Providence, R.I., Mar 14, 2010 (CNA) - Watching news reports of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile on Saturday, Nicole Jean-Gilles was drawn back to that fateful day seven weeks ago when she was nearly killed during the quake that rocked Haiti.
Jean-Gilles is a nurse at Fatima Hospital, and a member of the diocese’s Black Catholic Ministry. She had returned to Haiti, her homeland, for a post-holiday visit with several family members who still reside there, when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the island nation on Jan. 12.
She was riding with family members in a car through the capital, Port-Au-Prince, when the earth began to shake violently just before 5 p.m. local time.
“I survived, thank God,” says Jean-Gilles, 49. “We had stopped. A bus in front of us broke down. That saved us.”
She says she couldn’t believe what she was seeing as a house at the side of the road in front of them suddenly collapsed onto itself, spreading debris everywhere. She says she felt like she was part of a movie.
“If it weren’t for the bus, we would have been further down the road and the car would have been crushed,” she says.
As the dust began to settle, panic ensued in the streets, she recalls, with people scurrying around and crying, not knowing what to do as they ran for their lives.
It would be another five hours before Jean-Gilles, and those riding with her, would make it back to her mother Lucinne’s home, which was about 20 minutes away.
Jean-Gilles stayed on to assist the relief efforts with her medical skills until she finally boarded an American military flight back to the U.S.
While she is able to stay in contact with her family in Haiti now by telephone, Jean-Gilles says relief efforts there still have a long way to go.
It was her mother’s preparedness that allowed the family to survive following the quake, according to Jean-Gilles. Lucinne was fortunate to have cupboards full of food to help take care of the family and others. Many thousands of others were not as fortunate.
Days turned into weeks as people in the neighborhood waited in vain for relief convoys to come and distribute much-needed food and water.
“They weren’t going through the streets. Not everybody was getting the help,” Jean-Gilles says.
Despite the passage of seven weeks since the disaster, conditions have not been greatly improved for many thousands who are barely surviving there.
“They still need a lot of help now,” Jean-Gilles says, relaying information she is continually receiving from her family in Haiti.
“It’s not over.”
Aid has begun flowing from diocesan collections across the United States and around the world to Catholic Relief Services, which was already on the ground in Haiti doing humanitarian work even before the quake literally leveled the playing field for a range of social classes even before the quake struck.
Jean-Gilles, whose husband Frantz is a driver for RIPTA, says she would like to bring at least one of her nephews to Providence to help him escape the terrible situation they are forced to live in there as a result of the disaster.
“It’s so sad to see the country like that,” she says.
Printed with permission from The Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence.
Charleston, S.C., Mar 14, 2010 (CNA) - The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist added another landmark to the Holy City on March 8 when its new steeple and cross were hoisted into place. After the 12:05 p.m. Mass, hundreds of people gathered on the Cathedral lawn to watch as Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone blessed the new addition from a scissor lift before it was raised skyward.
He thanked everyone who helped make the historic event possible. He said the cross was a sign of the Christian presence in the community, a presence that is found in the people, but it would serve as a reminder to all.
Buttresses were lifted into place the next day and finishing touches will be completed by the end of the week, according to Rueben Solar of Glenn Keyes Architects, the firm handling the design.
The new steeple is made mostly of copper and has three major parts. The belfry is comprised of four arches that create what Solar described as a lantern; the steeple looks like a lattice work frame atop which is the gold-gilded Celtic cross.
In a telephone interview, Solar said the open design was used to meet building code weight restrictions. By working with lighter materials they made a taller structure that can endure hurricane force winds.
Instead of a solid steeple that would act similar to a big sail, the new design allows air to flow through and reduces impact to the tower and the building below.
The architects used copper as a way to transition from the brownstone into other materials.
“The copper was a perfect fit for that on several different levels,” he said. “It is lighter than stone and is a material that ages gracefully, with no maintenance, painting, or stucco.”
The original design concept came from architectural details on the Cathedral’s main altar, Solar said.
Erno Ovari, a master German coppersmith now based out of Utah, handled the copper work and the gilding of the cross.
Solar said Hightower Construction came up with the innovative idea from their boat works company to use a fiberglass and epoxy blend to form a core for some of the copper elements.
By using the cold mold method the construction company was able to create the look they needed within the weight limitations. The corner pieces were made from cast stone to give the appearance of solid masonry.
“We can all walk away from this feeling like we’ve got a structural system on the inside that’s going to stand the test of time and an architecture that is going to stand the test of time,” Solar said.
The Cathedral has not had a spire since the first structure burned down in 1861. The current church was completed in 1907 without a steeple because it was too costly. A major restoration of the exterior began in 2007.
Since that time, damaged brownstone has been replaced, the mortar joints were repointed, and the original stained glass windows were re-leaded and covered with protective glass by Bovard Studios out of Iowa.
Three bronze bells were added last fall. From the ground up the Cathedral now reaches approximately 167 feet.
The project cost $6.2 million. Father Gregory B. Wilson, rector pro tem, said organizers still have to raise about $400,000. He said the project scope is beyond that of a Cathedral parish effort, because more than half of the total donations came from people around the state.
“This has truly been a diocesan-wide accomplishment,” he said.
A Cathedral restoration celebration is planned for May 2 at the 11:15 a.m. Mass, which will be attended by Bishop Robert J. Baker and Msgr. Joseph Roth, former Cathedral rector, who helped initiate the project.
Printed with permission from The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper for the Diocese of Charleston.
CNA STAFF, Mar 14, 2010 (CNA) - On Wednesday, March 17, the Church, along with the rest of the world, will celebrate the feast of St. Patrick of Ireland.
St Patrick is one of the early Church’s most amazing missionaries. He was born around the year 389 on the Island of Briton and considered himself to be both Roman and British. At the age of 16, he was captured by an Irish raiding party and sold into slavery. After six years of living the life of a sheepherding slave, Patrick escaped home to Britain.
However, he felt God calling him to be a priest, so he set out for France where he studied for the priesthood.
Feeling that he was called to return to Ireland, Patrick was ordained a bishop and returned to the country where he had been a slave. He landed at Slane in 433, where he was met by a hostile chieftain called Dichu. However, Dichu converted when he realized that he had lost the ability to move his arm as long as he was unfriendly to Patrick.
Patrick spread the Gospel in Ireland for 40 years, until his death. He converted many, and Ireland became a country on fire with the spirit. The country of the Druids became a country full of churches, sending missionaries out into the world.
Legend has it that St. Patrick drove all of the snakes out of Ireland. Though the country is climatically and geographically isolated enough that snakes never migrated to the island, it is said that Patrick’s actions are symbolic of his stand against the Druids and the symbols of snakes that were used across the country.
Patrick is famous for using the shamrock, a flower native to Ireland to explain the trinity to the pagans who did not understand. Just as the shamrock has three leaves but is one flower, so the trinity has three persons but is one God, he said.
Patrick died in 461 AD. He is buried in County Down, Ireland. St. Patrick is the patron of Ireland, Nigeria, and against snakes.
New York City, N.Y., Mar 14, 2010 (CNA) - Early this week, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts hosted a panel in which Planned Parenthood was allowed to distribute brochures containing sexually explicit material to the young girls. The panel served as part of the annual U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
According to the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), the brochures titled, “Happy, Healthy and Hot,” are aimed at young people with HIV and give graphic details on sex, encouraging a casual approach to sexual experimentation. The brightly colored pamphlets feature silhouettes of young people and state, “Many people think sex is just about vaginal or anal intercourse… But, there are lots of different ways to have sex and lots of different types of sex. There is no right or wrong way to have sex. Just have fun, explore and be yourself!”
The pamphlet continues by encouraging adolescents to “Improve your sex life by getting to know your own body. Play with yourself! Masturbation is a great way to find out more about your body and what you find sexually stimulating. Mix things up by using different kinds of touch from very soft to hard. Talk about or act out your fantasies. Talk dirty to (your sexual partner).”
C-FAM also reports that the CSW event also held a young women's caucus that was co-moderated by the Girl Scouts and the YMCA. Part of the caucus included an “Intergenerational conversation” that addressed “reproductive health” as well as a recent Girl Scout project aimed “at securing the right of women, men and adolescents aged between ten and twenty-five, to better reproductive and sexual health.”
Several leaders of U.N. organizations also released a joint statement at the CSW this week called the “U.N. Adolescent Girls Task Force” which encourages U.N. agencies to support initiatives “that empower … adolescent girls, particularly those aged 10 to 14 years.” One aspect of this “empowerment” is providing these young girls with “life-skills based sexuality education, HIV prevention, and sexual and reproductive health.”
According to C-FAM's Friday Fax, Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women of America argued that Planned Parenthood’s initiatives are motivated with the intent of increasing their revenue. “Governments and NGOs should be aware of Planned Parenthood’s insidious plan to work with U.N. agencies and girls’ organizations in order to profit from encouraging kids to be sexually active,” Wright stated.
Miami, Fla., Mar 14, 2010 (CNA) - In the aftermath of the disastrous January earthquake in Haiti, the Archdiocese of Miami has announced pastoral initiatives to collaborate with Haitian clergy in recovery efforts. Clergy from the archdiocese will minister in refugee camps and care for orphans will be organized. Volunteers for medical missions are also being sought.
A Thursday press release from the archdiocese reported that within days of the earthquake Haitian clergy from the Archdiocese of Miami went to Haiti to determine the damage and to supervise relief efforts. Those efforts included medical care, food provision, monetary assistance and spiritual care.
Relief efforts conducted with the apostolic administrator and clergy in Port-au-Prince include ministry in medical camps located in or around local parishes. Clergy from both countries will celebrate Mass and administer sacraments while praying with those living in the tent cities, camps and clinics.
To help provide rest for the Haitian clergy, a two-week rotation will be established between priests in Haiti and Haitian priests in the Archdiocese of Miami.
Orphans in existing orphanages will be assisted with monetary contributions. To help keep families together, support will also go to orphans being cared for by relatives.
The Archdiocese of Miami has committed to providing qualified, Creole-speaking volunteer counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists to work in the medical camps. It has also pledged a donation of $40,000 to each of the ten Haitian dioceses to help serve displaced persons.
A multi-purpose center serving as a medical facility, storage venue and secure housing for archdiocesan mission teams is also planned. The center will be the main staging area to coordinate the missions. From it, mobile medical missions and food programs will be dispatched.
Funding for these initiatives will come from the more than $1 million collected during the archdiocese’s special collection over Jan. 16-17. No relief funds will be used for administrative costs.
Separately, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami has also received $400,000 for relief efforts locally and in Haiti. Of those funds, $200,000 has been reserved to provide emergency financial assistance and counseling to victims medically evacuated or repatriated into the Archdiocese of Miami. The assistance can also go to the families caring for them.
Food vouchers for up to 90 days and $75 in one-time cash assistance will be provided. Another $10,000 has been allocated for the purchase of Publix food cards to be distributed by pastors at three Haitian parishes in the archdiocese.
Catholic Charities has spent almost $175,000 on relief efforts. About 95,000 lbs of food aid, tents, and medical supplies have been shipped to the Diocese of Port-de-Paix for distribution at designated parishes.
The Archdiocese of Miami says it continues to seek volunteers for medical missions to Haiti, including doctors, nurses, LPNs, and Creole-speaking counselors and psychologists.
“Medical personnel trained in particular specialties, such as orthopedics, dentistry, obstetrics, surgery, pediatrics, etc., are needed as are prosthetics for amputees,” the archdiocese said.
Three parishes are also collecting medical supplies, water bottles, cooking oil, dry beans and rice, canned foods, new clothes and hygiene items.
Donations to the Catholic Charities Miami can also be made through the website http://www.catholiccharitiesadm.org.
Vatican City, Mar 14, 2010 (CNA) -
Presiding over the mid-day Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the day's Gospel that presents the parable of the prodigal son. He explained that “only experiencing forgiveness, recognizing ourselves loved by a free love, greater than our misery, but also our justice, can we finally enter into a truly filial and free relationship with God.”
In his address before the Angelus on this fourth Sunday of Lent, the Holy Father asked, “What would our culture, art and, more generally, our civilization be without this revelation of a Father God, full of mercy? The parable never stops moving us and every time we hear it or read it, it is capable of suggesting new meanings to us.”
Benedict XVI stated that “this evangelical text has the power to speak to us about God, to show us his face, better yet, his heart. After Jesus spoke to us of the merciful Father, things are no longer as they were, now we know God. He is our Father that out of love made us free and endowed us with a conscience, (one) that suffers if we get lost and rejoices if we return.”
For this, continued the Pope, “the relation with Him is built through a history, similarly to what happens with each child and their parents: in the beginning he depends on them, later he claims his own autonomy and finally – if there is positive development – reaches a mature relationship, based on recognition and true love.
“In these stages we can also read moments of the path of man in his relationship with God,” the Pope taught.
“There can be a phase that is like childhood: a religion marked by necessity, dependence. Little by little man grows and emancipates himself, he wants to free himself of this submission and become liberated, adult, capable of regulating himself on his own and making his own choices autonomously, thinking even to be able to do so without God.”
The Holy Father later cautioned that “exactly this phase is delicate, and can lead to atheism, but it also often hides the need to discover the true face of God.”
“Fortunately,” he assured, “God never let's go of his loyalty, and although we distance ourselves and get lost, he continues with his love, forgiving our mistakes and speaking interiorly to our conscience to reclaim us for himself.”
In the parable, explained the Pope, “the two sons behave in opposite ways: the younger falls ever lower, while the older remains at home, but also he has an immature relationship with the Father, in fact, when the brother returns, the older of the two is not happy like the Father, instead he becomes angry and does not want to enter the house.”
“The two sons,” he said, “represent two immature ways of relating with God: rebellion and infantile obedience. Both forms are overcome through the experience of mercy. Only experiencing forgiveness, recognizing ourselves loved by free love, greater than our misery, but also our justice, can we finally enter into a truly filial and free relationship with God.”
The Pope concluded by urging meditation on this parable by identifying ourselves in the sons, “and let's especially contemplate the heart of the Father. Let's throw ourselves into his arms and let ourselves be regenerated by his merciful love. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, help us in this.”