Birmingham, England, Sep 19, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Before embarking on the papal plane for his return flight to Rome, the Holy Father marked the end of his visit to the U.K. by recalling events within the last four days and thanking profusely all who demonstrated “hospitality” to him. Pope Benedict also expressed his hope that the trip helped strengthen “the excellent relations between the Holy See and the United Kingdom.”
“I am very grateful for all the hard work of preparation, on the part of both the present and the previous Government, the civil service, local authorities and police, and the many volunteers who patiently helped to prepare for the events of these four days,” he began. “Thank you for the warmth of your welcome and for the hospitality that I have enjoyed.”
“During my time with you, I have been able to meet representatives of the many communities, cultures, languages and religions that make up British society.”
“The very diversity of modern Britain is a challenge to its Government and people,” the Pontiff said, “but it also represents a great opportunity to further intercultural and interreligious dialogue for the enrichment of the entire community.”
“In these days, I was grateful for the opportunity to meet Her Majesty The Queen, as well as yourself and other political leaders, and to be able to discuss matters of common interest, both at home and abroad,” he noted. “I was particularly honoured to be invited to address both Houses of Parliament in the historic precincts of Westminster Hall.”
“I sincerely hope that these occasions will contribute to confirming and strengthening the excellent relations between the Holy See and the United Kingdom, especially in cooperation for international development, in care for the natural environment, and in the building of a civil society with a renewed sense of shared values and common purpose,” the Holy Father underscored.
“It was also my pleasure to visit His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of the Church of England, and later to pray with them and our fellow Christians in the evocative surroundings of Westminster Abbey, a place which speaks so eloquently of our shared traditions and culture.”
“As Britain is home to so many religious traditions,” he added, “I was grateful to have the opportunity to meet their representatives and to share some thoughts with them about the contribution that the religions can offer to the development of a healthy pluralistic society.”
“Naturally, my visit was directed in a special way to the Catholics of the United Kingdom,” Pope Benedict said. “I treasure the time spent with the bishops, clergy, religious and laity, and with teachers, pupils and older people.”
“It was especially moving to celebrate with them, here in Birmingham, the beatification of a great son of England, Cardinal John Henry Newman,” he emphasized. “With his vast legacy of scholarly and spiritual writings, I am certain that he still has much to teach us about Christian living and witness amid the challenges of today’s world, challenges which he foresaw with such remarkable clarity.”
“As I take my leave of you, let me assure you once again of my good wishes and prayers for the peace and prosperity of Great Britain,” the Holy Father concluded. “Thank you very much and God bless you all!”
Birmingham, England, Sep 19, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father met with the bishops of Scotland, Wales and England at Oscott College in Birmingham on Sunday before concluding his papal visit to the United Kingdom. During his remarks to the prelates, Pope Benedict touched on the “deep thirst” that people within the U.K. have for Christianity, urging the episcopal leaders to “offer them the living water of the Gospel.”
Recalling the influence of Cardinal John Henry Newman in giving "voice to the new confidence and vitality of the Catholic community" over a century earlier, the Pope said that his beatification on Sunday was "a reminder of the continuing action in calling forth gifts of holiness from among the people of Great Britain."
The Holy father focused on the importance of living and transmitting the Gospel message within society throughout the address insisting on the "urgent need to proclaim the Gospel afresh in a highly secularized environment."
Noting the "deep a thirst" the people of the U.K. have for the Christian message, he told the bishops that they are chosen by God "to offer them the living water of the Gospel, encouraging them to place their hopes, not in the vain enticements of this world, but in the firm assurances of the next."
Pope Benedict then invited them to work together with the newly formed Pontifical Council for New Evangelization, also employing Church movements with a charism for evangelization to develop an approach to spreading the Word while being "sure to present in its fulness the life-giving message of the Gospel."
He also highlighted the necessity for "the prophetic voice of Christians" to help those in need, stressing that today's world provides "a good opportunity to reinforce that message, and indeed to encourage people to aspire to higher moral values in every area of their lives, against a background of growing cynicism regarding even the possibility of virtuous living."
Referring to "shameful" abuse of young people in the Church for the second time in as many days, he asked them to reach out to children who suffer abuse elsewhere "in a humble spirit of compassion."
"Our duty of care towards the young demands nothing less," he said.
"As we reflect on the human frailty that these tragic events so starkly reveal, we are reminded that, if we are to be effective Christian leaders, we must live lives of the utmost integrity, humility and holiness."
Before closing his remarks, the Holy Father spoke on the upcoming publication of the new translation of the Roman Missal, thanking the bishops for their “painstaking care” in contributing to and reviewing the texts.
The Pontiff also addressed a “matter I touched upon in February with the Bishops of England and Wales, when I asked you to be generous in implementing the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.”
“This should be seen,” he explained, “as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the
mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us
“Let us continue to pray and work unceasingly in order to hasten the joyful day when that goal can be accomplished,” the Pope underscored.
“With these sentiments, I thank you warmly for your hospitality over the past four days,” the Holy Father concluded, adding “I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the clergy, religious and lay faithful of England, Scotland and Wales.”
Birmingham, England, Sep 19, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Behind the crowds who came to see the Pope are "hearts and minds that understand" the Pope's message, said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi at his daily briefing. Noting Britain's "wonderful reception" of Benedict XVI, he gauged the U.K.'s response to the four-day visit as "very, very positive."
At one point in the press briefing, held outdoors at Birmingham's Cofton Park on Sunday, the Vatican spokesman showed his personal devotion to the Eucharist, interrupting a comment at mid-sentence immediately upon hearing the bells that signaled the consecration of the bread and wine at the nearby altar. He was silent in front of the cameras and recording devices for more than two minutes.
Speaking of the Holy Father's impression on the U.K., he said that the fact that thousands of people have met him and that many more have seen and heard him are a testament to just "how good the trip has been." The Pope's message about the positive contribution of Catholics and the Christian faith to society have been "received very well," added the spokesman, saying that this was "one of the most important points of his message for society in general here."
He also said that it is "wonderful that all the Catholics feel encouraged ... encouraged also to give a positive witness to their faith in society here."
Fr. Lombardi referred journalists to the Pope's words on the plane over to the U.K. to better describe it. In the air on the way to Edinburgh, he said he was not going to the U.K. for the "success" of the Church, but came instead to "be transparent for Jesus Christ" and promote the service of the Christian faith in the society and the world.
"In a sense," he explained, "I think that if the Pope is happy he's not happy because there are big crowds or other things ... but because we have the clear demonstration that many, many people were listening with profound interest to what the Pope had to say and demonstrated joy in listening to him and to his message.
"I think this is the way in which we can speak of success, it's 'spiritual' success ... not only in crowds (or) impressive moments here, (but) it's what is behind this, that is, 'heart to heart.' There are hearts and minds that understand what the message is."
He also said that it has been a "positive trip" for ecumenism. This, he noted, can be seen in "the clear declaration of the will to go on in the field of theological dialogue and also of practical engagements in society and in the world for peace and so on." The declaration was made by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury in a joint communique after their Friday afternoon meeting.
Asked to compare it to Pope John Paul II's visit in 1982, he said that Benedict XVI's trip has taken place in a different time and context than his predecessor's. But, he added, a positive comparison is seen in the "wonderful reception that the (two) Popes have been received."
Fr. Lombardi said he has often heard of the great enthusiasm for John Paul II's trip and noted talk that this time "it was going to be different. But," he laughed, "I think that this time it was practically the same thing!"
Regardless of the person, said the spokesman, "if a Pope comes, we see that the people of the United Kingdom are interested, not indifferent ... Catholics in particular, but all people.
And, then, it is very, very positive, this possibility for the Popes to speak and to bring their message, and also I will repeat what I already said yesterday, if there are critics, if there are demonstrations against (the Pope), this is for us and for the Pope, normal, and this is also a positive sign of the freedom of expression in this society.
"We have seen that there were critics, but we have seen more times that there were people who were happy and, in this sense, we find that it was very, very positive, the way in which the Pope and his collaborators have been received here."
Birmingham, England, Sep 19, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Speaking to journalists less than an hour after Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's beatification, Vatican spokesman Fr. Lombardi expressed confidence in his being canonized. There is a "concrete possibility," also, that he will be made a "doctor of the Church."
The Vatican spokesman was asked if Pope Benedict had it in mind to canonize Blessed John Henry Newman considering his enthusiasm to have him beatified.
Responding frankly, he said that official procedure calls for further measures before that can happen and the Pope is "very respectful" of the rules. A papal decree verifying a second miracle has to be made for the Blessed to become a fully-fledged saint.
"But," he said, "we are confident that there will also be the canonization."
Fr. Lombardi commented that after the beatification, especially because it was presided over by the Pope himself, there will be a lot of attention and devotion to the Blessed. He thought that there would be many people who would pray for graces through Cardinal Newman's intercession and said he was "optimistic" about the process for his canonization advancing to fulfillment.
As far as the possibility Blessed Newman being declared a "doctor of the Church," he said that on the plane on the way over to the U.K. from Rome the Pope himself used that very qualification. The Pope had made the reference on the base of the weight of Newman's thought.
In this context, he said that the possibility would be "spontaneous" after his canonization. And, with the diffusion of the understanding of the importance of the Blessed and his work, Fr. Lombardi thought that there was "a concrete possibility that the Pope will proceed in this sense."
Birmingham, England, Sep 19, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Holy Father contrasted Cardinal Newman's "auspicious" beatification day with the commemoration of 70 years since the Battle of Britain on Sunday. He affirmed the commitment to peace and reconciliation as the alternative to war's "dreadful death and destruction."
At the beginning of his homily at Sunday's beatification Mass for Cardinal John Henry Newman, the Holy Father recalled the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, when German airplanes bombarded English cities in November of 1940.
He spoke first of the importance of Sundays as the day of the Lord, the day when Jesus "rose from the dead and changed the course of human history forever, offering new life and hope to all who live in darkness and in the shadow of death."
Referring to this Sunday in particular, he said that it "marks a significant moment" in British life, the official commemoration of the Battle of Britain. "For me," he explained, "as one who lived and suffered through the dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is deeply moving to be here with you on this occasion, and to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives, courageously resisting the forces of the evil ideology."
He remembered the casualties of Coventry, not far from Cofton Park where he was celebrating the Mass and said "(s)eventy years later, we recall with shame and horror the dreadful toll of death and destruction that war brings in its wake, and we renew our resolve to work for peace and reconciliation wherever the threat of conflict looms.
"Yet," he concluded, "there is another, more joyful reason why this is an auspicious day for Great Britain, for the Midlands, for Birmingham. It is the day that sees Cardinal John Henry Newman formally raised to the altars and declared Blessed."
Cardinal Newman was declared Blessed just before the Mass in the presence of 55,000 people.
Birmingham, England, Sep 19, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his homily during the beatification Mass, the Holy Father remembered the mark Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman left on Christianity, particularly to education. Noting his greatness together with that of English saints, he highlighted the Blessed's role as a "pastor of souls."
Pope Benedict called "right and fitting" that, among England's traditional martyr saints, "the holiness of a confessor" should be recognized. Cardinal Newman, "while not called to shed his blood for the Lord, nevertheless bore eloquent witness to him in the course of a long life devoted to the priestly ministry, and especially to preaching, teaching, and writing," he said.
The Pope noted that the Blessed is "worthy to take his place" together with other British saints and scholars, among whom, he said, are the likes of Sts Bede, Hilda Aelred and Duns Scotus
"In Blessed John Henry, that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has borne rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep within the heart of God's people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness."
His motto as a cardinal, "Heart speaks unto heart," the Pope added, gives insight into Newman's understanding of Christian life as a call to holiness, through the desire of the heart of man to enter into communion with the Heart of God.
"He reminds us," said Benedict XVI, "that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness."
Referring to Sunday's Gospel message, which teaches that the faithful Christian can but serve only one master, he spoke of the "definite service" to which the "divine Master" called Blessed Newman. The Pope said he was called to apply his "keen intellect and his prolific pen" to the important issues of his time.
"His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, " he noted, "but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world."
Benedict XVI paid particular tribute to Newman's role in laying the groundwork for today's Catholic educational institutions. He recalled the Blessed's vision of the unity of "intellectual training, moral discipline and relgious commitment" in schools, adding that the ideas of Blessed remain an inspiration for instructors today.
He said, "indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry's famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: 'I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it'.
"On this day," said Pope Benedict, "when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us."
Concluding with a reflection on the Blessed's life as a "pastor of souls," Benedict spoke of "his warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry."
Recalling his simple and wide-reaching Christian commitment to people of all walks through the Oratory and on the streets of Birmingham, the Pope said, "(n)o wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets ...
"One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assemble once again to rejoice in the Church's solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls."
Closing his homily, the Holy Father recited a prayer written by Cardinal Newman himself to celebrate the beatification and give thanks to God.
Winona, Minn., Sep 19, 2010 (CNA) - The bishops of Minnesota are “alarmed” by continuing attacks on marriage, Bishop of Winona John Quinn has said. He reported that Catholics of his diocese will receive a DVD and a letter from him to remind Catholics of church teaching and to explain the dangers of the legal recognition of same-sex “marriage.”
“From the beginning, the church has taught that marriage is a lifetime relationship between one man and one woman,” the bishop wrote in his diocese’s newspaper The Courier. “It is a sacrament, instituted by Jesus Christ to provide the special graces that are needed to live according to God’s law and to give birth to the next generation.”
The “most threatening” of current attacks on marriage are efforts to legalize “same-sex” marriage, he remarked.
The mailed DVD will provide more detail about Catholic teaching on marriage and about the possible effects that the recognition of same-sex “marriage” will have in Minnesota, he explained.
“I hope that you will read the letter and watch the DVD. Then, I hope that you will become one of the thousands of Catholics who have contacted legislators and told them that marriage is a lifetime relationship between one man and one woman.
“Any other kind of relationship simply is not a marriage,” he stated.
According to the Minnesota Independent, the Catholic bishops of Minnesota are preparing to defend the definition of marriage in the final two months of the 2010 election campaign. It characterized Bishop Quinn’s comments as a “glimpse” of the bishops’ plans.
Last week Dennis McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, told the Minnesota religion blog Divinity and Beyond that the effort is “still kind of taking shape.”
Michael Bayly of the Catholic dissenting group Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities characterized the effort as an “anti-marriage equality campaign.”
"The good news is that unlike five years ago, they're now on the defensive, not the offensive," he told the Minnesota Independent, predicting “marriage equality is coming to Minnesota.”
Bayly’s group is hosting Daniel Maguire, a professor of moral theology at the Jesuits’ Marquette University who claims that same-sex “marriage” can be defended from a Catholic perspective.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis brought in Maggie Gallagher, head of the National Organization for Marriage, to discuss strategies for opposing the redefinition of marriage. Last week Archbishop John Nienstedt repeated his call for an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution to defend the nature of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The issue is relevant to the governor’s race in Minnesota. Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party candidate Mark Dayton supports same-sex “marriage,” while Republican candidate Tom Emmer does not.
Bishop Quinn’s comments in The Courier concluded by exhorting Catholics to take action:
“This is our time to stand up and defend marriage as a unique institution that, from the beginning of human history and in every culture, is the union of one man and one woman for the propagation of the human family and the upbringing of children.”
Vancouver, Canada, Sep 19, 2010 (CNA) - Brian Wood, a 33-year-old resident of Vancouver, B.C., was killed in an auto collision on September 3, when the driver of an oncoming SUV lost control of the vehicle and crossed the road into his lane. His wife, Erin Wood, said that Brian acted just in time to save her, and their unborn child expected to be born in November, by sacrificing himself.
Evidence from the crash, which also killed two passengers in the other vehicle's back seat, supported Ms. Wood's description of her late husband's final act: unable to avoid the errant SUV, Brian Wood slammed the brakes and swerved his side of the car toward the oncoming vehicle, ensuring his certain death but protecting his wife, pregnant with their first child.
“I think it's pretty obvious … that if it would have been a head-on crash, we both would have been killed instantly, along with our baby,” Erin Wood told NBC's Today Show on September 13. “He definitely saved us. He made that choice, and I'm thankful for that.”
Brian Wood, a video game developer, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Police suspect that the driver of the other vehicle lost control due to distraction, as well as possible impairment from a variety of illegal drugs which were found in the car.
Erin Wood told the Today Show that the final sacrifice made by her husband of five years was in keeping with the way he had lived, “It's not a surprise at all. He was very excited for this baby, and always … incredibly loving towards me, and putting me first.”
His final act of love, she said “breaks my heart, and it also fills me with gratefulness.” Ms. Wood received only a black eye and a relatively minor blow to her head. The unborn child, a boy, was not harmed.
Wood said that although it was impossible to “cope well” with a situation such as hers, she was drawing consolation from recalling that she was alive because of her husband's decision to save her life and the life of their child.
“I'm just trying to draw a lot of strength right now from knowing that he made that choice to save me and the baby, and so I can't waste that gift,” she explained. “I'm just trying to focus on what I need to do right now … and just do my job as a mom.” She said that in spite of the tragedy, she is anticipating “the joy that we'll have once this baby is born.”
A fund, the Brian Woof Memorial Trust, has been established to assist Erin Wood and her child, at www.brianwoodmemorialtrust.com.
CNA STAFF, Sep 19, 2010 (CNA) - Saint Matthew, the first-century tax collector turned apostle who chronicled the life and ministry of Christ in his Gospel, will be celebrated by the Church this week on his feast day of September 21. Although relatively little is known about the life of St. Matthew, the account he wrote of Christ's ministry – traditionally considered to be the first of the four Gospels - is of inestimable value to the Church, particularly in its verification of Jesus as the Messiah.
Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox churches celebrate St. Matthew on November 16, along with St. Fulvianus, a prince who is recorded in some traditions as converting from paganism after Matthew's martyrdom.
The Gospel accounts of Mark and Luke, like Matthew's own, describe the encounter between Jesus and Matthew under the surprising circumstances of Matthew's tax-collecting duties. Jewish publicans, who collected taxes on behalf of the Roman rulers of first-century Judea, were objects of scorn and even hatred among their own communities, since they worked on behalf of the occupying power and often earned their living by collecting more than the state's due.
Jesus most likely first encountered Matthew near the house of Peter, in Capernaum near the Sea of Galilee. The meeting of the two was dramatic, as Matthew's third-person account in his Gospel captured: “As Jesus passed on,” the ninth chapter recounts, “he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, 'Follow me'. And he got up and followed him.”
Matthew's calling into Jesus' inner circle was a dramatic gesture of the Messiah's universal message and mission, causing some religious authorities of the Jewish community to wonder: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus' significant response indicated a central purpose of his ministry: “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."
A witness to Christ's resurrection after death, as well as his ascension into heaven and the events of Pentecost, Matthew also recorded Jesus' instruction for the apostles to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Like 11 of the 12 apostles, St. Matthew is traditionally thought to have died as a martyr while preaching the Gospel. The Roman Martyrology describes his death as occurring in a territory near present-day Egypt.
Both the saint himself, and his Gospel narrative, have inspired important works of religious art, ranging from the ornate illuminated pages of the Book of Kells in the ninth century, to the Saint Matthew Passion of J.S. Bach. Three famous paintings of Caravaggio, depicting St. Matthew's calling, inspiration and martyrdom, hang within the Contarelli Chapel in Rome's Church of St. Louis of the French.
Reflecting on St. Matthew's calling, from the pursuit of dishonest financial gain to the heights of holiness and divine inspiration, Pope Benedict said in 2006 that “in the figure of Matthew, the Gospels present to us a true and proper paradox: those who seem to be the farthest from holiness can even become a model of the acceptance of God's mercy and offer a glimpse of its marvelous effects in their own lives.”
Birmingham, England, Sep 19, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father has declared that John Henry Cardinal Newman will "henceforth be invoked as Blessed." Despite inclement weather, tens of thousands of faithful attended to celebrate the life of Newman, revered for his intellectual contributions to Christianity.
Cool weather and sporadic sprinkles of rain were no obstacle to the pilgrims in attendance for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Birmingham's Cofton Park on Sunday. Multi-colored ponchos and umbrellas peppered the vast 55,000 person crowd who cheered for the Pope upon his arrival and joined in with a massive choir to warm up the atmosphere.
Beginning the rite, the Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, made the official request of the Pope "that the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman be beatified." A short biography was then read by the vice postulator for the Cause for the Canonization of Cardinal Newman, Fr. Richard Duffield
Fr. Duffield, also provost of Newman's Birmingham Oratory, read the brief description of the life of the 19th century celebrated Catholic convert from the Anglican Church. He was remembered as a prominent figure in the Church of England, a preacher, theologian and leader of the Oxford movement as an Anglican in the first half of his life.
Drawn to full communion with the Catholic Church, he converted at 44 years old. He founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Birmingham in 1847 with encouragement from then-Pope Pius IX. Fr. Duffield summarized his contributions throughout his life, saying, "(h)e was a prolific and influential writer on a variety of subjects, including the development of Christian doctrine, faith and reason, the true nature of conscience and university education."
The vice postulator also remembered him as being "(p)raised for his humility, his life of prayer, his unstinting care of souls and contributions to the intellectual life of the Church." He was created cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879 and lived with the oratorians until his death in 1890.
"Acceding to the request" of the Archbishop of Birmingham, the bishops and faithful, Pope Benedict XVI declared that "venerable Servant of God John Henry, Cardinal, Newman priest of the Congregation of the Oratory, shall henceforth be invoked as Blessed and that his feast shall be celebrated every year of the ninth of October."
At that point an image of the Blessed appeared in the digital altarpiece to the right of the Pope, punctuating the moment, also met by the cheers from the faithful. Following the declaration a song written by Blessed Newman was sung praising "the Holiest in the height" and thanks were given to Benedict XVI for presiding over the celebration, his first beatification ever.
The rite concluded with a reliquary procession which included some of Newman's family members and oratorians.
Among the many prelates present for the beatification from England, Wales and beyond was Cardinal Edwin Egan, Archbishop-Emeritus of New York and many other "red berets."
Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 19, 2010 (CNA) - It’s estimated that more than 200,000 Haitians died in the earthquake that toppled Port-au-Prince last January. The tremor lasted 35 seconds. It’s going to take many years for this Third World country to rebuild itself, and Catholics in Arizona are pledging their support.
“One of the huge problems in Haiti is clean water,” explained Deacon Bernie Filzen of All Saints Parish in Mesa. He’s been involved with outreach to Haiti for more than 30 years.
“It’s a domino effect,” he said. “Without clean water you have health issues.”
A two-bucket water filtration system costs about $35, the deacon said, and that system will give a family good drinking water.
“You might not see the result of that, but you do if you’re there,” he added. “But over time, people drinking good water are less ill, dysentery goes away, their kids go to school instead of being sick. It’s amazing what you can do. Those are the kinds of things we want to see.”
These are the kinds of inexpensive, long-term solutions Deacon Filzen and Art Brouillard are considering with their recently established non-profit organization, Action By Christians for Haiti, Inc.
“The few belongings they have are in their huts. Everything else is done outdoors,” Broillard said. “The kids are outdoors all day long. The schools are poorly lit, concrete buildings, not air-conditioned units.”
Action By Christians will be working directly with a parish of 2,500 Catholics in the Hinche Diocese, which is about an hour and half outside Port-au-Prince. Other than financial contributions, they’re also considering sending down craftsman to teach parishioners a trade.
“There’s little or no jobs,” said Deacon Filzen, who, along with three other All Saints parishioners, traveled to Haiti last April. “However if you can train young people to be auto mechanics, to be masons, to be plumbers, electricians, you can train people to do that and to do it better.”
This is another long-term plan. The group sees teaching a trade akin to teaching Haitians to fish, as it were. The training also requires personal contact.
“Oftentimes there’s a smile, a touch, a look in a person’s eyes, all those things are so darn important,” Deacon Filzen said. “That reinforces that faith journey on both sides. That’s pretty cool. That tells you we’re in the same boat together.”
Caritas in Veritate Catholic Missionaries
Another effort, based in Tempe, also has its eye on long-term recovery — only their project might cost a bit more money.
Caritas in Veritate Catholic Missionaries, an organization established by Arise International, will build a village for 300 Haitian families on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. The village, which will be built around a Catholic parish, will cost around $10 million — a healthy sum considering it’s the group’s first project.
“Charity and also truth are part of the same thing,” said Henry Cappello, president of Caritas in Veritate Catholic Missionaries, which, like Catholic Relief Services, is part of the Vatican’s Cor Unum. “We are the missionaries and these are the works of charity.”
Charity needs to be based on Truth, Cappello wrote in a recent newsletter. Truth is not a concept, nor a philosophy, but a person: Jesus Christ.
Unlike other relief organizations, Caritas in Veritate does not shy away from proclaiming the Gospel while providing other aid. By sharing their faith, Cappello said, Caritas in Veritate Catholic Missionaries will also help heal hopelessness.
“Our intention is to build a people rather than just a home,” he said of the Caritas Village project. “It’s not just hit and run. We’re not after ‘an experience.’ We’re after being committed to bringing change to the people of Haiti.”
Bill Marcotte, vice president of Arise International, joined Cappello and several young adult Catholics on a trip to Haiti in July. Marcotte, who’d been to Haiti in April, didn’t see any changes when he returned this summer.
“If you’re fortunate to be in a tent city, you’re going to get food,” he said. “But the dignity of the human person — it’s just substandard. They’re living like animals, living in tents, not doing anything. That’s not to mention the psychological dimension, the hopelessness.”
The missionary group ran into a priest who was trying to set up an orphanage for street kids. But they didn’t have a place to sleep, or food to eat.
So Marcotte and the young adults started setting up tents.
“We went into that situation thinking we’d just sit down and tell these kids Bible stories,” said Sarah Belavega, a parishioner at St. Germaine in Prescott Valley.
“We planned to spend the summer camp with them and focus on their needs and show them that they’re loved. We didn’t even think about evangelization at all until the last day.”
The charitable work made way for the “teachable moment.”
The Caritas in Veritate missionaries also visited Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Port-au-Prince. While there, Belavega noticed a young child laying in a corner.
Judging by his size, the recent high school graduate guessed he was a year old. Turns out he was five, but lack of nourishment had impeded his development.
She picked him and held him for the two-hour visit. The child was despondent, Belavega said.
“So eventually we had to leave, so I told him I’d come back a couple days later,” she said. “He didn’t look at me. He acted like I wasn’t even there.”
She put him back down in the corner where she found him and turned toward the door. Then, she heard a child’s voice calling after her.
“He was running after me, crying, and he wanted me to take him home with me,” she said. The experience changed her whole mindset.
“Oftentimes, when we’re so privileged, we go into situations when people are so needy, and we tend to distance them and push them off, and say, ‘This is what we’re going to give you today,’” she said.
“And then we go back to the place we’re staying, where we have three square meals and clean bedding,” Belavega said. “This little boy is a child of God. We’re on the same level. He needs so much more than I can give him. It was a humbling moment. It was so hard, but it was just so beautiful. He needed everything and yet he had everything. It’s very hard to put into words.”
Being present makes the difference, said Deacon Filzen of All Saints in Mesa.
“It’s so easy to become despondent. And that’s not their case,” he said of Catholics in Hinche. “They look to the Lord to protect them and see that’s exactly what happening in their lives. And if that’s not awe inspiring, I don’t know what is.”
Printed with permission from the Catholic Sun, newspaper for the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona.