Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2011 (CNA) - The Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary are featured in the upcoming movie “The Mighty Macs,” an inspirational true story about a small, women’s college basketball team that defies all odds and achieves victory.
“We gave the sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary final approval of the script,” said director Tim Chambers.
“So in many ways, they collaborated with us to tell a story that just had a values-based infrastructure.”
“The Mighty Macs” is based on the true story of the early 1970s women’s basketball team at Immaculata College in Philadelphia. The small all-women’s Catholic college seemed to have no hope at competing for a national championship. But led by coach Cathy Rush, the women on the team learned that they could overcome all obstacles and achieve their dream.
Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters run Immaculata College and are portrayed as major characters in the film.
“The Mighty Macs” won awards at several film festivals, including the International Family Film Festival and the John Paul II International Film Festival. It opens in theaters across America on Oct. 21.
“I think it was important for us to give kids today a choice,” said Chambers in an Oct. 14 media interview before the premiere of the movie.
He explained that he wanted to make an inspiring sports film for girls but wanted it to be a movie for all ages. The film was given a “G” rating by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Chambers added that he tried “not to be too preachy” with the film because he thought people would not respond well if the movie came across as a “sermon of sorts.”
Instead, he explained that he focused on making a movie that was “faith friendly” and “family friendly,” in which the message was portrayed by the characters’ actions.
“For me as a Catholic, I’d rather people evaluate me on how I act rather than what I say,” he said.
Theresa Shank Grentz, an original member of the winning Mighty Mac’s basketball team, said that the story of the Mighty Macs was overshadowed by God’s guidance.
“There was a lot of Divine Providence from the beginning,” she said.
Grentz said that the members of the Mighty Macs still maintain a close friendship. She attributes this to the fact that they built a “virtuous friendship” during their days at Immaculata College.
“A virtuous friendship is built upon the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude,” she said. “That is going to last. And that’s what happened here.”
“We made each other better.”
She also spoke about the influence of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary during her college years.
“They were a big part of our lives,” she said. “They formed us.”
Sister Marian William Hoben, an Immaculate Heart of Mary sister, taught at Immaculata College for 44 years, including during the Mighty Macs’ glory days in the 1970s.
The 88-year-old sister praised the movie.
“I can’t think of anybody that wouldn’t gain something from it,” she said. “I think that is such a great movie.”
Mombasa, Kenya, Oct 19, 2011 (CNA) - The Catholic Archbishop of Mombassa has supported Kenyan military efforts to counter the Al-Shabaab militia in Somalia, but he advises a prudent response.
“We have a responsibility to defend ourselves, hence I support the troops getting into Somalia,” Archbishop Boniface Lele told the Catholic Information Service for Africa on Oct. 18.
Kenya publicly declared an attack on Al-Shabaab Oct. 16, two days after armed militants kidnapped two Spanish aid workers with the group Doctors without Borders from the Dadaab refugee camp, which houses almost 500,000 Somalis.
On Oct. 1, Somali gunmen took a wheelchair-bound Frenchwoman from her home near the resort town of Lamu.
Somali insurgents said Kenya should immediately withdraw from Somalia or face a “bloody war.” They charged that the allegations that they posed a significant threat were a pretext for the military incursion. They accused Kenya of forcibly recruiting refugees and training militia along the border for several years and of interfering in Somalia’s internal and external affairs.
They warned the Kenyan public that the decision to send Kenyan troops across the border will not be without severe repercussions. The group also denied all charges relating to the kidnapping of tourists and aid workers from Kenya.
On Oct. 18 Somali militants prepared to defend the southern Somalia town of Afmadow from advancing Kenyan and Somali government troops. A suicide car bomb killed six people in the capital of Mogadishu during a visit by a Kenyan minister.
The incursion of Kenyan troops could invite reprisals, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn told Reuters.
The military conflict comes during a massive drought and hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. Millions of people have been displaced and are in need of emergency assistance.
Ontario, Canada, Oct 19, 2011 (CNA) - Two Canadian Catholics – one priest and one layman – have launched a new journal aimed at starting an intellectual dialogue on the public role of religion in their country.
The new publication “Convivium” kicked off the discussion with its introductory October 2011 volume.
“The Convivium project is 'really all about God,'” the non-denominational magazine's Catholic publisher Peter Stockland writes in his introductory letter to the first issue.
“But borrowing further from Pope Benedict's World Communications Day message, it is also about linking God in the real world 'to the real faces of our brothers and sisters, those with whom we share our daily lives.'”
“Our objective is to address matters and present writing of a standard that communicates the need for reflection, debate and engagement,” writes Stockland. He aims not for a mass audience, but for “a robust and enriched community of readers” seeking thoughtful commentary on faith and society.
Joining Stockland in the endeavor, sponsored by the Cardus Centre for Cultural Renewal, is Editor-in-Chief Father Raymond de Souza. A parish priest and Queen's University economics professor, Fr. de Souza has written for publications including Canada's National Post and the National Catholic Register.
The magazine represents one part of a larger project that will include public lectures, seminars, and other meetings meant to strengthen religious believers' public presence.
The Cardus Centre wants the Convivium Project – in its literary, electronic, and offline dimensions – to be a “community that that connects citizens committed to the renewal of Canadian culture and our common life.”
Convivium's first issue features National Post religion reporter Charles Lewis' thoughts on faith and journalism, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Predergast's reflections on the upcoming new Mass translation, New Democrat MP Bill Blaikie's outlook on the “religious Left,” and a feature on “The Torments of China's Religious Believers” of various traditions.
Along with his “Small Talk” column offering notes on a range of news items, Fr. de Souza writes a “continuing survey” of cultural trends in his “From Sea to Sea” section. Its first installment includes discussions of Canadian Catholic convert and intellectual Marshall McLuhan, and the career of late New Democratic leader Jack Layton.
In an interview published in Convivium's inaugural issue, Cardus Centre president Michael Van Pelt says his Christian think-tank wants to “target a public intellectual community in Canada that has the ability and the desires to discuss topics that range from politics to religion to culture.”
“That public intellectual dialogue isn't happening in Canada,” Van Pelt says.
He believes the project of changing Canada's culture for the better requires serious thought and sustained discussion.
“Actions, whether good or evil, are very rarely rooted in a spontaneous idea,” Van Pelt observes in the interview. “Most often they're rooted in ideas that have been bandied about and talked about for many, many years.”
“Poetry is written about them. They inspire all kinds of art and other cultural forms. Debates range in the pub over them. And then suddenly they're done. But the conversation came first.”
“We want Convivium to be a place where that conversation takes place in Canada.”
Valencia, Spain, Oct 19, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - Archbishop Carlos Osoro of Valencia has opened the beatification cause of a Carmelite nun from the Spanish town of Ontinyent.
The opening of the cause of Maria Carmen Crespo Roig took place Oct. 15 at the Monastery of the Most Precious Blood, where she spent 65 years. A diocesan tribunal will now collect information on whether she lived a life of virtue to “a heroic degree.”
Once the diocesan phase is concluded, the testimonies will be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in Rome, where they will be studied before an official declaration is made.
Sister Maria Carmen Crespo Roig, or Teresa of the Incarnation, was born in Beniarres, Spain on March 25, 1912. “From a young age she was very involved in the life of her parish and worked tirelessly in its activities and movements,” the Archdiocese of Valencia said.
During the Spanish Civil War in 1936, she risked her life to help priests and nuns who were in need of assistance. In 1941, she entered the Carmelite convent at Ontinyent, “where she lived for the Church and the salvation of souls” until her death on Feb. 4, 2006.
“Day after day, during her 93 years of life and 65 years as a religious, Maria Carmen Crespo learned to offer her joys and sufferings to God in good spirits.” As a Carmelite, “she was an example to her religious sisters and to those she met with and were her friends,” the archdiocese said.
She also patiently bore her sufferings, as she was of frail health from a young age. At the end of her life, she suffered both from a stroke that left her unable to move and from cancer.
Her cause, opened just five years after her death, has been one of the fastest in the Archdiocese of Valencia, thanks to the efforts of her own religious community. The recognition of her holiness quickly passed beyond the walls of the convent to the entire world, and many invoke her intercession, the archdiocese stated.
Bismarck, N.D., Oct 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On Oct. 19, Pope Benedict appointed Msgr. David Kagan from the Rockford, Ill. diocese as the new Bishop of Bismarck, N.D.
Bishop-elect Kagan, 61, will succeed Bishop Paul A. Zipfel who has served as leader of the diocese since 1997. The Pope also accepted Bishop Zipfel’s resignation, which he submitted at the mandatory retirement age of 75.
Msgr. Kagan was born in Waukegan, Ill., and raised in Spring Grove. He holds an M.A. in Sacred Theology and a licentiate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
He was ordained a priest in Rockford, Ill. in 1975, and has served at a number of parishes in the diocese as a teacher, parish pastor and parochial administrator.
The bishop-elect was created a Prelate of Honor of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II in 1994 and was admitted to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem as a Knight Commander in 1995.
In June of this year, he was elevated to the title of Protonotary Apostolic Super Numerary of the Supreme Pontiff, which is the highest level of honor for a monsignor.
Bishop-elect Kagan's ordination and installation are scheduled for Nov. 30 at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck.
As the seventh Bishop of Bismarck, he will shepherd a population 270,000, of which 65,000 are Catholic.
Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 70, was appointed today by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as his official representative to the United States.
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the appointment “yet another sign” of the great care the Pope has for the U.S. and its Catholic community.
“As the personal representative of our Holy Father, you will serve as a continuing sign to us of that source of renewal and hope that Pope Benedict brought to our country,” said Archbishop Dolan in an Oct. 19 letter welcoming the new nuncio.
Archbishop Viganò will succeed Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died in July from complications that developed after he underwent lung surgery.
As papal nuncio, he will serve as the Pope’s personal representative to the Church in the United States. He will carry out diplomatic duties and will also play an important role in selecting new bishops in the U.S.
The position of papal nuncio to the United States is viewed as a key diplomatic position for the Vatican.
Born in the northern Italian town of Varese, Archbishop Viganò was ordained a priest in 1968 and entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1973. He has served in diplomatic missions to Iraq, Great Britain and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.
The archbishop has also served as the nuncio to Nigeria, and he has worked for more than a decade in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
Most recently, he has served for two years as secretary-general of the commission governing the Vatican city-state.
In his Oct. 19 letter, Archbishop Dolan recalled Pope Benedict’s comments during his 2008 visit to the United States. The Holy Father noted the “excellent contribution” of American Catholics to their country and expressed hope that his visit might bring “renewal and hope for the Church in the United States.”
The archbishop pledged the “prayerful support” of the United States bishops as Archbishop Viganò begins his mission of continuing that renewal of the American Church.
With nearly four decades of diplomatic service for the Holy See, the new papal nuncio possesses “a depth of understanding of the role of the Church in a pluralistic society,” said Archbishop Dolan.
He added that the Church in the U.S. will benefit from Archbishop Viganò’s “training in both canon law and civil law.”
“They will enable you to see the intricacies involved in representing the Holy Father in both the Church and diplomatic worlds, especially now as they are lived out in America’s democratic society,” he said.
Archbishop Dolan also invited the new nuncio to attend the fall plenary session of the U.S. Bishop’s Conference in Baltimore this November.
“The meeting is a moment of prayer, business and fellowship and we look forward to welcoming you on this occasion,” he said.
Vatican City, Oct 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims at this week’s general audience that Psalm 136 summarizes the loving plan of God manifested throughout history.
“This is a great hymn of praise to celebrate the Lord in the multiple repeated manifestations of his goodness throughout the history of man,” the Pope said to over 30,000 pilgrims gathered Oct. 19 in St. Peter’s Square.
He explained how the psalm is known as the “Great Hallel” and is traditionally sung at the conclusion of the Passover meal because it retells the story of God’s creation, the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt, 40 years of exile in the desert and subsequent entry into the Promised Land.
“As such, it was probably sung by Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper,” the Pope said, pointing towards the passage in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew that says, “after they had sung a hymn, they went to the Mount of Olives.” It is therefore a “horizon of praise” that “illuminates the difficult road to Golgotha.”
The psalm is composed as a litany with each historical event of God saving his people being met by the repeated refrain, “for his steadfast love endures forever.”
Linguistically, the Pope pointed out that the Hebrew word used for “love” in this refrain “implies faithfulness, mercy, goodness, grace, tenderness.”
This constant love of God is initially recalled in the psalm in his creation of the heavens, the earth, the stars and day and night. These “great wonders,” said the Pope, remind us that “it is God’s faithful love, in fact, which is revealed in the ordered beauty of the universe.”
That same divine love also led the Jewish people safely out of bondage in Egypt under God’s “mighty hand and outstretched arm,” even through the dangerous waters of the Red Sea.
“The image of the Red Sea ‘split’ into two,” said the Pope, “seems to depict the sea like a huge monster that is cut into two pieces, and so rendered harmless.”
Even during the following 40 years spent in desert wilderness, Psalm 136 still finds the love of God at work. They were four decades, the Pope explained, in which the Jewish people “guided by the Lord,” learned “to live by faith, obedience and docility to God’s law.” And even though they were “difficult years, marked by the harshness of life” they were also “happy years, of confidence in the Lord, of filial trust,” he said.
Those years were also ones in which the Lord “led his people, educated and loved them,” and ultimately led them to the Promised Land.
This was the beginning of a “happy time of stability” with the “joy of building houses, planting vines, living in security and peace,” explained the Pope. It was also, however, a “time of temptation to idolatry,” and of “contamination with the Gentiles.”
And yet, reflected the Pope, the constant love of the Lord stays with his chosen people despite their failings. This is so much the case that “in the fullness of time, the Son of God became man to give his life for the salvation of every one of us,” and gave “himself as the bread in the Eucharistic mystery,” so that all humanity can enter into his covenant as his adopted children.
“As we sing this great litany of God’s mighty works, we give thanks that the depth of his steadfast and merciful love was fully revealed in the coming of his only-begotten Son,” Pope Benedict said.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 19, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Juan Ruben Martinez of Posadas, Argentina recently lamented the “unusual” contempt for maternity expressed by many authority figures.
The bishop’s words came in a message for Mother’s Day in Argentina, celebrated Oct. 16.
In those environments associated with positions of authority, he explained, “(w)e can see an unusual scorn for maternity, which is seen as a problem and not as a gift of God and a value of life.
“It is a sign of our times that harms human dignity itself.”
“Today we wish to celebrate motherhood and the family, the marvelous capacity God has given man and woman to procreate, and the gift of being a mother always dignifies a woman. We want to pray for our mothers, for those who are still with us and those who have already departed to God the Father’s house,” he said.
Bishop Martinez explained that certain “supposedly progressive” sectors are influenced by international capitalist organizations that seek to turn the law against women and the rights of the unborn.
After noting that the Church in Argentina is celebrating the Year of Life in 2011, Bishop Martinez stressed that life is a wonderful gift from God.
“As bishop I encourage everyone to assume responsibility and leadership. As Christians and citizens we must take on these vital issues in order to create a culture with an outlook of hope,” he said.
Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2011 (CNA) - Catholics and other advocates are urging Congress and the White House not to let partisan politics to put an end to the vital work of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“The reality is that there’s a global crisis in religious freedom,” said Dr. Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.
“Congress is being irresponsible and so is the administration,” Farr told CNA on Oct. 18.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by Congress in 1998.
With funding set to expire at the end of September, the House of Representatives on Sept. 15 voted overwhelmingly, 391-21, to fund the agency for two more years.
However, according to press reports, a single unknown senator has put a “hold” on the bill, preventing it from coming to a vote in the Senate. The anonymous senator is not disclosing any reason for his actions.
Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, said that if the “secret hold” is not lifted by Nov. 18, the Senate will not be able to act, and the commission will come to an end.
Shea has served as one of the commissioners for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom since 1999.
In an Oct. 17 article for the National Review Online, Shea described the commission as “a bold voice within the government” and pointed to its successful advocacy for religious minorities in countries including Sudan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Shea said that the commission’s “biggest contribution may simply be representing in the darkest, most closed corners of the world America’s bedrock belief – the individual’s inalienable right to religious freedom.”
Farr believes that the situation is also clearly a humanitarian problem, given that tens of millions of people are “subject to violent persecution because of their religious beliefs or those of their tormentors.”
Farr, who served as the first director of the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom from 1999 to 2003, added that there was also a beneficial “strategic dimension” to America’s religious freedom policy.
He explained “that to promote religious freedom is to help democracies consolidate. And to promote religious freedom is to undermine religion-based terrorism.”
“So on both of those accounts – humanitarian and strategic – this is precisely the wrong time in history to allow the commission to be disbanded, or in fact, to disband it,” he said.
Farr also observed that attempts to weaken the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom have already taken place.
He noted that the bill to reauthorize the commission originally included amendments to the International Religious Freedom Act that would have “forced the State Department to pay more attention to this issue.”
“Those amendments have been stripped from the bill,” he stated.
Farr explained that one of the amendments that has been removed would have moved the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom to the office of the Secretary of State, “which is where, historically, all other ambassadors-at-large have been.”
He said that this move would have shown the government’s commitment to the issue of religious freedom across the globe.
Farr attributed the opposition to extending the life of the commission to “absolute indifference to the crisis which is going on in the world.”
“I can think of no other explanation for it,” he said.
“Congress could reauthorize the commission and compel the Obama administration to take this issue seriously. Congress is doing neither.”
Vatican City, Oct 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The bishops of Australia will issue a joint statement on the troubled diocese of Toowoomba, and it may be published as early as this weekend.
“I don’t think anybody has a magic wand that is going to immediately heal the wounds of division,” Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra said to CNA. At the same time, he said the bishops “are preparing a statement which I think will be an important moment and we will offer to everyone the fruits of our discussions and reflections here.”
Archbishop Coleridge is currently in Rome along with the majority of his fellow Australian bishops for their regular “ad limina” meeting with the Pope at the Vatican, Oct. 10-22.
In May 2011, Pope Benedict dismissed Bishop Bill Morris of Toowoomba for his long track record of dissent from Catholic teaching and practice. The diocese is currently without a bishop.
Over the past week the Australian bishops have held discussions regarding the situation in Toowoomba with both Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Archbishop Coleridge said the talks “went very positively” and “surpassed” their expectations.
“Some of the older hands among the bishops said they were the most substantial, serious and candid discussions they can remember in all their years of coming to ad limina visits,” he said.
The subsequent statement, which he hopes can be produced by the end of this week, will now “try to offer the fruits of those discussions” both in words and in “pastoral action” to be implemented upon the bishops’ return to Australia.
He said he did not want give too many details about what the statement will contain but he did confirm that the Vatican discussions focused on “the nature of the communion of the Church, and in particular, the communion that exists between the Pope and a diocesan bishop.”
In recent weeks, several lay Catholics in the Toowoomba have expressed surprise that Bishop Morris still seems to have a high profile in the diocese. His activities have included giving a public lecture, in-service talks to teachers and officiating at parish anniversaries.
“I hope that won’t continue,” said Cardinal George Pell of Sydney to CNA. “And if he is a loyal man of the Church he’ll realize that this is totally inappropriate and that won’t continue. That is my hope.”
As for priests in the Toowoomba diocese who are keen to continue dissenting, Cardinal Pell said he hopes “that Bishop Morris will remind them of their duties to get on with life and serve the people” when their next bishop is appointed. No timescale has been given for that appointment.
Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, President of the Australian Bishops’ Conference, said he didn’t want to “comment personally on Bishop Morris in terms of his future,” except to say that “he (Bishop Morris) is still a bishop of the Catholic Church.”
Archbishop Wilson said that they would now have to “dialogue about his future” and do so “in terms of love.”
The Australian bishops will meet collectively with Pope Benedict XVI on