Long Island, N.Y., May 1, 2010 (CNA) - It has been nearly five years since Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast and, while the storm has long ceased being at the forefront of the national conscience, volunteer groups from all over the country, well aware that sometimes the scars you don’t see are more painful than the ones you do see, are still coming here to lend a helping hand.
A steady stream of volunteers continues to flow into Camp Hope in Lizana, Miss., where Project Hope and Compassion, an outreach ministry started by St. Ann Parish is headquartered.
Recently, 41 volunteers from Muskegon Catholic Central High School, including 31 students and 10 adults, spent a week at Camp Hope, where they established their base of operations before fanning out into the nearby city of Long Beach to help the Alexander Family, a family of four who have been living in a sugar cane shack that was converted into cramped living quarters after Katrina rendered their home uninhabitable.
“Our high school has been coming down every year since Katrina,” said Michael Tober, campus minister at Catholic Central High School. “I think most of the immediate Katrina stuff is done, but there are also a lot of people down here who just need help. There’s a lot of poverty in certain places, so this just kind of developed into us coming down during spring break and finding out who those people are and serving those who really need the help.”
During the months preceding the groups’ visit, Tober had several conversations with John Armstrong of Christ United Methodist Church in Long Beach.
“He knows a lot of people that I don’t and I kind of tell him what I’m looking for and what type of resources we have and this is the place that he found that really suited the needs of our group and we were able to do something special for them,” said Tober.
After determining that the Alexander home could not be salvaged, the volunteers commenced with the treacherous task of demolishing the Alexander home.
“Once we came to that conclusion, in talking with the family, it was evident that what would really help them would be to remove it and give them a chance to build towards a future,” Tober said. “In the meantime, we also saw immediate needs with their existing structure, so we just asked if there were some things we could do to make it more livable and that would make life a little easier for them and that’s what we’ve been doing this week.”
Tober said the annual trip to Mississippi is designed with one goal in mind for the students.
“I want them to come to know the person of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Our day is very structured. We wake up. We go to Mass. In order to serve the poor, you have to become poor yourself. The only way to give Jesus is to make sure that He’s in you and the only way to do that is to receive Him in the sacraments, so I make them readily available. I pummel them with grace so they can be God’s hands and feet and so they can grow in holiness. That’s what I want for them.”
The students work hard and, after work is done, there is time for play back at St. Ann.
“We always do something like softball or kickball. Last night, we even had a talent show,” said Tober,
“Then, we always go to the church and we pray. We have praise and worship and there’s some spontaneous prayer and then we go to bed and we do it all over again the next day.”
This is the third year that Simone Lunt, a senior who is homeschooled, has traveled to Mississippi with the Catholic Central group to volunteer.
“It’s really sad. I’ve had so much fun. I’m really glad that I got to come this year,” said Lunt. “It’s really cool to come here and help because, first of all, we’re all on the same work site so we all work together and, while we get to know the people we’re working for, we also get to know each other really well. Also, this family is really hospitable and they really give more to us than we give to them. They don’t have very much but they’re giving us all this food and other stuff. I’ve really connected with them. Their children are homeschooled to so we got to exchange some stories.”
Lunt, who is Catholic, plans on attending a community college in the fall where she intends to major in a foreign language.
“I’d really like to go do some mission work after that,” she said. “It’s really something I’ve always wanted to do, but the work we’re doing (in Mississippi) is kind of like the precursor to that… so, when Mr. Tober told me about this, I was really excited and I’ve really enjoyed doing it these past three years.”
For Bridget Salisz, who is a senior at Catholic Central, this trip was her first to Mississippi to volunteer.
“Honestly, coming into Mississippi, I thought there was going to be more destruction than we’ve seen, but I was totally unprepared to see how bad things could still be for people,” she said. “It was really an eye opener to understand that, while things are kind of hidden on the outside, you have to look deeper to understand that people still need help.”
Salisz said the most rewarding part of the experience for her has been the gratitude expressed by the Alexander family.
“It’s just incredible to be able to work with them,” she said. “They appreciate it so much.”
“Words cannot explain how we feel about it,” Ronda Alexander said. “It’s just such a blessing to us. It’s just outstanding. I never knew that groups like this even existed.” Ronda Alexander’s husband, Roger, who will turn 60 in December moved to the Salvador Drive location with his parents when he was eight years-old.
She said a towering Oak tree that now casts shadows over the property was just a switch at the time when the family started building the house.
The home, which had two bedrooms and one bathroom suffered extensive water damage as a result of Katrina, so the family converted a sugar cane shed into living space for the family.
“We just turned it into a little house,” Ronda Alexander said.
As one group of volunteers went about the task of dismantling the family’s former home, Mark Hansen and his son Gabe, 14, worked on the inside of the family’s current living quarters.
“There are four people living in this little place right here,” Mark Hansen said. “There’s no hot water and no shower facilities. They’ve been doing sponge baths since the storm. We converted a toilet area and now we’re putting in a shower enclosure and sink and we’re installing a hot water heater so they’ll have hot water for showers and for cooking. We’re also putting in a slot sink so they can wash dishes because they’ve had no place to do any of that.”
Roger Alexander is a Holiness preacher and the family conducts Bible study in the home, so, to spruce up the interior, the group laid down throw rugs and hung up curtains. They also replaced the exterior siding, which was rotting.
“We’re trying to give them a decent place to live until they figure out whether they’re going to rebuild or bring in a mobile home,” Mark Hansen said.
For the Hansen family, the annual trip is truly a family affair.
“We have a family thing going,” Mark Hansen said. “My wife is secretary at the school. Our middle daughter has been here the last two years. Our oldest daughter, who is in her third year of college… came down with us this year and Gabe has come down every year with us. It’s been a regular family affair.”
Gabe Hansen said he enjoys coming to Mississippi to work.
“It feels good helping people,” he said.
And it makes Mark Hansen feel good to hear his son say those words.
“He’s learned more life lessons in humility every year,” said Mark Hansen, with tears in his eyes. “It’s good. It’s real good.”
Mark Hansen said the group learned when they came down three years ago that the jobs they could do were limited due to a lack of funding.
“So the kids, through all their networking and fundraisers, raise money to bring down so now we can buy dumpsters to tear a house down, we can put siding on and we can put showers and hot water heaters in. It’s made a big difference in what we can do.”
It’s a difference that not only brings tears to the eyes, but joy to the hearts of the volunteers and the Alexander family.
“Thank you is just not enough,” said Ronda Alexander. “It’s just been such a blessing to us. The first day, when they started tearing down the house, I just cried and cried and cried because there were so many good memories in that house. I couldn’t help but cry.”
As Ronda Alexander sat under a shade tree and watched the demolition work in progress, her cousin, Irma Shaw, expounded on some of those memories.
“When they pulled out the old sink that was used from generation to generation, knowing all the hands that had been in that sink to prepare meals and wash the dishes, it’s just been heartbreaking, but it’s been a blessing also,” Shaw said. “But… even though the house is gone, the memories are still there.”
And now the Alexanders have new memories to add to their collection, memories of their friends from Muskegon.
“We just felt like God sent them to us to help us. They were just like angels that God sent to us to help us,” Ronda Alexander said. “It’s just amazed us how God has helped us with so many things and I just want them to know that we appreciate them so much. I feel like we’ve made friends for life. We just appreciate them and love them so much.”
Printed with permission from Gulf Pine Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi.
Washington D.C., May 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - After eight years of work, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has approved a new translation of Roman Missal that contains the new text of the Mass in English. Once the missal is published in English, it will be gradually incorporated into parishes across America at the discretion of the local bishops.
During the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II called for the revision of the English translation of the Missale Romanum. Since then, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) has been drafting a translation out of the original Latin.
In November of last year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved the draft, which was then sent to Rome for the Vatican’s “recognitio.” While the Vatican is still making its final edits, the missal is expected to be forwarded to the USCCB for publication later this spring.
In addition to the new translation of the Roman Missal, a series of adaptations and proper texts were also approved by the Vatican.
The USCCB explained in a press release that each bishop will be in charge of gradually implementing the changes in his diocese.
“A great effort to produce the new Roman Missal for the United States of America is underway now among the publishers of liturgical books, along with the other necessary resources by publishers of liturgical music and catechetical resources,” said Msgr. Anthony Sherman, Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship.
“Even as that work is underway a full–scale implementation of catechesis for the new Missal should be taking place in the parishes, so that when the time comes, everyone will be ready,” Msgr. Sherman added.
But even before the first Mass out of the new missal is celebrated, a numerous resources will be available to bishops, pastors, and liturgists. The USCCB has prepared a special section of their website with resources, while a DVD called “Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ” has been created to help understand the changes. The Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions is also offering a series of workshops for clergy and lay parish leaders.
The new edition of the missal, which is the third such translation, follows the release of the 1975 edition. In a Wednesday meeting with the Vox Clara committee of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Pope Benedict prayed that “the change will serve instead as a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world" and that it would cause neither confusion nor bewilderment.
Bishop Arthur Serratelli, Chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, received news of the approval with gratitude, saying, “I am happy that after years of study and review, the Congregation for Divine Worship has concluded its work and provided us with a text that will enable the ongoing renewal of the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy in our parishes.”
New York City, N.Y., May 1, 2010 (CNA) - In an analysis by Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review Online, she argues that the Associated Press coverage of the Church's sexual abuse scandal is about more than “protect[ing] children and bring[ing] justice to pedophile priests.”
Lopez’s piece begins by referring to an April 18 article run in the Washington Post which takes its information from a PBS interview with Cardinal Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The AP article, however, “simplifies and caricatures the Church — teachings, governance, and people — and ignores a key element of the scandals that has to be acknowledged,” she writes.
By using terms such as, “mea culpa” and “giant pep rally” to describe an expected papal apology at the conclusion of the Year for Priests next month, says Lopez, the AP is being coy, derogatory, and condescending. “The scandal, in the AP book, is about 'protect[ing] children and bring[ing] justice to pedophile priests.' But it’s about more than that.”
While Lopez acknowledges that abuse did take place involving priests, “there’s a related scandal involving dissent on sexual morality in the Church.”
She goes on to explain that an accurate portrait “of what has happened in the Catholic Church in the last few decades cannot ignore the impact the so-called sexual revolution has had on the Church, which was far from immune from the chaos, despite warnings and guidance. But you won’t read about that in the mainstream media, because the mainstream media would be happy to foment dissent on sexual morality in the Church.”
Citing former Mayor of New York Ed Koch, who recently wrote that “continuing attacks by the media on the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI have become manifestations of anti-Catholicism,” Lopez notes that one of the most important things to know about a scandal affecting the Church is that it always involves a Catholic not being faithful in his or her actions. She urges the Church, both clerics and laity, to remain true to the Church’s teachings. “Fidelity is the answer. Surrender is not,” she says.
The Catholic Church, as Cardinal Levada pointed out, has taken steps to keep “sick, pathological priests preying on children and teenagers.” And as Lopez notes, “The Catholic Church is protecting children today. The Catholic Church is also, as she has long done, providing opportunities for children and literally saving children's lives.”
However, since “for much of the media, this isn’t just about protecting children from pedophiles,” Catholics and the Church must not give in to the culture but rather, they must remain steadfast and full of courage in defending Catholic moral principles, Lopez asserts.
New Orleans, La., May 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Responding to the growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Catholic archbishops in the region have called for prayers for those affected. Many people are watching the spill with “great anxiety,” one prelate notes, because they have barely recovered from Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina and don’t need “a man-made disaster.”
The spill began last week when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, creating three leaks in a pipe and killing eleven people.
The oil company BP has been trying without success to activate a valve on the well to cut the flow of oil, Nola.com reports. Meanwhile, the oil slick had made landfall in parts of Lousiana as of Friday afternoon.
The Archbishop of New Orleans Gregory Aymond in a Friday letter to all the parishes of his archdiocese asked for prayers for all the victims of the blast. He encouraged prayers for those who died, those injured, and their families, that “God may give them peace in their time of crisis.”
“Pray too for those working to clean up the oil spill and for those that will be adversely affected by the effects of the spill.”
“At these times of tragedy, it is important that we remain focused on God’s love and that we are witnesses of hope,” Archbishop Aymond added.
A Catholic prayer service for those affected is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the Breton Marina Sound in Hopedale, Louisiana, according to the archdiocese.
The spill threatens the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile spoke about the oil spill in a Friday phone interview with CNA / EWTN News.
He said people in Alabama are watching the developing spill “very intensely” and with “great anxiety.”
“Our fishing industry and tourism industry are just recovering after Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina,” he said. “People have been able to rebuild lives and livelihoods. This can cause considerable damage.”
“We hope that it is not going to,” he added. “People in the seafood industry have had a number of natural disasters. They do not need a man-made disaster.”
He pointed out that the summer tourist season is about to begin, during which hotels and other rental properties are usually filled with tourists.
“We are hoping that the tourists will still come. It remains to be seen whether the oil will impact our beautiful beaches.
“Otherwise the damage to people’s livelihoods and to the environment will be considerable.”
Asked about how the archdiocese will reach out to those affected, he told CNA / EWTN News the archdiocese in the past has given “considerable help” to those affected by hurricanes.
“If people suffer financially because of this man-made situation we’ll do our best to assist people.”
Addressing Catholics and the United States as a whole, he implored, “Please join with us in praying that the efforts underway right now will be successful in containing this oil spill.”
Vatican City, May 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Apostolic Visitors to the Legion of Christ condemned the "very serious and objectively immoral acts" of its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, in a statement on Saturday. The results of meetings from the last two days include the call for a "profound revision" of the life and structure of the congregation.
The Holy See has released a statement from the meetings which took place between April 30 and May 1 at the Vatican. In addition to the five bishops involved in the Apostolic Visitation, the note recognizes that the Holy Father, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and three members of the Roman Curia were also involved in discussions.
The Visitors, reads the note, after an extensive investigation which took them to nearly every one of the religious order's houses, "have attested to having encountered a great number of exemplary, honest religious people, (who are) full of talent, many of whom are young, seek Christ with authentic zeal and offer their entire existence for the diffusion of the Kingdom of God."
However, the statement continues, the Visitors were "able to verify that the conduct of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado caused serious consequences in the life and structure of the Legion, such that require a path of profound revision."
The "very serious and objectively immoral acts" of the late founder of the order, which were "confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies," represent "true crimes and manifest a life without scruples or authentic religious sentiment," the message states.
They acknowledge that "the great part of the Legionaries" had no knowledge of these facts because of Fr. Maciel's communications system and his ability to "create alibis, obtain trust, confidence and silence from those around him and reinforce his own role as charismatic founder."
The Visitors later observe that the "sincere zeal" of the majority of the members of the order and the appreciation of many for their good work propagated the belief that the accusations against the founder were nothing but "slander."
"Therefore, the discovery and the knowledge of the truth about the founder provoked surprise, bewilderment and profound sorrow in members of the Legion ..."
The members of the Visitation offer three recommendations for moving forward. Included are the necessity to “redefine the charism" of the Legionaries while "conserving the true nucleus" of the order that "distinguishes the apostolic and missionary action of the Church and that doesn't identify itself with efficiency at any cost."
The suggestion to "review the exercise of authority," accompanied by truth so as to "respect conscience and develop as authentic ecclesial service in the light of the Gospel" is also underlined by the statement.
The third element highlighted by the Visitors is "the necessity to conserve the enthusiasm of the faith of the young people and the missionary zeal, the apostolic dynamism, through an adequate formation." This, they add, must bear in mind that "the disappointment around the founder could put into question the vocation and that nucleus of charism that belongs to the Legionaries of Christ and is their own."
The message from the Holy See also outlines the Pope's reassurance that both the Legion and the associated "Regnum Christi" Movement will not be left alone. The Pope transmits the message that the Church “has the firm will to accompany them and help them in the path of purification that awaits them."
To the victims of abuse inside as well as outside of the congregation, the Holy Father offers his thoughts and prayers along with gratitude to those who acted with "courage and constancy to demand the truth," despite the difficulties.
The announcement also tentatively lists future actions resulting from the investigation. They are to include the nomination of a delegate and a commission to study the constitutions, as well as a Visitor for "Regnum Christi," upon their insistent request.
The statement concludes with words of encouragement from Pope Benedict XVI for the Legionaries, their families and lay faithful involved in the "Regnum Christi" movement "in this difficult moment for the Congregation and each of them.
He exhorts them "not to lose sight of their vocations," which he calls an "authentic gift of God, a wealth for the Church, the indestructible foundation upon which each of them can build their own future and that of the Legion."
The Apostolic Visitors are Bishop Ricardo Watti Urquidi of Tepic, Mexico; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver; Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi of Alessandria, Italy; Archbishop Ricardo Ezzato Andrello of Concepción, Chile; and Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez of Bilbao, Spain.
Rome, Italy, May 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Fr. Antonio Martello, a hospital chaplain was shocked to see that the baby boy he was praying over was still breathing, a day after he had been aborted at 22 weeks. The case of a "therapeutic" abortion in Rossano Calabro, Italy raises questions about the reliability of sonographies in diagnosing deformities.
Due to a perceived, and as yet unspecified, malformation of the fetus, possibly a cleft palate, the mother had solicited the abortion at a public hospital in the southern Italian city.
The "interruption" of the pregnancy was carried out in the early afternoon of April 24, Fr. Martello told Italy's Il Foglio newspaper this week. The day after, at 11 a.m., he went to pray for the child as he said he always does with aborted and stillborn children.
Noting movement under the sheet with which the babe was covered, the chaplain removed it and saw the child kick. "When I called for help and the pediatrician and anesthetist arrived ... they also observed that the baby was breathing, moving and that (his) heart was beating," he told Il Foglio.
"What I witnessed last Sunday had never happened to me before," said the priest, who was unable to make further comment due his involvement as a witness in the investigation of the case.
According to neonatal specialists, reported the newspaper, vital signs are so subtle in a 22-week old child that only an expert could recognize them. Due to the lack of pulmonary development, the child should not even be able to breathe unassisted, "not for an entire, very long day, but not even for an hour," they reported.
Director of Neonatal Studies at the University of Turin, Claudio Fabris, told Il Foglio that it is "in consideration of the fleeting possibility of survival at 22 gestational weeks (that) many health companies ... have established internal regulations that prohibit therapeutic abortions after that period."
The possibility of survival at that age has seen an increase in recent years in Italy. According to the national statistics, in 2008 five babies of 41 born prematurely at 22 weeks survived, in the previous three years only one survivor was recorded in 28 cases.
"As you can see," said Fabris, "the numbers are extremely scant. But we have the obligation to treat the newborn in extreme prematurity as any person in risky conditions and we must assist him or her adequately."
According to Italian law, if the possibility exists that the fetus can live autonomously, an "interruption" can only take place when the mother's life is in serious danger and in that case doctor's must adopt "every appropriate measure" to safeguard the life of the child.
There is no specific time limit established within the law, which, as the newspaper explained, allows space for medical advancements that increase the possibility of the child's survival at ever younger periods of gestation.
Obstetricians and Gynecologists from the Medical Colleges in four major Roman universities affirmed this law in a statement in 2008 in which they sustained that from "the moment of birth the law attributes the fullness of the right to life and, therefore, to healthcare."
It is further stated in the joint document that doctors must also do everything possible to save the child who survives an abortion, "even if the mother is against it, because the interests of the newborn prevail."
The right to abandon the child at birth is also guaranteed by law, underlines Il Foglio, but "health personnel have the duty to assist the aborted baby, when he or she can survive."
In the case of the child from Rossano Calabro, after spending his first day of life under sheet, the baby died in an incubator in the intensive neonatal therapy unit at a second hospital in nearby Cosenza the next day.
Doctors predicted that his age could have been underestimated thus explaining his development and subsequent survival.
A margin of error of four or five days, Dr. Fabris said, is "fundamental for explaining the survival of that baby."
Although it is still not known, probability suggests that the malformation of the baby may not have been serious. Geneticist Bruno Dallapiccola, scientific director of Rome's Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital, told Il Foglio that in his experience of thousands of cases, "80 percent of the pathologies found sonographically, after a competent genetic consultancy, reveal themselves to be completely compatible with the normality of the unborn child."
After sonographies in other institutions, he said, "couples arrive to me terrorized, with diagnoses almost always, fortunately, without true consequences."
An autopsy is currently being carried out which will shed more light on the case from Rossano, possibly clarifying the age of the child and the nature and gravity of his malformation. In the meantime, a judicial process is being brought against a doctor and two nurses for voluntary homicide.
Archbishop of Rossano, Santo Marciano, told Vatican Radio this week that such a case is "something truly aberrant.
"I define all this as barbaric," he said. "I believe that non-Christians might also be in agreement on this."
Inspectors from the ministry of health will begin their investigation of the case on Monday.
Vatican City, May 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Just over a month after the Catechism was made available in Chinese on the Vatican's website, the Holy See has now released a Chinese version of the Code of Canon Law. The updates accompany the news of a rising Catholic population in Asia.
The Holy See offers portals to its homepage in eight languages, of which Chinese is the only one that does not use the Roman alphabet.
Following the January's publication of the Bible in Chinese characters and the March release of the Catholic Catechism, L'Osservatore Romano noted on Friday that the entirety of the Code of Canon Law has just been added. Translations of documents from the Second Vatican Council should also be forthcoming, according to a statement from the Vatican in March.
News of the updates to the website come during the same week that the Vatican reported the number of Asian Catholics as increasing at a rate of over 15 percent between 2000 and 2008. The Statistical Yearbook of the Church from the Vatican Publishing House also reported a nearly 24 percent rise in the number of priests in Asia.