Marietta, Ga., Feb 18, 2012 (CNA) - It began with a simple idea of providing candles to MUST Ministries in Marietta, Ga. for the homeless in hopes of keeping rats away while they slept in the streets.
Just two months later, the response and support of the parishioners at the Catholic Church of St. Ann in Marietta, Ga. has turned into a full-fledged ministry to help the less fortunate.
When St. Ann’s pastor Father Tom Reilly was approached during a liturgy meeting with the idea of collecting candles for the homeless, the priest felt that there had to be something more they could do to help. So he recorded a video message to be played during Mass throughout Advent, encouraging members to get involved in this budding ministry.
“I applaud MUST Ministries for doing this, but at the same time I was deeply affected by the thought of collecting candles so the light would keep rats away,” Father Reilly said in the message. “What has happened to us, as a country, a state and a world? … 16 percent of the homeless nationwide are veterans. In Georgia, that number is eight percent.”
“These veterans are men and women who served our country and fought to keep us free,” he continued. “Many of them have returned broken because of their experience. These are the people Jesus is talking about when he implored us not to harden our hearts when we hear the cry of the poor.”
Father Reilly asked parishioners to light a candle and keep it burning in their homes to remember the plight of the homeless. Over the next week, thousands of candles were collected and distributed at a homeless shelter. Richard Campbell, a friend of the pastor, suggested that the parish also collect military backpacks and distribute them with some basic supplies to homeless veterans.
That blossomed into an idea to collect supplies, including thermal blankets, T-shirts, underwear, toothbrushes and toothpaste, among other things and assemble 100 backpacks to be distributed.
“The idea of the backpacks was to create a kind of home away from home,” said Campbell.
Father Reilly, Campbell and Jack Busche, director of ministries for St. Ann's, were amazed at the community’s response. Dentists and hotels donated hygiene items, while TexSport of Houston, Texas, supplied thermal blankets at a hefty discount.
What was even more encouraging, however, was the response of the parishioners. During the third week of Advent, St. Ann’s sent out an email to 3,800 people asking them to consider donating toward all or part of a backpack. A full-page ad was placed in the church bulletin, and during weekend liturgies the priests talked of the backpack project and the hope of being able to distribute 100 at a cost of approximately $9,000. Father Reilly staffed the welcome desk in the northex during weekend liturgies and took donations.
The response was staggering. The first weekend, parishioners gave enough for nearly 700 backpacks.
“We didn’t realize the response would be as overwhelming as it has been,” said Father Reilly.
“This all happened within a two-and-a-half-week period,” said Busche. “It was only in the bulletin once.”
During Christmas week, the community gathered together to help stuff the backpacks. And it was not just St. Ann’s parishioners participating. The idea spread by word of mouth and people from Jewish and Protestant congregations came to help, Busche said.
“It was all one cause that people focused on,” he said.
The backpacks were given to parishioner Pat Edelman, who works with MUST Ministries and distributed the first 50 backpacks.
In January, another 50 backpacks were distributed, 25 to the homeless division at the Veterans Administration Hospital and 25 to the Atlanta Feeding the Homeless Project.
What started as Christmas-time ministry has now expanded exponentially into a year-round effort. The remaining funds that were collected over the past two months will support the ministry throughout the rest of the year.
“We want to expand this so that it is a year-long project,” said Busche. “We have enough now so that we can stretch this out for the whole year. And as we get back into Advent again, we’ll do another push to get some additional funds.”
“Each Advent we will continue to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless and see if we can continue this project for years to come,” wrote Busche to parishioners last month. “See, we can make a difference! Your generosity has made it all possible.”
Posted with permission from the Georgia Bulliten, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Washington D.C., Feb 18, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Facing Belmont Abbey College’s legal challenge to the HHS contraception mandate, the Obama administration has asked a U.S. district court to dismiss the case. The move drew criticism from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which charged that the administration made no attempt to defend the constitutionality of the rule.
“Apparently, the administration has decided that the mandate, as written and finalized, is constitutionally indefensible,” contended Hannah Smith, senior council at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the Catholic college.
“Its only hope is to ask the court to look the other way based on an empty promise to possibly change the rules in the future.”
Department of Justice lawyers said the accommodation, announced Feb. 10, “will require health insurance issuers to offer group health insurance coverage without contraceptive coverage to non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage and simultaneously to offer contraceptive coverage directly to such organization’s plan participants who desire it, at no charge.”
Because of the accommodation, the “safe harbor” period, and the possibility the school’s health plan is eligible to be grandfathered in, the government lawyers contended, the suit cannot demonstrate an “imminent injury” necessary for court action, the lawyers said in a Feb.16 motion to dismiss in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.
But Smith was dismissive of the lawyers’ claim.
“Promises, promises. The administration is taking the remarkable position that announcing future plans at a press conference means the courts should ignore what the law on the books actually says.”
“Religious organizations are rightly skeptical that the government will fix the flagrant violation of religious liberty by commandeering the insurance industry,” she said in a Feb. 17 statement. “If this is the best the administration can do to defend its mandate, it won’t last long.”
Belmont Abbey College’s lawsuit challenged the mandate on the grounds it would substantially burden its First Amendment freedoms. The mandate requires all new insurance plans to cover, without a co-pay, FDA-approved methods of sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.
Catholic teaching recognizes sterilization and contraception as sinful, but the HHS has ruled that they qualify as “preventive health care” and will be covered under the 2010 health care legislation.
Failure to comply with the mandate could result in annual fines of $2,000 per employee.
While the mandate allows a religious exemption, the Benedictine-run Belmont Abbey College believes the exemption is so narrow that it does not qualify.
Both the original mandate and the proposed accommodation have come under heavy criticism.
Over 200 college presidents, academics, religious leaders and journalists have signed a letter denouncing the administration’s latest proposal. The Feb. 10 letter “Unacceptable,” organized by University of Notre Dame law professor O. Carter Snead, said the letter failed to remove “the assault on religious liberty.”
“It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept an assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick,” the letter stated.
Rome, Italy, Feb 18, 2012 (CNA) - Cardinal Velasio de Paolis has named Fr. Sylvester Heereman as the vicar general of the Legionaries of Christ and Fr. Deomar De Guedes as its general councilor, replacing two officials who resigned in recent months.
Cardinal de Paolis is the pontifical delegate to the Legion of Christ and its lay branch Regnum Christi. He is leading the reform of the troubled congregation, which announced the new appointments on Feb. 16.
Fr. Heereman was born in Bad Neustadt an der Saale, Germany on Sept. 10, 1974. He entered the Legion of Christ in Germany in 1994 and made his first profession in 1996, before his final profession in 1999.
He served as the Legion’s territorial secretary for Italy from 2001 to 2003 and was part of the formation team at the Center for Higher Studies in Rome from 2004 to 2006. He was ordained to the priesthood in December 2006 and was named territorial director of Germany in February 2007.
He became territorial director of Western and Central Europe in June 2011 after the Legion territories of Germany and France were joined.
Fr. Deomar De Guedes Vaz is from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. He was born on Nov. 13, 1967 and entered the Legion novitiate in 1992. He made his first profession in March 1994 and his perpetual profession three years later.
He has worked in the formation of diocesan seminarians in the International Pontifical College Maria Mater Ecclesiae in Rome. He has served as rector in the formation center for Regnum Christi’s consecrated men in Mexico City.
He was ordained in January 2000 and worked as a vocation promoter. He was territorial director of Spain from 2002 to 2005 and superior for the congregation in Buenos Aires from 2005 to 2008. Since 2008, he has been rector of the Brazilian seminary Maria Mater Ecclesiae.
Both priests will continue their current duties until their replacements are named.
In July 2011 Fr. Luis Garza stepped down as the Legion’s vicar general and was named the territorial director for North America.
Vatican City, Feb 18, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI issued a challenge to 22 new cardinals today, calling on them to sacrifice their lives for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church, even to the point of martyrdom.
“The new cardinals are entrusted with the service of love,” the Pope said in his homily for the Feb. 18 consistory ceremony, which was held in St. Peter’s Basilica.
He then reflected on the significance of the red birettas that he would later place on the heads of the new cardinals. “Love for God, love for his Church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters, even unto shedding their blood, if necessary, as expressed in the words of placing the biretta and as indicated by the color of their robes.”
In total, 22 new cardinals were created this morning, including two from the United States. They are Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, Emeritus Archbishop of Baltimore and now the Grand Master of The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
Cardinal Thomas C. Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, was also among those who received the honor of being named a cardinal today.
Pope Benedict explained that as the “parish priests of Rome,” each of the new cardinals was given a titular church within the Pope’s diocese, thereby fully inserting them “in the Church of Rome led by the Successor of Peter.” These positions will also allow the cardinals to “cooperate closely with him in governing the universal Church.”
In particularly, he explained, “the new cardinals will be called to consider and evaluate the events, the problems and the pastoral criteria which concern the mission of the entire Church.”
This is a “delicate task,” but they can look to St. Peter, “who for the love of Christ gave himself even unto the ultimate sacrifice,” the Pope said.
The Pope told the 22 new cardinals that they must “serve the Church with love and vigor, with the transparency and wisdom of teachers, with the energy and strength of shepherds, with the fidelity and courage of martyrs.”
“Dear Brothers who are to be enrolled in the College of Cardinals,” he said, “may Christ’s total gift of self on the cross be for you the foundation, stimulus and strength of a faith operative in charity.”
He counseled them to carry out their mission in the Church and the world always “‘in Christ’ alone, responding to his logic and not that of the world, and may it be illumined by faith and animated by charity which comes to us from the glorious Cross of the Lord.”
After his homily, Pope Benedict called out the name of each new cardinal. In response, they recited the Creed and swore obedience to the Pope and his successors. Then, one by one, they ascended to the high altar of St. Peter’s, where the Pope bestowed the red biretta hat and the cardinal’s ring upon each man.
The Pope explained to them that the ring depicts Saints Peter and Paul with a star in the middle, evoking Mary, the Mother of God.
“Wearing this ring, you are reminded each day to remember the witness which these two apostles gave to Christ even unto martyrdom here in Rome, their blood making the Church fruitful,” he said.
The most significant task awaiting any new cardinal is the election of a new pontiff when the reigning Pope dies. Only those under the age of 80, however, are entitled to vote. After today’s consistory, the College of Cardinals has 213 members, of whom 125 are eligible to vote.
Following the ceremony Pope Benedict XVI also confirmed the canonization of seven new saints, two of whom are related to the United States.
The first is Blessed Marianne Cope, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse, N.Y., who died in 1918. She spent many years caring for the lepers on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. The other is Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th-century Mohawk girl who converted to Catholicism and died at the age of 24. She will become the first Native American saint.
Their canonization ceremony will take place on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012.
Vatican City, Feb 18, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI announced today that he will canonize seven new saints, including two related to the U.S., this coming October.
The news that the Church will have seven new saints was officially made public Feb. 18 at St. Peter’s Basilica, following a ceremony in which Pope Benedict created 22 new cardinals.
“I think it’s a great day, and to see Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, what a joy for our country and what a great model she is for our people,” Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C. remarked to CNA after the ceremony.
“And then to have two new cardinals as well among the College of Cardinals – it’s a very happy day for the Church in the United States,” he added.
The list of the seven people who will be declared saints ranges from a Filipino layman to European founders of religious orders to the first Native American.
Two of the seven holy men and women are associated with the U.S.
Blessed Marianne Cope, was a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse, N.Y., and spent many years caring for the lepers on the island of Molokai, Hawaii, while Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, was a 17th-century Mohawk girl who converted to Catholicism and died at the age of 24.
Their canonization ceremony will take place on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012.
Cardinal Edward Egan, the Emeritus Archbishop of New York, could not keep a smile off his face as he stood in the sun outside of St. Peter’s after the consistory. He eagerly pointed out that “out of the seven saints, two are New Yorkers.”
“Someone asked me last night whether New York was a secular city? I said it was the most religious city in the world, and if you have any doubt, two out of seven isn’t bad for any state!” he told CNA.