Archive of September 3, 2011

Making a difference: Volunteers offer the gift of service

Providence, R.I., Sep 3, 2011 (CNA) - The impact that volunteers make throughout the diocese and globally is endless. Answering a selfless calling of faith, individuals see summer service as an opportunity to build stronger communities, offer Christ-like compassion and change lives.

Jamie Chapman grew up volunteering in her hometown of Dacula, Georgia. The Portsmouth Abbey School student had always seen service as something simple, something she did to help people and the community, but a recent 10-day summer service trip to Lourdes, France changed the simplicity of the act.

“Volunteering in Lourdes has been the most humbling experience of my life,” the 17-year-old explained. “I volunteered to help the Hospital Pilgrims, but I feel as though they helped me on a much deeper level.”

After her conversion to Catholicism in 2009, Chapman found her new faith somewhat overwhelming. She felt called to pursue her faith by volunteering in France this summer for the Ampleforth Lourdes Hospitalite.

“I decided to volunteer in Lourdes to better understand what faith really means,” she said. “I needed to understand what these people had found in Lourdes that drove them so close to God, to be so reverent in their own faith.”

Chapman shared that volunteering has had a tremendous impact on her faith.

“God determined my path to allow me to come to know myself and him in Lourdes over ten days,” she said. “I came to Lourdes to find the faith. To find the people who could survive and persevere. To find the people I want to become.”

The Lourdes volunteer experience provided Joe Michaud, a 1990 Portsmouth Abbey alum from Maine, with great perspective and a strong spiritual foundation.

“It changed how I looked at the world,” he said. “And I felt that it was important to ensure other students could experience Lourdes firsthand, so I stayed involved.”

For more than 20 years, Michaud has continued to help high school students experience Lourdes, a place of prayer, reflection, and service.

“We take high school students and ask them to participate in a working pilgrimage,” he said. “ I am certain most of the students have no idea what they are getting themselves into. Spiritually and emotionally, the experience is one of the most eye-opening and important of their lives, and they go home renewed.”

At the collegiate level, eight Providence College students were recently awarded Father Philip A. Smith, O.P. Fellowships for Study and Service Abroad. Sponsored by the Office of Mission and Ministry, the Father Smith Fellowships encourage students to deepen their understanding of the Catholic and Dominican tradition and the philosophy of Christian service.

Providence College seniors, Kathryn McCann of Stewart Manor, N.Y. and Thomas Cody of Wilton, Conn., lived and worked with the Dominican Friars at St. Martin de Porres Priory in Kisumu, Kenya. They spent time teaching a wide range of ages and subjects at Our Lady of Grace School, helping out wherever and whenever they were needed.

McCann said that during her experience, she was reminded of the purpose of service work: to restore and affirm each person’s God-given dignity.

“I think volunteering and bearing witness to poverty and injustice have both challenged my faith and helped strengthen it,” she said. “If we have been blessed with material wealth, spiritual wealth and infinite other signs of God’s love for us, we must have faith and continue to work for peace and justice.”

Cody said that he came to realize the importance of learning from those he traveled so far to serve.

“I learned so much from the students at the school,” he said. “They have taught me the importance of hope and perseverance. Volunteering is not supposed to always feel good or be easy. It is a tough deal, but yields fruit if done with love. Often times you do not see the fruits of your labor until the end, if you are lucky. You need to have faith that you did God's work and he was able to work through you to touch someone's heart.”

The extraordinary efforts of local Catholics of all ages provide service to improve the lives of others, both in Rhode Island and abroad. This unselfish compassion can not only be found in youth on fire for the faith, but also from older Catholics devoted to service.

Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) is proof of this devotion. IVC provides men and women over the age of 50 the opportunity to grow deeper in faith as they serve the needs of people who are poor.

IVC New England Regional Director David Hinchen explained that this period of life can become a great opportunity to blend experience and skills, reasonably good health and increased available time, to reach out in service to others.

“It is a chance for many to use their gifts in a different way while simultaneously growing in their own spiritual awareness,” he said.

Volunteers commit to two full days per week of service for a 10-month period and take part in a spiritual reflection program based on the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

“Direct contact with individuals who have faced more than their share of hardship and challenge has made volunteers more empathetic to the poor and their world and of our common humanity,” he said. “Reflection and sharing with a community of other volunteers helps them to continue their effort to build a more just society.”

Larry Loh, who turned 67 in June, was placed as an IVC worker at the Genesis Center in Providence in July. Annually, the Genesis Center serves up to 600 individuals in its adult education and workforce development programs and up to 72 children in its childcare program.

After more than 35 years in a career in Information Systems in the semiconductor industry, the Medfield, Mass. resident decided that it was time to retire. He wanted more time to himself and for his family and was ready to do something different.

"I became a volunteer because, at this stage of my life, I feel a need to give back," he said. “I also have a selfish reason for volunteering. I miss work and the social interaction in working with people. I've always enjoyed belonging to an organization, working on a team, focusing on a common mission. My role here at the Genesis Center is one of financial counseling—to individuals or families who are struggling to secure employment and gain some form of financial stability."

For Loh, the greatest challenge is the ability to "start-over" and adapt. He believes that the rewards of volunteering come in small doses, from day-to-day, ordinary situations, in one-on-one personal interactions and when he accomplishes specific goals.

“I believe the work is its reward,” he said. “This new role has allowed me to get in touch with a whole segment of the impoverished in our society that I would probably never have gotten to know firsthand. I've learned to refrain from stereo-typing and judgments because, at the end of the day, I find that these are people just like you and I, other than the circumstances they were born into.”

Printed with permission from The Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence, R.I.

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Investigators release report on Kansas City diocese’s response to sexual misconduct

Kansas City, Mo., Sep 3, 2011 (CNA) - An independent investigation has issued its report into how Bishop Robert W. Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph mishandled claims of sexual misconduct and how the diocese may improve its response to such allegations.

“Our investigation identified shortcomings, inaction and confusing procedures, but we believe Bishop Finn and the leadership of the diocese understand the gravity of the issues and take these recommendations seriously,” said Todd P. Graves, the former U.S. Attorney who led the investigation.

The 141-page report, dated Aug. 31, found four shortcomings: the diocese’s gatekeeping function for addressing abuse was consolidated into a single administrative office; there was a failure to follow diocesan policy in a timely manner; officials relied on limited professional judgments rather than the diocese’s Independent Review Board; and the bishop misplaced trust in Fr. Shawn Ratigan’s agreement to comply with restrictions.

Fr. Ratigan, former pastor of St. Patrick Church, was arrested May 19, 2011 and charged with possessing child pornography.

In May 2010 the principal of his parish school raised concerns about his inappropriate behavior with children. In December 2010 he was removed from ministry and placed under restrictions after a technician found hundreds of suspicious photographs of children on his computer. He attempted suicide in December after the images were reported to the Church.

Msgr. Robert Murphy, the diocese’s vicar general, conducted what the report called “a limited and improperly conceived investigation” into whether a single image constituted child pornography.

Without seeing the image, the vicar general solicited an opinion from a review board member. He also shared the images with the diocese’s legal counsel and received an opinion that “a single disturbing image” did not constitute child pornography.

Instead of referring the matter to the review board for a more thorough investigation, Msgr. Murphy allowed these answers to satisfy the diocese’s duty for diligent inquiry.

“Although Bishop Finn was unaware of some important facts learned by Msgr. Murphy or that the police had never actually seen the pictures, the bishop erred in trusting Fr. Ratigan to abide by restrictions the  Bishop had placed on his interaction with children after the discovery of the laptop and Fr. Ratigan’s attempted suicide,” the report stated.

A federal grand jury later charged Fr. Ratigan with 13 counts of production, attempted production and possession of child pornography, the Kansas City Star reports.

On June 2, in an unrelated case, the diocese suspended Fr. Michael Tierney from ministry over abuse allegations dating back three decades.

The report recommended that any diocesan employee or volunteer who receives a report of current abuse involving a minor must report it to the police and to the state Division of Family Services whether or not he or she is a mandated reporter. The  Independent Review Board should be notified of all reports, as should the diocesan ombudsman.

The diocese should take greater steps to offer victim support and to notify the public about priests removed from ministry due to credible allegations of child abuse, the report said.

In a June 3 message to his diocese, Bishop Finn said he took “full responsibility” for the failures in response to the Fr. Ratigan case.

“Clearly, we have to do more. Please know that we have, and will continue to cooperate with all local authorities regarding these matters,” he said in his apology.

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Upcoming memorials to honor victims, families of 9/11 terrorist attacks

New York City, N.Y., Sep 3, 2011 (CNA) - Americans are planning to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and pay tribute to the victims and their families with both secular and religious ceremonies, including a Mass in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“There's a sense of anxiousness – people are going to be setting foot on the World Trade Center site for the first time in 10 years,” New York City's official 9/11 Memorial representative Sarah Lippman told CNA.

“But while I think there's certainly a sense of remorse and remembrance for what happened, there's also a sense of hope and a spirit of rebuilding,” she added.

Lippman said that the unique and vivid Ground Zero memorial will open to the families of victims for a special ceremony on Sept. 11 and then to the general public on Sept. 12.

In an exclusive interview, she described the design of the eight-acre memorial, which includes a plaza with over 200 oak trees and two large reflecting pools with 30-foot waterfalls.

The pools are an acre in size each, sit “within the footprints of the original twin towers” and “have the largest man-made waterfalls in America,” she said.

Both waterfalls pour into the granite lined pools, each of which have another 20-foot drop in the center.

“The design is titled 'Reflecting Absence' and I think that's exactly what they do – they give you a scope of what was here by being so massive and being an acre in size each,” Lippman said.

“Because of how deep they go, you get a sense of the loss but at the same time there's water continuously flowing through the pools which is a sign of peace and tranquility.”

Lippman also noted that the victims' names – both from 9/11 and the 1993 terrorist bombing in New York City – are inscribed in bronze on the granite and are organized by what she called “meaningful adjacencies.”

“Unlike any other memorial in the world, the names are not arranged alphabetically or even chronologically – they're arranged by relationships people shared in life.”

She also said that a 9/11 Memorial museum is in the process of being built and is expected to open in September of 2012. The museum on the site will extend three stories high vertically, but will also plunge seven stories below ground and feature extensive historical exhibits and artifacts.

Lippman said that the opening of the memorial on Sept. 11 strives to honor victims in light of the 10th anniversary of the attacks but also shows the hope inherent in the process of rebuilding.

“I think there's a sense of resilience in this country and I think that's something that a lot of people here are proud of,” she said.

“We're all taken back to those days before 9/11 where there was such a sense of patriotism and unity amongst all Americans, not only New Yorkers. It was really felt across the nation and across the world.”

Catholic Ceremonies

Catholic communities in the Northeast are also coming together in the next week to pay tribute to the victims of the Sept.11 attacks.

At St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, a Mass of Remembrance will unite over 2,500 people on Sept. 10 and will be presided over by the Vatican observer to the United Nations Archbishop Francis Chullikatt.

The event will feature Gregorian chant sung by renowned musical group Pueri Cantores as well as local children's choirs.

Organizer Jan Schmidt said that the archbishop's presence shows the Vatican's solidarity with the American Catholic community as they grieve.

“Archbishop Chullikatt,” Schmidt noted, “is a man of great kindness, intelligence and humor who has a deep passion for youth and excellent music.”

“It's a distinct honor for our singers, their families and the 9/11 families to have him with us at this Mass. He is an extraordinary leader in our Church,” Schmidt said.

In Baltimore, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary plans to honor victims with a solemn Vespers service on Sept. 11, led by local Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien.

“People in the East Coast, given their proximity to New York, Pennsylvania and D.C., have a special appreciation for the horror of 9/11 because they likely know someone personally impacted by the terrorist attacks because they lived there, worked there or were visiting there,” archdiocesan spokesman Sean Caine said.

Caine said that the evening's service will consist of “the nightly evening prayer of the universal Church,” including hymns, Scripture readings, prayers and a homily from Archbishop O'Brien.

“Just as many people did that day and in the days that followed, people are expected to turn to their faith – whatever it is – and seek comfort for their grief, loss and sense of vulnerability and fear,” Caine added.

“It is our hope that people, regardless of faith, find some comfort in the welcoming and prayerful presence of our Catholic churches at this time.”

Also attending the Vespers service will be auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden and six pastors from  neighboring Catholic parishes.

Although Caine said the number of expected attendees is unknown, invitations have gone out to the entire “ecumenical community” in the downtown area.

“The victims of 9/11 and their families have a special claim on our prayers,” Caine remarked.

“Their unspeakable suffering is ours to share with them, and on this anniversary in particular, we should welcome the opportunity to mourn with them, to remember with them and to pray with them and for their loved ones.”

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Vatican says charges it meddled in Irish abuse cases are ‘unfounded’

Vatican City, Sep 3, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican has issued a detailed response to a report charging that Irish Church officials in the Cloyne Diocese mishandled allegations of abuse by priests.

But it denied accusations that it deliberately disrupted the Irish government’s efforts to bring priests to justice in Ireland.

“The Holy See does not accept that it was somehow indifferent to the plight of those who suffered abuse in Ireland,” the Vatican said in a 25-page formal response delivered to the Irish government. 

In the wake of the July 13 “Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny attacked the Vatican in a highly charged speech in the Irish parliament.

Kenny said the report “exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic … and … excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism … the narcissism that dominates the culture of the Vatican.”

The parliament on July 27 passed a motion accusing the Vatican of “the undermining of the child protection framework and guidelines of the Irish State and the Irish Bishop.”

Ireland’s government then requested an official response from the Vatican. 

The Vatican response called the charges “unfounded.” 

“The Cloyne Report itself contains no statement that would lend support to Mr. Kenny’s accusations,” the Vatican said.

“In fact, accusations of interference … are belied by the many reports cited” in the Cloyne Report, the Vatican said. These reports “contain no evidence to suggest that the Holy See meddled in the internal affairs of the Irish state or, for that matter was involved in the day-to-day management of Irish dioceses or religious congregations with respect to sexual abuse issues.”

The Vatican suggested that the Cloyne report – and the Irish government’s response – reflect misunderstanding of how the Church’s canon law works and the extent of the Vatican’s day-to-day authority over local bishops in the Church.

“The Holy See wishes to make it quite clear that it in no way hampered or interfered in the Inquiry into child sexual abuse cases in the Diocese of Cloyne. Furthermore, at no stage did it seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties. …The Holy See expected the diocesan authorities to act in conformity with Irish civil law. It should also be noted that the (Cloyne Report) acknowledges ‘the full co-operation it received from all parties involved in the investigation and their legal advisers.’” 

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