Tucson, Ariz., Dec 10, 2011 (CNA) - It was a Tuesday – June 14 – when a raging wildfire ate its way over a ridge in the Huachuca Mountains and took aim at Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine, situated on a hillside overlooking the San Pedro Valley near Hereford, Ariz.
At the same time, a crew of about 80 firefighters was assembling just above the shrine, intending to set a back-burn in hopes of saving the site.
Suddenly, apparently on a signal from a spotter plane, the firefighters “threw their shovels away and ran for their lives” as the wind-whipped flames roared down the hillside and enveloped the site.
The fire was hot enough to “melt metal and melt glass” and quickly consumed several structures and blew through tall oak doors on the stone chapel, gutting it, said Nannette M. Chouinard, the shrine site manager.
Though damaged, the ciboria and Tabernacle were salvaged.
Now all of the debris has been cleared and efforts to restore the shine are under way, with the hope that the work can be finished by Easter.
Last month The New Vision paid a visit to the shrine off state Rte. 92 between Sierra Vista and Bisbee, just four miles north of the border with Mexico.
The 75-foot cross beckoned during the drive up the unpaved Twin Oaks Road toward the shrine and the devastation was still clearly evident in the many oak trees and shrubs that stood blackened by the flames virtually everywhere within sight.
Nannette Chouinard escorted us to the chapel, where electricians Victor N. Silva and Luis A. Silva, brothers, were rewiring the structure.
The plan, Nannette said, is to restore the chapel first, then rebuild the prayer house situated nearby on “Mary’s Knoll.”
The fire destroyed the home of Nannette’s parents, Jerry and Pat Chouinard, forcing them to flee with just an overnight bag of belongings, Nannette said. “They lost everything except their vehicles,” she said, including their pets, three parrots and a cat.
The Chouinards moved in with her, Nannette said, and don’t plan to rebuild the custom retirement home they lived in for more than 15 years since moving to Arizona from Illinois.
Also lost in the fire was St. Joseph’s Home, which was used by priests and other clergy as a retreat. It’s boarded up, awaiting resolution of an insurance claim, Nannette said.
Further down the road from the base of the hillside is the foundation where stood a two-story guest house called “Mary’s Farm.” Youth retreats were held there, Nannette said, but the structure “probably will not be rebuilt.”
In addition to the Celtic cross, a 31-foot statue of Our Lady of the Sierras and two marble statues – the Angel of Revelation and the Angel Guardian of Children – survived the fire.
While the goal is to have the chapel open for Easter, Nannette said in the meantime visitors can come to the shrine to pray the Stations of the Cross.
Printed with permission from The New Vision, newspaper for the Diocese of Tucson, Ariz.
Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2011 (CNA) - An article claiming that nuns should use contraception to lower their risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers drew criticism from medical professionals who say the study’s basis is seriously flawed.
Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life International, said the argument was so poorly made that she initially thought the article was a parody.
“It’s that bad,” she told CNA on Dec. 8, adding that the claims were not only outlandish but unsupported by the evidence presented in the analysis.
Australian researchers Kara Britt and Roger Short penned a Dec. 8 article in the international medical journal The Lancet warning that nuns “pay a terrible price for their chastity.”
They argued that because they never bear children, nuns have a higher probability of death from breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers.
Britt and Short lamented the “plight” of religious sisters and called on the Church to “make the oral contraceptive pill freely available to all its nuns” in order to decrease risk of these cancers.
But Brauer pointed out that this claim is misleading, even according to the study on which the authors based their arguments.
Referencing a graph included in the article, she noted that before age 70, the nuns actually had a lower rate of death from uterine cancer than the control group. Their comparative rates of death from ovarian cancer fluctuated before age 80, being at times above, below and equal to that of the control group.
According to the study, breast cancer was the only one for which the nuns were consistently at higher risk than the control group of women, said Brauer. However, Britt and Short did not claim that the pill would reduce the risk of breast cancer, as they did for ovarian and uterine cancer, but simply that it would “not increase” the risk of breast cancer.
In addition, said Brauer, women who use oral contraceptives face “considerable” negative side effects. These include a significantly increased risk of deep venous thrombosis, which causes potentially life-threatening blood clots—a fact that Britt and Short acknowledged.
For these reasons, using the pill only to prevent disease “doesn’t make any sense,” she said.
Oncologist Dr. Luis Raez weighed in that the Lancet article has more political significance than scientific value.
Raez told CNA on Dec. 8 that because of the risk of side effects that accompanies any pill, doctors generally use prescription drugs to treat cancer and diseases rather than prevent them.
In the case of the oral contraceptive pill, users are at higher risk of blood clots and hypertension, among other conditions, he said.
He also observed that even among women such as nuns who do not bear children, ovarian and uterine cancers are rare.
Such cancers are often curable if discovered early through regular checkups, he added, noting that the pill's actual benefits would likely be minimal as it does not eliminate the risk of these cancers.
Raez argued that it would be absurd to use oral contraception in hopes of preventing a rare type of cancer while putting yourself at elevated risk for other serious problems.
He also said that most women who take the pill do so for only a limited number of years, because they stop using contraceptives when they decide to have children. However, nuns, who never have children, could be on the pill for multiple decades.
The risk factors of using the pill in this way have not been adequately evaluated for such a course of action to be recommended, he underscored.
Philadelphia, Pa., Dec 10, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archdiocese of Philadelphia faces “very serious” financial and organizational issues which mean some of its schools must close or combine, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has said in a new pastoral letter. He also warns of unavoidable continued fallout from the court cases tied to sexual abuse by priests.
Invoking Advent as a time of self-examination in the light of God’s word, the archbishop’s Dec. 8 pastoral letter spoke frankly about the conditions his archdiocese faces.
“Complacency is the enemy of faith. To whatever degree complacency and pride once had a home in our local Church, events in the coming year will burn them out.
“The process will be painful. But going through it is the only way to renew the witness of the Church; to clear away the debris of human failure from the beauty of God’s word and to restore the joy and zeal of our Catholic discipleship.”
In the three months since his installation, the archbishop said, he has been struck by the “good will in our people” and the fidelity of the archdiocese’s priests.
He praised the archdiocese’s deep roots and “extraordinary legacy” of saints and public witness. These were built by the faith of generations of Catholic families, but all of these depend on “our willingness to sustain them by our actions in the present.”
He also touched on the topic of Church resources, which he said do not belong to the bishops or the clergy, but to the entire Catholic people in stewardship to carry out Christians’ mission as believers in Jesus Christ.
The financial and organizational issues are “not simply business issues” but are at the heart of the archdiocese’s ability to carry out Catholic ministries.
“The archdiocese remains strongly committed to the work of Catholic education. But that mission is badly served by trying to sustain unsustainable schools,” he said.
In January the Blue Ribbon Commission will provide the archbishop its recommendations on Catholic education. It will likely counsel that “some, and perhaps many” schools must close or combine.
There are 163 parochial elementary schools and early child programs in the archdiocese as well as 17 archdiocesan high schools.
Archbishop Chaput urged that “careful scrutiny” be applied to every aspect of the Catholic Church’s common life, including the number and location of parishes and archdiocesan operational budgets.
“This honest scrutiny can be painful, because real change is rarely easy; but it also restores life and health, and serves the work of God’s people. We cannot call ourselves good stewards if we do otherwise.”
Several clergy in the archdiocese presently face sex abuse-related charges.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, the previous Archbishop of Philadelphia, in March placed 21 priests on administrative leave following a grand jury report which said that there were credible abuse allegations against them.
Msgr. William Lynn, the archdiocese’s secretary of clergy under Cardinal Rigali’s predecessor Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, faces charges of conspiracy and child endangerment for allegedly transferring sexually abusive priests to new parishes.
He will go on trial in March, along with two priests, an ex-priest, and a former Catholic school teacher charged with raping boys, the Associated Press reports.
Archbishop Chaput’s letter spoke of a “grave and continuing obligation” to help clergy sex abuse victims heal, to create safe church environments, and to cooperate appropriately with civil authorities in pursuing justice for both victims and the accused.
Since his arrival, he said, he has pressed for a “rapid resolution” of the cases of priests placed on administrative leave earlier in 2011. Those cases will be concluded in the first months of 2012.
The confidence of Catholics and the morale of priests have suffered, he added.
“The hard truth is that many innocent priests have borne the brunt of the Church’s public humiliation and our people’s anger. The harsh media environment likely to surround the criminal trial which begins next March will further burden our lay people and our clergy. But it cannot be avoided.”
Archbishop Chaput said his words are a plea “to take our baptism seriously” and to renew the local Church with “Christian charity, justice and zeal.”
God “can certainly use us to renew and advance the work of His Church – and he will.”
He closed his pastoral letter with a request for prayers, citing Jesus’ exhortation “Do not be afraid.”
Vatican City, Dec 10, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has praised the Catholic cooperative movement for helping humanize the world of economics and business.
At the heart of the cooperative experience, said the Pope, is a “commitment to harmoniously order the individual and community dimensions.”
“It is the concrete expression of the solidarity and subsidiarity that the social doctrine of the Church has always promoted between the person and the state.”
The Pope’s remarks came in his address to a delegation from the Confederation of Italian Cooperatives and the Italian Federation of Cooperative Credit Banks, who met with him at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace Dec. 10.
Traditionally, cooperatives are small-scale economic groups that are owned collectively by members, often including employees. They became popular in Catholic countries following Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical “Rerum Novarum” which rejected both unbridled capitalism and state socialism.
“What prompted members to join cooperative-type organizations, often with the decisive contribution of the priests, was not only an economic requirement but also the desire to live an experience of unity and solidarity,” said the Pope.
Cooperatives often strike a respectful balance between this “solidarity” and the “rightful autonomy of the individual,” he observed. In this way the good of the person, the community and the economy can be promoted.
“Right intention, transparency, and the search for positive results are mutually compatible and must never be detached from one another,” said the Pope, quoting from his 2009 encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” Charity in Truth.
“If love is wise, it can find ways of working in accordance with provident and just expediency, as is illustrated in a significant way by much of the experience of credit unions.”
Thus, cooperatives are “worthy institutions” that “carry within themselves the evangelical counsels.” They also have a role in evangelization in these times of “great change” and “economic insecurity.”
These institutions can help promote “a culture of life and family” and a vision in which the economy and the market will “never be separated from solidarity.”
Underpinning all that the cooperative members do, however, has to be “not mere philanthropy, but an expression of the love of God.”
Even in the economy and workplace, participants need to bring love and solidarity drawn from “an intense relationship with God” through “listening constantly to his word” and through nourishment from the Eucharist.
The Pope concluded his meeting by entrusting the efforts of the cooperative movement to the Virgin Mary. He assured attendees of his prayers and imparted his blessing on them and their loved ones.