Dallas, Texas, Aug 14, 2010 (CNA) - Sr. Jeannine Gramick, founder of a dissenting outreach effort to homosexual persons, in an interview with a Dallas-area homosexual paper has claimed to see a disconnect between laity and the Catholic bishops. She also asserted that as many as 50 percent of Catholic priests are homosexual.
Sr. Gramick co-founded New Ways Ministry in 1977. The organization describes itself as a “gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice,” but the U.S. bishops have criticized its approach to Catholic moral teaching. She was has also faced disciplinary action from the Vatican.
The sister has been in Dallas to attend the Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious (LCWR) and to speak to a group of Catholics. The LCWR is itself undergoing a doctrinal investigation from the Vatican.
In an interview with the newspaper The Dallas Voice, published on Aug. 12, Sr. Gramick said she believes God is calling her to do her work.
At her Wednesday speaking engagement at the homosexual Resource Center Dallas, she spoke with a teacher concerned she would be fired if she helped students who “came out” as homosexuals to her.
According to The Dallas Voice, Sr. Gramick said the teacher should help her students by teaching “the full range of Catholic theologies.” While the hierarchy teaches one thing, Gramick claimed, a “vast majority” of Catholic writers and theologians teach something else.
She estimated that as many as half of all priests are homosexual, claiming that people go to church because they like the priest and do not care about his sexual orientation.
Sr. Gramick referred to the story of a church in Greenwich Village which has marched in the New York “gay pride” parade, but was told by Archbishop Timothy Dolan that they could not carry their church’s banner in this year’s parade. According to the sister, the marchers instead wore T-shirts with their church’s logo and carried a blank banner.
“They were on CNN. That was great publicity for the church that was being gay friendly,” Gramick claimed. “Not so good for the archbishop.”
According to The Dallas Voice, New Ways Ministry is experimenting with a new program to target legislators as well as Catholic grassroots voters in Maryland.
In a February 5, 2010 statement, Cardinal Francis George said that New Ways Ministry has “no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church” and “cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.”
New Ways Ministry was like “other groups that claim to be Catholic but deny central aspects of Church teaching.” Its “crucial defect,” according to the cardinal, was its “lack of adherence” to Church teaching on the morality of homosexual acts.
“No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice,” the cardinal said. “Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination.”
Omaha, Neb., Aug 14, 2010 (CNA) - Early next month, the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Nebraska will celebrate 25 years since its inception with several festivities, including two days of international conferences.
The Celebration of Love & Life event will be held in the Quest Center in Omaha from Sept. 2 - 5. Celebrations include carnival events, a gala banquet, and special opening and closing Masses. Conferences on Sept. 2 and 3 will address the topics of “The Pastoral Directives of Humanae Vitae” and the “International Conference on NaProTechnology.”
Chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, will celebrate the opening Mass on Friday afternoon with Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha attending and speaking during Thursday's lunch as well as on Saturday night.
Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, the president of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, will be traveling from Rome and speaking on Friday. The prelate will also celebrate the closing Mass on Sunday morning.
The Pope Paul VI Institute, which opened its doors in 1985, is inviting all who support its work to partake in the 25th anniversary celebration.
In a letter commenting on the event, Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, director of the institute, said “I would like to take this opportunity to invite you and your family to a very special anniversary party and celebration.”
“This is our 25th anniversary Celebration of Love & Life. The Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction is 25 years old and we very much want to share this time with you,” he added.
“We have lived in a medical environment where much of women’s health care has involved either the suppression of their reproductive system or its destruction. We have lived in an era where the diagnosis of an underlying problem is often ignored.”
The institute director noted that we as a society have “lived in an era when many patients and their very real problems and difficulties have been neglected and where patients feel abandoned. During this period of time, the Pope Paul VI Institute has conducted its research and education programs to try to overcome this.”
“We want for you to come to Omaha and celebrate with us,” Hilgers concluded. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime to make a statement to the world that there truly is another way to approach these problems that is positive, effective, and moral.”
Taize, France, Aug 14, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Taize community in central France will mark two important anniversaries on Saturday with a prayerful celebration. Five years after their founder's murder, the community works to carry out his vision of reaching out to those seeking to live every day as "a day for God."
Taize community's spokesman, Brother David, told CNA that 5,000 people will be with them for Saturday's celebration of the double anniversary of Br. Roger Schutz' death in 2005 and the 70th year of the community he founded.
Four thousand young people have been there since last Sunday, spending their days taking part in community activities, reflecting on bible verses, praying in a large group three times daily and also completing practical tasks to keep the place running. This is the normal routine for visitors, who come for a week at a time.
Br. David said that while July and August are their busiest months, they host visitors from all Christian backgrounds every week of the year except for the week after Christmas, when they host a celebration in a major city. "For us," he said, "it's kind of a mystery that they come week after week." But, he noted, by word-of-mouth, experiences get passed on and people keep showing up, many to return.
About 1,000 more people from the area will join the 4,000 temporary residents for Saturday's celebration. Beginning evening prayer at 7:30 p.m. in fields close to the village, the participants will make a pilgrimage to the community's Church of the Reconciliation, passing by the Brother Roger's grave on the way. Once at the church they will read and reflect on the Gospel of the resurrection.
Recalling the founder's legacy, the Taize spokesman said, "we are very thankful what Brother Roger gave us. His desire to search ... he hosted many people who came on a search."
He began the community in 1940 as World War II raged, leaving many refugees in need of care and direction. The community, now with around 100 brothers, maintains his original vision of providing a place of reflection for people of all faiths and backgrounds both in Taize and at their five other houses around the globe.
"The point," explained Br. David, "is to help them on this search, listen, answer questions. What we would like is to help them to meet Christ, to discover Christ. ... that they will find for themselves the answers for the questions they bring (with them)."
He remembered that Br. Roger used to stress the importance of remaining rooted in the "essential - in our vocation - and to see the reality, not to be closed in the way we do things, be too formal in the things we do ... to remain faithful to it and live it in the place we are."
The founder would often ask aloud how to better live their faith, being aware of the present and their surroundings to live every day "as a day for God," Br. David described.
"There's a continuity that things not remain locked in place, that every day we can search and his perspective is very important for us," said the spokesman. "The world changes, people change but Christ remains the same."
Taize, France, Aug 14, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The importance of trust would be on founder Br. Roger's mind if he were at Taize's celebrations this weekend. The founder's successor as head of the ecumenical Taize community, Brother Alois, spoke with CNA about ecumenism, the close relationship of the Popes with the community and shared some of the founder's final thoughts.
German Br. Alois Leser is the Catholic prior of this France-based community which accepts people of all backgrounds, particularly Christian, to participate in spiritual activities. Working on the front lines for Christian unity, the group brings Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics together for shared reflections on the Word of God and his plan for each person.
"We have to be credible and as such we must be united," said Br. Alois of ecumenism, adding "how can we speak about the love of God and at the same time justify our separations?"
Following in founder Br. Roger Schutz' footsteps, this is one of the central questions that still drives the community today, he said.
Remembering back to the beginnings of the community in village of Taize, France 70 years ago this month, Br. Alois said that the original Protestant members created "links of communion" with the Catholic community.
These relationships also included a direct link to Rome. He explained, "Br. Roger was welcomed very warm-heartedly by Pope John XXIII and from then on he visited all the Popes and had regular contact with (them): Paul VI and then John Paul II."
Pope John Paul II even visited the community on an Apostolic Trip to France in 1986, having already spent time there when he was Archbishop of Krakow in the 1960s.
Br. Alois said that after close ties with the previous Popes, "now we are very glad that this regular contact continues with Pope Benedict XVI."
In each of the last five years since he took over the reigns after Br. Roger's tragic death in 2005, he has met with Pope Benedict in private audience.
He said the community was "very glad" to have received the message from Benedict XVI in the lead up to the community's anniversary celebrations this month, especially the part where the Pontiff refers to Br. Roger's witness for an "ecumenism of holiness."
The Holy Father wrote that "Although he has entered eternal joy, dear Brother Roger still speaks to us. May his witness to an ecumenism of holiness inspire us in our march towards unity, and may your Community continue to live and to radiate his charism, especially towards the younger generations!"
This, said Br. Alois, "means we want to live the Gospel, we want to be close to Christ. And when we all, from different backgrounds, turn together towards Christ then ... that's already the beginning of unity."
Turning to Br. Roger, he said that if the founder was there on Saturday for the 70th anniversary celebration, he would underline the necessity of trust, trusting in God and trusting others.
"This was one of his main messages at the end of his life," observed Br. Alois, "faith as trust in God and existential trust in God, and that (it) makes out of us makers of peace on Earth.
"This trust becomes a wellspring so that we overcome all borders and fulfill the will of Christ that his church unite people over all the borders - political, social, cultural borders - the Church is the people of God."
On Saturday evening, Br. Alois will be leading the community in celebrating its 70th anniversary and the five-year anniversary since Br. Roger's death.
Biloxi, Miss., Aug 14, 2010 (CNA) - It has been five years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the recovery/rebuilding effort is ongoing, albeit outside the spotlight of the national media.
However, volunteers from all over the country continue to pour into St. Ann Parish, which initiated Project Hope and Compassion shortly after Katrina, because they realize that time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds and there is still much work to be done.
“I’m still amazed. I’m in awe,” said Karen Parker, local coordinator for Project Hope and Compassion, as she thinks about the 10,000 plus volunteers who have passed through Camp Hope during the course of the past five years.
“By this time next year, it’ll probably be well over 11,000. The volunteers love it. They come here to do service and the work’s there.”
Roughly 130 volunteers from three parishes in Massachusetts – St. Matthew and St. Anne in Southborough and St. Mary in Holliston – spent the last week of August volunteering through Project Hope and Compassion.
Many, like St. Mary parishioner Jimmy Rainsford have been to the coast numerous times. Rainsford’s first trip was in 2006 and the latest trip was his seventh.
Rainsford vividly remembers that first trip when Katrina’s carnage was still fresh.
“Coming from the airport, I remember getting off I-10 at Hwy 603 and there was a gas station right there and it was wrecked. It was kind of like the first thing I really saw and I was just really shocked,” he said. “I came back in 2007 and it was still like that and, in 2008, I was here for two weeks and it had been rebuilt. I actually went to that gas station last week.”
Rainsford sees that gas station as just one symbol of the transformation that has taken place along the Mississippi Gulf Coast since his first visit.
“It’s definitely a lot different now than it was,” he said.
Rainsford said he keeps coming back to help with the rebuilding efforts because he doesn’t want the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast to feel abandoned.
“It’s the one thing in my life that I feel is important and it does something to better not just myself but whoever. I mean, you never know,” he said. “I think Americans forget what happened down here and, hopefully, by coming down here, I can show the people of Mississippi that people still care.”
During his latest trip, Rainsford worked on the unfinished home of a lady who is about to be evicted from her FEMA trailer.
“Whenever the day comes to take it away, they’re taking it away whether her house is done or not,” he said.
“It’s kind of selfish why I come down here. It’s just the feeling I get to be able to be part of helping somebody like that. It’s selfish.”
This was Aly Fournier’s fourth trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“When I came the first time, it was just a really touching experience for me,” said Fournier, who is a sophomore political science major at Emory University in Atlanta.
“Even though the labor I did meant a lot to people, it was like just my presence here helped to instill hope in this badly damaged community. I really like the people and I like the community feeling I get when I come down here to help, so I’ve been coming back. I come down with my mom, my sister and, normally, one of my cousins. It’s a good bonding time for us too.”
This was Joseph Catanzaro’s first volunteer trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The St. Mary parishioner spent the week working at a low income rental property for people who lost their homes during Katrina.
Catanzaro, who is a turf manager for Boston College University athletics, said that, prior to coming to Mississippi with his 16 year-old daughter Kelsey, who had previously made the trip; he didn’t really have any idea of what he was getting into.
“I’ve only seen the good,” he said. “We have sixteen vans with six kids in each van, so there are groups that have seen some worse areas,” Catanzaro said.
“My daughter worked at a soup kitchen and she enjoys doing it, but she was devastated by how many people actually walk out of the woods that have no homes and she said they served about 525 people in one day. So, when I hear about that, there’s still a lot of work to be done here.”
Gene Muller, also a parishioner at St. Mary in Holliston, has made three trips to Camp Hope and said each trip changed his life. Last year, he was in charge of a group of kids that built a wheelchair ramp for Thelma Abrams of Gulfport and, before the group left for Massachusetts, they promised Abrams they would be back to visit her. This year, they made good on that promise.
“Seeing that she was benefiting from the work that my kids did really changed my life some more,” he said. “It makes it all worthwhile. She couldn’t wait to hug me and tell me how the experience has prompted her to go back to church on Sundays. I never thought that, in my life, somebody would tell me that something I did would make them start going back to church.”
John Armstrong, a local volunteer who has been helping out at Project Hope and Compassion for three years, agrees with Catanzaro that there is still a lot of work to be done.
“A lot of people that are in need now fell between the cracks during all of the major stuff,” said Armstrong, who, has worked with Habitat for Humanity for about 15 years.
“With all the focus on gutting houses and rebuilding, there are still a lot of people who have little things left to finish up to make their place livable and those that weren’t directly affected by the hurricane who would have gotten help except for all of this Katrina relief.”
“Some of the volunteers that are coming now are doing some of those things and they’re having every bit of a rewarding experience as they did when they were tearing out sheetrock and things like that four years ago.
Armstrong, who is a Methodist, said Project Hope and Compassion has been an invaluable asset to the Mississippi Gulf Coast post-Katrina.
“I tell (Karen Parker) every time I come out here that this is about the only thing close to its size that is still working here,” he said. “The Methodists still have two camps and they’re going to work till next April. Most of the others have gone out of business and folded up, so Project Hope is a real beacon.”
And, according to St. Ann pastor Father Pete Mockler, who is also the director of Project Hope and Compassion, as long as a need exists and the volunteers are willing to come, Project Hope will continue to operate.
“When I look back, I am moved by the generosity that has been poured out on our area by so many compassionate people who have been part of Project Hope and Compassion. We have had a good recovery and I feel privileged and blessed to have witnessed it,” he said.
“It is so gratifying to see so many people still participate after five years. There is still much to be done. The impact of the BP oil spill on the Gulf coast environment and economy will now slow that recovery even more. We at PHC are resolved to stay with this effort for as long as is feasible. We will be willing to host volunteers for as long as they come to help.”
Printed with permission from Gulf Pine Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Biloxi.