Archive of August 8, 2010

KC seminarians learn Spanish while working summer jobs

Kansas City, Mo., Aug 8, 2010 (CNA) - Joann Roa, director of the diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, calls the idea “exciting.” Diocesan Vocations Director Father Richard Rocha calls it “a Godsend.” For four hours a day during the summer, six seminarians work jobs for the Bishop Sullivan Center, installing air conditioners for Project ElderCool, or doing intake and sacking groceries at the food pantries at the center, St. James Place or Sacred Heart/Guadalupe Parish.

For the other four hours in their work day, five of them receive one-on-one immersion tutoring in Spanish. The other seminarian, Guatemalan-born Darvin Salazar, is learning English.

“It’s been a blessing and a Godsend for our diocese,” Father Rocha said of the program, which was put together by Father Rocha’s Vocations Office predecessor, Father Stephen Cook, and Bishop Sullivan Center director Tom Turner.

“We’ve been able to keep the guys in the diocese, learning about the community and learning Spanish,” Father Rocha said.

Roa echoed Father Rocha’s enthusiasm.

“It’s invaluable right now,” she said. “It goes right along with our pastoral plan. We need more priests to be bi-lingual. We don’t have enough priests in the diocese to cover the needs we have now.”

In addition to Salazar, the seminarians learning Spanish while they are earning on badly needed summer jobs are Curt Vogel, Sean McCaffery, Patrick Puga, Gabe Lickteig and Timothy Leete.

“Their workday consists of four hours of working, and four hours of one-on-one tutoring in Spanish, and they get paid for an eight-hour day,” Father Rocha said, who spent a summer in Mexico learning Spanish while he was a seminarian.

“I don’t regret that summer at all,” he said. “That one summer helped me to converse in Spanish on a basic level. But if I had this opportunity as a seminarian, it would have been wonderful.”

Vogel, along with McCaffery, also work two half-days a week at the Sacred Heart/Guadalupe food pantry in Kansas City’s Hispanic West Bottoms.

Both seminarians said that both the experience of working directly with the poor, and the opportunity to gain at least a working relationship with the Spanish language will make them better priests.

“You walk into their lives and see the challenges they face that I don’t in my experience,” said McCaffery, a fourth year theology student at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, who is originally from Edmond, Okla.

“Learning Spanish gives me a greater opportunity and shows me how I can be of service with the sacraments and the faith,” he said.

For Vogel, a seminarian from St. Bridget Parish in Pleasant Hill who will enter his senior year at Conception Seminary College, it is also the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to be bi-lingual.

Vogel said his mother, Haydee Vogel, is a naturalized citizen from Columbia. Fearing that their son would pick up an accent and would be teased at school, Vogel’s parents decided to speak only English in their home as he was growing up.

“I’ve had a dream of being bi-lingual,” he said. “My parents have told me that if I were born right now, I would be.”

He does have the advantage of going home and practicing what he has learned that day with his mother, said Vogel who is in his second year with the program.

“My Spanish is certainly better than when I started,” he said

But echoing McCaffery, Vogel also said that working with the poor is another opportunity to add to their preparation as priests.

“I have never been exposed to the poor this intensely,” Vogel said. “When you go into their homes to install air conditioners, you see the environment they live in. That’s been a huge eye-opener, and it makes you humble.

“You see the reality for these people and you start thinking of ways you can help,” Vogel said.

Father Rocha said an influx of Spanish-speaking people into the diocese — and not just Kansas City — has already created pastoral challenges that can only be addressed by more people, especially priests, with a working knowledge of Spanish.

He recalled as a seminarian intern at Our Lady of Peace Parish in northeast Kansas City attending an ecumenical meeting of various denominations that were trying to work together to meet the needs of the rapidly growing, Spanish-speaking population.

“I was just shocked at the number of different religions that had already brought in Spanish-speaking people,” he said, noting that nearly all of the newly arrived Latinos were Catholic.

“I looked at our diocese, and all I saw were a few people like me who had just a little bit of Spanish,” Father Rocha said. “I thought then, ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea if all our seminarians were being exposed to Spanish?’”

Father Rocha said that the tutors come from Kansas City’s Latino community. This year, the Bishop Sullivan Center contracted with Christi Ivers, Spanish teacher at St. Pius X High School, to design a uniform curriculum and to train the tutors in teaching Spanish to the seminarians.

Even if none of the seminarians becomes entirely fluent, the program will reap rewards, Father Rocha said.

“At least they are being exposed to the language,” he said. “If somebody comes up to them for help, they might be able to understand enough to understand their problem and to refer them to a person who speaks better Spanish. Plus, they should be able to celebrate Mass and the sacraments in Spanish better than if they weren’t exposed to it.”

Printed with permission from the Catholic Key, newspaper for the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph.

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Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, martyr of Auschwitz, to be celebrated August 14

CNA STAFF, Aug 8, 2010 (CNA) - Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Franciscan priest, missionary and martyr, will soon be celebrated throughout the Church on his feast day, August 14.

The saint died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz, during World War II, and is remembered as a “martyr of charity” for dying in place of another prisoner who had a wife and children. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982.

St. Maximilian is also celebrated for his missionary work, his evangelistic use of modern means of communication, and for his lifelong devotion to the Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception.

All these aspects of St. Maximilian's life converged in his founding of the Militia Immaculata. The worldwide organization continues St. Maximilian Kolbe's mission of bringing individuals and societies into the Catholic Church, through dedication to the Virgin Mary.

St. Maximilian, according to several biographies, was personally called by the Virgin Mary, both to his holy life and to his eventual martyrdom. As an impulsive and badly-behaved child, he prayed to her for guidance, and later described how she miraculously appeared to him holding two crowns: one was white, representing purity, the other red, for martyrdom.

When he was asked to choose between these two destinies, the troublesome child and future saint said he wanted both. Radically changed by the incident, he entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans at age 13, in 1907.

At age 20 he made his solemn vows as a Franciscan, earning a doctorate in philosophy the next year. Soon after, however, he developed chronic tuberculosis, which eventually destroyed one of his lungs and weakened the other.

On October 16, 1917, in response to anti-Catholic demonstrations by Italian Freemasons, Friar Maximilian led six other Franciscans in Rome to form the association they called the Militia Immaculata. The group's founding coincided almost exactly with the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, and the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal.

As a Franciscan priest, Fr. Maximilian returned to work in Poland during the 1920s. There, he promoted the Catholic faith through newspapers and magazines which eventually reached an extraordinary circulation, published from a monastery so large it was called the “City of the Immaculata.”

In 1930 he moved to Japan, and had established a Japanese Catholic press by 1936, along with a similarly ambitious monastery.

That year, however, he returned to Poland for the last time. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and Fr. Kolbe was arrested. Briefly freed during 1940, he published one last issue of the Knight of the Immaculata before his final arrest and transportation to Auschwitz in 1941.

At the beginning of August that year, 10 prisoners were sentenced to death by starvation in punishment for another inmate's escape. Moved by one man's lamentation for his wife and children, Fr. Kolbe volunteered to die in his place.

Survivors of the camp testified that the starving prisoners could be heard praying and singing hymns, led by the priest who had volunteered for an agonizing death. After two weeks, on the night before the Church's feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the camp officials decided to hasten Fr. Kolbe's death, injecting him with carbolic acid.

St. Maximilian Kolbe's body was cremated by the camp officials on the feast of the Assumption. He had stated years earlier: “I would like to be reduced to ashes for the cause of the Immaculata, and may this dust be carried over the whole world, so that nothing would remain.”

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Haiti at crossroads in recovery from earthquake, U.S. bishops’ delegation reports

Washington D.C., Aug 8, 2010 (CNA) - A delegation sent by the U.S. Catholic bishops has returned from Haiti after observing relief efforts for the January earthquake. The country is at a “crossroads” and must not lose hope, commented the delegation, which made specific recommendations regarding further recovery work.

Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski and Bishop of Brooklyn Nicholas DiMarzio led a delegation from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a visit from July 26 to August 2. According to a USCCB press release, the delegation also traveled to the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic to assess problems Haitians face there.

“This is a pivotal moment in Haiti’s history which requires cooperation and patience,” stated Archbishop Wenski. “Haiti is at a crossroads and it is crucial that the international community not lessen its commitment to the rebuilding process.”

“It is clear that efforts to clean up and recover from the earthquake are progressing slowly,” the archbishop also said. “However, the international community must remain steadfast in working with the Haitian government to reconstruct the country and strengthen its institutions. The survival and long-term future of the Haitian people are at stake.”

The delegation met with members of Haiti’s government, community leaders and business leaders to discuss long-term development. Delegation members visited orphanages and refugee camps in Port-au-Prince and other countries.
They also visited a number of emergency, transitional and development programs run by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and its local partners.

“Children, especially those who have lost parents or are separated from them, remain at grave risk,” stated Bishop DiMarzio. “Without a more concerted effort to protect them and find long-term solutions for their care, they will become even more vulnerable to criminal elements, including smugglers and human traffickers.”

The delegation found that in some camps women remain vulnerable to violence and sexual assault even as they try to feed and protect their families.

Delegation member Maria Odom, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), said women need better security against “gender-based violence.”

The delegation recommended providing “humanitarian parole” to the family members of Haitians evacuated to the United States for medical treatment. It advised streamlining the process for those who want to work in the U.S. and send remittances back to Haiti.

It also advocated more focus on vulnerable children in shelters, such as increasing efforts to trace their families.

Discussing cooperation between the U.S. and the Haitian governments, delegation members urged that the U.S. help increase the government’s ability to finish reconstruction efforts and to provide security. The governments should work together to ensure “sustainable agricultural development” and to ensure civil society and business sectors are included in efforts to provide access to jobs, health care and education.

In consultation with the bishops of Haiti, CRS and the USCCB’s Secretariat for the Church in Latin America are helping administer $80 million collected from U.S. Catholics to aid the recovery effort. The funds are being used to meet human needs and to restore infrastructure such as churches, schools and clinics.

“It will take time to make Haiti whole again, but it is important that the Haitian people and the children of Haiti—its future leaders—do not lose hope,” Archbishop Wenski remarked.

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Anchorage attorney considers the cloistered monastery

Anchorage, Alaska, Aug 8, 2010 (CNA) - Many find it hard to fathom why a woman would ever think of trading in a good job and the prospect of marriage and family for a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. Tara Clemens of Anchorage, Alaska is doing just that.

It’s all the more surprising because Clemens was raised Evangelical Protestant. Plus, she’s a highly-educated attorney who already offers extraordinary service as a lay person in the Catholic Church.

So why leave all the world has to offer for a nun’s habit and the silence of a cloistered monastery?

Because it might be what God wants, explained the 31-year-old Clemens.

She regularly prays, “Lord, what is it that you want of me? Tell me what it is, and I will do it.”

That prayer is part of a journey to discern God’s call for her life. Taking time to discern one’s vocation is something she believes everyone should do.

“God calls everyone,” she said in an interview with the Catholic Anchor — to marriage, the single state or maybe even the religious life.

Called to be Catholic

Clemens’ path to the monastery began even before she was Catholic. She was working full-time and attending law school – but she wasn’t much involved in a faith community. The summer before her final year in school, she took stock of her life and realized she wasn’t where God wanted her to be.

So she began praying, “Lord, show me your church. Show me where you want me.”

For the first time, Clemens looked closely at Protestant doctrine, which “raised more questions than answers,” she said.

Then, a coworker invited her to Mass.

“Not being able to think of an excuse to say, ‘No’, I said, ‘Yes,’” Clemens recalled with a laugh. Soon after, she began investigating Catholicism, “so I could evangelize my friend” out of it, Clemens admitted.

“I came to the conclusion that God was answering my prayer and (the Catholic Church) was, in fact, the church — his church — where he wanted me,” she explained.

After graduating, Clemens moved to Alaska, studied for the Bar Exam and began the official steps to become Catholic.

The Jaw Dropper

In praying to find a job, she “stumbled across” a vocation prayer which she began to say.

Then, one day in the kitchen, Clemens’ Protestant mother articulated a possibility that had never crossed Clemens’ mind.

“She said, ‘Just promise me you’re not going to become a nun,’ recalled Clemens, whose “jaw hit the floor” at the idea.

Still, Clemens couldn’t make the promise.

“I said, ‘I can’t do that. I don’t know what God might call me to in the future.’”

But the idea of the religious life was anathema to Clemens.

“Inside, I was like, ‘No, no, no, no, we are not going there!’ But I felt like I needed to take it to God in prayer,” she explained. So she did – in addition to reading about religious vocations and attending discernment retreats.

Now, two years later, she is applying to enter the Corpus Christi Monastery — a Dominican congregation of contemplative nuns in California.

The nuns promote devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and pray for the salvation of souls. To support themselves, they bake altar bread for Mass.

No Fear

The nuns of Corpus Christi Monastery come from varied backgrounds. Many are college-educated and before the monastery, enjoyed professional careers.

As they were, Tara Clemens is headed up the ladder of success. She has an undergraduate degree in criminal justice and a doctorate in law. She is co-founder of the female-run Anchorage law firm of Helzer-Clemens, LLC.

At her parish, Clemens serves as lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and chair of the pastoral council.

“When I entered the church, I jumped in with both feet,” Clemens said.

She also helped found the parish’s now flourishing young adult group and initiated “Christ in the City” Eucharistic adoration — evenings of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament that she hoped would help young adults discern God’s will for their lives.

Going to the cloister would mean leaving all those projects, but Clemens is excited about the new work God may be asking of her as a nun.

“We are called to live this life with eternity in mind,” she explained.

“By giving everything up, so to speak, and withdrawing to a cloister to contemplate God … sitting at the feet of Jesus and to pray for the world, the salvation of souls – that in and of itself is a witness that God is sufficient,” Clemens added.

The Sacrifices

While Clemens is happy about a possible religious calling, she acknowledged that it won’t come without sacrifice — including of marriage and children.

“I love children, and so the idea of not having children really pulled at me, and I really wrestled with that — with not being a wife and a mother,” Clemens said.

But according to the church, she explained, “as women, we are all called to be mothers” — physically or spiritually. That gives Clemens peace — if she is called to prayer in a cloister, she will be nurturing souls spiritually.

In the cloistered monastery, Clemens said, that means carrying “within your heart the cares of Christ” — including the much-loved souls for whose salvation a cloistered nun spends her life praying.

Spiritual motherhood is a hard idea for some to grasp, she observed, particularly parents who see religious life through the lens of their own vocation of marriage.

“Their thinking is… ‘I am so happy being married and having children, I just want that for my own son or daughter.’ …but God might be calling them to something a little different than what they’d imagined,” Clemens explained.

Living in the cloister also means separation from parents and siblings. During her month-long visit to the cloister in February, Clemens said many of the sisters acknowledged that while families can visit, being away can be hard.

But Clemens banks on the fact that “God gives you the grace you need when you need it.” And she keeps eternity in perspective. “God willing, we’ll all be in Heaven forever,” she added.

In the meantime, Clemens’ faces another divide from her family. Her Protestant family opposes her investigation into religious life. While she understands their position and respects them, she said, “I must be faithful to go where Jesus is calling me to go. Jesus spoke more than once on the cost of following him.”

Still, “there is always hope” for accord, she added. “All things work for good for those who trust him. I firmly believe that.”

Another cost that Clemens faces is educational debt that must be paid before she can enter the monastery. She has been working to meet those obligations — and also now, she is connected to the Labouré Society, a non-profit organization that raises funds to help would-be religious resolve school debt.

There’s no guarantee, but she continues praying.

“If this is what God wants for my life,” she explained, “then he will make way.”

'We only have today'

One’s vocational discernment can be a long road, but it starts today, Clemens believes.

“One of my favorite quotes is by Blessed Mother Teresa… ‘Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.’”

“Sometimes, you kind of have to step back out of your life and really take stock of where you are and what it is you’re doing and not doing,” Clemens explained. “Spend time with God in prayer” and go to the sacraments, she urged. “Ask God, ‘What is it that you want me to do?’ and be open to the answer.”

“God knows us so much better than we know ourselves,” Clemens added. “He knows what is going to truly fulfill and make us happy.”

“Cooperating with the working of God in your life,” she said, results in “being transformed to be the person that he created you to be.” And the aim of that is “to know him, love him, serve him and be with him for all eternity.”

Printed with permission from, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.

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Jesus' advent gives life-changing hope, Benedict XVI teaches

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Before Sunday's Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict XVI taught the importance of leading our lives with trust and hope in the coming of the Lord. This hope, he said, should encourage us to "an intense life, rich with good works."

The courtyard at Castel Gandolfo was filled with faithful and pilgrims, some of whom sung the "Ave Maria" as they waited for the Holy Father to appear on the second story balcony of the Apostolic Palace.

After being met with a burst of cheers, the Pope taught about Jesus' words to the disciples from Sunday's Gospel in which He continued to speak on "the value of the person in the eyes of God and on the uselessness of earthly worries."

This discourse, said the Holy Father, is not about "praise for disengagement.” Rather, he explained, our heart is opened to a hope that enlightens our existence when we listen to Jesus’ “reassuring invitation”: “Do not be afraid, little flock; for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.”

Quoting from the Encyclical Spe Salvi, he added that the Gospel is not merely a communication but “makes things happen and is life-changing.”

“The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life."

He pointed to the example of Abraham, described in the Letter to the Hebrews as one who goes out with "a hopeful heart." Not knowing where he is going, he is "trusting only in God" and His promise of land and numerous descendants.”

Through the three parables in the Gospel, the Pope continued, Jesus illustrates to us how the expectation of his coming, "the blessed hope," should lead us "even further to an intense life, rich with good works."

His invitation to sell our possessions and to give alms to prepare the way to heaven, explained Benedict XVI, is an invitation to “use things without selfishness, thirst for possession or dominance, but according to the logic of God, the logic of the attention to others, the logic of love..."

He concluded by remembering several saints who laid down their lives, whose feast days fall this week. He recalled Sunday's feast of the founder of the Dominicans, St. Dominic of Guzman, whose order "carries out the mission of instructing society on the truth of faith, preparing themselves with study and prayer."

He also named 3rd century deacon and martyr St. Lawrence whose feast is to be celebrated on Aug. 10 and the foundress of the Poor Clares, St. Clare of Assisi (Aug. 11). Before beginning the Marian prayer, he drew attention to two 20th century martyrs, both killed at Auschwitz: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast days fall on Aug. 9  and Aug. 14, respectively.

Both of them, he said, "lived through the dark time of the Second World War, without ever losing sight of (their) hope, the God of life and love."

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