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Archive of June 12, 2011

Refugees tell their tales of terror and hope

Salt Lake City, Utah, Jun 12, 2011 (CNA) - Fleeing war-torn countries and political persecution, refugees from all around the world come to the United States to find peace and to prosper. Through the years, 30,000 of them have been resettled in Utah.

On June 20 – designated as World Refugee Day by the United Nations – some of them will tell their stories at an event sponsored by Catholic Community Services.

"Refugees: The Real Story" will feature stories from a Rwandan refugee and a teenager who is in the refugee foster care program. Bishop John C. Wester, immediate past chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, will be a keynote speaker.

The event is intended to educate Utahns about their new neighbors, and give information about ways to volunteer or advocate for refugees, who are legal immigrants to the United States.

"The best way for the community to know about the refugees is hearing from the refugees – their stories," said Aden Batar, director of Immigration & Resettlement for CCS.

Batar knows first-hand the impact of such stories. The first Somali refugee to be settled in Utah through Catholic Community Services, he tells his story at schools and other venues, and "the response is always positive," he said. "It’s eye-opening for a lot of people."

In 1992, when civil war broke out in Somalia, Batar was a recent college graduate with a wife and son. Fearing for their lives, he and his family moved from place to place. "You have to make a decision within a second to decide where to go, because that could save your life," he said. "The next day, you don’t know where your meal’s going to come from or whether you will be alive or dead."

When their son died, Batar told his wife he would try to find a safe place for them and their second son, who at the time was only a few months old. He headed toward Kenya, walking across lands controlled by tribes that killed strangers who didn’t speak their dialect.

"If you’re not armed, you will be victimized," said Batar, who had nothing with him, not even a change of clothing. "All the odds are against you."

At one point, he was given a ride in a truck. A militia man stopped the truck and told the 10 passengers to separate themselves by tribal origin. Batar realized from the way the armed man spoke that he was a member of the same tribe as the others in the truck, so Batar joined the others, and the militia man told them to go on their way.

To cross the border from Somalia into Kenya, Batar squeezed himself into a cattle truck. The smell was horrible, he said, but he didn’t care; the cattle prevented the guards from seeing him.

Once in Kenya, he bribed an airplane pilot to bring his family to Nairobi. Two years later, a family member in Utah sponsored them to come to the United States.

Like Batar, many Rwandan refugees have suffered through war. The June 20 event is a way for CCS to reach out to the community "so we can get as much support as we can generate for refugees who are coming into our country," Batar said.

To that end, community leaders and legislators have been invited, said Janet Healy, agency volunteer coordinator for Catholic Community Services.

"Refugees: The Real Story" is one in a series of events throughout June, which is Utah Refugee Month. The month will include a variety of events, from a soccer tournament to art exhibits to a job fair. For information, visit refugee.utah.gov or utahrefugee.org.

Printed with permission from Intermountain Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

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St. Anthony of Padua, 'Hammer of Heretics,' honored June 13

CNA STAFF, Jun 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On June 13, Catholics will honor the memory of the Franciscan priest St. Anthony of Padua. Although he is popularly invoked today by those who have trouble finding lost objects, he was known in his own day as the “Hammer of Heretics” due to the powerful witness of his life and preaching.

The saint known to the Church as Anthony of Padua was not born in the Italian city of Padua, nor was he originally named Anthony. He was born in Lisbon, Portugal during 1195, the son of an army officer named Martin and a virtuous woman named Mary. They had Ferdinand educated by a group of priests, and the young man made his own decision to enter religious life at age 15.

Ferdinand initially lived in a monastery of the Augustinian order outside of Lisbon. But he disliked the distraction of constant visits from his friends, and moved to a more remote house of the same order. There, he concentrated on reading the Bible and the Church Fathers, while living a life of asceticism and heartfelt devotion to God.

Eight years later, in 1220, Ferdinand learned the news about five Franciscan friars who had recently died for their faith in Morocco. When their bodies were brought to Portugal for veneration, Ferdinand developed a passionate desire to imitate their commitment to the Gospel. When a group of Franciscans visited his monastery, Ferdinand told them he wanted to adopt their poor and humble way of life.

Some of the Augustinian monks criticized and mocked Ferdinand's interest in the Franciscans, which had been established only recently, in 1209. But prayer confirmed his desire to follow the example of St. Francis, who was still living at the time.

He eventually obtained permission to leave the Augustinians and join a small Franciscan monastery in 1221. At that time he took the name Anthony, after the fourth-century desert monk St. Anthony of Egypt.

Anthony wanted to imitate the Franciscan martyrs who had died trying to convert the Muslims of Morocco. He traveled on a ship to Africa for this purpose, but became seriously ill and could not carry out his intention. The ship that was supposed to take him to Spain for treatment was blown off course, and ended up in Italy.

Through this series of mishaps, Anthony ended up near Assisi, where St. Francis was holding a major meeting for the members of his order. Despite his poor health, Anthony resolved to stay in Italy in order to be closer to St. Francis himself. He deliberately concealed his deep knowledge of theology and Scripture, and offered to serve in the kitchen among the brothers.

At the time, no one realized that the future “Hammer of Heretics” was anything other than a kitchen assistant and obedient Franciscan priest. Around 1224, however, Anthony was forced to deliver an improvised speech before an assembly of Dominicans and Franciscans, none of whom had prepared any remarks.

His eloquence stunned the crowd, and St. Francis himself soon learned what kind of man the dishwashing priest really was. In 1224 he gave Anthony permission to teach theology in the Franciscan order –  “provided, however, that as the Rule prescribes, the spirit of prayer and devotion may not be extinguished.”

Anthony taught theology in several French and Italian cities, while strictly following his Franciscan vows and preaching regularly to the people. Later, he dedicated himself entirely to the work of preaching as a missionary in France, Italy and Spain, teaching an authentic love for God to many people – whether peasants or princes – who had fallen away from Catholic faith and morality.

Known for his bold preaching and austere lifestyle, Anthony also had a reputation as a worker of miracles, which often came about in the course of his disputes with heretics.

His biographers mention a horse, which refused to eat for three days, and accepted food only after it had placed itself in adoration before the Eucharist that Anthony brought in his hands. Another miracle involved a poisoned meal, which Anthony ate without any harm after making the sign of the Cross over it. And a final often recounted miracle of St. Anthony’s involved a group of fish, who rose out of the sea to hear his preaching when heretical residents of a city refused to listen.

After Lent in 1231, Anthony's health was in decline. Following the example of his patron – the earlier St. Anthony, who had lived as a hermit – he retreated to a remote location, taking two companions to help him. When his worsening health forced him to be carried back to the Franciscan monastery in Padua, crowds of people converged on the group in hopes of paying their homage to the holy priest.

The commotion surrounding his transport forced his attendants to stop short of their destination. After receiving the last rites, Anthony prayed the Church's seven traditional penitential psalms, sung a hymn to the Virgin Mary, and died on June 13 at the age of 36.

St. Anthony's well-established holiness, combined with the many miracles he had worked during his lifetime, moved Pope Gregory IX – who knew the saint personally – to canonize him one year after his death.

“St. Anthony, residing now in heaven, is honored on earth by many miracles daily seen at his tomb, of which we are certified by authentic writings,” proclaimed the 13th-century Pope.

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Catholic sculptor seeks to reflect God's work in his art

Sacramento, Calif., Jun 12, 2011 (CNA) - Ten years ago, Dave Hanson retired from his job as a corrections officer at California's Folsom State Prison. Now the 71-year-old works full-time to create sculptures of Padre Pio, St. Francis and other figures for schools and institutions across the country.

“At one point, I began to inquire about Padre Pio,” Hanson told CNA. “I knew only that he was a saint and had displayed the Lord’s stigmata. The more I studied him, the more committed I became.”

“After completing the bust, I was able to place copies in various Catholic schools in the Sacramento area, and am currently placing one at the Padre Pio Academy in Ohio,” he explained.

Hanson's years as a corrections officer made him want to bring beauty and goodness into the world through his art. But his Catholic faith also helped him see his “day job” as a calling from God.

“If you wish to provide a Christian service to someone, prison is the place to work,” he noted.

A turning point in Hanson's career came when he made a sculpture of an angel, in response to a heartbreaking case in which a mother was convicted of beating her son to death.

He inscribed the words, “Angels sleeping,” without knowing that a homeless children’s center would later place the statue close to where the children slept.

“It gives me chills to think about it,” he reflected. “God knew, and wanted that statement there.”

He continued to place his angel sculptures in various schools and children's areas while continuing his work at the prison.

Years before, Hanson said, visual art had become “lodged in his soul” when he discovered the world of classical masterpieces as a young man.

“I just kept practicing and taught myself how to sculpt through trial and error,” he remembered, with a soft chuckle.

After graduating from college, he ran his own statue and fountain manufacturing business in the 1970s. During those years, he became dismayed at the lack of moral leaders in the U.S. He felt compelled to present examples of virtue through his sculpting.

Hanson still hopes that his sculptures will reinforce what children have heard about the Catholic saints, providing “something good” to identify with in a culture that involved “so much death.”

“I believe that presenting characterizations of moral leaders just might generate some interest in commitment to leading a moral Christian life,” he said.

Hanson believes that Catholic art, in particular, is “utterly important” for modern society. He thinks often about Blessed John Paul II's 1999 “Letter to Artists,” which explains how “art should be used for the betterment of the Church and society in general.”

The growing popularity of Hanson's works does present a certain temptation to pride. “I try to resist that and give all the credit to God – that’s where is belongs. It’s hard to reach that point.”

What matters, he said, is for people to see God's work reflected in the work of the artist.

“Any talent I have has been developed as a result of God’s actions. I know that,” Hanson said gratefully.

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Pentecost shows universality of the Church, Pope declares

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pentecost shows the Holy Spirit created the Catholic Church for all people, Pope Benedict said in his homily to mark Pentecost Sunday, June 12.

“From the first moment, in fact, the Holy Spirit created (the Church) as the Church of all people. It embraces the entire world, transcending the boundaries of race, class, nation - it breaks down all barriers and unites people in the profession of the Triune God. From the beginning, the Church is one, catholic and apostolic,” said the Pope to a packed St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Pentecost is the one of the most prominent feast days in the Christian calendar. It is often referred to as the “birthday of the Church.”

It marks the day, nearly 2,000 years ago, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, who had been living in fear for 50 days following the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.

The Holy Spirit emboldened them and the apostles set forth to tell all people in Jerusalem of the Resurrection. As they spoke in tounges given to them by the Holy Spirit, all nationalities present could understand them in their own mother tongue.

“With this we are told something very important: that from the outset the universality of the Catholic Church is not the result of the inclusion of subsequent communities,” explained the Pope.
 
He added that the Catholic Church refers to itself as holy “not because of the merits of its members, but because God himself, with his Spirit, is always creating and sanctifying.”

The Pope explained it is the same Holy Spirit – as the third person of the Holy Trinity – who also reveals God to humanity first through creation, then through the incarnation of Christ and then through the founding of the Church. 

“The Church does not derive from human will, from reflection, from man’s ability and organizational capacity, and if that were so it would have become extinct a long time ago, like all human things,” he said.

Pope Benedict also used his homily to reflect on the nature of creation and revelation.

“For us Christians, the world is the result of an act of love of God, who made all things and who is pleased with all things because they are ‘good,’ ‘very good,’ as we remember the story of creation.

“God therefore is not totally ‘Other,’ unnamed and obscured. God reveals himself, has a face, God is right, God is will, God is love, God is beauty.

“Faith in the Creator Spirit and faith in the Spirit that the Risen Christ gave to the Apostles and gives to each of us, then, is inseparably joined,” Pope Benedict said. 

The Pope finished his Pentecost Sunday liturgy by singing the Regina Coeli – or Queen of Heaven – the traditional Easter season anthem to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In his address to accompany the Regina Coeli, he drew upon the words of the 19th century Italian priest, Blessed Antonio Rosmini, who explained, “in the day of Pentecost, the Christian God ... promulgated his law of love, writing with the Holy Spirit not on tablets of stone but in the hearts of the Apostles, and through the apostles, then communicating it to the whole Church.”

The Pope concluded by entrusting the Church to “the Virgin Mary, temple of the Holy Spirit” and imparting his apostolic blessing on the departing pilgrims.

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Business ethics is focus of upcoming Vatican summit

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The ethics of finance will take center stage at the Vatican next week as business leaders from around the globe arrive for a two day “Executive Summit on Ethics for the Business World” from June 16 to 17.

“As a Church we never yield to the status quo and never should stop provoking or taking people beyond the status quo,” Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the summit co-organizer Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told Vatican Radio June 10. 

He added that the Church should remind people of “the possibility of looking at things differently than to how they are used to do.”

“I guess that’s what it means to evangelize. To invite people to a level they’ve not thought of before.”

The discussion will largely focus on Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," whose title means "Charity in Truth." In the midst of global financial collapse, the encyclical advocated an ethics of finance rooted in the dignity of the person and the pursuit of the common good.

“I suppose there should be openness on the part of all to hear something new, to be challenged with something new,” the Ghanaian cardinal said about summit attendees arriving in Rome next week.

The cardinal said that if he speaks he will not address banking or law because that is not his area of expertise.

“But I can witness to the experience of other business people who, at a certain point, have had an experience of the Lord, of Christ, and have decided to do things differently.”
 
Cardinal Turkson said that only last month he came across a millionaire businessman in New York who had undergone a conversion experience and now is “putting whatever he makes at the service of the spread of the gospel.”

Other organizers of the upcoming summit are the Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum and the Fidelis International Institute. The event aims to promote ethical business practices in accordance with Christian social principles. 

Those business people who open themselves up to Catholic social teaching find it extremely stimulating, Cardinal Turkson said. The initiative is not the only one of its kind.

“I know, for example, in England there was an attempt to get bank executives together to study the aspects of the message of the Holy Father,” he added.

“Some have found it very enriching, very refreshing, very new, something they’ve never heard before.”

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