Archive of May 1, 2011

Program prepares those who minister to the sick and dying

Trenton, N.J., May 1, 2011 (CNA) - Recognizing the Church’s fundamental responsibility to care for those who are sick, the Diocese of Trenton's Certificate Program in Pastoral Care provides participants with the education and formation tools they need to serve in that ministry more competently and compassionately.

The third group to complete the 36-hour program that the Office of Pastoral Care inaugurated in 2007 was awarded certificates during a prayer service held April 9 in St. Anselm Church, Wayside, N.J.

Among the men and women from throughout Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties to receive certificates included a priest, a deacon, a religious sister, and a host of parish leaders and ministers, professional chaplains and nursing home and hospital staff members.

The new graduates bring to 191 the number of pastoral care ministers who have earned certificates of completion since the program’s inception. There are also another 33 persons who have participated in the program, but will receive their certificates upon completion of all course work requirements.

According to Deanna Sass, director of the Office of Pastoral Care, the certificate program was initiated in response to the requests made by pastors that there be a centralized  and comprehensive training and formation program for those who currently minister to the sick as well as those with an interest in pursuing such a ministry.

Program topics included pastoral theology; listening skills; end-of-life issues; legal issues; grief and loss; bereavement; dealing with families or patients who are facing mental illness or addiction issues, and self-care for caregivers. Among the presenters were priests, religious and laity who work as attorneys, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, certified chaplains, licensed counselors, bereavement trainers, spiritual directors, doctoral level theologians, social workers and bioethicists.

Sass noted that the program allows participants to network with others, and offers experiential practice with lectures, videos and readings.

Among the certificate recipients was Sister of St. Joseph Peg Boyle, who has about 17 years of experience serving in pastoral care ministry. She was in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Maple Shade, for 14 years, and then for the past three years has been in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton. Her prior work as an educator had her serving in a number of schools in various archdioceses/dioceses including Philadelphia, Newark, Allentown and Camden.

For Sister Peg, it was the experience in having lived at home for three years between the two Burlington County parish assignments and caring for her parents that was the impetus for her getting into pastoral care work.

“I credit my parents for my move from education into pastoral ministry,” said Sister Peg, who holds certification in pastoral ministry from La Salle University, Philadelphia, and a master’s degree in counseling.

Much of Sister Peg’s current pastoral care work is spent at Virtua Hospital, Marlton, visiting with patients, bringing them the Eucharist and “listening to them.” She also networks with other parish ministries as well as with St. Joan of Arc School students in other areas, such as providing ministry to shut-ins of the parish.

Of the certificate program, Sister Peg said she found it to be worthwhile and a “wonderful way” for her to update her skills.

Many times, people will say that they are “not worthy to do pastoral care work and “I’ll tell them that they are right. None of us are worthy,” she said.

“But the Lord has invited us as priestly people to reach out to each other and the need is certainly there with people who are shut-ins and those in the hospital or rehab facilities,” said Sister Peg. Even though pastoral care ministers are the ones “bringing the Lord to these people, and that is certainly a gift, we too are the ones who are also enriched.”

Another certificate recipient, Susan Ostmann of St. Joseph Parish, Millstone Township, said her journey to becoming a pastoral care minister stemmed from a personal experience. In 2001, she lost both her mother and grandmother to illness not only in the same year, but on the same day – within about 15 minutes of each other.

Instead of becoming angry, bitter and resentful, Ostmann decided to channel her energy into something positive that would allow her to help others who are dealing with grave family illnesses and grieving losses by getting involved in bereavement ministry and eventually in pastoral care ministry.

That experience, she said, “opened me up to really wanting to do this kind of work.”

In addition to her background as a nurse, a certified bereavement counselor and former participant in the diocesan bereavement training program, Ostmann for the past four years, has volunteered in St. Barnabas Hospice and Palliative Care Center, Long Branch. In addition to visiting with the residents in the facility, she also visits the sick in nursing homes as well as the homebound.

“I go wherever I’m needed,” she said, noting that her duties range from bringing the Eucharist to the patients, praying with them, and, most importantly, “just being present to them” and their families.

By participating in the diocesan Pastoral Care Certificate Program, Ostmann said she was able to broaden her pastoral care skills.

“The program gave me added confidence,” she said. “I feel more confident in my work with hospice,” she said.

Printed with permission from the Monitor, newspaper for the Diocese of Trenton, N.J.

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'John Paul II is blessed!' – Pope Benedict pays tribute to his predecessor

Rome, Italy, May 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has beatified Pope John Paul II. In a ceremony before hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in Rome he explained his great admiration and affection for his predecessor.

“John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous and apostolic faith.”

It’s estimated that two million pilgrims have descended on Rome for the occasion. The Pope told them that Blessed John Paul II, as he can now be called, had reinvigorated the Catholic Church following his election as pontiff in October 1978.

“By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel.”

“In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty. To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is ‘Redemptor hominis,’ the Redeemer of man.”

The presidents of Italy, Poland and Mexico were among some 90 heads of state and other dignitaries attending the beatification. Pope Benedict recalled for them the key role Blessed John Paul II’s pontificate played in the peaceful dismantling of communism.

“When Karol Wojtyla ascended to the throne of Peter, he brought with him a deep understanding of the difference between Marxism and Christianity, based on their respective visions of man. This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man.”

It was Blessed John Paul’s first papal visit to communist-controlled Poland in 1979 that many historians pinpoint as the beginning of the end for communism. Today in St. Peter's Square, the Polish flag was being waived everywhere by thrilled Poles.

“He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an ‘Advent’ spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace.”

On very personal note, Pope Benedict also recalled his 23 years in charge of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when worked closely alongside Blessed John Paul.

“I was at his side and came to revere him all the more. My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me.”

The coffin of Blessed John Paul II will now be on display in St. Peter’s Basilica until tomorrow to allow pilgrims to venerate him.

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Beatification crowd of one million fails to dampen spirits

Vatican City, May 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The estimated one million people in Rome for today’s beatification put many pilgrims far away from the actual celebration, but the distance could not supress their joy.

“We just wanted to be here. For me, John Paul is one of the greatest men who ever lived. He changed the world for every country. History has never seen his like,” says Mieczyslaw Olepra from New Ross in County Wexford, Ireland. He’s just driven over a 1,000 miles by car only to find himself down a Roman side street with no view of St. Peter’s.

“Is it worth being here despite the view? Yes. Absolutely. I’d like to have been closer but, well, we arrived a little bit late this morning. But it’s worth it. Yes.”

Having to watch on a big screen in the nearby Piazza del Risorgimento is William Ssenyondo. An accountant, he traveled to Rome all the way from Kampala, Uganda. 

“For me it doesn’t matter that I’m not in St. Peter’s Square. The fact is that Blessed Pope John Paul also walked on this street where I am sitting right now. So it’s quite an opportunity and blessing for me,” he says from beneath his umbrella in the baking morning sun.

Nearby, carrying a banner proclaiming “John Paul II - We ♥ U,” is a young mom named Kathy Hollingsworth and her daughter Livia. Originally from Arizona, Kathy is now a tour guide at the Vatican.

“My bedroom is just a block away over there and so from seven o’clock this morning we’ve been hearing music, pilgrims. We even looked out our window and found people in Renaissance costumes, which was kind of strange. But it’s fun. I talk about John Paul a lot on my tours. So it’s nice to be part of history here today and also to honor him in this way.”

Next to Kathy is the Burke family from Derry, Ireland. For the mother of the family Phil, this pilgrimage to Rome is her 60th birthday present from the family.  

“I’m just pleased to be here. It’s lovely, it really is. It’s very special. I’ll never forget it. Just the atmosphere and to know that John Paul is a saint. He was a lovely, gentle man. I’ll pray to him now.” 

The Burkes had made it to within the vicinity of St. Peter’s Square but planned to move out due to the density of the crowds.

It’s a similar story for Judy Petruskie from Manassas, Va. She now finds herself at the foot of the Via della Conciliazione, a distance away from the Vatican on the banks the Tiber River. Despite being so far away, she’s delighted to be here.

“It’s just a wonder to receive all the graces available from such a beautiful, wonderful Pope that we had. My memories of him are of his charisma and his wonderful, beautiful holiness.”

With Judy is Rosella Burkholder from Harrisburg, Penn. 

“It’s very special to be here today. I loved the part when the banner was unfurled. I was here for when Mother Theresa was beatified but missed the ceremony due to becoming ill. So I was really excited to be here for this today. It’s been a beautiful, wonderful experience. I love John Paul!”

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Blessed John Paul II celebrations happening worldwide

Rome, Italy, May 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Celebrations to mark the beatification of Pope John Paul II aren’t simply confined to Rome. Around the world, many other places have also been joining in.

In Poland, says Associated Press, over 120,000 people braved the rain at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in the Lagiewniki district of Krakow to watch events from the Vatican on giant screens.  Later a reliquary of Pope John Paul II’s blood was carried in procession to an outdoor altar where mass was offered.

“He earned this beatification and sainthood with his whole life,” 62-year-old Henryka Dudek told the AP. “We could not afford to go to Rome so we came here.”

Giant screens were also erected in city squares in central Krakow, Warsaw and Blessed John Paul’s hometown of Wadowice.  There, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his wife, Malgorzata, watched the events with local residents.

“I wonder what we would have been like and what would not have happened if we had not had our Pope,” Prime Minister Tusk said to PAP news agency. “All that good that we all have received is still working.”

Also present in Wadowice was the late pontiff’s school friend Eugeniusz Mroz, now aged 90.

“It is a great joy that my friend, with whom I went to school, is being counted among the blessed,” she said to PAP. “It is a great joy ... especially for the Poles that a man from Wadowice, John Paul II is being beatified.”

In Australia, large crowds turned out at St. Mary’s Cathedral in central Sydney to watch the beatification on a giant screen.

Following that, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney blessed a bronze statue of Blessed John Paul ahead of a special thanksgiving mass.

In the Philippines a popular church in the Quiapo district of Manila has put a relic of Blessed John Paul on display for people to venerate.

“Immediately after the last Mass on Sunday in honor of Pope John Paul II, we will have one of his relics venerated and kissed by the devotees,” Monsignor Jose Clemente Igancio, the parish priest of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene said.

The relic is a piece of cloth taken from one of Pope John Paul II's cassocks. Msgr. Ignacio obtained it while on a visit to the Vatican several years ago.

Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Manila officially marked the day with a 10 kilometer fun-run followed by Mass near Manila Bay. Sixteen-year-old medical student, John Paul Bustillo, was among the 3,000 athletes taking part.

“He (John Paul) was a model and an inspiration who united the world with his extraordinary charisma,” Bustillo said.

In Mexico, thousands of people gathered at giant screens at the country’s Virgin of Guadalupe Basilica in the capital, Mexico City.

Jorge Lopez Barcenas, a 70-year-old painter and body shop worker, traveled from central Hidalgo state to witness the beatification from the basilica.

“He was a person who elevated the faith,” the Associated Press quoted Lopez as saying. He says he saw the Pope during two of his five visits to the country.

Mexico was the third most-visited country by the Pope after Poland and France.

In India, Mount Carmel church in the Bandra Suburb of Mumbai held a special gospel concert on April 30, followed by the screening of the ceremony from Rome this morning, the Hindustan Times says. Father Warder D’Souza of Mount Carmel church says he already adopted Pope John Paul as the patron of the parish’s young people four years ago.

“Pope John Paul II was popular world-wide because of his love of the youth, and specially for us because he visited India (in 1986).”

Finally, all across the United States events are planned from coast to coast. In Denver, for example, Archbishop Charles Chaput is following Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception with a prayer service at the Blessed John Paul II statue in the southwest corner of the church. Meanwhile Bishop James Conley is hosting a beatification party for young adults.

And it’s not just Catholics marking the occasion. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has announced that it will mark the beatification with a permanent exhibition of the Center's Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. The installation will chart Pope John Paul’s friendship and solidarity with Jewish people says Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder and Dean of the Center.

“Pope John Paul II will always have a special place of honor in the hearts of Jews everywhere.  In our two private audiences with the Pope, we experienced firsthand the uniqueness of this great man; from the very beginning of his pontificate, the warmth of his interaction—particularly how he engaged in conversation with each of the Holocaust survivors who were members of our delegation.”

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Vatican bloggers convention about empowerment, says organizer

Vatican City, May 1, 2011 (CNA) - The Vatican hopes to harness the power of bloggers in order to “further the Christian message” at a May 2 conference.

The event is being hosted by the Pontifical Council for Culture. One of their key organizers is Richard Rouse. He told CNA that convention is not, as some bloggers have suggested, a Vatican attempt to centralize, command or control.

“No, there's no way we can control the blogosphere. Actually what we can do is we can harness some of its great power and dynamism in order to further the Christian message, the Gospel message, and it's important we do that.”

When the idea of a Catholic bloggers convention was first floated earlier this year it instantly attracted a great deal of online attention. Over 750 individuals applied to attend. Through a lottery, the number was whittled down to 150.

What does the Vatican hope to learn from attendees?

“We expect to have to face up to a new reality. There's a new way of communicating, a new way of relating, a new way of talking and expressing opinions and formulating community. It's important that the Church is part of that; we want to open ourselves up to this experience,” says Rouse.

The Vatican is already in the process of overhauling its online presence. Its various social communications outlets, such as Vatican Radio and the Vatican Press Office, are currently drawing their separate websites into one easy-to-find portal. Meanwhile the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, just overhauled its website and will include a daily news service in English.

If the Vatican knows what it wants from the meeting, what does it hope bloggers will take away from it?

“I hope that they will take away a sense that we are interested in them, not just as lurkers reading what they have to say, but also in a sense of a pastoral dialogue, of walking a road together, of understanding what it means to be human today, of what we can do together to make the world a better place, how we can form groups and associations, work in the spheres of politics, academic study, thought, develop our theology, develop our way of being part of the human community today,” Rouse explains.

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St. Athanasius, 'father of orthodoxy,' honored May 2

CNA STAFF, May 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics will honor St. Athanasius on May 2. The fourth century bishop is known as “the father of orthodoxy” for his absolute dedication to the doctrine of Christ's divinity.

St. Athanasius was born to Christian parents living in the Egyptian city of Alexandria in 296. His parents took great care to have their son educated, and his talents came to the attention of a local priest who was later canonized as St. Alexander of Alexandria. The priest and future saint tutored Athanasius in theology, and eventually appointed him as an assistant.

Around the age of 19, Athanasius spent a formative period in the Egyptian desert as a disciple of St. Anthony in his monastic community. Returning to Alexandria, he was ordained a deacon in 319, and resumed his assistance to Alexander who had become a bishop. The Catholic Church, newly recognized by the Roman Empire, was already encountering a new series of dangers from within.

The most serious threat to the fourth-century Church came from a priest named Arius, who taught that Jesus could not have existed eternally as God prior to his historical incarnation as a man. According to Arius, Jesus was the highest of created beings, and could be considered “divine” only by analogy. Arians professed a belief in Jesus' “divinity,” but meant only that he was God's greatest creature.

Opponents of Arianism brought forth numerous scriptures which taught Christ's eternal pre-existence and his identity as God. Nonetheless, many Greek-speaking Christians found it intellectually easier to believe in Jesus as a created demi-god, than to accept the mystery of a  Father-Son relationship within the Godhead. By 325, the controversy was dividing the Church and unsettling the Roman Empire.

In that year, Athanasius attended the First Ecumenical Council, held at Nicea to examine and judge Arius' doctrine in light of apostolic tradition. It reaffirmed the Church's perennial teaching on Christ's full deity, and established the Nicene Creed as an authoritative statement of faith. The remainder of Athanasius' life was a constant struggle to uphold the council's teaching about Christ.

Near the end of St. Alexander's life, he insisted that Athanasius succeed him as the Bishop of Alexandria. Athanasius took on the position just as the Emperor Constantine, despite having convoked the Council of Nicea, decided to relax its condemnation of Arius and his supporters. Athanasius continually refused to admit Arius to communion, however, despite the urgings of the emperor.

A number of Arians spent the next several decades attempting to manipulate bishops, emperors and Popes to move against Athanasius, particularly through the use of false accusations. Athanasius was accused of theft, murder, assault, and even of causing a famine by interfering with food shipments.

Arius became ill and died gruesomely in 336, but his heresy continued to live. Under the rule of the three emperors that followed Constantine, and particularly under the rule of the strongly Arian Constantius, Athanasius was driven into exile at least five times for insisting on the Nicene Creed as the Church's authoritative rule of faith. 

Athanasius received the support of several Popes, and spent a portion of his exile in Rome. However, the Emperor Constantius did succeed in coercing one Pope, Liberius, into condemning Athanasius by having him kidnapped, threatened with death, and sent away from Rome for two years. The Pope eventually managed to return to Rome, where he again proclaimed Athanasius' orthodoxy.

Constantius went so far as to send troops to attack his clergy and congregations. Neither these measures, nor direct attempts to assassinate the bishop, succeeding in silencing him. However, they frequently made it difficult for him to remain in his diocese. He enjoyed some respite after Constantius' death in 361, but was later persecuted by Emperor Julian the Apostate, who sought to revive paganism.

In 369, Athanasius managed to convene an assembly of 90 bishops in Alexandria, for the sake of warning the Church in Africa against the continuing threat of Arianism. He died in 373, and was vindicated by a more comprehensive rejection of Arianism at the Second Ecumenical Council, held in 381 at Constantinople.

St. Gregory Nazianzen, who presided over part of that council, described St. Athanasius as “the true pillar of the church,” whose “life and conduct were the rule of bishops, and his doctrine the rule of the orthodox faith.”

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Libyan Church leader says NATO bombings won't solve crisis

Tripoli, Libya, May 1, 2011 (CNA) - The apostolic vicar of Tripoli in Libya has called for NATO to stop its military involvement in the Libyan civil war. He said the violence is taking a heavy toll on civilians and failing to produce any resolution.

"The United Nations has decided to make war and to not allow any form of dialogue as a means of resolving disputes,” Bishop Giovanni I. Martinelli lamented on April 27. He described the escalation of fighting as “a defeat for humanity,” saying that “nothing will change” on account of the Western powers' intervention.

NATO leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, will meet next week in Italy to discuss strategies to fend off Colonel Moammar Gadhafi's attacks on civilians and provide support to rebels seeking regime change. On April 29, the Libyan government made a final offer of amnesty to rebels in the besieged city of Misrata, giving them four days to surrender as the army closed in.

“NATO and the rebels must stop the military intervention and accept diplomatic talks with the regime,” Bishop Martinelli told Fides news agency. In an April 28 interview, he said the bombing campaign, targeted toward military objectives, was making ordinary life impossible for civilians. “It is crazy to think of bombing a city without producing consequences on civilians … Can the U.N. do such a thing?”

What upset him most, he told Fides in an update during Holy Week, was the rejection of diplomatic means for ending the conflict between Colonel Moammar Gadhafi and the rebel forces – a prospect that may have  had greater chance of success before NATO bombings began. As it stands, the war “risks creating a destructive spiral from which it is difficult to escape.”

Bishop Martinelli recently told the Associated Press that most of Tripoli's 100,000 Catholics had fled the city, leaving around 5,000 adherents. The fighting has reportedly reduced Tripoli's Greek Orthodox community from 1,000 people to about a dozen, with Greek and Eastern European immigrants leaving Libya in droves.

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