Denver, Colo., Feb 11, 2012 (CNA) - More than 350 Catholic men and women, from 28 states and Canada, gathered Jan. 27-29 at the Westminster, Colo. Westin for the 11th National Catholic Singles Conference.
It was the first time the event had returned to the Denver area since being established here in 2005.
“Since that time conferences in Chicago, San Diego, San Antonio and Clearwater Beach (Fla.) have drawn more than 3,000 people,” said Anastasia Northrop, National Catholic Singles Conference founder and director.
The conference featured keynote talks, Masses, prayer, sacraments and fellowship—geared toward single Catholics of all ages. Pre- and post-conference events hosted by Catholic Speed Dating of Denver drew nearly 200 participants.
“The conference prepares us to make better gifts of ourselves in the vocation of marriage or religious life,” Northrop said. “Or if not entering one of those vocations soon, then to make a gift of self as a single person, to the Church.
“If all singles were really giving of themselves and their free time, I think it would be a different Church,” she added.
For Matt O’Rourke, 41, of Denver, this was his second National Catholic Singles Conference.
“It’s great to see the Church community here,” he said “I’ve made a lot of good friends … and the talks are really relevant to singles.”
Mary Beth Bonacci kicked off the conference Friday night with her talk: “What if there is no Bob? Faith, Hope and Looking for Love.” Saturday’s speakers were Jonathan Reyes, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, who delivered “Not Counting the Cost”; professor and artist David Clayton on his “Way of Beauty” program; and in her talk, Daughter of St. Paul Sister Helena Burns, asked the question: “Is True Love for Everyone?”
In a presentation that drew both laughter and tears, counselor and author Roy Petitfils delivered Sunday’s closing session.
A passionate Petitfils relayed his journey of being raised in poverty by a mother who worked three jobs to keep him in Catholic schools, the pain of growing up without a father, struggles with loneliness and food that caused to him weigh 530 pounds by the time he was 18, the hurt he suffered from feeling invisible—and his separation from God for “not giving him a dad.”
“How many of you have ever been lonely?” he asked the crowd.
A winding journey eventually led him to college, and the friendship of a campus ministry priest that brought him back to God and the Church.
“I believe he saved my life … two and a half years after that priest walked into my life, I lost almost 300 pounds,” he said to the audience who responded with applause. “He challenged me to do the inner work.”
Petitfils said oftentimes self-acceptance can only come through the eyes of another.
“That priest did that for me,” he said. “He looked deep into me with a love I’d never seen before.”
Knowing that love helped him accept himself, and today has made him “a real good dad” to two young sons—and “a decent husband,” he joked.
Loving one’s self is a journey of first knowing one’s self.
“Whenever we see the ‘real’ in us,” he said. “We’ll be more able to do that in others.”
At the closing Mass, Bishop James Conley, apostolic administrator of the Denver Archdiocese, pointed out the day’s second reading, 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, at the start of his homily: St. Paul’s reflection on marriage and single life.
“You’re probably expecting me to begin with the second reading,” he said. “A rather providential reading, didn’t you think?”
He urged attendees to be transformed by Jesus.
“We were all made for great things,” he said. “When we encounter Jesus in the sacraments and in adoration, we learn to love as God loves: to die to ourselves and to lay down our lives for our friends.”
He said many singles feel single life is fraught with anxiety: a search for their vocation, as well as their place in the Church, family and community.
“Single life can be characterized by instability and uncertainty, about the present and the future,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be … St. Paul is encouraging single men and women to draw close to Jesus Christ; to find in him a focus on the Christian life."
“Ultimately every vocation is a call to radical love,” he said, “a vocation to make a gift of oneself in a particular way.”
Joanne Goralka, 52, from Sacramento, Calif., appreciated the message of the conference.
“A lot of times you go to single events and it’s all about meeting ‘the right one,’” she said. “This one was more about vocation, wherever it will take you."
“This conference was so spirit-filled,” she added. “It was beautiful to meet others that are strong in their faith.”
Posted with permission from the Denver Catholic Register, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Denver, Colo.
Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput rejected the Obama administration's attempt to revise its contraception mandate, saying the rule remained “insulting” and “dangerous” to believers' rights.
“The HHS mandate, including its latest variant, are belligerent, unnecessary and deeply offensive to the content of Catholic belief,” he wrote in a Feb. 12 Philadelphia Inquirer column.
“Any such mandate would make it morally compromising for us to provide health care benefits to the staffing of our public service ministries.”
“We cannot afford to be fooled – yet again – by evasive and misleading allusions to the administration’s alleged 'flexibility' on such issues. The HHS mandate needs to be rescinded.”
Archbishop Chaput published his thoughts following a Feb. 10 announcement by the administration regarding religious institutions and what the government calls “preventive services” – a category including contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs.
A rule announced Jan. 20 required many faith-based organizations to provide insurance coverage of these drugs and devices despite their moral objections. After three weeks of protest led by the U.S. Catholic bishops, the administration announced a change to the rule on Friday.
Under the revised rule, insurance companies would be forced to offer the “preventive services,” without a co-pay, to employees of religious ministries. The administration maintained that under the new policy, “religious organizations will not be required to subsidize the cost of contraception.”
Several critics of the move, including Princeton Professor Robert George and Catholic University of America President John Garvey, responded by pointing out that the new rule accomplishes the same goal – forcing employers to underwrite policies covering the offensive services – by a different means.
In his column, Archbishop Chaput highlighted this “withering criticism” of the new requirement, and said the “'accommodation' offered by the White House did not solve the problem” of the original mandate.
“Quite a few Catholics supported President Obama in the last election, so the ironies here are bitter,” he noted. “Many feel betrayed. They’re baffled that the Obama administration would seek to coerce Catholic employers, private and corporate, to violate their religious convictions.”
For Philadelphia's archbishop, however, the administration's move comes as no surprise.
He cited its “early shift toward the anemic language of 'freedom of worship' instead of the more historically-grounded and robust concept of 'freedom of religion,'” and noted its “troubling effort to regulate religious ministers, recently rejected 9-0 by the Supreme Court in the Hosanna-Tabor case.”
These steps, together with the 2011 termination of the U.S. bishops' human trafficking grant over a refusal to make abortion referrals, have convinced Archbishop Chaput that the Obama White House “is – to put it generously – tone deaf to people of faith.”
“It's clear that such actions are developing into a pattern,” he observed.
In this context, the archbishop indicated, Health and Human Services' mandate did not seem like a “gaffe” or “mistake.”
“The current administration prides itself on being measured and deliberate. The current HHS mandate needs to be understood as exactly that.”
“It’s impossible to see this regulation as some happenstance policy. It has been too long in the making. Despite all of its public apprehension about 'culture warriors' on the political right in the past, the current administration has created an HHS mandate that is the embodiment of culture war.”
“At its heart is a seemingly deep distrust of the formative role religious faith has on personal and social conduct, and a deep distaste for religion’s moral influence on public affairs. To say that this view is contrary to the Founders’ thinking and the record of American history would be an understatement.”
“Critics may characterize my words here as partisan or political,” the archbishop acknowledged. “But it is this administration – not Catholic ministries or institutions or bishops – that chose the timing and nature of the fight.”
The burden, he said, was on the White House, which “has the power to remove the issue from public conflict.”
Catholics, meanwhile, “should not be misled into accepting feeble compromises on issues of principle.”
Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Evangelical and Jewish leaders declared their solidarity with Catholics on Feb. 10, as the Obama administration sought to quell controversy over its policy on contraception and religious ministries.
“Stories involving a Catholic, a Protestant and a Jew typically end with a punch line,” wrote Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson, and Manhattan-based Orthodox Rabbi Meir Soloveichik in a Wall Street Journal editorial.
“We wish that were the case here, but what brings us together is no laughing matter: the threat now posed by government policy to that basic human freedom, religious liberty.”
They criticized Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for her Jan. 20 decision on religious employers' coverage of contraception, saying the rule “stands the First Amendment on its head.”
“Instead of encouraging the different faith communities to continue their vital work for the good of all, the Obama administration is forcing them to make a choice: serving God and their neighbors according to the dictates of their respective faiths – or bending the knee to the dictates of the state.”
The Jewish and Evangelical leaders joined Washington's archbishop in opposing the administration's attempt to require religious ministries – including schools, hospitals, charities, and media outlets – to subsidize contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs in their health plans.
Only ministries that primarily served and employed members of their own faith, for the sake of promoting “religious values,” were to be held exempt from the rule.
After three weeks of uproar, led by over 170 Catholic bishops, the administration announced a new policy on Feb. 10.
In place of the policy forcing many religious ministries to purchase plans covering contraception and sterilization, the new rule shifts the burden to these institutions' insurance providers – requiring them to offer the “preventive services” without a co-pay.
The administration claimed that under the new policy, “religious organizations will not be required to subsidize the cost of contraception.”
But critics said the administration was only shifting the subsidy, by forcing religious employers to contract with insurance providers offering the controversial services.
Catholic League President Bill Donohue responded to Friday's revised rule by predicting the president would soon see Catholics “team with Protestants, Jews, Mormons and others to recapture their First Amendment rights.”
Friday's editorial from Colson, Soloveichik, and Cardinal Wuerl offered a preview of that prospect, as they explained that the administration's attempt to mandate contraception coverage was not just offensive to Catholics.
“Coverage of this story has almost invariably been framed as a conflict between the federal government and the Catholic bishops,” they observed. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“Under no circumstances should people of faith violate their consciences and discard their most cherished religious beliefs in order to comply with a gravely unjust law. That's something that this Catholic, this Protestant and this Jew are in perfect agreement about.”
Two days earlier, Colson co-authored a Christianity Today editorial with Beeson Divinity School Dean Timothy George, stressing Evangelicals' duty to unite with Catholics against the contraception mandate.
In their column “First They Came for the Catholics,” George and Colson said Evangelical Christians “must stand unequivocally with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. Because when the government violates the religious liberty of one group, it threatens the religious liberty of all.”
Houston, Texas, Feb 11, 2012 (CNA) - Father Cedric Pisegna, C.P., says the latest season of his television show aims to help people examine their lives and to experience the new life of forgiveness that Jesus offers.
“I’m trying to get people to live with passion, with enthusiasm, with energy. I want people to develop their relationship with God. I want them to grow in virtue, holiness and character. I want them to realize their potential to develop what they can be.”
“My prayer for all is that they will live with passion,” he told CNA in a Feb. 1 interview.
Fr. Pisegna, who currently lives in Houston, has been a priest for about 20 years and a professed Passionist for 26 years. He is the author of 15 books and has been broadcasting on television for six years.
His television program “Live with Passion” airs on and on some EWTN affiliates and on several major networks including the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s The Church Channel.
The upcoming season includes two shows with musician John Michael Talbot. It will broadcast from various places like San Antonio, New Orleans and Jacksonville, Tenn.
“I talk about loneliness, making good choices, the meaning of aging. There’s a whole variety of different topics.”
He said the upcoming season of Lent is a time for Christians to be introspective and to take a look at their lives.
“Where are we straying from the will of God? Do I have any bad habits, any sin in my life? It’s about making a turn. Conversion is ongoing, too. It’s constantly a theme in the Scriptures that we are invited to surrender ourselves to the will of God.”
Fr. Pisegna’s television programs reflect his desire to reach out to those who are not going to church, to young people, and to “fallen away” Catholics.
“I’m trying to help them come back,” he said.
“My message (for them) would be that Jesus can help you and save you and bring you new life and forgiveness. You can experience rebirth. He is the answer to all of our questions and our needs. For any emptiness that you feel, that cosmic loneliness, Jesus is the one who came to bring you new life.”
Fr. Pisegna said he draws on his own life experience to bring his message of change to others.
Originally from Springfield, Mass., the priest fell away from religious practice in his teen years after confirmation.
While he was attending college at the University of Massachusetts, he began to pray, to read the Bible, and to seek God in his life after the “pain and emptiness” he felt at the end of his relationship with a woman.
At the age of 19, he had what he characterized as a “near death experience.”
“I left my body, I had that sensation of going through a tunnel, I came before the light of God, and God spoke to me. What God said to me was I needed to change, I needed to be justified, that my life was not turning out well.
“He told me that he loved me, that he would protect me. I came back to my body changed. I became a Catholic priest, and the rest is history,” he told CNA.
His bestselling book “Death: A Final Surrender” talks about what happens after we die.
“We will all go and stand before God, and God is very gracious and loving, but he is certainly the God of second and third chances. That’s exactly what I got in my life.
“This has really colored my theology. It’s colored my life experience, and certainly changed my life.”
The priest made a special appeal to those who need second chances in life.
“God is there for you. No matter what you’ve done in your past, God will forgive you, if you simply come in humility, come in surrender. And God will give you another chance.
“That is what the Gospel is all about. Jesus really reached out, not so much to the religious people, but he reached out to those who are broken, hurting, the poor, the marginalized. And he gave them a new chance.
Fr. Pisegna cited Jesus’ own words: “I’ve not come for the healthy, but for the sick.”
His website, www.frcedric.org, lists airtimes for his television show as well as information about his books. It also contains his daily blog and links to his Facebook page.
Rome, Italy, Feb 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Politicians who consider themselves Catholic but collaborate in “the assault against their faith” should remember they will one day have to give account for their acts before God, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Illinois said Feb 10.
“There is a last judgment. There is a particular judgment. May they change their minds and may God have mercy on them,” he told CNA during his visit to Rome.
When asked specifically about recent actions of Democratic Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius Kathleen Sebelius and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Bishop Jenky replied “I am utterly scandalized.”
“The Lord once said ‘if you deny me at the end, I will deny you,’ this from our most merciful, good Savior. And so if it is a choice between Jesus Christ and political power or getting favorable editorials in leftist papers, well, that’s simply not a choice.”
Both Sebelius and Rep. Pelosi have been at the forefront of attempts to force Catholic institutions to cover contraception, sterilizations and abortifacients as part of their staff’s health insurance plans.
Bishop Jenky said there are too many Catholic politicians in the U.S. who “like to wear green sweaters on St. Patrick’s Day and march” or “have their pictures taken with the hierarchy” or “have conspicuous crosses on their forehead with ashes” but who then “not only do not live their faith they collaborate in the assault against their faith.”
The 64-year-old Chicago native is currently making his “ad limina” visit to Rome to discuss the state of his diocese with the Pope and the Vatican. He is part of a larger episcopal delegation from the states of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Bishop Jenky said the issue of religious freedom in the United States has featured in all their meetings so far, including their audience with Pope Benedict XVI Feb. 9.
“Determined secularists see the Catholic Church as the largest institutional block to a completely secularized society and not for the first, and probably not for the last time, we’re under assault,” he said drawing parallels with the anti-Catholic “Kulturkampf” in late 19th century Germany or the anti-clerical laws in France in the early 20th century.
“I am a Holy Cross religious and my own community had six colleges in France and they turned our mother house chapel into a stable,” he said. As for the United States in 2012, “it is always difficult to predict the future but the intensity of hatred against Catholic Christianity in elements of our culture is just astounding.”
He believes the present White House administration is also motivated by a “determined secularism,” while Communist dictator Joseph Stalin would “admire the uniformity of the American press, with some exceptions.”
In 2010 the Illinois legislature voted to legalize same-sex civil unions, a move which led to the closure of Catholic foster care services. This, said the bishop, took the Church “entirely out of the work that we started when the State of Illinois could not have cared less about beggar kids running up and down the streets.”
Bishop Jenky is very conscious of this patrimony of Catholic schools, hospitals and other social services “built by the sacrifice of Catholic believers” in previous generations of Illinois Catholics. “There weren’t a lot of multi-millionaires who built the churches, opened those orphanages or built those schools,” he said.
The bishop fears that socially liberal elites ultimately want to secularize such institutions by stealth. “I assume that is the underlying goal,” he suggested, “so that is robbing Christ but it is also robbing the heritage of generations of believers. So we would try to resist this in every way possible. It would be an incredible injustice.”
In conversation, he quoted the stark 2010 prediction of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, “I will die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.” So is Bishop Jenky prepared for prison or worse?
“I hope I would always prefer Christ to anything so, if it came to it, yes but I would be one of the trembling martyrs.”
He recalled how in ancient Rome some Christians would run towards their martyrdom. He, on the other hand, would “probably be walking down the Forum with eyes downcast a little.”
“I think most of the bishops of our Church, though, would be faithful to Christ above anything, including our own personal freedom.”