Rapid City, S.D., Mar 27, 2010 (CNA) - In May 2008, after spending four months studying Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Polish immigrant Father Janusz Korban was assigned special responsibility for Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of Rapid City. Bishop Blase Cupich appointed him and Deacon Raul Daniel to be co-chairs of the new Hispanic Ministry Task Force which works to meet the current needs of Hispanic people and makes plans for the future.
After the task force was formed, members immediately implemented a weekly Spanish language Mass and reconciliation schedule. “We found a need for a priest to say Mass and hear confessions,” said Father Korban.
To make Mass more accessible, task force members look for ways to incorporate aspects of the Mexican culture. One method of doing this is pinpointing Mass celebrations important in Mexico. “Most of us immediately think of the Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration. Many people come to the Guadalupe Mass because that is an import day in their tradition,” explained Deacon Daniel. “Another important celebration is the Day of the Dead (All Souls Day). Even those who do not attend regular Masses will make it a point to come to these.”
Task force member Liz McCarthy, Blessed Sacrament Church, Rapid City, has been working with Hispanic people in the diocese for 10 years. McCarthy teaches baptism classes in Spanish, visits the jail, and helps with the parish hospital ministry. “I want to make the Hispanic people aware that the church really cares for them,” she said. “It makes me proud that we here in western South Dakota are trying to minister to the Hispanic people who are in the diocese.”
Ester Meza, a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima Church, Hill City, said, “Having Mass (in the Spanish language) means people are sharing their kindness, they are opening the doors for us to bring in our culture.”
Their culture includes the Spanish language. “They are not in their native country and they struggle with the English language,” said Father Korban.
The English as a Second Language program was tried in Hill City using a traditional classroom model. When it became evident that style of teaching was not working, plans were made to begin one-on-one classes at Blessed Sacrament Church. Currently, eleven students meet once a week for classes and several other students are meeting when time allows.
“It’s wonderful to watch the English speaking people (who also speak Spanish) being able to welcome others,” said Deacon Daniel.
Another project the task force members hope to implement is adult faith formation classes. “In my background, I was taught very little about the faith,” explained Deacon Daniel. “If I think about that and how it can happen in the United States, think about how little education people in a third world country would receive. They have even less information about the faith than we do.
“It is a scary thought to me to have people whose entire nationality is rooted in Catholicism and we do not reach out as much as we can. There is a tremendous need out there.”
Printed with permission from West River Catholic Newspaper.
Princeton, N.J., Mar 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a recent conversation with Princeton philosophy of law professor Dr. Robert George, Pastor Eugene Rivers affirmed that the only hope today’s young people have is in God. Rivers, who works with some of the most dangerous gangs in the country, also emphasized his optimism for a future of faith.
Dr. George began by asking Pastor Rivers, if he was optimistic or pessimistic about the Christian faith when he spoke with young people. Rivers, who is the pastor of the Church of God in Christ, the nation’s largest historically African-American Pentecostal church, replied that he is hopeful. “I’m entirely optimistic for obvious reasons, to me,” said Rivers. “The only hope that young people have today is in God.”
“I believe, and all of the observable empirical evidence suggests to me, that there is a crisis of cultural and moral authority which required the gospel message to properly intervene in a way that reintroduces hope and faith for a generation of young people for whom hope and faith has died,” Rivers told George.
Pastor Rivers, who has traveled across the country, speaking and working particularly with young people, noted that, “As I walk the streets, all across this country and see a generation of young people drowning in their own blood, it will only be the power of God that resurrects faith and hope in the lives of so many of these children who are desperately looking for a credible witness of the Christian faith.”
Rivers, who works with at-risk youth in violent neighborhoods and prisons, replied to George’s question about the effectiveness of secular efforts in helping these youth by saying, “I’ll tell you this: there are no atheists in the foxholes.”
“In the last 30 years of working with the most violent gangs, from Los Angeles to Boston, the one that has been consistent and actually sort of ironically amusing is the fact that I do not run into atheists in the foxholes. It is the people of faith, whose courage is a function of their faith in God, who are the people that I work shoulder to shoulder with: those nuns and those priests in those barrios and those prison ministries in these ghettos.”
“The future is the future of faith. And I’m entirely optimistic,” Rivers declared.
Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2010 (CNA) - Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards has praised the Catholic religious sisters who endorsed the Senate health care bill, claiming they deserve gratitude for making “a critical demonstration of support” for a bill that significantly increased coverage of “reproductive health care.”
Writing for the Huffington Post Wednesday in her capacity as president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Richards claimed that it was Catholic nuns who “most importantly broke with the bishops and the Vatican to announce their support for health care reform.”
“This brave and important move, demonstrating that they cared as much about the health care of families in America as they did about church hierarchy, was a critical demonstration of support.”
The group NETWORK claimed in a March 17 letter to the House of Representatives that it represented 59,000 women religious across the U.S. It urged members of Congress to support the bill.
Their statement was uncritically reported by the Associated Press. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and others working to pass the legislation invoked the sisters’ endorsement for support.
On March 18 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) spokeswoman Sr. Mary Ann Walsh said NETWORK “grossly overstated” their numbers.
“The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice,” she added. “There are 793 religious communities in the United States,” Sr. Walsh said.
Another group of women religious, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), issued a statement saying it represented 10,000 sisters and supported the U.S. bishops’ criticisms of the Senate health care bill.
In her Huffington Post essay, Richards said in the last days of the debate over the health care bill, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and the USCCB “threatened to bring down health care completely over their narrow demands.”
“Bart Stupak may not ask the nuns for advice, as he recently announced to the press, but maybe next time she should,” Richards jabbed.
She praised Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) for fighting against an “abortion ban” in the House Energy and Commerce Committee Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) gathered 41 signatures of members who pledged to vote against any final bill with the “Stupak ban.”
“These women stood in the way of plenty of men in Congress who were ready to cut a deal, whether with Bart Stupak or the National Conference of Catholic Bishops,” she continued.
Richards said Planned Parenthood was “committed” to changing the “egregious” Nelson language in the bill that President Obama signed into law on Tuesday. She claimed the bill unjustly treats abortion coverage differently than all other health care.
However, she also said the bill was a “huge victory for women’s reproductive health” because it significantly increased insurance coverage of “reproductive health care, including family planning.”
“Reproductive health care” and “women’s rights” are euphemisms common among abortion advocates.
Richards, the daughter of former Democratic Texas governor Ann Richards, noted that some in Congress opposed her agenda.
“The simple and discouraging truth is that we have an anti-choice House of Representatives,” she claimed.
She lamented that 64 Democrats voted in favor of the Stupak Amendment and that there are “too many” Republicans and Democrats in Congress opposed to “women’s rights.”
“We need more than health care; we need women and men elected to office who will stand up for our health and our rights, even when it's hard. So here's to the women leaders in Congress -- and to the nuns -- and to the women everywhere who were counting on them. They need our gratitude and our support,” Richards’ Huffington Post essay concluded.
Rome, Italy, Mar 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - "Unacceptable and unmerited" is how the president of the Italian Senate, Renato Schifani, defined the recent "attacks against the Pontiff." Calling the media blitz on Pope Benedict XVI "unprecedented," he recognized the Pope's "decisive measures against pedophilia" and said that his "very rigorous positions" deserve respect and appreciation.
"This is why I don't understand, and we don't understand, the reason for these attacks," the politician said to a group of young people on Thursday, according to a Friday article in L'Osservatore Romano.
Schifani, speaking to the youngsters on constitutional values, went on to deem as "unacceptable" the evident "attempt to overshadow a moral patrimony, of traditions, of culture and of meritorious actions such as that of the Church with the instrument of the delegitimization that doesn't distinguish that which is good and just from the individual behaviors..."
He pointed out that the "most odious" of these actions "have been condemned firmly and with the maximum authority."
The president of the senate went on to defend the fundamental value of life as "the sign of the degree of civilization of a nation" and said that its protection "without ambiguity in all of its manifestations, preserving in it always the intrinsic dignity, is the essential task of every citizen and every institution."
In a message posted on the website of the Italian government following the release of the Letter to Irish Catholics last week, on behalf of the people of Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi expressed "all of the affection, closeness and solidarity" to the Pope, who "has often had to confront difficult situations that become motive for attacks against the Church and even the very substance of the Christian religion."
Vatican City, Mar 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa dedicated his final Lenten meditation to the necessity of “an internal purification of the Church, starting with its clergy." He emphasized the importance of love for Christ, fidelity and repentance in bringing about change.
The call to conversion for those who are already within the Church is a different one from that of non-believers and neophytes and one that "concerns us closely," explained Fr. Cantalamessa to Pope Benedict XVI and clergy present in the Vatican's Redemptoris Mater Chapel on Friday morning.
This call, the Capuchin friar said, "resounds in each of the seven letters to the Churches" in the Book of Revelation.
Drawing from the letter to the Ephesians, the Preacher to the Papal Household pointed out that the call to conversion incites a return to “the primitive fervor and love for Christ," a return to the enthusiasm and grace of the moment they realized they were called to God's service.
Another component exists in the letter to the Church of Smyrna, said the Capuchin Father, "Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life."
"Fidelity!" he exclaimed, recalling the Holy Father's theme for the Year for Priests: "Fidelity of Christ and Fidelity of the Priest."
He specified that to this fidelity is opposed “the betrayal of the trust of Christ and the Church, double life, failing in duties... most of all regarding celibacy and chastity" and added, "We know from painful experience how much damage can be done to the Church and souls by this type of infidelity."
This, said the priest, "possibly the hardest test" for the contemporary Church.
Referring to the letter to the people of Laodicea, he pointed out the call for a "lukewarm" Church to "be zealous and repent."
The preacher said he believes that this "'lukewarmness' of a part of the clergy, the lack of zeal and apostolic inertia" serves to "weaken the Church more even than the occasional scandals of some priests...
"Christ suffers more than us for humiliation of his priests and the affliction of his Church," but, he added, "if he permits it, it's because he knows the good that can spring from it, in view of a greater purity of his Church."
He reflected on the response to the current trials, "If there is humility, the Church will emerge more resplendent than ever from this war!"
Fr. Cantalamessa concluded his meditation by saying that Christ's invitation "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest," is today directed to his priests.
He added, "The most beautiful fruit of this Year for Priests will be a return to Christ, a renewal of our friendship with him. In his love, the priest will find all of which he is humanly deprived and 'one hundred times more,' according to his promise."
Vatican City, Mar 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The way in which the Church confronts sexual abuse and its extensive coverage recently in the media is “crucial” for her moral credibility, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said on Saturday. He looked to Pope Benedict XVI and various bodies within the Church working to "eradicate the scourge of abuses."
In a note released through Vatican Radio, he stated that recognizing the facts and making amends for cases that "generally" took place years ago is the price of “the reestablishment of justice” and of that “purification of memory" which will allow the Church to look to the future with “renewed commitment" and "humility and trust"
He highlighted the responses of episcopal conferences in different parts of the world which have "reinforced, updated and renovated" directives that provide for the "correct management and prevention of abuses."
Referring to the "decisive measures" and actions of the U.S. Bishops, he said their recently released annual report shows that the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" is obtaining positive results. Fr. Lombardi remarked that it must be recognized that efforts are proving to be "effective."
"The Church in the United States has taken the good road to renewing itself," he noted.
The U.S. Bishops' Conference reported on March 23 that accusations of sexual abuse had dropped by a third in the past year, with "virtually all cases" having taken place decades ago.
This, Fr. Lombardi continued, is an "important news item in the context of recent media attacks, that have undoubtedly provoked damages.
"But," he added, "to an unsuperficial observer it doesn't escape their attention that the authority of the Pope and the intense and coherent commitment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith come out not weakened, but confirmed in supporting and orienting the episcopates in combating and eradicating the scourge of abuses everywhere they might manifest themselves."
The Vatican spokesman concluded that it is with "humility and trust, in the spirit of penance and hope" that the Church begins Holy Week "and asks the mercy and grace of the Lord who suffers and rises again for us."