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Archive of November 27, 2010

Catholic students, orphans in India, connect with help from Skype

Branford, Conn., Nov 27, 2010 (CNA) - Thanks to the miracle of Skype, students from St. Mary School exchanged greetings, songs and questions with children at an orphanage near Delhi, India, last month as part of a series of events planned for the Branford, Connecticut school’s 50th anniversary.

"It was a lot of fun," said fourth-grader Cara Samson, capturing some of the excitement of the students. "We got to see people in a different country and talk to them and stuff."

Despite periodic breaks in the connection, students from St. Mary’s gathered in the parish center to watch children in India perform a song they had composed in English to honor the school’s jubilee. The Indian students also danced to music from the movie "Slum Dog Millionaire." It was 10 a.m. in Branford and 7 p.m. in India.

St. Mary’s held the cyberspace event with Ashalayam (meaning measure of hope), an orphanage in India where more than 150 children from the age of 8 to 18 are cared for by the Salesians of Don Bosco.

All of the children are either runaways or are forced to migrate from remote villages to cities in search of food, shelter and work because of poverty, hunger, maltreatment or the death of parents. The orphanage works to take in the abandoned children before they are taken captive by thugs and gangs for drug trafficking, prostitution or begging.

Salesian Father John Kuzhikottayil, parochial vicar at St. Mary’s and former headmaster of the orphanage, was in India on pilgrimage to coordinate the program at the other end of the connection.

According to Father Christopher Ford, Pastor of St. Mary Parish, parishioners recently collected more than $9,000 for the orphanage in India, enough to feed, clothe, shelter and educate children there for three months.

"It was a great day," said Donna Binkoski, principal. "Despite losing [Skype] connections, the connections we made with the children are for a lifetime."

She noted that just earlier in the week, the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools had encouraged schools during a special meeting to evangelize by using the tools of cyberspace, such as Skype and the Internet.

Each school plans to make a DVD of its program to exchange for future showings and to post on YouTube.

Among the numerous events planned to mark the jubilee year is a 50th-anniversary auction and gala dinner Dec. 12 at the Woodwinds Banquet Hall in Branford.

Printed with permission from the Catholic Transcript, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn.

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New San Antonio archbishop asks Catholics to listen for God’s call

San Antonio, Texas, Nov 27, 2010 (CNA) - Catholics should be open to God’s call while remembering that Christianity can be countercultural and “unsettling” for the modern world, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said at his installation Mass in San Antonio, Texas.

More than 1,800 people attended the Nov. 23 Mass at St. Mark the Evangelist Church, where the former auxiliary bishop of Chicago was installed as the sixth Archbishop of San Antonio.

At the Mass, papal nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi read an apostolic letter from Pope Benedict XVI confirming his appointment. He also presented the 53-year-old archbishop with a crosier which had belonged to Archbishop Jerome Droassaerts, Archbishop of San Antonio from 1918 to 1940.

“Today marks a new beginning in the wonderful history of the Catholic faith in this local church of San Antonio,” Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said in his homily.

He recalled the early Franciscans who evangelized the region, including Venerable Fray Antonio Margil de Jesus and Fr. Miguel Calvo. He also voiced “special gratitude” to his two predecessors, Archbishops Patrick Flores and Jose Gomez, while also noting the diverse non-Hispanic Catholic immigrants who have come to the city throughout its history.

“In short, we thank God that, for nearly 400 years, the Roman Catholic Church in Texas has continued faithfully to proclaim the Good News here. We also rejoice that a personal and deeply pious Catholic religiosity has matured here, including the beautiful devotion of Our Lady of Guadalupe, our Mother, la Morenita.”

He then expounded upon the readings for the Mass, the first of which was the story of God’s calling of Samuel.

“God always speaks first. That is the way it should be. Creation is to listen attentively and respond appropriately,” the archbishop explained. Because Samuel was open to God’s call, “something new began in the history of salvation.”

Archbishop Garcia-Siller connected this to his own response to hearing that Pope Benedict XVI wanted to appoint him to San Antonio.

“I immediately felt real peace and joy tempered by a deep awareness of the great responsibility I had been asked to embrace. I felt, in faith, a deep affection for you, the people of the Archdiocese of San Antonio,” he said.

The second Mass reading, about the apostles and the first day of Pentecost, showed the disciples experiencing “something very wonderful” that they needed to share with the whole world.

“No one is excluded from their proclamation that Jesus is Lord, that God loves all people, that all of us are sisters and brothers, beloved children of the one God, for God alone is able to feed the deepest hungers of the human heart,” the archbishop explained.

The fact that some bystanders thought the apostles were simply intoxicated with wine reminds Christians that their message is “countercultural” and can be “profoundly unsettling and even threatening to some,” he said.

“Ignorance, fear, and insecurity feed racism and hatred toward the stranger. The worldly pursuit of possessions, pleasure, and power militate against the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience,” he lamented. “We live in a deeply divided nation and region where the notion of brotherly love may seem quaint and naïve.”

Rather than withdraw into ourselves and seek only our own personal good or “defiantly” stake out our own position while ignoring common ground with others, the archbishop urged reflection on the gift of the Holy Spirit.

“My friends, it is the Holy Spirit that enables the community of faith to proclaim the gospel, to attract a crowd, to have something to say worth hearing. The wind blows where it will. God has the power to accomplish in our midst what he wants – in spite of all obstacles.”

This is possible only when Christians are open to God’s word and are in a loving relationship with Jesus.

“We are to love God fully, holding nothing back. And to love one another as Jesus has loved us – continuously, without limits, throughout our life,” he exhorted. “My brothers and sisters, I do love you, and I am willing to lay down my life for you!”

He urged those assembled to be “Spirit-filled and Spirit-led missionaries of the gospel in the world.” Entrusting his mission and ministry to Our Lady of Guadalupe’s intercession, he concluded:

“May the quality of our love for one another bring out to everyone that we are truly the Lord’s disciples and missionaries!”

He closed with the phrase “Viva Cristo Rey!”, the last words of the martyred Mexican priest Bl. Miguel Pro, whose feast day coincided with the installation Mass.

The San Antonio archdiocese reports that installation Mass attendees included Archbishop Garcia-Siller’s 76-year-old father, Gustavo Garcia Suarez, and his 75-year-old mother, Maria Cristina Siller de Garcia. Many siblings and relatives of new archbishop, the eldest of 15 children, also attended.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and the apostolic nuncio to Mexico concelebrated the installation Mass with several other Texas bishops.

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Meeting the Catholic producer helping an agnostic make a film about a saint

Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 27, 2010 (CNA) -

A new film about a 20th-century saint is being directed by a self-described agnostic and produced by a devout Catholic.

 

“I thought it would be a fantastic challenge to give 40 million dollars to a Hollywood director who is agnostic and leftist to tell a story about a Catholic saint,” said Ignacio Gómez-Sancha, the producer behind the upcoming film, “There Be Dragons.”

 

“There Be Dragons” tells the story of St. Josemaría Escrivá, founder of the Catholic organization Opus Dei (Latin for “Work of God”).

 

Gómez-Sancha is producing the movie with director Roland Joffé, who calls himself a “wobbly atheist.”

 

In the 1980s, Joffé's films, “The Mission” and “The Killing Fields” earned him Academy Award nominations for best director.

 

“The Mission,” which starred Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons as Jesuits in 18th-century Latin America, was later named by the Vatican as one of 45 “great films” about religion.

 

In a recent interview with CNA, Gómez-Sancha said, “The reason why I decided to leave my life behind and dedicate two years of my life to this project is basically that ... I fell in love with the project and with Roland's idea on Josemaría.”

 

Gómez-Sancha, who is a member of Opus Dei, described how Joffé came to the project. The London-born director became fascinated with the Spanish saint in the wake of the bestselling book, “The Da Vinci Code,” which was later made into a movie.

 

“The Da Vinci Code” presents a lurid vision of Opus Dei as a militant secret society in the Church.

 

Controversy over the book and movie led Joffé to read the writings of St. Josemaría  Escrivá. And though an agnostic, Joffé was captivated by the saint’s vision of heroic Christian faith and holiness.

 

After seeing the screenplay Joffé wrote, Gómez-Sancha decided to give the director a chance. He gathered together investors to create a film fund and raised money for the project.

 

He calls his efforts an expression of his faith. “It is very important to do movies in a profitable way with a good message,” he said.  

 

The story told in “There Be Dragons” is set during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. However, Gómez-Sancha said that “the dramatic center of the movie is not actually the war, but what (are) called the 'dragons'.”

 

“The dragons,” he explained, “are anything that makes you suffer, the situations that life puts you in,” such as guilt, hatred, jealousy and betrayal.

 

Gómez-Sancha stressed the importance of having “an agnostic like Roland” telling a story with “a message that is absolutely universal.”

 

“The Spanish Civil War split families apart, split the society totally, and we are in deep need for an act of reconciliation,” he said.

 

The film, he added, will show people “what a priest can be; what priesthood can be for society, in a moment where priesthood, in a way, is under scrutiny.”

 

“There Be Dragons” is being filmed in Argentina. It will be released internationally in Spring 2011.

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