Wallingford, Conn., Nov 7, 2009 (CNA) - It’s awesome, absolutely awesome," said Eric Thermer of St. Timothy Parish in West Hartford about the second annual Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference, held in Wallingford, Conn. last month. "Every Catholic man who wants to be challenged should be here. It’s an absolutely incredible event."
Added Tom Hickey, a seminarian at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, "It’s absolutely wonderful. Catholic men don’t get this kind of challenge in their parish at such a personal and deep level. Getting this message to men is something that’s very much needed."
More than 750 men from throughout the state poured into the Chevrolet Theatre for a day of inspiration, renewal, fellowship and prayer. And, judging from the high praise and requests for another conference next year, no one was disappointed.
Capturing the theme of the conference, Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport encouraged participants to "Bring the Fire Home" by being examples of God’s love to their families, through their work and in their communities.
"I think this conference does a lot of good for you and a lot of good for your families," he said. "But, I have to tell you, it does a lot of good for me and for my priesthood."
On a personal note, Bishop Lori recalled that, at the conference last year, he talked about his father, revealing that his father had been battling cancer in recent years.
Providing an update, he said that within the last three weeks, his father received a report from his oncologist that he is cancer- free. "So, I thank you for your prayers," he said, drawing a round of applause.
Among ways to bring the fire home from this conference, he said, "are practicing the faith with manly virtue, respecting priests and helping them, and giving your sons the ‘green light’ if they’re called to the priesthood."
Similarly, he said priests have to do their part by being fatherly role models for young people, as well as being faithful to their vocation as shepherd in their parish.
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers offered a powerful witness on the role Christian fathers play in building a civilization of love and life in the family.
Fathers, as the heads of their families, he said, are called "to give yourself every day of your life," and to "love your wife as you love yourself."
"Why does God call us to be husbands?" he asked. "To love his wife as God loves the Church."
The first black permanent deacon in Portland, Ore., Deacon Burke-Sivers is also a father of four and the founder and director of Aurem Cordis, a Christian evangelization and apologetics organization dedicated to the dissemination and promotion of Catholic values and principles.
Returning to the conference for his second year, Father Larry Richards used the title of his book, Be a Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be, to encourage those gathered to "live life with the final goal in mind."
"God’s goal is for you and me to go to heaven," he said. "What we do with this little time on Earth determines where we will be forever."
Ordained to the priesthood in 1989 for the Diocese of Erie, Pa., Father Richards serves as Pastor of St. Joseph Church/Bread of Life Community in Erie. He is also the spiritual director of the TEC (To Encounter Christ) Retreat Program for the Diocese of Erie.
Other speakers included Michael Crumbie, who offered a dynamic account of his conversion to Catholicism in 2001 after serving for 23 years as a Protestant minister.
And, talking about the priesthood was Father Sam Kachuba, 26, a recently ordained priest assigned to St. Pius X Parish in Fairfield, who told his audience that "being a priest is the greatest job in the world."
The conference also drew some 25 vendors who displayed information on topics ranging from pro-life activities, vocations, family values and Christian music to retreats, Catholic media, religious communities, and sacred art. Father John Gatzak, director of the Office of Radio and Television, served as moderator for the conference.
"This is wonderful," said Joe Murphy of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield. "Its beauty is that every message offers something to take home and reflect upon."
Added Connecticut Senator Michael McLachlan, a parishioner at St. Peter Parish in Danbury, "I plan to talk to my pastor about bringing a busload of men next year. This is such a great opportunity for Catholic men to come together in prayer and fellowship to celebrate their faith."
Hartford Auxiliary Bishop Peter A. Rosazza was the principal celebrant of the concluding Mass.
A number of priests who had been available throughout the day to hear confessions and provide spiritual direction concelebrated.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Transcript, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
Essen, Germany, Nov 7, 2009 (CNA) - On October 28, Pope Benedict XVI appointed 45-year-old Franz-Josef Overbeck as the Bishop of Essen, Germany. Bishop Overbeck was ordained a priest by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, has survived a bout with cancer, and is now the youngest bishop in Germany.
Bishop Overbeck, previously the auxiliary bishop of Münster, told Bild.de, “I was having breakfast in Rome when I received the call that I had been selected to be the next bishop of Essen. I immediately said yes, and then I finished my breakfast.”
When asked if he had any role models, Bishop Overbeck cited his parents, whose faith had quite an influence on him. Overbeck said he also admired Pope Paul VI, who “guided the church through a very difficult political and social phase.”
Describing himself as “a bishop, who has his worries, but loves the Church,” Bishop Overbeck said that some of the most important events in his life have been his ordination as priest and as bishop, as well as his battle with cancer, its treatment, and “the fact that I defeated it.” Asked if he is afraid it will come back, he responded, “I am not a man of fear. I have come to terms with the finiteness of life. If the cancer comes back, then it is a new sickness.”
On a lighter topic, Bild.de asked Bishop Overbeck about his daily life, where he buys his socks and underwear. “I used to shop in Münster. Now I will be shopping in Essen. I do all my clothes shopping in a very concentrated manner, twice a year. When I go to a department store, it is very awkward for me, because so many people recognize me, “ he said.
When asked about his future diocese, Bishop Overbeck told Bild.de, “The Diocese of Essen is a mirror image of the shaken Ruhr district.”
“There are many people who believe, and this faith carries the Church. My task as bishop is to see that the people gladly go to Church, and that they believe gladly.” Essen is located within Ruhrgebeit, a zone in northwestern Germany whose now faltering economy was once driven by mining.
At his first press conference in Essen, Bishop Overbeck said that all of the concerns of diocese—the lack of work, the separation of families, the mass emigration of the youth—are very present to him. His mission in ministering to the diocese's 909,000 Catholics is “to help people to be able to find God.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 7, 2009 (CNA) - Widespread anxiety exists among Catholic leaders in Venezuela who fear that President Hugo Chavez could try to confiscate churches, schools and other church property and try to “eliminate” the work of the Catholic Church, a source close to the Venezuelan Bishops Conference has told Aid to the Church in Need.
The source, who asked not to be named, told the international Catholic pastoral charity that tensions have increased after President Chavez’s decision to confiscate leading financial institutions and businesses around Maracaibo Lake which are connected with the oil industry.
Six weeks ago in a densely populated area of the capital Caracas a district council leader announced plans to seize several church-run schools, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports.
Government figures characterized the initiative as part of an effort to protect historic buildings of national importance. Church figures fear that it is the first step in a thoroughgoing confiscation program affecting church property nationwide.
“As regards the future, no one knows, but he could confiscate churches, schools, and other ecclesiastical buildings,” ACN’s source said of President Chavez. “He might try to eliminate the work of the Church – it used to receive yearly subsidies from the government, but these have been reduced over the last eight years. In particular this has had an effect on Church schools.”
Since Chavez’s election to the presidency in 1998 there has been growing tension between the Church and the government. The country’s bishops’ conference has been alarmed by President Chavez’s style of socialism, which the clergy see as opposed to the country’s culture and values.
Recently the government took offense at a bishops’ conference statement from July about increasing violence in Venezuela, where some reports suggest the number of deaths among young people is rising every week.
“The ministers and government again see this as an attack against politicians without thinking that the bishops are giving a red light to these problems in the country,” ACN’s source reported.
“Chavez depicts the church as an enemy of 21st century socialism whenever it is critical of the government, without seeing that the Catholic Church is just trying to make its voice heard when there is injustice.”
Opposition to the Church is growing. In the city of Los Teques, near Caracas, one priest had to endure loud speakers playing music outside his church to drown out his preaching.
Some priests have been threatened for preaching against Chavez’s proposed reforms.
ACN’s source said ordinary Catholics should respond to Chavez by offering not only critical analysis, but also answers from the social teaching of the Church.
According to ACN, President Chavez is reported to have backed a 15-year project to integrate Cuba, Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, Boliva and Ecuador so that they operate as a single political entity running on a socialist model.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 7, 2009 (CNA) - The executive committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina has called on the National Parliament to protect authentic marriage based on the union between one man and one woman.
“To affirm heterosexuality as a requirement for marriage is not to discriminate, but rather to start from an objective point that is its presupposition. The contrary would be to ignore its essence, that is, that which it is,” the bishops said.
The heterosexuality of marriage is not a private matter or religious choice, they stressed, “but a reality that has its roots in the very nature of the human person, who is male and female.”
The bishops recalled that this natural reality precedes positive law, and for this reason it is the duty of lawmakers to legally protect marriage, which is the foundation of the family. Both, they said, have been protected from the very beginnings of humanity by civilized society.
The Argentinian bishops then affirmed that the diversity and reciprocity between man and woman becomes even “the foundation for a healthy and necessary sexual education.”
“It would not be possible to educate boys or girls about sexuality without a clear understanding of the sexual meaning or language of the body. These aspects that refer to sexual diversity and to the beginnings of life were always taken into consideration as a basis for legislation when defining the essence and purpose of marriage,” the bishops said.
For this reason, the bishops urged that marriage be protected as “a good of humanity” and that sincere dialogue take place amidst “the difficult task of legislating on these issues.”
Denver, Colo., Nov 7, 2009 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop of Denver James D. Conley has said that the health care reform proposal currently advancing in Congress is “fatally flawed” because Congress has ignored or rejected “serious concerns” about federal funding for abortion, broad access to health care and financial sustainability.
The proposed health care reform is not only “inadequate and baffling” but “insulting and dangerous,” Bishop Conley wrote in an essay posted Friday on the website of the journal First Things.
In the Church’s view, he said, access to basic health care is “a right and a social responsibility, not a privilege.” The U.S. bishops’ conference has strived “so diligently” to work with Congress and the White House in seeking compromise legislation, he reported.
“As of Nov. 5, all those efforts have failed,” he wrote.
With the exception of a few leaders like Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), Congress has either ignored or rejected the bishops’ concerns or has brought forward proposals like the Capps Amendment. In the bishop’s view, these proposals do not solve the issues and even create new ones.
“The White House has done nothing to intervene. ‘Common ground’ thinking in Washington apparently has more reality as public relations than as public policy. And as a result, all of the main healthcare reform proposals in Congress, including the huge, 2,000-page merged House bill, are fatally flawed.”
He said the proposals need to be opposed and defeated unless they are “immediately and adequately” amended.
Bishop Conley outlined the priorities of the bishops, first saying that everyone should have access to basic health care, including immigrants. At minimum, this access should include immigrants in the United States legally.
He also urged that health reform respects the dignity of every person, “from conception to natural death.”
“This means that the elderly and persons with disabilities must be treated with special care and sensitivity,” he remarked.
“It also means that abortion and abortion funding should be excluded from any reform plan, no matter how adroitly the abortion funding is masked. Whatever one thinks about its legality, abortion has nothing to do with advancing human ‘health,’ and a large number of Americans regard it as a gravely wrong act of violence, not only against unborn children but also against women,” the bishop added.
Bishop Conley said “explicit, ironclad” conscience protections are needed for medical professionals and institutions so that they cannot be forced to violate their convictions.
Finally, he explained, any reform must be “economically realistic” and sustainable.
“That’s a moral issue, not simply a practical one,” he added.
Most American Catholics want health care reform to work, but “too many people in Washington don’t know how to listen, or don’t want to listen, or just don’t care,” Bishop Conley’s essay concluded.
Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2009 (CNA) - Today the U.S. bishops sent a letter, signed by Cardinal Justin Rigali, to the House of Representatives urging members to vote for the Stupak-Ellsworth Amendment to the health care reform.
The letter, made available by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) asked congress members to vote for the Stupak-Ellsworth Amendment to "keep in place current federal law on abortion funding and conscience protections in the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962)."
"Despite some claims to the contrary," they wrote, "H.R. 3962 does not reflect the status quo on abortion. It fails to explicitly and clearly include the longstanding policy prohibiting federal funding of elective abortion and plans which include elective abortion (Hyde Amendment)."
The bishops acknowledged that H.R. 3962 "has some helpful provisions on conscience protection and non- preemption of state laws," however it "fails to maintain current prohibitions on abortion mandates and abortion funding. Instead it creates elaborate measures requiring people to pay for other people’s abortions with their taxes, private premiums or federal subsidies."
They continued, "Additionally, H.R. 3962 allows the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to mandate that the ‘public option’ will include unlimited abortions. Millions of purchasers will be forced to pay an ‘abortion surcharge,’ which requires purchasers of many plans to pay directly and explicitly for abortion coverage. This is unprecedented in federal law."
"The Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts-Kaptur-Dahlkemper-Lipinski-Smith Amendment will not affect coverage of abortion in non-subsidized health plans, and will not bar anyone from purchasing a supplemental abortion policy with their own funds," explain the bishops nothing that currently, the bill doesn’t meet Obama’s "commitment of barring use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws."
The bishops concluded stating that they have been working "for many years" in order to "support health care reform legislation that truly protects the life, dignity, health and consciences of all."
"Adopting this amendment will help move us move toward this essential national priority and moral imperative."
Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2009 (CNA) - Following the approval of the Pitts-Stupak Amendment to H.R. 3962 on Saturday, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser praised Congress for siding "with the resounding majority of citizens opposed to government funding of abortion," and urged congressmen to listen to their constituents.
On Saturday evening the House of Representatives approved the Pitts-Stupak amendment to H.R. 3962 in a vote of 240-194. The Stupak amendment would prevent insurance plans sold in the individual and small group market from covering elective abortion.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser offered her comments Saturday night thanking those who voted "to honor the American legacy of protecting citizens’ conscience from conscription into activity to which most are morally opposed."
"Congress has sided with the resounding majority of citizens opposed to government funding of abortion," she said adding that those in support of tax-payer funder abortion "will now have some explaining to do back home, before voters head to the ballot box in 2010."
"If there’s one thing many members of Congress learned from Tuesday’s elections, it’s the danger of being out of step with your constituents. Votes do have consequences, and the recent tensions over health care reform should drive that message home," she concluded.