Worcester, Mass., Jun 26, 2010 (CNA) - “When I grow up, I want to be like him,” The 5-year-old was talking about the priest. But while still a child the boy fell in love – with the image of Our Lady of Fatima. “If I find a woman who looks like her, and has her characteristics, I’ll marry her,” he decided.
“For 34 years I’ve never met that woman,” he says now. “I guess the Blessed Mother wants me. I’m all hers. Like John Paul II said, ‘Totus Tuus Maria.’”
This is the story of Deacon Lowe Bretaña Dongor, who is to be ordained a priest today at St. Paul Cathedral. Now he’s sparking an interest in priesthood in today’s children.
Deacon Dongor, son of Nelly Bretaña Dongor and the late Ramon Dongor, was born Feb. 17, 1976 in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, in the Philippines. He is the first Filipino to be ordained for the Worcester Diocese.
His parents had the most important influence on his vocation, taking him and his siblings to church, he says.
Also influential was his great-aunt, Dominican Sister Vincenta Bretaña, a religious for 50 years. She said devotion to the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother were most important, and those devotions kept him in seminary, he says.
“When you see the Virgin Mary carrying the baby, that’s me,” Deacon Dongor says, telling about his collection of Madonna and Child statues. “She’s my Mother. Especially being a priest, there are times in your life when you’re down. In the Philippines, when we get hurt, we always cry, ‘Mom!’”
“When I leave the country, will you be my mother?” he asked her before coming to the United States.
That opportunity came because of priestly aspirations. He’d attended Barotac Nuevo High School, and, in Manila, the University of Santo Tomas and Adamson University. He was at Our Lady of the Angels Seminary in Quezon City when he met Father Peter R. Precourt. Father Precourt, an Augustinian of the Assumption then with the congregation in Worcester and now pastor of St. Anne and St. Patrick Parish in Sturbridge, was meeting with men interested in an Assumptionist vocation.
In 2003 he and other Filipinos came to Worcester to live with the Assumptionists and study at Assumption College. After a couple years, Deacon Dongor left.
“I enjoyed more working with the people in the parish,” he says. “I felt that I was called to be a diocesan priest.” He found the diocese’s priests very supportive, he says. His parish summer internships were at St. Joseph’s, Charlton; Holy Angels, Upton; St. Christopher’s, Worcester, and St. Bernadette’s, Northborough.
He recently invited students at St. Bernadette’s Elementary School to his ordination and talked about vocations, he says. A third-grader said he wanted to be a priest and marry a model. He explained that priests don’t marry, and the child later announced, “I dumped that model; I want to be a priest.”
When he told children about vocations at his parish assignment in Baltimore, a fifth-grader said he wanted to be a priest, Deacon Dongor says.
“I’ve been talking to his parents since then,” he says. “I said to him, ‘You’re very young. Enjoy your life, but hold on to that calling. Always listen to the call of God.’”
“I always told people, ‘It’s not bad to dream, but you need to work hard on that dream and pray harder, because one day that dream will come true,’” Deacon Dongor says. “I guess I can testify to that.”
His dream of having his mother and nephew attend his ordination fell through; the United States Embassy in Manila turned them down, he says. So he plans to go to the Philippines July 6-30, and celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving July 11 in the Basilica of St. Anthony de Padua in Barotac Nuevo. On such occasions, the family feeds the whole town, problematic since his family is poor, he says.
“When I was in the Philippines, I was an activist,” he says. “I belong to these poor people. If you don’t speak on behalf of them, who will? Jesus did so. … I guess in some ways I can do something. I myself am an immigrant to this country.”
Not forgetting how he got here, he has Father Precourt vesting him and Father Dennis Gallagher, Assumptionist regional superior, preaching at his Mass of Thanksgiving at 4 p.m., today at St. Christopher’s.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Free Press, newspaper for the Diocese of Worcester, Mass.
Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2010 (CNA) - A new bill introduced in Congress this week aims to fight child sex trafficking in the United States, a problem that is often overlooked, say the bill's authors.
The Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010 was introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking.
A press release Thursday explained that the bill is a response to a 2009 report conducted by Shared Hope International which details commercial sexual exploitation of children in America. Experts estimate that at least 100,000 American minors are victims of child sex trafficking within U.S. borders each year.
“Human trafficking is a worldwide problem and the United States is no exception,” said Rep. Smith, a senior member of the House International Relations Committee. “Traffickers claim new victims in our country every day, destroying childhoods and damaging lives.”
“Too many think that sex trafficking is only a problem in foreign countries. But here in the U.S., an estimated 100,000 underage girls-- most of them American citizens-- are exploited through commercial sex each year,” Rep. Maloney said.
“Yet, nationwide there are only 50 beds to address the needs of those 100,000 victims,” she continued. “This is simply unacceptable. We have a moral obligation to help; these are America’s daughters, granddaughters, sisters, and nieces.”
The proposed bill would provide $45 million to rescue and care for victims, prosecute perpetrators and promote educational prevention programs. It would also require timely and accurate reporting of missing children, said the press release.
In the last decade, Rep. Smith has authored three laws aimed at fighting human trafficking. These laws have focused on crime prevention, prosecution and assistance for foreign victims. However, specialized care services are often unavailable for domestic minors. The proposed bill would offer shelter, daily necessities, social services and counseling for domestic minor victims.
“Our new legislation builds on current services available for trafficking victims but specifically targets assistance to U.S. child trafficking victims - many of whom are runaways and have been forcibly addicted to drugs by traffickers,” Smith said.
“Through the assistance for specialized shelters and services in this bill, communities in the U.S. will be better able to offer more teenage victims a place to be safe and heal, rather than return to the streets only to be re-trafficked.”
New Orleans, La., Jun 26, 2010 (CNA) - Though the valiant work of Catholic Charities in New Orleans was going on before the BP oil spill, their work is being noted across the nation, including with the appearance of their clients in a new Spike Lee film.
Catholic Charities has set up an oil spill response center in New Orleans to assist those who have been impacted by the oil slick in the gulf. Some of the people who are receiving their assistance are Vietnamese-American fishermen who have been left unable to ply their trade. The fishermen are also going to appear in a new film directed by Spike Lee.
Lee was in the New Orleans area while making a documentary about how the area is recovering from Hurricane Katrina, which hit the city five years ago. He is including the impact of the oil spill in his project.
Lee had the chance to interact with Catholic Charities clients, as well as volunteers from around the nation. One such volunteer was Thao Tran. Tran is Assistant to the Mayor of Seattle, Wash. He spent a week in New Orleans helping out at Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation.
“It was my honor to come and work with Catholic Charities to aid those in need from the BP spill,” wrote Tran. “I took and gained more from this experience than what I was able to give. I hope that I am welcome back.”
Catholic Charities is currently seeking volunteers and donations to help assist those disenfranchised by the oil spill. Since May 1, the organization has given emergency assistance to more than 13,000 individuals. They have given out $230,900 to families in the form of food vouchers, as well as distributed numerous cans of baby formula and boxes of diapers. Crisis counseling has also been offered to 2,296 people so far.
Catholic Charities in New Orleans reports that there is no end in sight to the fallout from the oil spill.
Vatican City, Jun 26, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In audience with members of the charity St. Peter's Circle this morning the Holy Father praised their efforts and emphasized the importance of charity. He referred St. Jean Vianney as a model of charity whose example invites Catholics to open their arms to all people in need.
Representatives of the Italian group Circolo San Pietro (St. Peter's Circle) met with the Holy Father, as they do every year, to deliver to him personally the fruits of a collection that is destined to finance charitable activities in the Pope's name. The Circle, founded in Rome in 1869, helps the poor through a variety of commissions that offer assistance such as meals and shelter for the homeless and funding for seminarians from poor areas of the world.
Thanking the group for the collection, the Holy Father recognized the figure of St. Jean Vianney as a model of the evangelical life, "especially for those working in the vast field of charity."
He spoke of the 19th century saint's love of the poor, learned from his parents, which led him to give all he had to the impoverished, to the point where he had no personal possessions at all.
"May his example constitute for you, dear associates of the Circle of St. Peter, a constant invitation to open your arms wide to every person that is in need of a tangible sign of solidarity."
Working with the less fortunate, the organization spreads the message of hope, he said, "which springs from the faith and from adherence to the Lord," thus making them "heralds of his Gospel."
The Pope encouraged them to continue to be guided by charity and witness in their apostolate, inspired by Christian principles and finding renewed vigor in prayer and a spirit of sacrifice.
Concluding, Benedict XVI entrusted their aspirations to the protection the Holy Virgin Mary, "Salus Populi Romani," a restored statue of whom he blessed this week.
Rome, Italy, Jun 26, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Saturday morning, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone stated that the way Belgian judicial and police forces carried out a raid on the retired Archbishop of Brussels and the archdiocese's office had "no precedents even in communist regimes."
Searching for dossiers on cases of pedophilia, the police went so far as to break open the tombs of Cardinals Jozef-Ernest Van Roey and Leon-Josephy Suenens with pneumatic hammers. The Belgian police also prevented bishops and others in a meeting at the archdiocesan offices from leaving the meeting room for nine hours.
Away from the podium of a conference of university professors in Rome where he made a presentation on Saturday morning, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was asked for comment on the recent search of Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard's offices in Mechelen.
He called the lockdown "a kidnapping, a grave and inconceivable fact," according to L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semi-official newspaper.
"There are no precedents even in communist regimes," he said of the methods used during the search, which saw the authorities confiscate confidential files collected by the archdiocesan-sponsored commission investigating the matters.
Repeating the condemnation of the Church for acts of sexual abuse against minors, Cardinal Bertone expressed his regret that they were allowed neither food nor water during the entirety of the search.
Vatican City, Jun 26, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A communique released by the Holy See's Press Office on Saturday describes meetings that took place between delegations from the Vatican and Vietnam this week. A major outcome of the meetings is that the two sides have agreed to the papal appointment of a "non-resident representative to the Holy See from Vietnam" to take what Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi called "a very significant step" in building on existing relations.
The second meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group took place from June 23-24 in the Vatican and follows the first session which took place in Feb. 2009. Co-chairs of the meetings were Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, Under-Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, and Vietnam's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nguyen Quoc Cuong.
During this week's meetings, the Holy See's representatives asked for further freedoms for Vietnamese Catholics "so that the Church may participate effectively in the development of the country, especially in the spiritual, educational, healthcare, social and charitable fields."
Although it was not explicitly mentioned in the Vatican's communique about the meeting, the local Church in Vietnam has been peacefully demanding the return of property seized by the communist regime when it took power in 1954. The prayer vigils and sit-ins organized by local Catholics have been met by the police with intimidation tactics, beatings and arrests.
At the just concluded meeting, the Vietnamese delegation replied to the Church's request for greater freedom for Catholics by pointing to its “consistent policy of respect for freedoms of religion and belief as well as the legal provisions to guarantee its implementation,” the Vatican communique said.
The two sides expressed their appreciation for "positive developments" since their first meeting, highlighting the significance of the audience between Vietnamese State President Nguyen Minh Triet and Pope Benedict XVI last December which was considered to be successful despite the lack of a decision to establish diplomatic relations between the two sides.
After "in-depth and comprehensive discussions on bilateral diplomatic relations" this week, the two delegations agreed that "in order to deepen the relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, as well as the bonds between the Holy See and the local Catholic Church ... as a first step, a non-resident Representative of the Holy See for Vietnam will be appointed by the Pope."
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, who delivered the communique personally to members of the press, underscored that it this is indeed "a very significant step" towards the development of better relations.
He explained, however, that the new position does not establish full diplomatic relations between the two sides, nor is the representative an Apostolic Nuncio or permanent delegate to Vietnam. Fr. Lombardi repeated that the representative will be officially nominated by the Pope and will be "itinerant," moving between Vietnam and the Holy See and, effectively, representing the Holy Father in relations.
He emphasized that, at this point, no nomination has been made.
According to the Vatican communique, along the course of the two days of discussions the two sides also noted "encouraging developments" in Catholic life in Vietnam, especially in regard to the celebration of the Jubilee Year inaugurated last November. The year commemorates 350 years since the foundation of the country's first two Apostolic Vicariates and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Vietnamese Church hierarchy.
At the conclusion of the sessions, the delegations agreed that a third meeting will take place in Vietnam at a time yet to be decided.