South Bend, Ind., Feb 28, 2010 (CNA) - The dignity and vocation of women and men were once again the focus of the fifth annual Edith Stein Project conference at the University of Notre Dame Feb. 12-13. The student- run conference has grown in scope and attendance since its inception in 2006, with 271 people registered for the 2010 conference. The approximately 30 speakers included students, recent graduates and scholars of national reputation.
Edith Stein was an early 20th century philosopher who championed the dignity of women. She converted to Catholicism and entered the Carmelite order, but was killed by the Nazis at Auschwitz in 1942 because of her Jewish heritage. Edith Stein was canonized in 1998 and is known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
Organizers of the Edith Stein Project wrote in conference materials that they adopted her as their patron saint because of her “inspiration as a model of turning one’s heart to God and as a woman who worked to live out her vocation through the genuine feminine spirit of self-gift.”
The conference initially focused on women, but in recent years, an effort has been made to include men because conference organizers recognized that men and women must cooperate if both are to fully realize their dignity in society. The conference theme of “No Man is an Island: Creature, Culture and
Community,” provided a wide variety of topics, including the family, community, Christian economics,
sexuality and vocation.
In a session on motherhood, Lisa Everett, co-director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, spoke on married motherhood, and Franciscan Sister M. Benedicta Duna spoke on virginal motherhood.
“Love is a child’s deepest need, and he finds it first in the face of his mother,” Everett said, so we need to recover in our culture the theory that a mother cannot be replaced with just any caregiver.
As the mother of seven, Everett acknowledged that mothering does involve “stretching,” but she said parents should never fear the arrival of a child. “When a child is entrusted to us, in many ways it is Christ Himself, and we should never be afraid to welcome Him,” she said.
Everett observed that the Blessed Mother is the ideal model for mothers. Jesus gave us his own mother — the last thing He did — she said, and “Her heart is large enough to contain the entire human race.”
Sister Benedicta, a novice in the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka, is a Notre Dame graduate and was one of the coordinators of the Edith Stein Project in 2007 and 2008 when she was a student.
Sisters give up the right to children of their own, Sister Benedicta said, but they are given “God’s family,” and virginity allows them to remain more free to bear fruit for that family.
Sister Benedicta said that motherhood is conferred on the sisters in her order through their charism of perpetual adoration. Taking a turn in the middle of the night to rise and pray for the needs of people before the Blessed Sacrament is like a mother rising at night to care for her children, she said.
“Mothering people spiritually means you take them into your heart and care for them spiritually,” she explained, noting that the Blessed Mother is the model for generous spiritual motherhood.
Sister Benedicta said that the older sisters in her order teach the younger sisters what it means to be spiritual mothers. She offered the example of Sister Arilda Kampa, who recently died at the age of 103. Sister Arilda had been a spiritual mother to countless students and friends who treasured that gift, she said. Spiritual motherhood gives value to little things, she continued, and in turn the sisters receive love back, which fulfills the female need for motherhood.
“As much as you give, so much more you get back,” Sister Benedicta concluded.
Conference speakers from outside the South Bend area included Professor Jane Rodeheffer of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, Benedictine Mother Dolores Hart of the Abbey of Regina Laudis; Brian Gail, author of “Fatherless,” Professor David Schindler of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute, Kevin Schmiesing of the Acton Institute, Katie van Schaijick of the Personalist Project and Melinda Selmys, author of “Sexual Authenticity.”
Notre Dame seniors JoAnna Roman, Sarah Johnson and Katrina Peller were co-chairs of the conference, which is entirely student-organized. Several campus groups, organizations, alumni and other individuals provided financial support. The Identity Project of Notre Dame is the organizing club for the Edith Stein Project, with Elizabeth Kirk, associate director of the Center for Ethics and Culture, serving as faculty advisor.
Printed with permission from Today's Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend, Indiana.
CNA STAFF, Feb 28, 2010 (CNA) - On Wednesday, March 3, the universal Church celebrates the feast of St. Katharine Drexel, a Philadelphia heiress who abandoned her family’s fortune to found an order of sisters dedicated to serving the impoverished African American and American Indian populations of the United States.
Katharine was born November 26, 1858, into the affluent Philadelphia Drexel family. Despite their wealth, the family was very pious and Katharine was taught charity at an early age. Her mother opened up the family house three times a week to feed and care for the poor and her father had a deep personal prayer life. During the summer months, Katharine and her sisters would teach catechism classes to the children of the workers on her family’s summer estate.
The young heiress was considering a vocation to the contemplative life when she was given the opportunity to travel to Europe and have an audience with the Pope. During the audience, she asked Pope Leo XIII to send missionaries to Wyoming. He replied by asking her why she didn’t found an order to do exactly that.
Upon her return home, Katharine began working as a layperson for the improvement of the conditions and education of African Americans and Native Americans. Eventually her work led her to found the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament who are dedicated to sharing the message of the Gospel and the Life of the Eucharist with African Americans and American Indians.
During her lifetime, she oversaw the opening and maintenance of almost 60 schools and missions, mostly located in the western and southwestern United States. She is well known for founding Xavier University, in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1925.
Katharine was forced into retirement for the last 20 years of her life due to a severe heart attack. Though she was not able to actively lead the order, she left the sisters with her charism of love and concern for the missions.
She died on March 3, 1955 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000.
Sydney, Australia, Feb 28, 2010 (CNA) - A record number of men are entering seminary for the Archdiocese of Sydney and up to six men will be ordained to the priesthood this coming June, a rise that observers partly attribute to the influence of World Youth Day 2008.
On June 11, between four and six men will be ordained priests by the Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell. This is the largest number of men ordained into the Archdiocese of Sydney since 1988, the archdiocese reports.
Two Uganda-born men who studied at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush, Australia will be ordained in their home country and will return to serve in Australian parishes.
“While Australia has been battling against a shortage of priests since the late 1980s, it now looks as if interest in the priesthood and men seeking priestly vocations is once more on the rise,” the archdiocese said on Friday.
In February, 10 men were accepted as candidates for the priesthood by the Seminary of the Good Shepherd, and they have since begun their first year of study.
"There is no doubt there has been an upsurge in interest in a priestly vocation," said seminary rector Fr. Anthony Percy.
Fr. Percy attributed the trend to World Youth Day 2008 but also to past World Youth Day Events and to the Year for Priests, proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI in June 2009.
Another sign of vigor in Catholic Australia is Sydney’s Theology on Tap program, which attracts between seven and eight hundred people to P.J. Gallagher’s Irish Pub in Parramatta on the first Monday of each month. They drink, socialize and hear speakers on theology, faith, the Church and life in general.
"Today many young people are seeking deeper meaning to their lives and not just looking for a career but for a vocation which can answer the big questions of life," Fr. Percy added. "In this post modern culture there are no values, no standards and no foundations on which to build minds. But young people really want these things and in a world of dysfunctional families and society generally, they are looking to the Church for stability."
Irondale, Ala., Feb 28, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic network EWTN has announced that its Lenten programming will include musical performances and reflections from many well-known Irish and English priests.
Lenten reflections, filmed at priests’ home parishes, will discuss topics including how to listen to God and how to come to the Lord for healing and forgiveness. The will air at 6 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursdays.
Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan will also offer Lenten reflections which highlight St. Peter as an example of conversion and an “icon” for Lent. His five different episodes will air Mondays at 5:30 p.m.
Fr. William Casey, C.P.M., will discuss Lenten and Holy Week themes. Dr. Timothy O’Donnell will tour “Rome’s Hidden Churches,” the Stational Churches of Rome designated by the Vatican for special morning and evening Lenten services.
British journalist Joanna Bogle will discuss how the kitchen can become an entry into Catholic Lenten traditions each Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
Pope Benedict’s celebration of the Solemn Mass of Palm Sunday will air at 3:30 a.m. on March 28.
Later in the day, popular EWTN priest Fr. Benedict Groeschel will offer a Palm Sunday meditation at 10 a.m.
Musical performances broadcast on EWTN include Joseph Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Christ,” Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater,” and J.S. Bach’s “Johannes Passion.”
The EWTN web site is at http://www.ewtn.com.
Vatican City, Feb 28, 2010 (CNA) - Before the Angelus on the second Sunday of Lent, the Holy Father spoke about the Transfiguration. He explained that through the lessons in Sunday's readings we are taught that Jesus alone guides us.
Speaking from his apartment window high above St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that while Luke does not refer to the occasion specifically as a "transfiguration," he describes the events and notes the changes in Jesus and the radiance of his garments. At the event, Moses and Elijah accompanied Jesus as symbols of the Law and the Prophets.
Peter, James and John fought off sleep during the event, which the pontiff said exhibited their lack of comprehension. But when they woke, Moses and Elijah parted from Jesus' side and were covered by a cloud while Peter spoke.
This cloud "reveals the glory of God," said the Holy Father, adding this had also happened to the Hebrew pilgrims in the desert.
"The eyes can no longer see, but the ears can hear the voice that comes from the cloud: 'This is my beloved son. Listen to him!'"
At this point in the Gospel, noted the Holy Father, everything returned to normal and the three apostles found themselves before Jesus alone.
"Jesus is alone before his Father, while he prays, but, at the same time, 'Jesus alone' is everything that is given to the disciples and to the Church of all time: and that which must be enough on the path," said Pope Benedict.
"He is the only voice to listen to, the only one to follow," said the Pope, "he that, going up towards Jerusalem, will give his life and one day 'will transfigure our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.'"
The pontiff explained that in Peter's words, "Master, it is good that we are here," is seen a similarity to our own desire for consolation from the Lord. But, he added, "the Transfiguration reminds us that the joys spread by God through our lives are not starting points, but lights that He gives us in the earthly pilgrimage, so that 'Jesus alone' might be our Law and his Word might be the criterion that guides our existence."
The Holy Father closed his words before the Angelus inviting all people to meditate on the Gospel. He also expressed his wish that all "in this Year for Priests Pastors are truly penetrated by the Word of God," knowing it and loving it so it might guide their lives and form their thought.
After the Angelus the Holy Father remembered the victims of violence in Iraq and called for authorities to protect religious minorities in the country. He also prayed for "relief from suffering” and courage for those hit by an earthquake in Chile on Saturday.
Vatican City, Feb 28, 2010 (CNA) - After the Angelus on Sunday, the Holy Father directed his words to the population of Chile and victims of its massive earthquake. He prayed that quake victims receive relief and courage from God.
"My thought also goes to Chile and to the population hit by the earthquake," Pope Benedict XVI said.
Chile was hit by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake very early on Saturday morning, at a strength 500 times that of the January earthquake in Haiti, ABC News reports. At least 214 deaths have been confirmed and the government estimates millions of people are without homes.
"I pray for the victims and am spiritually close to the people tested by such a grave calamity; for these I implore from God relief from the suffering and courage in this adversity," the Holy Father said at St. Peter’s Square.
He assured victims of the support of the Church, adding "I'm sure that there will be no lack of solidarity of many, especially ecclesial organizations."
Vatican City, Feb 28, 2010 (CNA) -
After the Angelus on Sunday, the Holy Father exhorted the international community to do “everything possible” to give Iraqis a future of “reconciliation and justice." His words against anti-Christian violence in Iraq were well received by Iraqi demonstrators in St. Peter's Square.
Pope Benedict XVI related the "profound sadness" he felt upon learning of the killings of Christians in Mosul last week. He added that he has followed the violent events perpetrated against unarmed victims with "great preoccupation."
The pontiff said that during the "intense meditation" of the spiritual exercises of the last week he prayed often for the victims.
"Today, I wish to unite myself spiritually to the prayer for peace and for the restoration of security, promoted by the Council of Bishops of Nineveh," he added.
The bishops of the Syro-Catholic, Syro-Orthodox and Chaldean Churches in Mosul made a plea for government protection for Christians and religious minorities in a letter to the Iraqi Prime Minister this week.
The Holy Father said that he is "affectionately close" to the Christian community in Iraq and urged them to continue to be a positive force "for the nation to which, for centuries, you rightfully belong."
While calling for Iraqi civil authorities to make “every effort to return security to the population and, in particular, to the most vulnerable religious minorities," he also expressed his hope that the authorities would not give in to the temptation "to make the temporary interests of a few prevail over the safety and fundamental rights of every citizen."
He closed by greeting a group of Iraqis demonstrating in St. Peter's Square, saying:
"I exhort the international community to do everything possible to give the Iraqis a future of reconciliation and justice, while I invoke with trust in God omnipotent the precious gift of peace."
CNA spoke with Chorbishop Philip Najim, representative of the Chaldean Patriarchate to the Holy See, who joined the formidable group of Iraqis who advocated their cause in the presence of the Pope on Sunday.
He said that the purpose of the Iraqi presence in St. Peter’s Square today was to provide "another call to the conscience of the international community to be able to intervene, to protect and really defend the rights of man that... has a right to life which is a gift from God."
"We want to put an end, through the international community to these discriminations, these persecutions against the Christian communities in Iraq and the Middle East, especially the Middle East, and we want a peaceful life," Bishop Najim added.
Iraqi priests studying and working in Rome turned out for the Angelus with flags and banners in hand. "Liberty, Equality, Peace" read one of their banners, black letters on a white background. "Iraqi Christians need an urgent International Intervention" read another.
Peaceful protests were held in Christian-populated cities across the Plain of Nineveh on Sunday. These cities and villages have received a number of refugees in recent days, fleeing the violence in Mosul.
Another protest has been organized for Monday by the Iraqi community of Paris.
Vatican City, Feb 28, 2010 (CNA) - Following the final meditation of a week of Lenten spiritual exercises, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Roman Curia on Saturday. He welcomed the week as an opportunity to renew their priestly vocations and looked to the example of Mary as a major lesson from the retreat.
The Holy Father first thanked Fr. Enrico dal Covolo, the Salesian Father of Don Bosco who led the series of 17 meditations along the course of the week. He praised him for the "passionate and very personal way he guided us in the path towards Christ, in the path of renewal of our priesthood."
The theme of this year's meditations, taking place within the Year of the Priest, was "Lessons from God and the Church on the Priestly Vocation."
Reflecting on Fr. dal Covolo's insistence during the reflections on the importance of "a listening heart," the Pope said, "In reality, it seems to me that this might summarize the entire Christian vision of man."
Man, he continued, "has the necessity of listening" to others, but "mostly to the Other... God."
"Only in this way does one know himself, only in this way does he become himself," Pope Benedict stated.
Mary, he said, shows us what it is to have a "listening heart." In Luke's gospel, the Holy Father pointed out, she is presented as a woman who is "immersed in the Word of God, listens to the Word... holds it in her heart.
"In listening she conceived the eternal word, gave her flesh to this word," he emphasized.
As Mary listened to the Word, joined by the communion of saints, said the Holy Father, we are also called to do so, not in isolation, but in the "us" of the Church and the saints.
In his closing comment, the Holy Father reiterated his gratitude to Fr. dal Covolo in helping participants in the exercises to renew their perception of the meaning of the priesthood and to remain aware that priestly consecration "is destined to become a mission."
"So, with renewed courage, we wish now to face our mission," concluded Pope Benedict XVI.
The Holy Father also made reference to the spiritual exercises during the Sunday Angelus. He thanked all people "who were spiritually close" to him and members of the Curia during the week.