Archive of July 31, 2010

Arkansas native devotes life to poor women in Thailand

Conway, Ark., Jul 31, 2010 (CNA) - Some people dream of making a difference in the world and others actually do it. Arkansas native Elizabeth Lachowsky Thaibinh and her husband, Michael, founded Wildflower Home in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Wildflower Home is a shelter for single women with small children and pregnant women in crisis, Thaibinh said.

"We take mothers in crisis, maybe they are single and pregnant, victims of domestic violence or whatever the situation," she said in an interview with Arkansas Catholic during a recent trip back to Conway, Arkansas and Houston, Texas. "We teach them and help them readjust to society so they can effectively raise their children."

Wildflower Home began in 2004 as an outreach ministry of the Maryknoll religious order. The Thaibinhs were lay missionaries and began their mission work in Thailand in 1994, she said. Even though in June the Maryknolls pulled out of Thailand and Vietnam because of financial concerns, Thaibinh said she will stay in the country and continue Wildflower Home.

"We are now independent and no longer part of the Maryknoll Lay Missionaries," she said.

"When we came to Chiang Mai we found no other organization to help these women. There were over 300 abortion clinics, no government help and no other foundations," she said.

Thaibinh said women as young as 14 and as old as 44 have stayed at Wildflower Home.

"We usually have between 10 and 15 women plus their children, between 12-15 of them at a time," she said. "We receive a lot of teenage mothers, refugees, hill tribe women. They really are the poorest of the poor."

The inspiration for the home's name came from the wildflowers that grow in Thailand.

"Wildflowers in themselves are so beautiful, but often go unrecognized and people don't attend to them as they would flowers that they plant in their yards and nurture," Thaibinh said. "Our women and children are also so beautiful in themselves, but somehow out of mainstream society."

Thaibinh, daughter of Alfred and Mary Lachowsky of Conway, graduated from St. Joseph School in 1983. She earned her bachelor's degree in theology at University of Dallas and returned to St. Joseph in 1988 as coordinator of religious education and youth ministry for two years. She then returned to college to complete her master's degree in religious studies at the University of Incarnate Work in San Antonio. She met her husband while working as a campus minister at Texas A&M.

Thaibinh and her husband created a foundation in the U.S. to support Wildflower Home. The foundation is called San Se, which in Vietnamese means "share," she said. Thaibinh's husband, Michael, is Vietnamese.

"We have about $25,000 more to pay on the land and we're in the process of building a permanent all-purpose building with classrooms," she said. "We have $24,000 more to raise to complete that project."

Thaibinh, her husband and three children live at Wildflower Home. Her children, Andrew, 15, Katrina, 13, and Michaela, 9, attend an international school in Chiang Mai.

Printed with permission from the Arkansas Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Little Rock, Ark.

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Diocese of Peoria applauds reinstatement of Catholic professor

Peoria, Ill., Jul 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Diocese of Peoria praised the University of Illinois' decision to reinstate Dr. Kenneth Howell, who had been told at the end of last semester that he would no longer be allowed to teach because he had stated in a class on Catholicism that the Church believes homosexual behavior violates natural law.

Despite high approval ratings on student evaluations, Dr. Howell's position at the university was terminated this past spring after an anonymous student complaint that his words in a class on Catholicism amounted to “hate speech.” The complaint referenced an e-mail to his students in which Howell contrasted the ways utilitarianism and natural law theory would determine the morality of homosexual acts.

On Thursday, the school's Office of University Counsel told Dr. Howell’s lawyers that “The School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics will be contacting Dr. Howell to offer him the opportunity to teach Religion 127, Introduction to Catholicism, on a visiting instructional appointment at the University of Illinois, for the fall 2010 semester. Dr. Howell will be appointed and paid by the University for this adjunct teaching assignment.”

In a press release today, chancellor Patricia Gibson explained that diocesan officials had confirmed with the university that Dr. Howell would be allowed to return to teach courses at the university in the fall.

“The Diocese of Peoria has met with and had several discussions with the University of Illinois officials since their decision in May to terminate Dr. Howell’s ability to teach at the University,” said Gibson. “We have had several meetings and discussions with University officials and are very pleased that the outcome of these efforts resulted in a return of Dr. Kenneth Howell to the classroom.”

“In recent years, Dr. Howell has done an excellent job teaching at the University and both Monsignor Gregory Ketcham, Director of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, and Diocesan representatives staunchly advocated that he remain the adjunct professor of courses in Catholicism,” she continued. “The University of Illinois also wishes to consult with St. John’s Catholic Newman Center and the Diocese in the future regarding these courses.”

“St. John’s Catholic Newman Center and the Diocese of Peoria adamantly embrace the whole of Catholic teaching as decreed by the Magisterium of the Church,” Gibson said. “The University of Illinois has indicated that they value a relationship with the Newman Center and plan to continue to offer these courses in Catholic studies.”

Gibson explained that the university has also asked to pay Dr. Howell's salary for university courses, a decision that “was met with no objection from the Diocese, the Newman Center, or the Alliance Defense Fund, which has been actively involved in assisting Dr. Kenneth Howell in this matter.”

“Most Reverend Daniel Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria, is immensely grateful that the University of Illinois was willing to listen to our concerns and has decided to act in what he believes in a very appropriate manner in allowing Dr. Kenneth Howell to return to the classroom,” she added.

“St. John’s Catholic Newman Center and the Diocese of Peoria have had a rare and proven relationship with the University of Illinois for decades and we look forward to further discussions with them as we chart our future, and maintain a healthy relationship,” the diocesan chancellor said. “Overall, it is important that we work together to determine how St. John’s Catholic Newman Center can best serve the University and the Catholic students there.”
The diocese also explained that St. John’s Catholic Newman Center plans to meet with Dr. Howell next week to “determine an ongoing role for him at the Newman Center which will complement his work teaching at the University.”

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Author Anne Rice repudiates Christianity ‘in the name of Christ’

New York City, N.Y., Jul 31, 2010 (CNA) - The author Anne Rice, who in 2008 announced that she had returned to the Catholic faith in which she was raised, says she is no longer a Christian but remains “committed to Christ.”

“Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity,” she wrote on her Facebook page on Wednesday. She said it was “simply impossible” for her to belong to “this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.”

She said she had “tried” and “failed,” describing herself as an outsider.

“In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay,” continued Rice, whose son Christopher is a homosexual who writes for The Advocate, an “LGBT” monthly.

“I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat,” she continued, also characterizing Christianity as “anti-science” and “anti-life.”

However, she still described her faith in Christ as “central” to her life.

“My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me.”

However, she said following Christ does not mean “following His followers.” She described Christ as “infinitely more important than Christianity.”

Rice, the author of several bestselling novels about vampires, reportedly returned to Christianity in 1998 after a conversion experience. She pledged to write “only for the Lord.”

In 2005 she published a book “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,” a fictional work about the childhood of Jesus narrated from his perspective.

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Vatican preparing new document on effects of abortion on women

Vatican City, Jul 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The new president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, announced that his dicastery is preparing a document on the effects of abortion on women, often called post-abortion syndrome. The document will focus on the study of the “habit of abortion” and is expected to be published next year.
In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Carrasco discussed a few details of the new document. “We believe that in studying this issue, a distinction must be made. The existence of post-abortion syndrome is a well known fact that has already been developed in much literature.  I am referring to the state of depression that isolates many women who have undergone an abortion,” he said.
“It often manifests itself through anxiety or other more serious conditions,” the archbishop noted.  “It is true that abortion, in addition to killing an innocent person, profoundly affects the conscience of the woman who undergoes it.  It is a question, then, that cannot be ignored, especially from a pastoral point of view,” he added.
There is another aspect “that must be considered among these pathologies that for us is also very dangerous. It is spoken of very little and is of less concern to the public, and even to the scientific community,” the archbishop continued, “and that is the grave phenomenon of the habit of abortion.”
The problem, he said, “was made manifest in all of its gravity when 20 years ago, after the devastating earthquake in Armenia (1989), a team of doctors from the Sacred Heart Catholic University traveled to the region to provide medical assistance and discovered that many women had undergone as many as 20 abortions or more.  For them, having an abortion had become something like having a cup of coffee. Thus they talked about the dramatic phenomenon of completely erasing any moral sensitivity to the issue of abortion.”
This tragedy “could spread to the European populations in the wake of the recent commercializing of the pill RU 486,” Archbishop Carrasco warned.  “There is no question that facilitating its use could result in the banalization of abortion and the transformation of unwanted pregnancies into something akin to a bothersome cold that can be taken care of with a pill.  What I mean is what happened in that country could happen in European countries,” he said.

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Cardinal’s letter to China calls entire Church to holiness and unity, says Fr. Lombardi

Vatican City, Jul 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Reflecting on Cardinal Ivan Dias' July letter to Chinese Catholic clergy, Vatican Radio director Fr. Federico Lombardi on Saturday said that the invitation to them to lead lives of "holiness, unity and communion" must be that of the entire Church.

The letter to China’s Catholic clergy from Cardinal Dias, the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, was released by Fides news agency on Thursday having already been sent to them earlier in the month.

Fr. Lombardi, speaking on his weekly editorial program "Octava Dies," said the cardinal’s "beautiful and important" message reminded priests and bishops to be men for God and for others.

Additionally, Fr. Lombardi pointed out, the prefect speaks of the importance of communion with the Pope and union between members of the Church to overcome divisions.

He observed, "These divisions are, in fact, consequences of sin. That sin that - as the Pope has recalled many times recently - is the most serious danger for the Church. The danger that comes from the inside and is worse than those that come from the outside."

Cardinal Dias included a message from Pope Benedict XVI in the note, urging clergy "to continue without fear on the path of holiness, unity and communion."

"For Chinese Catholic priests and bishops as for all priests and bishops of the universal Church to which they belong," said Fr. Lombardi, "these are the fundamental points on which to build the future."

He concluded, "We feel in solidarity with them on this path, which must also be ours."

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Newspaper: Damien of Molokai film from Vatican archives shows reality of the saint

Vatican City, Jul 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A newly digitized 1950's film on Fr. Damien of Molokai still offers a relevant message for today, remarked L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) on Friday. According to the Vatican newspaper, the film’s images not only show us the priest's life, but reveal "timeless and fundamentally human themes."

Titled “Molokai, la isla maldita" (Molokai, the damned island), the black and white film was made in 1959 by director Luis Lucia. It won awards in Spain for best film and for best director. LOR reported that the now-digitized movie is of interest not only to the library, as one of the first films filed in its film archives, but also to religious cinema as a whole.

Using the cinematic techniques typical of religious films of the mid-20th century, the film remembers Fr. Damien and his 16 years of work with lepers on Hawaii’s Island of Molokai until his death from leprosy in 1889. The Belgian priest, reported LOR, "represents a universal example of humanitarian aid and solidarity," battling "not only against leprosy but against prejudices."

The value of the film, the article goes on to explain, is its reflection on the figure of the priest in the language and context of 50 years ago, "shedding light on his devotion, the sacrifice and the hard work he must have confronted on the island..."

It continues to offer a "service to values and spirituality," they said, but, "most of all ... the merit of 'Molokai' is in its bringing to light an historic fact, making a character known to the greater public who really existed and showing a concrete reality that, as it is human, makes the spectator feel close by.

"Seeing this movie again today has value if one considers it (to be) cinema in service of the human, since it ... mirrors the culture of a society, brings up 'silenced' themes, underscores conflicts and problems and, at the same time, exposes timeless and fundamentally human themes like disease, family, children, the sense of community, the faith, need for God, marginalization, dignity and respect for the individual,” the paper continued.

The conventionally-made film is "dated," LOR concedes, but still is “sincere” and can be “an occasion to remember this priest and all of the men of the Church that, in faraway places, in painful realities or in forgotten hells, continue to fight for the dignity of each human being and to reveal, to those that wish to accept it, the love of God that is manifested through His creatures."

Fr. Damien of Molokai was canonized in October 2009.

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