to church.
Eight other dioceses are running “Catholics Come Home” ads. They feature Catholics talking about why they returned to the Church and what it means to them.
In a 2008 interview with CNA, Catholics Come Home, Inc. founder and president Tom Peterson explained that the ads are designed to take people to the website, CatholicsComeHome.org. There they can find answers to questions about Church teachings and also can learn how to contact their local parish to be led home to the Catholic Church.
“The website provides answers to questions about Church teachings, and why strong faith is important in today’s busy and confusing world. The site also offers an overview of the faith, with additional resources and a local parish finder,” Peterson told CNA.
Catholics Come Home, Inc. was recently awarded the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management's 2009 Best Practices Award. Receiving the award, Peterson said his group was “blessed by God’s grace” and thankful to be recognized for its work.
He reported that the organization has now helped bring over 100,000 Catholics and converts back to the Church.
The “Catholics Come Home” ads first ran in the Diocese of Phoenix in 2008. During the campaign an estimated 90,000 Catholics returned to churchgoing. Ryan Hanning of the Diocese of Phoenix told the Sacramento Bee the diocese witnessed a 12 percent increase, the largest single year increase in the diocese’s history.
Hanning said that surveys of returning Catholics showed that most had left the Church because they had gotten too busy with daily life. A much smaller percentage cited church teachings on marriage and homosexuality as reasons for their absence.
Though Catholics make up an estimated 23 percent of the U.S. population, only 33 percent of them attend Mass on a weekly basis.
Knoxville, Tenn., Aug 26, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop of Knoxville Richard F. Stika expressed his gratitude for the prayers of the faithful and reiterated his trust in Jesus after being released from a Fort Lauderdale, Florida hospital on August 21. The bishop suffered a mild diabetes-related heart attack on Saturday, August 15.
The bishop had been participating in a Spanish language immersion program in San Antonio, Texas when he flew to Ft. Lauderdale on Friday to visit his ailing friend Archbishop Mansour Zayek, who was returning home to Lebanon.
The bishop suffered from flu-like symptoms which doctors believe contributed a high sugar level and brought on the heart attack.
“Bishop Stika was kept in the cardiovascular intensive care unit during the week as he amazed doctors and nurses with his rapid recovery from a life threatening illness,” the Diocese of Knoxville said in a statement. “When someone is diabetic, even a simple illness can rapidly become very serious.”
The bishop addressed a Monday morning press conference at the chancery office in Knoxville, offering his “deepest appreciation” to those who prayed for him.
“I stand here today as a witness to the great power of faith and prayer,” he said.
Since his admission to Holy Cross Hospital, he added, “I have personally experienced true Christian compassion and seen the face of Jesus on everyone from the hotel clerk who sat with me while we awaited the ambulance, all the way through to the many gifted physicians and nurses who saved my life.”
Noting his episcopal motto, “Jesus I trust in You,” he said the trial has “evermore strengthened” that trust.
“I’m doing much better now except for the vision in my right eye which has been impaired and the significant fatigue I am experiencing,” he told reporters, saying that he will follow doctors’ orders to reduce his schedule over the next several weeks.
He closed the press conference with a quotation from Psalm 118: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!”
Dublin, Ireland, Aug 26, 2009 (CNA) -
The Irish bishops have announced that 36 new seminarians will begin their studies for the diocesan priesthood this year.
The new seminarians range in age from 18 to their mid-40s and come from a variety of educational and employment backgrounds, the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference (ICBC) reports.
Bishop Donal McKeown, chairman of the Vocations Commission of the ICBC, said the news was an encouragement to parishes and other organizations that promote vocations.
“Priests come from families and parish communities across the country; they are sons, brothers and uncles; work colleagues and friends; part of a Christian community,” he said.
Fr. Paddy Rushe, National Coordinator of Diocesan Vocation Directors, acknowledged the “hard work” of vocation directors who have spent much time “guiding and directing these men and preparing them for this step in their lives.”
“Despite ongoing challenges to the gospel values in the modern world it is encouraging to see evidence that God continues to inspire people to answer His call of service in the priesthood,” he commented.
A reported 26 new seminarians will be based in the national seminary of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Seven will study at St. Malachy’s College in Belfast and two will study at the Beda College in Rome. One candidate is entering the pre-seminary discernment year in Valladolid, Spain.
Msgr. Hugh Connolly, President of Maynooth, welcomed the new candidates for the priesthood, their families, and their friends.
“You have responded in your hearts to the Lord’s call,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers accompany you as you take the first step along the road to ordained ministry and to placing your lives at the service of Christ and of His people.”
Msgr. Connolly said it was “truly wonderful” to witness the new seminarians’ “generosity of spirit” at the close of Ireland’s “Year of Vocation” and the beginning of the worldwide “Year for Priests.”
At the end of September, there will be a total of 77 seminarians in Maynooth. This number includes seven Scottish seminarians who transferred to Maynooth following the closure of Scotus College in Glasgow. Their numbers are not included among the 37 new Irish seminarians.
Five seminarians each came from the Archdiocese of Dublin and the Northern Ireland Diocese of Down & Connor. Four seminarians came from the Diocese of Meath in the east of Ireland.
Sacramento, Calif., Aug 26, 2009 (CNA) - California Nurses for Ethical Standards has issued a statement on proposals for health care reform, stressing the need for conscience protections for institutional and individual health care providers and insurers, the exclusion of abortion from federal funding and non-discrimination in health care eligibility.
The August 20 statement from California Nurses for Ethical Standards (CNES) voiced concern about some provisions that will “heavily” affect their profession.
“Foremost we believe that increased government involvement will do nothing to correct the difficulties currently present in our health care system, and would prove disastrous,” the statement said.
CNES insisted that all health care providers, individual and institutional, as well as insurers must be free to refuse to “participate in, refer for or pay for” medical procedures and practices that violate their consciences.
“Provisions to explicitly protect conscience rights, without exception, must be included in any plan for health care reform,” CNES said.
The organization called for the strict prohibition of any process which tries to determine eligibility for medical care by assessing and assigning a value to human life at any age, medical state, stage of illness, or an individual’s ability to contribute to society.
Another problem highlighted by CNES is that any language that permits government “allocation of resources” risks “selective discrimination.” In light of this, the group said health care services must not be delivered by means of government allocations.
CNES also said that any reform proposals must “explicitly exclude” use of federal dollars for funding abortion services.
Spokeswoman Kristen Chesnut, RN, told CNA the group has about 100 members.
Explaining the need for conscience protections, she said a “foundational concept” of CNES is “a respect for the sanctity of life, at all stages.”
“If all health care providers are required to provide any and all services mandated by law, providers with conscientious objections will either be forced out of practice or risk termination by his or her employer,” she added. “Hospitals which do not elect to provide services they deem outside of their ethical bounds will be forced to close.”
The organization is also concerned about the cost of the reform effort.
“We believe that the proposed legislation, with the costs projected at this time, is fiscally irresponsible, in light of the debt already incurred in ‘bail-outs’ and the President’s economic stimulus plan,” Chesnut said.
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 26, 2009 (CNA) - Wednesday's general audience was held at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, where Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the precious gift of Creation, emphasizing that humanity's treatment of the environment impacts “integral human development.”
“The different phenomena of environmental degradation and natural catastrophes,” Pope Benedict explained, “which unfortunately occur all too often, remind us of the urgency of dutiful respect toward nature, recovering and valuing a correct relationship with the environment each day.”
Returning to a message from his recent encyclical and his upcoming message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict said that protecting the environment and being good stewards of it are “intimately linked with integral human development.”
“In my recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, I referred to such questions recalling the ‘pressing moral need for renewed solidarity’ not only between countries but also between individuals, since the natural environment is given by God to everyone,” Benedict XVI added. “Our use of it entails a personal responsibility towards humanity as a whole, particularly towards the poor and towards future generations.”
The Holy Father also tied the protection of mankind to the protection of the environment, adding,“the Church is not only committed to promoting the defense of land, water and sky, given by the Creator to all, but above all, she does so to protect man against self-destruction.”
“Creation, structured in an intelligent manner by God, is entrusted therefore to man, who is in a position to interpret it and actively remodel it without considering himself the absolute patron of it,” the Pope expounded. “Man is called, above all, to exercise responsible governance of it, cultivating it and finding necessary resources for a dignified existence of all.”
Turning to treatment of Creation around the globe, Benedict XVI said, “How important it is then, that the international community and individual governments send the right signals to their citizens and succeed in countering harmful ways of treating the environment! The economic and social costs of using up shared resources must be recognized with transparency and borne by those who incur them, and not by other peoples or future generations.”
“The protection of the environment, and the safeguarding of resources and of the climate, oblige all leaders to act jointly, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the world,” Pope Benedict added. “Together we can build an integral human development beneficial for all peoples, present and future, a development inspired by the values of charity in truth.”
The Pope also acknowledged that to accomplish this feat “it is essential that the current model of global development be transformed through a greater, and shared, acceptance of responsibility for creation. This is demanded not only by environmental factors, but also by the scandal of hunger and human misery.”
“Dear brothers and sisters,” the Pope concluded, “may we thank the Lord and make ours the words of St. Francis in the Canticle of the Sun: ‘Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing…Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures.’ Such was St. Francis. May we also want to pray and live in the spirit of these words.”
Boston, Mass., Aug 26, 2009 (CNA) - Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) passed away last night at the age of 77 after a battle with brain cancer. Kennedy, a Catholic, will be remembered for his service to the poor, and dedication to education but also his opposition to pro-life issues.
After a long struggle with brain cancer, last night Sen. Kennedy took a turn for the worse while at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Surrounded by his family members and a priest, Fr. Patrick Tarrant, he passed away around 11:30 p.m.
Fr. Tarrant told BostonChannel.com that Kennedy died while his family prayed. “They'd been praying all day, and it was a wonderful experience for me. I don't see it that often," Tarrant said.
Kennedy, known as “Ted” was the younger brother of both U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Sen. (D-NY) Robert Kennedy who were both assassinated in the 1960s. Their sister, Eunice Kennedy Schriver, who was lauded by the pro-life community died exactly two weeks ago at the age of 88.
The family released a statement following his death saying, “We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever.”
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston also emphasized Kennedy’s devotion to social work as well as his loving family who “stood by his side” as he “faced his illness with courage, dignity and strength.”
“For nearly half a century, Senator Kennedy was often a champion for the poor, the less fortunate and those seeking a better life. Across Massachusetts and the nation, his legacy will be carried on through the lives of those he served,” the cardinal said in a statement.
Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. also offered his condolences to Kennedy’s family and emphasized the senator’s commitments to “alleviating poverty” as well as his strong support of the area’s Catholic schools.
Wuerl recalled that for five years, the senator and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) organized a dinner to benefit the schools. “As a result, thousands of disadvantaged children in the District of Columbia have had their lives transformed through a quality Catholic education."
Both Wuerl and O’Malley offered to pray for the repose of Kennedy’s soul and that his family may find strength in Christ.
Kennedy's political aspirations were curtailed by an incident in 1969, when he accidentally drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick island in Massachusetts. While Kennedy was able to escape from the car, his passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne could not free herself and drowned.
Kennedy did not report the accident until nearly nine hours later.
With so many questions as to why he waited to contact the police as well as with his fragmented account of the incident, his aspirations for the U.S. presidency remained unfulfilled.
Kennedy was involved in other controversies. As a Catholic, though he worked hard for the poor, he was criticized by bishops and pro-life leaders for supporting Roe v. Wade, the use of fetal tissue in experiments and for voting against a ban on partial-birth abortion.
Although he did not support legalized abortion early in his political career, he later earned a 100% NARAL Pro-Choice America rating. In contrast, Kennedy was rated as voting 0% of the time on pro-life issues.
Sen. Ted Kennedy will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to his brothers John and Robert.
Havana, Cuba, Aug 26, 2009 (CNA) - The leader of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, Oswaldo Paya, criticized the United Nations and the Organization of American States this week for responding with silence to the open letter he sent denouncing the torture that prisoners of conscience are being subjected to in Cuban jails.
“We have already denounced this situation [of torture] in a public letter addressed to the president of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Miguel Descoto, and the secretary general of the Organization of American States, and the response we received was just silence,” Paya said.
In a statement, Paya referred to the cases of Antonio Diaz and Rolando Jimenez, both being held in inhumane conditions, one at the Canaletas Prison and the other at the Guayabo Prison, for their promotion of the Varela Project. The project agitates for the rights of all Cubans in the face of the Castro regime's oppression.
“This duel between the jailers, the State security and the government on one side and the prisoners of conscience on the other is disproportionate and abusive, since the former has all of the powerful resources and cowardly metes out cruel treatment.” “The prisoners are at a total physical disadvantage in the face of such sadism,” Paya said.
He called on “Amnesty International, Justice and Peace and the U.N. Human Rights Commission, and on all people and institutions to urgently defend the dignity and lives of Antonio Diaz and Rolando Jimenez and of all prisoners of conscience in the jails of Cuba.”
Paya called the Communist government’s cruel treatment a sign of its “powerlessness and cowardice” against those who, with great courage and faith, refuse to give in, “because their cause is the defense of the rights of Cubans.”
CNA STAFF, Aug 26, 2009 (CNA) - The well-known British Catholic editor Damian Thompson is throwing his weight behind Archbishop Charles Chaput's critique of The Tablet for insisting that the "U.S. bishops must back Obama" on his health care reforms.
Thompson, who is the editor of the British Catholic paper the Catholic Herald, blogged yesterday about Archbishop Chaput's column that accused The Tablet of "knowingly misrepresenting Catholic teaching on abortion."
"More seriously – and embarrassingly for English bishops who regard the Tablet as their house journal – Archbishop Chaput also apparently accuses the magazine of intellectual dishonesty in describing abortion as a 'specifically Catholic issue,'" wrote Thompson.
After writing about The Tablet's health care editorial on his blog, Thompson said that "Catholics of many shades of opinion express disgust at its stance."
The rallying cry from The Tablet in favor of Obama's reform effort was ridiculed by the archbishop for offering "unhelpful and badly informed opinions" on the American domestic policy debate.
As CNA first reported, the editorial was criticized by Archbishop Chaput for misusing the Catholic theme of finding "common ground" and for sounding "very much like acolytes" of President Obama.
Thompson's post was followed by one from The Telegraph's Will Heaven, who pointed out that this is the second time in recent weeks that The Tablet has been corrected by a senior bishop.
Just this week, The Tablet had to print a letter from Bishop Alan Hopes of Westminster, who reprimanded the magazine for saying that Archbishop Vincent Nichols was "seeking to nip a potential schism in the bud" and putting the Latin Mass in its "necessarily marginal" place when he held a Latin Mass conference.
These gaffes caused Thompson to comment that "under its current editor and deputy editor, this publication has become an embarrassment to the Catholic Church in England and Wales. That’s a view I hold quite independently of my connection to The Catholic Herald, incidentally: the Bitter Pill’s circulation figures and profits are a matter of indifference to me, but its sniping at papal policies, highly partial news reporting and theological ignorance strike me as unforgivable."
Honolulu, Hawaii, Aug 26, 2009 (CNA) - Nine Boy Scouts and a Scout Master from Hawaii are traveling to the Vatican for the October 11 canonization of Bl. Damien de Veuster, the Belgian missionary who ministered to the Hawaiian leper colony at Molokai and died of leprosy there.
Scout Master John Fielding is organizing the nine scouts’ journey, which they will document via YouTube, Facebook and a blog. They will pass through Fr. Damien’s Belgian hometown before arriving at the Vatican.
Writing to CNA in a Tuesday e-mail, Fielding explained that when he first heard the canonization date for Fr. Damien had been set, he told his wife that it was sad another historic event in the Church’s history would go by “without involving the children (or as we say in Hawai’I, Keiki) of the Church.”
“Then I looked at her and said, ‘You know, why should we regret – we should just make it happen!’” he said.
After seeking and receiving the blessing of Bishop Clarence “Larry” Silva of Honolulu, Fielding sought support from Our Lady of Peace Cathedral’s Knights of Columbus Council #5000, of which he is the Grand Knight.
The Belgian-born Fr. Damien was ordained to the priesthood at the Honolulu cathedral on May 24, 1864. The priest arrived at the Molokai leper colony in May of 1873 and lived and worked there until his death of leprosy on March 28, 1889.
Every schoolchild in Hawaii is aware of Fr. Damien, Fielding told CNA.
“Fr. Damien is not only a symbol of our Church, but he is a hero to the Hawaiian people for his sacrifice,” he explained. “Fr. Damien’s statue is in the front of the Hawaii State Capitol and the U.S. Congress. Damien Memorial High School, where one of our scouts attends, is named in his honor.”
“Even if you are not Catholic, you know of his sacrifice and love for the many Hawaiians left to die there [at Molokai].”
Molokai is “a very popular pilgrimage” site for many Catholics, Fielding reported, though flights to the island of the former leper colony are limited because of its remoteness and because so few tourists go there.
Only those 16 years and older are allowed on the island, he said. Since most of his scouts are just 16 or younger, they have not yet been to Molokai.
During their trip to Europe, which will begin on October 1, the scouts will stay at the Scout Camp Site at Fr. Damien’s birthplace of Tremelo, Belgium. Tremelo itself is preparing a large festivity to honor the priest.
“Their native son of Belgium became our adopted son of Hawaii,” Fielding told CNA. “We will be meeting other scouts from around Europe and sharing with them our mission, as well as joining in on some of their scouting activities.”
He is also trying to arrange special tours at the Vatican through the Knights of Columbus liaison in Rome.
Fielding also revealed how the nine scouts were selected for the journey.
At the Hawaii Scout Jamboree, known as the Makahiki, Fielding evaluated the various troops and approached the first ten which he thought exemplified “the true meaning of Scouting.”
He asked the troops’ Scout Masters to nominate their top Catholic scout for the opportunity. He received 11 names, of whom eight could commit.
The scouts are from all over island of Oahu. Most participate in various ministries in their parish and are altar boys.
Fielding said he also approached the selection process with a “different perspective” and remembered the importance Catholics place on giving a good Catholic education to non-Catholics. When his wife brought up the name of a non-Catholic Christian Boy Scout in his troop, Fielding asked the scout to join and he accepted.
The scouts have earned their journalism badge and will put their skills to use. They will interview attendees of the festivities in Belgium and at the Vatican. They will also film the sights and sounds of the events.
Every day at 9 p.m. local time they will upload their videos so that students will be able to view them at 9 a.m. Hawaii time the same day.
“Children from all over the world will have the opportunity to learn about the event from other kids their age,” he added.
Fielding said he hopes the use of the new media will generate interest in their journey, especially among the younger generation.
“It’s about time good content is on the internet,” he told CNA.
Besides Knights of Columbus Council #5000, supporters of the journey include the Aloha Council of the Boy Scouts as well as the Hawaii Catholic Committee on Scouting.
Clergy and parishioners have been “very supportive,” Fielding told CNA. The group has been to 12 parishes and more than 30 Masses to introduce the boys and seek help fundraising. Present donations total over $14,000.
Scouts have made St. Damien Medallions, hand-knotted rosaries and two types of T-Shirts. One of the shirts bears the international St. Damien Logo, while the other bears official artwork from the Diocese of Honolulu. The items are available for purchase at their website.
The scouts have set up a Facebook account under the name of Damien de Veuster and have set up a YouTube channel named “saintdmienscouts.”
They will also report on their journey at http://stdamienboyscouts.wordpress.com
Irondale, Ala., Aug 26, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic television network EWTN is planning to air a special Holy Hour in honor of the Year for Priests at 3 pm on the First Friday of each month.
The program will be run by the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word. It will begin airing on September 4 and end in June 2010.
Each Holy Hour will include a sermon by Fr. Miguel Marie, M.F.V.A, as well as hymns and prayers specifically for priests.
An EWTN press release cites an admonition of the famous priest St. John Vianney: “If you want good priests, pray for the ones you have.”
The global TV network says it is planning a mini-site for its special Year for Priests programming, including prayers, papal documents, and video clips.
The mini-site will be part of the broadcaster’s main site at http://www.ewtn.com.
Santiago, Chile, Aug 26, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, Chile has called on Catholics in that country not to ignore political life, which when embraced correctly and in a spirit of service, “is a form of apostolate.”
During a diocesan forum on the “Political Vocation of the Believer,” Bishop Goic said that all of the laity must in some way participate in the building of society.
“The degree of participation is distinct depending on one’s vocation. Some will do so by voting, others by activism or leadership in some party, others by assuming public office at various levels. What nobody should do is ignore public life,” he said.
The bishop stressed that the tendency to denigrate political activity should be rejected, while also emphasizing that young people especially should participate in elections. He also said greater effort needs to be given to teaching people about civics and political life, so that every person would fulfill their mission in the community.
No political party, he added, can claim to represent everyone, and the Church “cannot tell anyone which party to work for and much less which party to vote for.”
Those in religious life must speak out to shed light on the common good, on public and political morality.
Bogotá, Colombia, Aug 26, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Fabio Duque Jaramillo of Armenia, Colombia has condemned the recent act of profanation against the Eucharist which took place at the parish of Our Lady of the Assumption, saying, “When the rights of God are trampled with impunity, the rights of man are in danger.”
The desecration occurred when an unknown man entered the church, broke open the tabernacle, removed the Hosts and threw them to the ground. The bishop said in a statement after the sacrilegious act that, “this was not a robbery motivated by the economic value of the sacred vessels, as the assailant did not take any object of value of the parish.”
“The only purpose was to wound the sentiments of the faithful, attacking the central mystery of the Christian faith, the Eucharist, the presence of God among us and the prolonging of the mystery of man’s redemption,” Bishop Duque said.
These attacks against the faith are an attack on “the most sacred rights of the person, the right to freely express one’s faith and most intimate convictions.”
When this happens, he warned, “all of society is in danger. When the rights of God are trampled upon with impunity, the rights of man are in danger.”
After calling on the police to investigate the incident, Bishop Duque called on Colombians to express their rejection of such acts, which are “a grave violation of citizens’ rights, an offense against the beliefs and principles of the Catholic faithful, which are deeply rooted in the culture of our people.”
For this reason, Bishop Duque urged Catholics to denounce these kinds of acts and to show support for the parish of Our Lady of the Assumption, where an act of reparation will be held on August 30.
He noted in conclusion that according to Canon Law (canon 1367), desecration of the Eucharist results in automatic excommunication, which can only be lifted by the Holy Father.