Fort Wayne, Ind., May 15, 2011 (CNA) - “Since our life is indeed a pilgrimage, it is important always to keep in mind the destiny of that pilgrimage which gives meaning and purpose to our life on this earth: perfect life with God and all the saints, the blessed communion that fulfills our deepest human longings.
On this pilgrimage, we experience a foretaste of this definitive happiness through the embrace of truth, goodness and love.” These were the words of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who was keynote speaker at the University of Saint Francis commencement ceremony Saturday at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Sister Elise M. Kriss, a Sister of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration and president of the university, welcomed the nearly 400 graduates and their families and friends to “this memorable event.” Also in attendance were university trustees, faculty members and 50-year alumni of the graduating class of 1961. The Fort Wayne Area Community Band and the University Singers provided musical selections for the day’s events.
In introducing the speaker, university provost Dr. Rolf Daniel called him “a blessing to our university.” He noted that Bishop Rhoades was installed as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend just last year, having come from the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa.
Bishop Rhoades in turn thanked his listeners for the privilege of addressing them and said to the graduates, “How proud we are of you and this wonderful accomplishment.”
The bishop then acknowledged a lifelong devotion to the patron saint of their university, St. Francis of Assisi, and recommended that graduates follow the saint’s example in asking God, “Give me true faith, certain hope and perfect charity.”
The bishop congratulated the graduates on their achievements but reminded them they are embarking on a lifelong journey. He encouraged them to embrace truth, goodness and love along the way and gave them clear directives for doing so.
He reminded them that the pilgrimage of life is a search for truth, but it must be discovered through faith as well as reason. “The embrace of truth includes moral truth,” he said, and “the pursuit of goodness.” He especially praised their Catholic university education, for it is “not just about the attainment of knowledge, it is about the cultivation of virtue.” He added, “As beneficial as all your studies have been, they will only bear truly good fruit when accompanied by a moral life.”
Lastly, he invited graduates to walk the “journey of love.” He pointed out that the embrace of the beauty of love is intimately connected with the embrace of truth and goodness because love is the ultimate truth and the greatest expression of goodness.
In closing, Bishop Rhoades said, “Dear graduates, may you go forth from the University of Saint Francis as messengers of faith, agents of goodness and instruments of love as you continue your life’s journey.”
The program concluded with the presentation of degree candidates and their welcome into the alumni association, after which the University Singers presented the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and the university’s alma mater.
Following commencement, graduates, friends, family and faculty enjoyed a reception in the Century Room.
'Do not be afraid’
At the baccalaureate Mass, celebrated earlier in the morning by Bishop Emeritus John M. D’Arcy, and concelebrated by Father John Stecher, university chaplain, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Bishop D’Arcy spoke about the day’s Gospel from John 6:16-21: “We see Jesus Christ approaching the Apostles in a time of great turmoil, trouble and difficulty. This scene is repeated several times, Christ’s coming to them across the water, while they were in a storm. Over the centuries, the Church has always used this as an act of faith of Christ, in His presence in the Church and in the lives of each one of us at a time of trouble and difficulty and turmoil.”
In the Resurrection accounts, Bishop D’Arcy said Christ is always the One who approaches. Bishop D’Arcy said Christ is always approaching us — “Christ seeking to find His way into our hearts.”
“Do not be afraid. How many times in the Gospel do we hear that?” asked Bishop D’Arcy. The angel told Mary at the Annunciation, “Do not be afraid.” Bishop D’Arcy added that Blessed Pope John Paul II’s first words at his inaugural homily was “Do not be afraid.”
He spoke of the things that make us afraid — perhaps the fear of not finding a good job, the fear of not being successful in one’s profession, or the fear of not finding love — or not being able to give love or to receive love.
“Love is a gift. It comes to us in Baptism,” Bishop D’Arcy said. “The love of God for us, our love for Him, comes to us in Baptism.”
He spoke of the universal call to holiness. “Everybody is called to a life of holiness,” Bishop D’Arcy said. “It means believing in Jesus Christ and doing His will.”
That was the bishop’s hope for the students of the University of Saint Francis. “Doing the will of God, following Him, being close to Him,” Bishop D’Arcy said.
He encouraged the graduates to pray. “One overcomes fear by believing deep in the presence of God,” Bishop D’Arcy said. He encouraged the graduates to remain close to Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead and has overcome sin and death.
The bishop also offered the graduates his hope and prayer — taken from the Second Vatican Council — that the students learn to make a gift of themselves to others, to one another.
After Mass, Bishop D’Arcy greeted the graduates in front of the cathedral. While taking photos with classmates and family, Susan Maloney, of St. Therese Parish, Fort Wayne, expressed her joy. Maloney received a master’s degree in nursing and will be a nurse practitioner. She has been working on the degree for four years and has served as adjunct faculty for two years.
Of the program, Maloney said, “It’s great because it is Christ centered.” She plans to use her degree to serve in family practice, and is discussing work with a physician who reflects her Catholic values.
Maloney said she was thankful for her family support. Outside the steps of the cathedral she was surrounded by her husband, daughter, mother and niece.
Printed with permission from Today's Catholic News, newspaper for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind.
Vatican City, May 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict prayed for peace in both Libya and Syria following Sunday’s Regina Coeli.
“I continue to follow with great concern the dramatic armed conflict in Libya that has caused a high number of casualties and suffering, especially among the civilian population.
“I renew an urgent appeal that the paths of negotiation and dialogue prevail over those of violence, with the help of international organizations that are working toward finding a solution to the crisis,” he stated on May 15.
The Pope’s comments came on a day that other key figures called for an intensification of military action in Libya. The head of the U.K.’s armed forces, General Sir David Richards, said he wants to see bombing restrictions on NATO forces eased. He now wants to target direct attacks upon the infrastructure propping up the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
NATO’s military action is currently guided by the terms of the U.N. resolution which only permit the use of force in protecting civilians. The Pope said he’s praying for those innocently caught up in the conflict which has been ongoing since February when rebels first took up arms against Colonel Gaddafi.
“I assure you, also, my sympathy and prayerful commitment with which the Church assists the local population, particularly by religious in hospitals.”
The Pope then turned his prayers and thoughts to Syria.
“My thoughts also go to Syria, where it is urgent to restore a partnership geared towards harmony and unity. I ask God that there is no further bloodshed in the homeland of the great religions and civilizations, and urge the authorities and all citizens to spare no effort in seeking the common good and in accommodating the legitimate aspirations for a peaceful future and stability.”
Since March, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is estimated to have killed over 800 pro-democracy campaigners and imprisoned 10,000 others.
Washington D.C., May 15, 2011 (CNA) - Last week the U.S. Catholic bishops urged President Obama to act faster on his promises of federal immigration reform. In the meantime, they want Catholics to understand how the current patchwork of local laws is affecting 12 million people living and working in the country.
“Our position is that the system's broken,” said Kevin Appleby, Director of Migration and Refugee Policy at the U.S. bishops' conference. “The law needs to be changed.”
“We think that a lot of these people need to be brought out of the shadows. They've been working and contributing to society, despite the fact that they're out of legal status.”
The bishops, Appleby said, understand the importance of the rule of law – but they also see a fundamental injustice in the current state of affairs.
Almost all Americans, he explained, benefit from illegal immigrants' labor. But some citizens push for these same immigrants to be deported, and many others simply ignore the problem.
“We use their work, but we don't give them any protection of the law,” said Appleby. “If they're going to be working and contributing to the country, we have to give them that protection – we can't have it both ways.”
In recent years, the federal government has shifted much of its traditional responsibility for enforcing immigration law onto the states. Consequently, many states have begun to pass or consider measures targeting illegal immigrants, similar to those now being challenged in Arizona and Utah.
The states have also relied upon two local enforcement programs Appleby says are fraught with problems despite their good intentions – the Congressionally-authorized 287(g) program, and the Department of Homeland Security's Secure Communities initiative.
The first program authorizes local police to enforce federal immigration laws, while the second aims to prioritize the deportation of felons.
“We certainly agree with the goal of getting seriously criminal aliens out of the country, and the 'Secure Communities' program has that stated goal,” said Appleby.
The problem, he explained, is that “a lot of the people getting caught up in it haven't committed any offenses at all, other than being out of status.”
“Although the purported reason for this program is to deport criminal aliens, at least a third of the deportees have never committed a crime whatsoever,” he pointed out. If Secure Communities “worked properly,” he said the bishops “would have no problem with it. It's just not working properly.”
Secure Communities' failure to focus on the “worst of the worst” offenders is not the only problem. It's also made immigrant communities reluctant to cooperate with police at all, making many communities significantly less safe.
And, Appleby noted, it's diverted local police departments' attention away from their ordinary responsibilities, by saddling them with the task of enforcing federal immigration law.
“On the surface,” he said, the Secure Communities program “looks very reasonable. But when it's applied in local communities, there are some ill effects that really need to be scrutinized.”
But these programs, and state laws with similar or greater unintended effects, will most likely continue in the absence of comprehensive, nationwide immigration reform.
Appleby thinks the discussion about immigration reform should be refocused – from a gridlocked debate pitting humanitarian concerns against the rule of law, to a discussion about what is truly in the best interest of the United States.
“Those who are against immigration would make the argument that it's in their best interest that all these people go away,” Appleby acknowledged.
But he explained that the bishops consider this position shortsighted and impractical, as well as unfair.
“Immigrants, by and large, benefit our country. We need these immigrants, because they do a lot of things for our country that we need. But our laws aren't fit to make them legal.”
“Immigration reform may, in fact, be helpful over the long run for our economic future,” Appleby noted. He pointed out that it could help the U.S. government's own financial situation, by bringing underground sectors of the economy into the open where they can be taxed.
“Solving this problem is important to the common good of everyone,” he said.
Politicians, however, have plenty of incentive to accept the status quo.
“From Washington's perspective, it's working to have a hidden underclass doing these jobs,” Appleby observed. “It keeps the economy going, but we don't have to offer them the protection of the law. That's wrong.”
Denver, Colo., May 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic Church honors St. Bernardine of Siena on May 20. A Franciscan friar and preacher, St. Bernardine is known as “the Apostle of Italy” for his efforts to revive the country's Catholic faith during the 15th century.
Bernardine Albizeschi was born to upper-class parents in the Italian republic of Siena during 1380. Misfortune soon entered the boy's life when he lost his mother at age three and his father four years later. His aunt Diana cared for him afterward, and taught him to seek consolation and security by trusting in God.
Even at a young age, Bernardine demonstrated a remarkable concern for the poor as an outgrowth of his love for God. Having become accustomed to fasting, he preferred at times to go without any food in order to help someone in greater need. From the ages of 11 to 17 he focused on his studies, developing the eloquence and dedication that would serve his future work as an evangelist.
Before becoming a preacher, however, Bernardine spent several years ministering to the sick and dying. He enrolled in a religious association that served at a hospital in the town of Scala, and applied himself to this work from 1397 to 1400.
During that time, a severe plague broke out in Siena, causing a crisis that would eventually lead to the young man taking charge of the entire hospital. Inside its walls, up to 20 people were dying each day from an illness that also killed many of the hospital workers. The staff was decimated and new victims were coming in constantly.
Bernardine persuaded 12 young men to help him continue the work of the hospital, which he took over for a period of four months. Although the plague did not infect him, the exhausting work left him weak and he contracted a different sickness that kept him in bed for four months.
After recovering, he spent over a year caring for his aunt Bartholomaea before her death. Then the 22-year-old Bernardine moved to a small house outside the city, where he began to discern God's will for his future through prayer and fasting.
He eventually chose to join the Franciscans of the Strict Observance in 1403, embracing an austere life focused on poverty and humility. During this time, while praying before a crucifix, Bernardine heard Christ say to him: “My son, behold me hanging upon a cross. If you love me, or desire to imitate me, be also fastened naked to your cross and follow me. Thus you will assuredly find me.”
After Bernardine was ordained a priest, his superiors commissioned him to preach as a missionary to the Italians who were falling away from their Catholic faith. The Dominican evangelist St. Vincent Ferrer, just before leaving Italy, preached a sermon in which he predicted that one of his listeners would continue his work among the Italians – a prophecy Bernardine heard in person, and went on to fulfill.
Bernardine's personal devotion to God, which amazed even the strict Franciscans, made his preaching extremely effective. He moved his hearers to abandon their vices, turn back to God, and make peace with one another. He promoted devotion to the name of Jesus as a simple and effective means of recalling God's love at all times.
When other priests consulted him for advice, Bernardine gave them a simple rule: “In all your actions, seek in the first place the kingdom of God and his glory. Direct all you do purely to his honor. Persevere in brotherly charity, and practice first all that you desire to teach others.”
“By this means,” he said, “the Holy Spirit will be your master, and will give you such wisdom and such a tongue that no adversary will be able to stand against you.”
Bernardine's own life attested to this source of strength in the face of trials. He patiently suffered an accusation of heresy – which Pope Martin V judged to be false – and refused to abandon his bold preaching when a nobleman threatened him with death.
But Bernardine was also widely admired throughout Italy, and he was offered the office of a bishop on three occasions. Each time, however, he turned down the position, choosing to fulfill the prediction of St. Vincent Ferrer through his missionary work. Bernardine preached throughout most of Italy several times over, and even managed to reconcile members of its warring political factions.
Later in his life, Bernardine served for five years as the Vicar General for his Franciscan order, and revived the practice of its strict rule of life. Then in 1444, forty years after he first entered religious life, Bernardine became sick while traveling. He continued to preach, but soon lost his strength and his voice.
St. Bernardine of Siena died on May 20, 1444. Only six years later, in 1450, Pope Nicholas V canonized him as a saint.