Lincoln, Neb., Jan 21, 2012 (CNA) - For 37 years Cathy Peterson, a parishioner at St. Columbkille Church in Papillion, Neb. has zipped her coat, tied her shoelaces and headed out to the Walk for Life, a pro-life rally in Lincoln, Neb.
Peterson was at the first walk in 1974 - and has missed only two since.
"It definitely is a statement that we continue every year to be there," Peterson said. "They expected us within a couple years of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (legalizing abortion) to just take it and accept it."
Peterson will don her coat again Jan. 28 and join about 5,000 other pro-life advocates - some longtime marchers and others relatively new to the peaceful protest - at 10 a.m. on the steps of the Nebraska Capitol. The group will carry pro-life signs, pray the rosary and sing devotional hymns as they walk eight blocks to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Student Union.
One relative newcomer will be Bronson Gerken, a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Omaha and a senior at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, who will participate in his third Walk for Life.
Gerken said he felt a bit intimidated as he stepped on the sidewalk for the first time in 2009, in effect making a public statement about his opposition to abortion. But he has been inspired by the joy and respect for life he sees exhibited by people such as Peterson.
"It's a very outward sign of your faith," Gerken said. "That can be a scary thing if you're not used to standing up and defending your faith in a very public way."
His experiences at the Walk for Life also inspired Gerken to pray at the abortion clinic in Bellevue, Neb. the last several years during 40 Days for Life, an annual international effort of prayer and protest in the battle against abortion.
"There's a lot of fighting left to do but there's also a lot of hope," Gerken said.
Peterson, whose sister, Anne Marie Bowen, is the founder and president of Nebraskans United for Life, said she hopes to move people to get involved in the November elections and "make people more aware of the cause for human life."
She said the walk is cold sometimes but her convictions compel her to stand up for the right to life.
Peterson said she also has seen progress in the effort against abortion, including growth in the Walk for Life from about 500 people in 1974 to more than 5,000 last year.
The Walk for Life takes place one week after the March for Life in Washington, D.C., which will be held for the 39th straight year Jan. 23 and includes more than 300 youth from the Archdiocese of Omaha.
Father Damien Cook, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Omaha and an organizer of the archdiocese's six pilgrimages to Washington, said six buses filled with pro-life advocates from across the archdiocese will travel to Washington Jan. 19-24 and make several other stops, including a Catholic shrine and seminary and the U.S. Holocaust Museum.
But the young people won't be the only representatives of the archdiocese at the March, which is expected to draw more than 400,000 people from around the country.
Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha plans to join the March, and Marilou Holmberg-Roth, a member of St. Cecilia Parish in Omaha, said she will fly to Washington for the event with about 20 other adults from the archdiocese.
Holmberg-Roth said she also expects to participate in the Walk for Life, carrying a sign at both events that proclaims "Adoption is an Option."
She said her involvement - which includes participating seven times in the Walk for Life and four times at the March - stems from putting a son up for adoption after she became pregnant her freshman year in college. She recently learned her son is attending a university on a full-ride scholarship after graduating valedictorian of his high school class.
"It just affirms that every life has potential," she said.
Abby Allen, a freshman at Scotus Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Columbus, Neb. said she, too, hopes to promote adoption as she travels to the March for Life. Her 4-year-old brother, Ryan, inspired her, she said. Her family adopted Ryan after his mother twice tried to abort him, she said.
"Seeing him and how important he is to me makes me realize how important the lives of the babies being aborted could be to someone else," Allen said.
About 40 of Allen's schoolmates also plan to go on the archdiocesan trip to Washington, including Allen's older sister, Emily, a sophomore at Scotus Central Catholic.
It will be the Allen sisters' first pilgrimage to Washington, but one veteran of the trip will be Matt Coupon, a senior at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha.
Capoun said he plans to make his third trip to the March this year.
He said it was difficult "to be actively passionate" about being pro-life until he went on the March for the first time in 2010 and was "surrounded by people who feel the same way."
When he came back, Capoun helped rebuild his school's pro-life club, Skyhawks for Life. Today he is vice president of the club, voted in by his peers. The club has focused its energy on sending students to the March for Life and this year more than 20 students from Skutt Catholic will be on the March, he said.
Father Cook said having archdiocesan youth come together around the issue of life "gives a lot of hope."
"They are not only the future, but the present of the church," Father Cook said. "The desire is really to empower them with the truth."
Posted with permission from Catholic Voice, newspaper for the Diocese of Omaha, Neb.
Havana, Cuba, Jan 21, 2012 (CNA) - With help from the local Diocese of Holguin, CNA launched a video outlining the places where Pope Benedict XVI will visit in Cuba when he travels to the country March 26-28.
Pope Benedict will visit Cuba as a “pilgrim of charity and a pilgrim of faith,” said Bishop Emilio Aranguren of Holguín, who provides commentary in the video.
The short film begins with images of the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Cobre, which the Pope will visit on March 26 to mark the Jubilee Year for the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Marian statue in Nipe Bay.
It then travels to the Antonio Maceo Revolution Square in Santiago, where the Pope will celebrate Mass on March 26 and where Blessed John Paul II celebrated Mass in 1998.
Viewers will also catch a glimpse of the Apostolic Nunciature in Havana and Revolution Square, where the Pope will celebrate Mass on March 28, the last day of his visit.
“The Church in Cuba has led a preparatory mission for three years for the Jubilee Year,” explained Bishop Aranguren. “The Pope’s visit is part of this program and the Pope will be a pilgrim.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 21, 2012 (CNA) - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia believes that the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the U.S., undermined reverence for the lives of the mentally and physically disabled as well as the lives of unborn children.
“We need to understand that if some lives are regarded as unworthy, respect for all life is at risk,” the archbishop said.
In his Jan. 19 column for the Catholic Standard and Times, the archbishop commented on local media coverage of Amelia Rivera, a young girl with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome who was denied a kidney transplant. Her parents said that she was denied the transplant because of her diminished mental ability and shortened lifespan.
While Archbishop Chaput cautioned readers not to rush to judgment about the medical personnel involved because of the media coverage, he praised Amelia’s parents for loving their daughter and knowing “the beauty and dignity of her life despite her disability.”
He lamented a “growing” habit of treating genetically disabled children as “somehow less worthy of life.” This practice is advanced by prenatal testing, which can detect many pregnancies with a risk of genetic problems.
“The tests often aren’t conclusive. But they’re pretty good. And the results of those tests are brutally practical,” he said, noting that more than 80 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted.
“They’re killed because of a flaw in one of their chromosomes – a flaw that’s neither fatal nor contagious, but merely undesirable.”
Archbishop Chaput criticized doctors who encourage these abortions and steer women towards deciding to abort.
“I’m not suggesting that doctors should hold back vital knowledge from parents. Nor should they paint an implausibly upbeat picture of life with a child who has a disability,” he said.
Rather, doctors should refer women to parents of children with special needs, special education teachers and therapists, and pediatricians who have treated children with disabilities.
They often have “a hugely life-affirming perspective” and can bear witness that every child with special needs has “a value that matters eternally.”
The archbishop praised parents who care for these children with “real love” that “forces its way through fear and suffering to a decision, finally, to surround the child with their heart and trust in the goodness of God.”
“The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection or imperfection. ... No child is perfect,” he said. The choice to accept or reject a child with special needs is in fact one “between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear.”
“That’s the choice we face when it happens in our personal experience. And that’s the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not.”
Vatican City, Jan 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI advised the seminarians of his diocese that it takes “integrity, maturity, asceticism, constancy and heroic fidelity” to be a good seminarian and become a great young priest.
As Bishop of Rome, the Pope addressed the students and staff of the Almo Collegio Capranica, one of the oldest seminaries of Rome, on Jan. 20 in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.
The seminary is celebrating its 555th anniversary on Jan. 21, the Feast of St. Anges of Rome.
Pope Benedict explained that seminary life must be founded on “a solid spiritual life animated by an intense relationship with God, as individuals and in the community, with a particular care for liturgical celebrations and frequent recourse to the sacraments.”
And once ordained, he added, priestly life “requires an ever-increasing thirst for sanctity, a clear 'sensus Ecclesiae' and an openness to fraternity without exclusion or bias.”
St. Agnes was a young Roman woman who lived between the 3rd and 4th century. She chose to die, rather than surrender her virginity. The Pope pointed to her example as one for the seminarians to follow.
“For St. Agnes martyrdom meant agreeing to spend her young life, generously and freely, completely and without reserve, so that the Gospel could be announced as the truth and beauty which illuminates existence.”
As well as her piety and bravery, the Pope also praised the virginity of St. Agnes as worthy of imitation.
“Her path to the complete gift of self in martyrdom was, in fact, prepared by her informed, free and mature choice of virginity, a testimony of her desire to belong entirely to Christ.”
Pope Benedict also raised a constant them of his pontificate with the seminarians by telling them that they need to develop not only their souls but also their minds.
“Part of a priest’s journey of sanctity,” he proposed, “is his decision to develop, with God’s help, his own intellect, his own commitment: an authentic and solid personal culture which is the fruit of constant and impassioned study.”
Being at the heart of the universal Church, the Pope said, should allow them to “learn to understand the situations of the various countries and Churches of the world,” to ensure that “no culture is a barrier to the word of life, which you must announce even with your lives.”
“The Church expects a lot from young priests in the work of evangelization and new evangelization,” he said, before imparting his apostolic blessing.
“I encourage you in your daily efforts, that rooted in the beauty of authentic tradition and profoundly united to Christ, you may bring him into your communities with truth and joy.”
Vatican City, Jan 21, 2012 (CNA) - The Vatican’s approval of the Neocatechumenal Way’s forms of “celebration” only applies to non-liturgical prayers within their catechesis and not to the Mass or other liturgies of the Church.
“With respect to the celebrations of the Holy Mass and the other liturgies of the Church,” communities of the Neocatechumenal Way must “follow the norms of the Church as indicated in the liturgical books – to do otherwise must be understood to be a liturgical abuse,” a Vatican official who requested anonymity told CNA on Jan. 21.
Pope Benedict XVI met with around 7,000 members of the movement in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall on Jan. 20 for an annual event to send families to mission destinations worldwide.
The invitation issued by the movement to bishops for yesterday’s event stated that “the purpose of this meeting is that His Holiness will sign a Decree from the Congregation of Divine Worship recognizing the full approval of the liturgies of the Neocatechumenal Way.”
Instead, approval for the non-liturgical practices of the group came by way of another source. It was Pontifical Council for the Laity that issued a decree of approval – after having consulted the Congregation for Divine Worship – for those “celebrations” present in their Catechetical Directory.
In this process “the Neocatechumenal Way obtained no new permissions whatsoever,” said the official, who is familiar with the approval process for prayers and liturgies.
“Essentially, the Pontifical Council is only approving these things that are found in the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way, and in no way touches those things contained in the liturgical books.”
He said that the decree served merely as an assurance that “there is nothing erroneous to the prayers that they use in the context of their catechetical sessions.”
The Neocatechumenal Way was founded in 1964 in Spain by Francisco “Kiko” Argüello and Carmen Hernández. It draws its inspiration from the practices of the early Catholic Church, providing “post-baptismal” Christian formation in small, parish-based communities. The movement is present all over the world, and has an estimated membership of more than 1 million people.
Since its foundation, however, the group has been cautioned by the Vatican for inserting various novel practices into Masses organized by the movement. These include lay preaching, standing during Eucharistic Prayer, the reception of Holy Communion while sitting down, as well as the passing of the Most Precious Blood from person to person.
“The Neocatechumenal Way has no such permission for any of these kinds of things,” said the Vatican official. He claimed that the Vatican still receives complaints about the group’s “non-compliance with the universal norms of liturgy.”
He added that it should be clear that “yesterday’s decree has nothing to do with the widely seen liturgical innovations of the Neocatechumenal Way,” which “should be stopped immediately because they don't correspond to the law about the way the Mass and the sacraments are to be celebrated.”
The only exceptions are two permissions granted which allow the group to move the sign of peace to before the presentation of the gifts and also to have communion under both kinds. Even these changes, though, still require the permission of the local bishop.
“The Church’s liturgy is narrowly defined as the public worship of the Church” such as Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, the official explained to CNA. Church norms for the liturgy, he said, are “found in the approved liturgical books and the Neocatechumenal Way is bound to observe these no differently than any other group within the Catholic Church.”
What yesterday’s decree approved are “those things in the Directory not included in liturgical books,” which is “the equivalent of approving the prayers of, for example, the meetings of the Knights of Columbus or of a confraternity or perhaps of the prayers that a group like the Missionaries of Charity pray after Mass.”
During Pope Benedict's meeting with the movement on Jan. 20, he praised them for helping “those who have already been baptized to rediscover the beauty of the life of faith, the joy of being Christian.”
He also cited their statutes as he gave them guidelines for the celebration of the liturgy, saying that for members of the Neocatechumenal Way, “the progressive growth in faith of the individual and of the small community should promote their integration into the life of the greater ecclesial community, which finds its ordinary form in the liturgical celebration of the parish, in which and for which the Neocatechumenate is implemented.
“But also during the way, it is important not to separate oneself from the parish community, and particularly in the celebration of the Eucharist which is the true place of universal unity, where the Lord embraces us in our various states of spiritual maturity and unites us in the one bread that makes us one body.”
The Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way were given approval by the Vatican in 2008, while its Catechetical Directory was approved two years later, after consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.