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Archive of February 19, 2011

Dominican Sisters of Mary expanding to California

San Francisco, Calif., Feb 19, 2011 (CNA) - One of the fastest growing orders of women religious in the United States is expanding to California where the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, took over administration of a Sacramento Catholic school this school year.

Perhaps more significantly, the Dominican Sisters have outgrown the motherhouse in Ann Arbor, Mich., and are planning to build two new houses of formation in California and in Texas. Each would hold about 100. The order’s lifestyle intrigued Oprah Winfrey, who featured the sisters twice on her show in 2010. As a result they have been nicknamed the “Oprah nuns.”

“We had 22 young women enter in August, and we have had between 10 and 20 new vocations per year for the past five years,” said Sister Thomas Augustine, director of California Mission Advancement. “It has happened to us before that by the time we finished adding onto the motherhouse in Ann Arbor we were already out of room! This time we are hoping to stay ahead of things so we are planning for two new houses of formation.”

Founded in 1997 by four Dominicans from the Nashville Dominicans, just 31 of the 110 Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, have made final vows so far. The remaining religious are in various stages of formation or education and discernment, said Sister Thomas Augustine.

“We’re not turning anyone away. We’ll sleep on the floor. We’ll live in kitchenettes, closets and landings. We have in the past,” Sister Thomas Augustine said.

The land in Loomis near Sacramento was purchased by Fred and Joan Cordova, a couple who received a direct-mail piece and called in 2005 to say they wanted the order to come to California and would buy the sisters land.

There are now eight sisters in the Sacramento diocese. Four are teaching at Presentation School, an elementary school that saw its enrollment jump by 44 students to 196 when the sisters took over in the 2010-11 school year, said Kevin Eckery, spokesman for Bishop Jaime Soto. “This is the first increase in enrollment in five years,” Eckery said.

Under the city of Loomis’ planning and building regulations, the sisters expect their application to be approved Jan. 18 and after negotiating details and meeting regulatory requirements to be able to build by 2012, Sister Thomas Augustine said. Funding for construction still needs to be raised, she said.

The religious’ primary apostolate is teaching. Sisters are sent out in small groups. They are teaching and administering Catholic schools in California, Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, and Michigan. A new mission will open next year in Columbus, Ohio, Sister Thomas Augustine said. Fifteen sisters are obtaining their teaching credentials this year and will go out to teach next year.

“We deliver a Catholic education because we are in the business of saving souls,” she said.

The order is part of a worldwide resurgence among religious orders who embrace the traditional religious life as part of Pope John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization, Sister Thomas Augustine said.

“The thing to note is what we all have in common: the habit, living a common life, devotion to the Eucharist and Our Lady, absolute fidelity to the Church’s teachings and the influence of John Paul II,” said Sister Augustine, who was a New York lawyer before she joined.

Find more information at www.sistersofmary.org or contact Sister Thomas Augustine at [email protected].

Printed with permission from Catholic San Francisco, newspaper for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Calif.

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Polish priests display their skiing skills for John Paul II Cup

Wisla, Poland, Feb 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Polish clergymen rocketed down ski slopes to pay tribute to their beloved Pope and countryman, and to compete for a trophy in the John Paul II Cup.

The 14th annual Alpine Skiing Championship for Polish Priests and Seminarians took place in Wisla, Poland on Feb. 12.

One of two priests that organize the event annually, 37-year old Fr. Gregory Szwarc, told CNA that the event was revived in 1998 by a group of Franciscan priests who did so in memory of a similar tournament from the past.

They have a “good pattern” to follow, said Fr. Szwarc. “Our Pope John Paul II went skiing so that is why we gave the competition his name.”

The tournament divides priests into four age groups and also pits seminarians against each other in a separate category. Events are based around an 800 meter slalom race.

The clergy begin the competition with the traditional opening run down the mountain in their black cassocks. They shed the official Church clothing in favor of full ski suits before the real competition.

Members of the priests' immediate families are also eligible to participate in a “doubles” race, with the fastest pair down the mountain taking the gold.

This year, 30 priests and 7 seminarians from all over Poland participated in the event, a sizable increase from the 26 who competed a year ago. The downhill race also drew 17 entrants in the family category this year.

Those who took gold in the priest categories were: Fr. Chris Sontag of Our Lady of the Rosary in Lędziny; Fr. Henry Urbas, SDB, from Krakow; Fr. Damian Copek from the parish of St. Mary in Katowice; and Fr. Simon Kos from the parish church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Katowice-Dęba.

Winners receive a special trophy, a John Paul II cup.

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Wisconsin Catholic bishops urge protection of workers' rights as protests surge

Madison, Wis., Feb 19, 2011 (CNA) - Amid unprecedented protests in the state of Wisconsin over Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to sharply limit bargaining rights for union employees, the state’s Catholic bishops underscored the “moral obligation” of protecting workers' rights and called for lawmakers to carefully evaluate the difficult situation.

John Huebscher, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, said the recent protests – which have drawn tens of thousands to the capitol building in Madison and have spanned over four days as of Friday – are unlike anything he has ever seen.

“I've been working in or around the capitol for 40 years and I can't remember anything quite like this,” he said in a Feb. 18 interview with CNA.

Huebscher explained that the controversy began over newly sworn-in Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget which slashes funding for health care and pensions for union workers and changes collective bargaining – a move that “drastically reduces the things workers can bargain over.”

Gov. Walker faces a deficit of $137 million in the current state budget and the prospect of a $3.6 billion debt within the next two years.

Opposition to the bill reached a boiling point last week when Democratic legislators left the capitol, refusing to participate in a vote on the legislation.

“Under our constitution, you need 20 senators in order to conduct business and the Republicans only have 19 senators,” Huebscher explained. “So the Democrats, by not being around, have prevented action on the bill.”

Although Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee and other bishops around the state have not spoken in direct opposition to the proposed budget, they've unequivocally reiterated the importance of protecting worker's rights in light of the Church's social doctrine.

Archbishop Listecki said in a Feb. 16 statement that even though “the Church is well aware that difficult economic times call for hard choices,” current situations “do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers.”

The archbishop then quoted Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” in which the pontiff criticizes governments for limiting the freedom or negotiating capacity of unions. He also referenced the late Pope John Paul II's observation that unions remain a “constructive factor” of social order and solidarity.

“The bishops are very careful – it's a balanced statement,” Huebscher said. “Because you support workers or the right of unions to assert and affirm their interests, (it) doesn't follow that every claim made by workers is valid.”

Huesbscher also qualified that unions, “just like anybody else, have to consider the good and make sacrifices.” However, he added, it's “a mistake to cite hard times as a reason to dismiss or marginalize unions.”

“The bishops are merely reminding everybody of the teaching of the Church, over the last century or more, of the dignity of work and the appropriate place for unions without giving them carte blanche to have everything they want.”

The executive director noted that ultimately, Gov. Walker's proposed budget asks legislators to use critical and “prudential” judgment.

“Does the bill serve to marginalize unions? Does this serve to drastically reduce the ability of worker to articulate and protect their interests? Those are fair questions to engage.”

Amid speculation that similar budget cuts for union workers are foreseeable in other states legislatures, Huebscher said “it's no secret that proposals like this are showing up in other states,” citing Ohio as an immediate example.

“I think it's a very legitimate point to make that if it's done here it would be done or at least debated in other places.”

Opposition to the proposed budget has continued to swell in Wisconsin with local schools even canceling classes on Feb. 18 to participate in the demonstrations.

Huebscher observed that the bill has struck such a chord with Wisconsin citizens because of its potentially far reaching implications for public and private employees.

“If the state – as a matter of public policy – can say that workers are going to be very limited in what they can bargain for, that will seep into other segments of the economy,” he said.

“I think workers perceive that this is going to effect them – even workers that aren't unionized.”

Huebscher added that there are benefits employees in the state have today that they didn't have decades ago such as just wages, paid overtime, 40-hour work weeks and the inability to be fired without due process.

“There was a time when these things weren't available to people,” he said, adding that Wisconsin “is one of the first places in the country to have unemployment compensation and workers compensation.

“There's a sense among working people – that while they don't belong to a union today – things they have exist today because unions fought for them. And they're concerned about losing that.”

He said that Wisconsin has a long tradition of integrating and affirming workers and it “parallels with the development of Catholic social teaching and the rights of labor.”

Huebscher expressed gratitude that the protests have remained peaceful thus far, saying that bishops in the state have “urged people to remain civil, talk to each other, and keep the common good in mind.”

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Number of baptized Catholics in the world grows by 15 million

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics in the world continue to increase in number by the millions, according to the latest official statistics from the Catholic Church. Although the number of baptized Catholics in on the rise, Church officials say that with the exception of Asia and Africa, the "crisis remains" in vocations to the religious life throughout the globe.

The 2011 Pontifical Yearbook was presented to Pope Benedict XVI on the morning of Feb. 19 by a delegation led by his “number two,” secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and members of the Central Office of Church Statistics.

The book contains information on all Church jurisdictions and organizations, religious and cultural institutes and structures worldwide. Some information was released about novelties in dioceses and other church jurisdictions created in 2010 yet the main focus is on statistics from 2008-2009.

The standout figure of the new yearbook is the jump in the number of newly baptized Catholics over the two-year period.

In the 2,956 church jurisdictions in the world, the number jumped by 15 million from 2008. The total number of living baptized Catholics on the globe in 2009 reached 1,181,000,000.

North and South America account for a fraction under half of this number. European Catholics amount to 24 percent, Africa rings in at 15 percent and Asia at just over 10 percent. The remaining number, totaling less than one percentage point, live in Oceania.

Growth figures for all continents were not provided for the individual continents in the Vatican statement.

The yearbook also showed that the number of bishops and priests grew in direct proportion to the number of Catholics worldwide. For the 1.3 percent more Catholics in the world, there were 1.3 percent more of both bishops and priests in the period from 2008 - 2009. In 2009, there were 5,065 bishops and 410,593 priests.

The numbers also show a net increase of priests on every continent except Europe, where both religious and diocesan numbers decreased over the two-year period examined.

This increase was perhaps overshadowed, however, by what Church officials called a troubling statistic. Consecrated religious numbers decreased worldwide by nearly 10,000 to 729,371.

"So the crisis remains, notwithstanding Africa and Asia where they increased," read the Vatican statement.

Numbers also show that deacons worldwide increased by more than 1,000 men to a total of 38,155 and seminarians are on the increase led by significantly higher numbers again in Africa and Asia. Decreases were registered in Europe and in the combined total of North and South American dioceses.

The 2011 Yearbook has not yet been released by the Vatican Publishing House to the public, but it will be due out soon.

The Pope traditionally receives the first three copies of the volume bound in white cloth. It is made available to the public with a red-colored binding, which has led to its common name - the "red book of the Church."

According to the statement from the Holy See's Press Office, the Pope thanked the delegation and all contributors for the volume and showed "great interest" in the data it contains.

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