New Orleans, La., Jan 6, 2012 (CNA) - A priest who was severely paralyzed from a neck injury believes he was healed through the intercession of 19th century priest Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos. If declared a miracle by the Vatican, the healing could lead to the blessed’s canonization.
Fr. Byron Miller, executive director of the National Seelos Shrine in New Orleans, said “some of the best doctors in the country” told Fr. John Murray there was little chance he would walk again.
“So my reaction to his recovery was astonishment at the wonders of our awesome God through His company of saints, including the powerful prayers of Bl. Seelos in heaven!”
In 2009 Fr. Murray, a Baltimore-based Redemptorist parish priest known for his preaching, was paralyzed from the chest down after he tripped on a walkway and struck his head against a railing, breaking his neck. Doctors said he would never walk again.
“When they said I’d never be able to move, they took away all hope,” he told the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s newspaper the Catholic Review.
He began living and undergoing rehabilitation at a home for retired priests in Timonium, Md. On Nov. 28, 2010, he was able to move his left leg slightly off the ground.
“I was ecstatic,” the priest said. “Here I was about six weeks after they told me I’d never move again and, lo and behold, I could move. Just the foot, but it kept going and going and going.”
Today the priest is completely mobile with the help of a walker.
He attributes his healing to a relic of Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos, a 19th century Redemptorist priest who once served in Maryland before moving to New Orleans.
Fr. Miller told CNA on Jan. 5 that Fr. Murray developed his devotion to the blessed while pastor at St. Mary’s Parish in Annapolis, Md., where Bl. Seelos himself was pastor during the Civil War.
Fr. Murray preached and presided at the National Seelos Shrine in April 2010, about four months before his accident.
“When we heard of his situation, I assured him that a votive candle at the Shrine was lit for him, and that the Seelos Center staff and the Redemptorists of New Orleans were keeping him in our prayers,” Fr. Miller said.
Fr. Miller, who is the vice-postulator of Bl. Seelos’ cause for canonization, said that Fr. Murray’s case has not been formally submitted as a possible miracle. However, Fr. Miller has already brought the case to the Redemptorist postulator general’s attention to make an informal evaluation of whether the healing has the characteristics needed to declare a miracle.
“Bl. Seelos needs one miracle to be declared a saint. The healing in a case has to be immediate, permanent, and complete,” Fr. Miller explained.
Advocates of his canonization are also monitoring the case of a woman from Virginia who injured herself in a fall and was unable to kneel because of the metal plates placed in her leg.
She visited Bl. Seelos’ shrine, prayed with a crucifix and became able to kneel before his remains.
Bl. Seelos was born in Germany in 1819 and later moved to the United States. He was ordained a priest in Baltimore and served in parishes in Baltimore, Annapolis, Pittsburgh and Cumberland. From 1863 to 1866 he was an itinerant missionary and then joined a Redemptorist community in New Orleans. There, he showed special care for the poorest and most abandoned in society.
He cared for victims of yellow fever, dying of the disease in 1867.
Bl. Seelos’ life shows how love of God and neighbor and how tolerance and adaptability can be “brought to perfection in all of us,” Fr. Miller said.
“His remarkable willingness to leave his beloved homeland and come to America to minister to German immigrants in need, and his willingness to come to New Orleans when he knew the dangers of yellow fever, reveal a man who lived a rather ordinary life, but with extraordinary faith and trust in God.”
The saint showed personal charisma and there are many firsthand accounts from people who attributed healings through his prayers and blessings while he was alive. Since his death, many people who have been healed credit his intercessory prayers.
“Knowing Fr. Murray as I do, I give thanks to God that he is one of them!” the priest said.
Washington D.C., Jan 6, 2012 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops commissioned a study of Catholic youth in America to determine traits that may be causing Hispanics to be underrepresented in priestly and religious vocations.
Researcher Dr. Mary Gautier said the study will help show “if there are impediments to consideration of a vocation among Latinos, such as language or cultural roadblocks.”
“This will be helpful for bishops and vocation directors as they work on vocations-related materials and approaches,” she told CNA on Jan. 3.
Gautier is a senior research associate at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which has been commissioned by the U.S. bishops' conference's office of vocations to conduct a nation-wide survey of never-married Catholics, ages 14 and above.
The survey – which will ask the teens and young adults about their views on vocations – is funded largely by a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation that was recently awarded to the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
Two recent reports conducted by the Secretariat found fewer religious vocations than expected among the Hispanic Catholic population in the United States.
According to the Secretariat’s executive director, Fr. Shawn McKnight, Latinos account for 34 percent of the overall adult Catholic population, but only 15 percent of the 2011 ordination class and 10 percent of the 2010 religious profession class, both of which were studied in the reports.
“There is not enough objective data to explain the reasons for their underrepresentation,” Fr. McKnight said.
The Secretariat hopes that the new study will help determine cultural elements that may pose a challenge to a “culture of vocations” among the Latino population. Doing so may assist dioceses and religious communities in their efforts to promote vocations.
Fr. Allan Deck, former head of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church, explained that successful ministry in the Hispanic community requires leadership from those within the community.
He called the new study “the single most important effort” to identify effective means of providing the necessary priestly leadership for the Hispanic community.
Rome, Italy, Jan 6, 2012 (CNA) - The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published remarks on Jan. 4 by two Italian bishops who urged Catholics to spread the Gospel in local shopping malls.
“Each mall is located within the territory of a specific parish and thus they are places for the new evangelization which pastors must not ignore,” said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.
“The lights of shopping malls can thrill people and make them believe they can run away from their problems, he added. “But this is not possible. All men and women carry a nostalgia for God in their hearts and are ever seeking after Him.”
Reporter Fabrizio Contessa included reflections in his article by Archbishop Fisichella as well as Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin. The former archbishop celebrated a Mass before Christmas at one of Rome’s largest malls, while Archbishop Nosiglia opened several mall chapels on Jan. 3.
Archbishop Fisichella clarified in his comments that although malls should not be overlooked as places in need of ministry, they should also not be considered as alternatives to parishes.
The news comes as the two bishops attend a meeting in Rome this week organized by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. Both men are also involved in the “Metropolis Mission,” aimed at promoting the work of evangelization in 12 European cities that have been traditionally Christian but have become increasingly secularized.
Contessa observed in his piece that malls in Italy have surpassed city squares and plazas as the places where people congregate, and that this shift “should not be ignored by those with pastoral responsibilities.”
Vatican City, Jan 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI named 22 new cardinals on Jan. 6, including two prominent American archbishops.
“This is an honor for these outstanding church leaders as well as an honor for the Church in the United States,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“As men of prayer, wisdom and dedication, they will bring many talents and graces to their new roles as advisors to the Holy Father.”
The Pope also announced a consistory for Feb. 18, at which the new cardinals will be formally elevated to their new rank.
Two Americans – Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, Pro Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem – were included among the nominees. The two men are 61 and 72 years old, respectively.
Archbishop Dolan is the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He leads the Archdiocese of New York, home to about 2.6 million Catholics.
Archbishop O’Brien is currently the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, where he served as archbishop from October 2007 until August 2011, when the Holy Father appointed him Pro Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
He will continue to shepherd the Archdiocese of Baltimore until a successor is installed.
In a statement responding to his nomination, Archbishop Dolan said that he is “honored, humbled, and grateful,” but added, “let’s be frank: this is not about Timothy Dolan.”
He explained that the appointment is both “an affirmation of love from the Pope” and a “summons to its unworthy archbishop” to continue serving Christ.
The New York archbishop asked for prayers as he assumes his new role.
Archbishop O’Brien was also quick to deflect attention from himself. “While this honor may be a reflection of my new position, I believe it is also the result of the great collaboration and zealous faith that I have so consistently experienced in the Church in Baltimore,” he said.
“I am grateful to our Holy Father for his confidence in me and pledge my continued support and fraternal love as I continue to serve this historic Archdiocese and the Church in the Holy Land.”
Archbishop Thomas C. Collins of Toronto and Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong were also among the new cardinals, which were announced by Pope Benedict in St. Peter’s Square on Jan. 6, after delivering his midday Angelus address.
Ten of the remaining nominees are from the Roman Curia, including Archbishop Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Cardinals advise the pope and vote in papal elections. However, four of the new cardinals will not be able to vote in the conclave because they are over the 80-year age limit.
On Jan. 6, Pope Benedict XVI also ordained Monsignor Charles Brown an archbishop for his new role as apostolic nuncio, or papal representative, to Ireland.
Archbishop Brown joins Archbishop Dolan and Archbishop O’Brien as a third former New York priest who was honored by the Pope today.
“It’s a great day for New York,” he told CNA, “a triple header!”
Havana, Cuba, Jan 6, 2012 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Juan de Dios Hernandez of Havana said that Pope Benedict will arrive in Cuba as a “pilgrim of charity” during his visit to the country in March.
The upcoming trip will be “a great blessing for the country,” Bishop Hernandez told CNA on Jan. 5.
The pontiff's March 26-28 visit comes as the Church in Cuba celebrates the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of Our Lady of Charity in waters off the coast of Cuba.
Pope Benedict XV declared her the patroness of Cuba in 1916.
Bishop Hernandez said papal visit taking place in the context of the celebration “confirms charity as a virtue that should unite the entire nation of Cuba, and not only Christians.”
He said the Church in Cuba is preparing a special catechetical program to help introduce the Pope to the Cuban people, “as not everyone is aware of his pastoral work as the representative of the Church.”
Bishop Hernandez said each diocese will likely organize cultural and folkloric events including dance and art exhibits to celebrate the Holy Father’s visit.
He also noted that the Church in Cuba has declared a Jubilee Year to mark the 400th anniversary of the devotion to Our Lady of Charity and that throughout the year, the faithful would have the opportunity each month to participate in “great moments of encounter with God through Our Lady.”
Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in the Cuban city of Santiago on March 26. He will celebrate an outdoor Mass there and spend the night in the town of El Cobre.
On March 27 he will visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity and then depart to Havana. That afternoon he will meet with President Raul Castro and then with the bishops of Cuba. On March 28 he will conclude the visit with an outdoor Mass in Havana’s Revolution Square.
Relations between the Church and Cuba have improved in recent years thanks to the ongoing dialogue between Raul Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana. The talks have led to release of more than 100 prisoners of conscience in 2010 and 2011.
Denver, Colo., Jan 6, 2012 (CNA) - On Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, Catholic News Agency launched a redesign of its site to provide improved access to its news stories and resources.
CNA’s editor-in-chief David Scott described the new design as “clean and smart.”
“It will make it a lot easier for people with mobile devices to access CNA's work, which has fast become the smartest and most reliable source of Catholic news on the web,” Scott said.
Among the changes in the new design are drop down menus that allow for more direct access to breaking news headlines, features, columns and general resources on the Catholic faith, such as papal documents.
Changes also include improved integration of social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and a new layout designed for mobile devices like the iPad and other tablets.
Readers will also be able to find a more prominent display of the daily Mass readings and saints under the liturgical calendar icon.
CNA's featured videos with breaking news and exclusive interviews on the Church worldwide will also be easily accessible from the main page.
“The changes are not only visually appealing but user-friendly for a global audience,” added the agency’s web designer Ursula Murua.
“We are excited for the launch of the site redesign and hope that it will further our mission in the service of the universal Church.”
Vatican City, Jan 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As he ordained new apostolic nuncios for Ireland, and Georgia and Armenia on the Jan. 6 feast of Epiphany, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the “wise men” who sought Christ, as models for bishops today.
“It mattered little what this or that person, what even influential and clever people thought and said about them,” the Pope said of the Magi who journeyed from the East in search of the Messiah. He noted that their role in the Gospels gave “indications concerning the task of bishops” in the Church.
The end of the Christmas liturgical season was the beginning of episcopal ministry for two new archbishops who will represent the Pope in foreign countries: Archbishop Charles J. Brown, apostolic nuncio for Ireland; and Archbishop Marek Solczynski, nuncio to Georgia and Armenia.
During his homily at St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Benedict said the “wise men” of the Gospels should inspire bishops to place God's truth above “human opinion.”
Their search for the infant Christ, he said, “was a question of truth itself … Hence they took upon themselves the sacrifices and the effort of a long and uncertain journey,” leading them to “the promised king” of all creation.
Like them, “the bishop too must be a man of restless heart, not satisfied with the ordinary things of this world, but inwardly driven by his heart’s unrest to draw ever closer to God, to seek his face, to recognize him more and more, to be able to love him more and more.”
The Pope stressed that “only someone who actually knows God can lead others to God,” and noted further that “only someone who leads people to God leads them along the path of life.”
Thus, he said, the bishop could also be compared to the Star of Bethlehem itself, which led the wise men to Christ.
“As you are ordained bishops, you too are called to be stars of God for men, leading them along the path towards the true light, towards Christ,” he told the two candidates he would go on to ordain at the Mass.
“So let us pray to all the saints at this hour, asking them that you may always live up to this mission you have received, to show God’s light to mankind.”
Archbishop Brown spoke to CNA after being consecrated as an archbishop, calling it a “tremendous joy, and a tremendous experience of God's grace.”
“I'm certainly aware of my own unworthiness to be a bishop,” Ireland's new apostolic nuncio said. “But I go forward with confidence in Our Lady and in the saints, and with a great sense of peace and joy, knowing that all things are possible with God.”
“So it's a beautiful experience for me, and with God's grace hopefully I'll be able to do something good on my mission.”
The 52-year-old archbishop's family members traveled to Rome to celebrate his ordination and pray for him.
“My father went to God about two months ago, so he wasn't there physically, but I felt his presence spiritually,” Archbishop Brown said. “All my brothers and sisters and my mother were there, and it was a great consolation for me and I think probably for them as well.”
The New York native, chosen as the Pope's Irish representative last November, became an archbishop on the same day that New York's Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan was announced as a future cardinal. The New York-born Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien will also join the College of Cardinals on Feb. 18.
“It's a great day for New York – a triple-header!” said Archbishop Brown.
Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholic schools must move forward with hope and realism, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said as his education commission announced school mergers and closings in a Jan. 6 report.
“We need to honor the great history of Catholic education in our archdiocese. But we must not be constrained by it,” the archbishop said in a letter to the Blue Ribbon Commission. “Nostalgia for the past is a bad foundation if we want to think clearly and build creatively for the future.”
He praised the authors of the “Faith in the Future” report for their “courage in facing the hard financial realities burdening many of our schools,” nearly 50 of which may be closed or merged.
During hard times, he said, “justice requires that we use our resources to best effect,” while pursuing “new forms of governance, government advocacy and foundation funding.”
“It is not enough for Catholic education to survive,” Archbishop Chaput stated. “It needs to grow, and we cannot make that happen with old behaviors and models of operation.”
“The goal of Catholic education remains the same: We need to give our young people a zeal for the Catholic faith and a strong moral character, and in our schools, a superior academic curriculum. But how we achieve that goal should always be open to change.”
Major changes are in store after the release of the Blue Ribbon Commission's report, part of a process begun by Archbishop Chaput's predecessor Cardinal Justin F. Rigali in December 2010.
The commission, which continued its work under Archbishop Chaput, found many schools struggling to survive and lacking plans for recovery. During its consultation process, the group heard from teachers, business leaders, clergy, parents, and pastors in monthly meetings.
In his introduction to the report, commission chair John J. Quindlen said group members were “unanimous” in their belief that Catholic schools “have a great future – if they are wisely led.”
“Commission members are equally unanimous that current financial losses cannot be justified or sustained,” Quindlen wrote.
“Strategic decisions about our Catholic schools have already been delayed too long at great cost. Now these decisions are urgent. They cannot in good conscience or sound stewardship be delayed.”
The commission found that up to 45 of the archdiocese's 156 elementary or regional schools “cannot be sustained” because of their deficits and the debt accumulated by associated parishes. These schools will merge with others in the archdiocese.
The commission also found declining enrollment and financial challenges in several of the archdiocese's 17 high schools. It supports a plan developed by the Archdiocesan Board of Education, under which four of the schools would close.
Along with these changes, a new governance model will go into effect, with an Executive Board of Education chaired by an auxiliary bishop. Individual boards will be formed to oversee elementary schools, secondary schools, religious education and special education.
Steps will also be taken to strengthen the Catholic identity of schools – which the report said was the “very reason for (their) existence” – and to address parents' concerns about tuition through a new fundraising foundation.
Members of the Blue Ribbon Commission acknowledged that the school mergers and closings “will cause significant pain and change in the lives of children, families and alumni.”
Rita Schwartz, president of the Association of Catholic Teachers in the archdiocese, told the Associated Press that the news was “extremely sad” and had sparked a “grieving process” in elementary and high schools.
But the commission members said that closing and merging schools was “not a decision that was made easily or in a vacuum.”
Rather, they said, it took into account “the best interest of all the students and parents who are committed to ensuring that Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia remains
strong and vibrant.”
Archbishop Chaput praised the commission members for their willingness to acknowledge hard realities and develop a forward-looking response.
“Over the next 18 months, in the spirit of the report, we should examine all our education efforts and structures for their effectiveness,” he told them in his letter.
The archbishop also noted that “any serious proposal” from donors or community leaders should receive consideration going forward, “so long as we serve our Catholic identity and mission” in the process.
Archbishop Chaput also expressed his closeness to families affected by the closings and mergers, in a separate Jan. 6 letter.
“Please be sure of my understanding and support in what may come as difficult news for your family," he told parents and guardians in the letter. “We are dedicated to assisting you and your family during this time of transition.”