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Archive of January 15, 2011

Connecticut parish aims to provide clean water to Haiti

Milford, Conn., Jan 15, 2011 (CNA) - It’s not enough that Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake last January that killed 300,000 people and left another 1.5 million homeless. Now, because of unsanitary conditions, the island nation is enduring the ravages of cholera that so far has claimed 1,400 lives and sickened nearly 57,000 people.

Members of St. Mary Parish in Milford, Conn. are battling back by installing a clean water system at their sister parish, St. Theresa’s, in the rural mountain town of Marbial – a project they initiated last August before the cholera outbreak.

After months of planning, fund-raising and working through internal red tape of importing and transporting products – and helped by a generous, anonymous donation – St. Mary’s delivered 150 water filtration and purification systems in late December – enough to provide clean water for 1,000 people.

"It’s a basic two-bucket system," said Michael Mercurio, chair of the St. Mary twinning committee, which sent a medical mission of 14 doctors, nurses and volunteers to care for more than 1,500 people for a week last March.

Water is collected into a five-gallon bucket, poured through a carbon filtering system that includes two chlorine tablets, and "comes out 99.8 percent clear of impurities" into another bucket with a spigot, he explained.

"We’re very excited about it," said Mr. Mercurio. "If you deal with Haiti or any Third World country, you know that there is nothing more important than clean water. That’s where it starts. One in every eight children in Haiti dies from diseases due to dirty water. So if you can provide them with basic clean water, you’ll save lives and reduce many of the health issues they face.

"Every society needs medical care," he offered, "but clean water dramatically reduces the health care needs of the population and allows them to enjoy healthier lives."

St. Mary’s is working with Gift of Water (www.giftofwater.org), a 15-year-old, nonprofit organization that provides water purification and filtration systems to communities in Third World countries. St. Mary’s is donating 225 systems, at a cost of $40 each, that will provide clean water for eight to 10 people a day or 1,500 people a year at a cost of $10,000.

The long-term goal is to maintain and increase this project. St. Theresa Water Committee will manage the project locally, determine the families of greatest need and work with a local technician hired to set up the systems and teach hygiene to people in the community.

"We hope to eventually provide clean water for 5,000 people on an ongoing basis," Mr. Mercurio said, adding that because Haitians are a proud people, families receiving the system pay a small fee.

The parish is planning its second medical mission Feb. 7-14 with 16 volunteer doctors and nurses and others.

The St. Mary Twinning Committee was launched in 2007 at the urging of Father James Cronin, pastor, in response to a call for global solidarity from the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

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

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Pope recognizes heroic virtue of American priest, Fr. Nelson Baker

Buffalo, N.Y., Jan 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict officially recognized the heroic virtues of 20th century American priest Fr. Nelson Baker, which moves the beloved champion for the poor further along in the process towards sainthood.

Fr. Baker – who was born in Buffalo, New York in 1842 – lived to be 95 years old and is heralded for building what's been called a “city of charity” in Lackawana, New York. By the time of his death in 1936, his initiatives for the poor included a minor basilica, an infant home, a home for unwed mothers, a boys' orphanage, a hospital, a nurses' home, and an elementary and high school.

On Jan. 14, Pope Benedict recognized the heroic virtues of Fr. Baker, which is the second step in the priest's cause for canonization. After a candidate is initially listed as a Servant of God, the promoter of the cause must prove that the candidate lived heroic virtues. When documents and testimonies are presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, and the candidate is approved, he or she earns the title of "Venerable.” Two documented and medically authenticated miracles are then needed, one for beatification and one for canonization.

“Father Baker was known for his tremendous works of charity during his 60 years of priesthood,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York said on Jan. 14. Archbishop Dolan expressed delight in the Pope's action on his blog, “The Gospel in the Digital Age.”

The Diocese of Buffalo said on Friday that they “rejoice” at the news , adding that the latest move “is the next step in what we hope and pray will be the eventual beatification and canonization of Father Baker.”

After his upbringing in Buffalo in the late 19th century and a period of enlistment as a solider in the Civil War, Fr. Baker  enjoyed economic success running a feed and grain business with his good friend Joe Meyer. He often spent much of his time and money, however, contributing to the local Catholic orphanage. Despite the apprehension of his father, brother and business partner – yet to the delight of his mother – he eventually discerned that he wanted to join the priesthood.

Though he was a good 10 years older than most of his fellow seminarians, Fr. Baker relished his experience in the seminary, earning top marks in his studies, organizing sports and drama events and being considered a leader by his peers, noted Sister Mary Monica of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in her biography of the priest. During his time at the seminary, things took a brief turn for the worse when a bout with erysipelas – a disease that could be cured with antibiotics today, but in the nineteenth century was often fatal – hospitalized him for 11 weeks and threatened to take his life.

He slowly recovered, and eventually went on a pilgrimage to Rome with his fellow seminarians in 1874, stopping at the Shrine of Our Lady of Victories in Paris. It was there he began an intense Marian devotion that would influence the rest of his life's work.

Fr. Baker was ordained a priest in 1876 and was assigned to be the superintendent of a group of Catholic institutions at Limestone Hill – an area now known as Lackawana – which were wracked with insurmountable debts. Using his business savvy, Fr. Nelson gave every penny of his savings to the institutions and hand wrote thousands of letters imploring Catholics to become members of the "Association of Our Lady of Victory" for a fee of 25 cents a year. Over the years, his tireless work helped the facilities flourish.

After decades of unyielding service to the community, Fr. Baker died in 1936 at the age of 95. He was named a Servant of God in 1987 by the late Pope John Paul II, and his legacy lives on in the current work of Our Lady of Victories Institutions, which annually serves more than 3,500 children and families in need.

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Prayer and patience bearing fruit in Sudan independence vote

, Jan 15, 2011 (CNA) - Residents of Southern Sudan, which is expected to become Africa's newest country, are expressing gratitude for the peace that has prevailed during a referendum on independence from the north. The country's Catholic bishops have been a leading voice for peace during the vote, which ends Jan. 15.

Sudan has not had many moments of peace as a unified country. During its 55 years of independence, the nation's ethnically and religiously-divided north and south have fought two civil wars in which 2.5 million people died. As the semi-autonomous southern region prepared during 2010 for a vote on the question of full secession, international observers feared that a third war could erupt.

But as the week-long referendum draws to a close, having reached the required 60 percent level of voter participation, residents of Southern Sudan say that their prayers for peace have been answered.

A few isolated incidents of violence occurred between Jan. 7 and 9, between southerners and nomadic tribes with northern sympathies in the oil-producing region of Abyei. But these clashes have not significantly impacted a “very peaceful” atmosphere, according to Fr. Callistus Joseph, project director at Solidarity with Southern Sudan.

“Just seven weeks ago, no one thought this was possible,” he wrote on Jan. 11, in a report from the Southern administrative capital of Juba. “Many thought that there would be another war. Many said the southerners were not prepared for this.”

“Others said that the Khartoum government … would not let this happen.” That administration rules over Sudan's largely Arab and Muslim north, and stands to lose control of oil revenue and other natural resources if the south votes for independence, as it is expected to do overwhelmingly.

Yet in Juba, Fr. Joseph reported that thousands of people were already standing in line to vote as the referendum began on Jan. 9. By Jan. 12, more than 60 percent of the 3.8 million registered voters had successfully cast their ballots, despite overwhelming logistical challenges for organizers and citizens in the largely undeveloped southern region.

Fr. Joseph, a Claretian missionary from Sri Lanka, credited the Catholic bishops of Sudan and other Church ministries with helping to ward off hostility during the proceedings. The bishops collaborated with several Church ministries to encourage constant prayer while educating voters on the importance of patience and restraint.

In the south, where most residents are either Christians or adherents of traditional native religions, the Catholic Church is a widely admired and trusted institution.

“We know that the '101 Days of Prayer' campaign initiated by Solidarity with Southern Sudan, which was endorsed by the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference and sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, has contributed to this peaceful atmosphere,” he noted.

Fr. Joseph, though not a native, deeply identified with the Southern Sudanese in their feeling of joyful anticipation. “For many of us, it is overwhelming, this feeling of joy – the feeling of being part of a privileged moment.”

Although the Catholic bishops of Sudan did not take a position as to how southerners should vote, they strongly emphasized that the Khartoum government should accept the will of the Southern Sudanese people. The independence referendum was a key provision in the 2005 treaty that ended the country's second civil war.

Stephen Hilbert, an adviser on African affairs at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA that the Khartoum government –despite its eagerness to prevent the south from breaking away– had failed to adopt policies that would have made continued unity an appealing prospect.

He explained that after the referendum's conclusion on Saturday, Jan. 15, the next step would be for international monitoring groups –which sent an estimated 1,200 observers to compliment almost 18,000 observers from within Sudan– to register their impressions of the vote and its legitimacy.

Although the Khartoum government has challenged aspects of the registration process for failing to meet certain strict deadlines, Hilbert said that he expected the results to be largely beyond dispute–  since supporters of southern independence had no need to rig the vote in their favor, nor any desire to compromise a singular chance at self-determination.

While southern Sudanese residents will most likely be celebrating their coming independence next week, Hilbert noted that some of the most contentious questions between Sudan's north and south will remain to be settled even after a successful vote for independence. These include questions about borders, debt, water rights, and the status of ethnic and religious “southerners” living in the north.

An independent Southern Sudan would not have fully separate status until July of 2011. Hilbert said that if the vote is certified as legitimate in February, the southern government will “have to manage expectations” –which are likely to run unrealistically high– in the months to come.

“The level of excitement in Juba is just amazing,” Hilbert said. “They see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's freedom.”

But this freedom will only last, Hilbert said, if citizens have realism and restraint. “When compromise is necessary,” he noted, “the government will have to go to its people and say: 'We must compromise … we have to live together with the Northerners.'”

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Supreme Knight calls John Paul II beatification an historic sign of hope

New Haven, Conn., Jan 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl A. Anderson, said that the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II signaled the inspiring rise of a new generation of Catholics, formed by the beloved pontiff's example and teachings.

On Jan. 14, Pope Benedict XVI approved plans for the May 1, 2011 beatification of his predecessor, who died on April 2, 2005.

Throughout his 26-year reign, Pope John Paul II –who currently bears the title “Venerable”– was noted for his special appeal to young people, often providing a striking counterexample to the cynicism that came to characterize popular culture during the 1980s and 90s.

The Supreme Knight described the upcoming beatification ceremony, which will permanently place the late Pope's memorial on the Church's liturgical calendar, as “a validation of the 'John Paul II generation'.” Countless young people, he recalled, had their lives changed while attending the late Pope's celebrations of World Youth Day.

“Young adults especially look for authenticity,” the Anderson observed. “They can judge authenticity when they experience it.”

In their encounters with Pope John Paul II, young people could sense that “he loved them,” and loved God wholeheartedly. “The secret of so many World Youth Days,” he said, “was that relationship … They understood that it was authentic.”

Anderson reflected that the Pope upheld love, both human and divine, as the “underlying theme” of his pontificate – proclaiming to the world “the fundamental Gospel command, love of one's neighbor.”  This emphasis on human participation in God's love made his message unusually accessible to young people, and to all the lay faithful.

“The more people get to know John Paul II, the more they will be uplifted,” he said, citing the Pope's personal witness to a vision of life “premised on the fundamental commandments of the Christian faith: love of God, and love of neighbor.”

“That's what he stood for throughout his life, and made so apparent for all to see,” Anderson noted, upholding the Pope as a man who strove to inspire others through his own example.

He spoke warmly of his own encounters with the Pope, recalling that he gave his full attention and care to anyone he met. “Every time you met John Paul II, you had his attention. He was interested in you.”

Supreme Knight Anderson pointed out that the beatification had a special relevance to Americans, a people who were close to the late Pope's heart. John Paul II recognized the nation's cultural and political ascendancy during his reign, and was “very concerned about what we did as a society, and our future.”

“I hope that Americans, and American Catholics especially, will look to his beatification – to take pause, and remember what he told us.”

“We should remember those words,” the Supreme Knight advised, recalling the Pope's exhortations for Catholics, and all people of good will, to “stand up when human rights are attacked, when the unborn are threatened, when marriage is undermined, and the poor and suffering are neglected.”

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First priests ordained to new Catholic Church structure for former Anglicans

London, England, Jan 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - An official jurisdiction for members of the Church of England opting for full communion with the Catholic Church was established just in time to receive its first three priests on Saturday.

On Jan. 15, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decreed the creation of "The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham." The announcement of the establishment of the ordinariate, a special diocese-like structure, was announced during the Mass at London's Westminster Cathedral to ordain three former Anglican bishops to the Catholic priesthood.

The very name of the personal ordinariate denotes the Catholic-Anglican connection, both Churches have Marian Shrines in the English village of Walsingham. Blessed John Henry Newman, the most well-known Anglican to seek communion with the Catholic Church, was chosen as the jurisdiction's patron.

The ordinariate is a new structure in which "worthy Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions" will be preserved.The movement of people away from the Anglican Communion is being spurred by a growing acceptance of female bishops, practing homosexual clergy, and disagreements over the primacy of Sacred Scripture within the Church.

The Vatican explained in a Jan. 15 statement, released just after mid-day, that ordinariate members are "fully integrated" into the Catholic fold.

It also stated clearly that married ex-Anglican clergy cannot be ordained as Catholic bishops "for doctrinal reasons" while, "under certain conditions," they can be ordained Catholic priests.

The first three were thus made Catholic priests by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster in London's cathedral. Three former Anglican bishops, Frs. Andrew Burnham, Keith Newton, and John Broadhurst, received the sacrament of Holy Orders as priests in the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Nichols called the day "a unique occasion marking a new step in the life and history of the Catholic Church."

He welcomed the three priests and told them, "you have distinguished pasts, full of real achievements. Now, ahead of you, you have an important and demanding future!"

Fr. Newton has been chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to oversee the new structure.

The priest said he was "humbled" by the appointment. "This is not an honor I have sought or expected but I pray that God will give me the wisdom and grace to live up to the trust the Holy Father has placed in me," he said in a statement transmitted through the English and Welsh Catholic bishops' conference.

He hoped that the ordinariate would be "a gift to the Catholic Church" and that all who join it "will be of service to the whole Church."

Fr. Newton and the two others ordained on Saturday will begin their service by overseeing the formation of the first groups of lay faithful who aim to enter into full communion at Easter. They will also assist other former Anglican clergy as they prepare for their Catholic ordinations around Pentecost.

In its statement, the Vatican underscored its ongoing commitment to ecumenical dialogue.

The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was created at the request of groups of Anglicans who "share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church," stated the Vatican.

"For them," it explained, "the time has now come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion."

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