Omaha, Neb., Jul 22, 2012 (CNA) -
Any guest in Josephine Valasek's midtown apartment quickly discovers what's important to the 89-year-old member of St. Cecilia Parish in Omaha: faith and family.
A crucifix and a picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa hang on the hallway wall, and dozens of photographs of her nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews are framed on shelves or taped on cabinet and refrigerator doors.
“I just love to spoil them,” said Valasek of her family.
Valasek, who never married, also has been devoted to the Catholic Church through organizations such as the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, which is holding its national convention in Omaha July 18-21.
This year, Valasek will be recognized for her 50-year-membership in the Catholic Daughters, one of the oldest and largest organizations of Catholic women in North and South America. She has led her local court, or chapter, as regent, helped raise money for various charities and meets monthly with other members.
Valasek joined Catholic Daughters' Court Columbia, the first Catholic Daughters' court in Omaha, in 1962.
Rose Kobza, current regent of Court Columbia, said she has known Valasek for about 16 years and appreciates her friend's dedication to her court, parish and family. For example, Valasek for years helped care for her sister, who died last month at age 101, Kobza said.
And when Kobza first became regent, she often sought Valasek's help.
“I really depended on her. She's always so friendly and she knows everybody,” said Kobza, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Omaha.
Valasek said involvement in Catholic Daughters has helped her as well, through friendships with many women who share her faith and values and information about church issues.
The Catholic Daughters' ministries include helping others by building homes for the less fortunate, fighting pornography, supporting priests and religious, battling abortion and euthanasia and helping disaster relief efforts.
Valasek said she is willing to help at the Catholic Daughters' national convention later this month, and will attend the officer installation Mass July 21 at St. Cecilia Cathedral.
A native of Spaulding, Neb., Valasek moved to Omaha in the 1940s to attend College of Saint Mary. She later attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Creighton University, and devoted her life to working with children as a teacher and school counselor in Omaha. She retired in 1991.
Valasek has been active at St. Cecilia Parish since the 1960s. For many years, she brought Communion to the sick and homebound as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, and for more than 20 years, she has overseen the distribution of the holy oils passed out to parishes during Holy Week. She also is a member of the Omaha Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women.
Being active in the church and church organizations has helped her stay busy and has strengthened her faith life, she said.
“I don't think anybody ought to just exist just for herself. I think you need to share your talents and do what you can to make people happier,” Valasek said.
Posted with permission from Catholic Voice. Official newspaper for the Diocese of Omaha, Nebraska.
London, England, Jul 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Catholic Church in England and Wales will celebrate special Masses to open the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, which begin on July 27.
James Parker, Catholic Executive Coordinator for the 2012 Games, said many past Olympians and sports professionals from across the world and the London area are Catholics who “take in the thrill of the games.”
“These men and women better than most know the importance of keeping God firmly positioned within their sporting journey,” he said.
“They are being invited to join the rest of the Catholic community in giving thanks to God for the many opportunities that the Games present not only to our nation but to the whole world at this time.”
A July 28 Mass at Westminster Cathedral will celebrate the start of the 30th Olympic Games.
A Mass for the start of the 14th Paralympic Games will take place at St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark on Sept. 8.
The organizers ask attendees to be aware that transportation is likely to be difficult, especially around Westminster Cathedral during the Olympic Games.
The Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark and the Bishop of Brentwood will be present at the Masses. Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the apostolic nuncio to England and Wales, will attend the Olympic Mass, as will Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nievez of Puerto Rico.
Neither Mass requires a ticket and there will be no reserved seats.
Parker said the Catholic bishops hope to see people from many different cultures in attendance and have asked those who can to consider coming in their national dress.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has created the Catholic 2012 Office to reach out to attendees of the games.
Invitations to the Mass can be downloaded from the website http://www.Catholic2012.com.
Denver, Colo., Jul 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On July 24, the Catholic Church celebrates the life of St. Charbel Makhlouf, a Maronite Catholic priest, monk, and hermit who is known for working miracles both during his life and after his death.
On the occasion of his beatification in 1965, the Eastern Catholic hermit was described by Pope Paul VI as “ a new, eminent member of monastic sanctity,” who “through his example and his intercession is enriching the entire Christian people.”
Born into humble circumstances in Lebanon during 1828, Yussef Antoun Makhlouf was the youngest of Antoun Zaarour Makhlouf and Brigitta Elias al-Shediyaq's five children. Antoun, who had been taken away from the family and forced into hard labor, died when his youngest son was only three.
Yussef studied at the parish school and tended to his family's cow. Engaged in prayer and solitude from a early age, he spent a great deal of time outdoors in the fields and pastures near his village, contemplating God amid the inspiring views of Lebanon's valleys and mountains.
His uncle and guardian Tanious wanted the boy to continue working with him, while his mother wanted him to marry a young woman. Yussef had other plans, however, and left home in 1851 without informing anyone.
Yussef would become “Brother Charbel,” after making a pilgrimage on foot to his new monastic home. In this, he followed the example of his maternal uncles, who were already living as solitary monks at the Hermitage of Saint Paul in the Qadisha Valley.
Charbel took his monastic vows in November of 1853, during a solemn ceremony which was closed to the public and off-limits even to his family. He subsequently studied for the priesthood and was ordained, returning to the Monastery of St. Maron.
The priest-monk lived and served in the monastery for 19 years, showing great devotion to the life of prayer, manual work, and contemplative silence.
Charbel's superiors observed God's “supernatural power” at work in his life, and he became known as a wonder-worker even among some Muslims. In 1875, he was granted permission to live as a solitary monk in a nearby hermitage dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul.
Rigorous asceticism, and a profound union with God, continued to characterize the monk's life for the next 23 years. Deeply devoted to God's Eucharistic presence, he suffered a stroke while celebrating the Divine Liturgy of the Maronite Catholic Church on December 16, 1898. He died on Christmas Eve of that year.
St. Charbel's tomb has been a site for pilgrimages since his death. Hundreds of miracles are believed to have occurred through his intercession with God, both in Lebanon and around the world.
He was canonized in 1977 by Pope Paul VI, who had earlier hailed the Lebanese Maronite saint as an “admirable flower of sanctity blooming on the stem of the ancient monastic traditions of the East.”
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Jul 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI is “deeply shocked by the senseless violence” carried out by a lone gunman who injured 58 people and claimed the lives of 12 more when he attacked the crowd in an Aurora, Colo. cinema on July 20.
“I share the distress of the families and friends of the victims and the injured, especially the children. Assuring all of you of my closeness in prayer, I impart my blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in the risen Lord,” the Pope said during his Sunday Angelus address at Castel Gandolfo on July 22.
The lethal attack occurred at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colo., an eastern suburb of Denver.
About 20 minutes into the film, James Holmes, 24, allegedly entered through the exit door, dressed in black tactical assault gear, including a gas mask, helmet, and body armor. The gunman threw a pair of tear gas canisters into the cinema before opening fire on moviegoers.
In total 70 people were shot and 12 killed, making it one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Several of the victims remain critically injured in hospitals around the Denver metro area. Among the dead were a six-year-old girl, whose mother was also critically injured, and two U.S. servicemen.
Holmes was arrested outside the cinema, where he surrendered to police without incident. He will appear in court Monday, July 23.
In response to the tragedy, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver offered a Mass July 20 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Aurora, at which he assured people that the resurrection of Jesus Christ meant that “sin, evil and death do not have the last word” in such tragic situations.
Today, July 22, Auxiliary Bishop James Conley of Denver will offer an invocation at a prayer vigil for the victims, their families and the local community. The prayer service will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Aurora Municipal Center. Those attending are asked to gather on the western steps of the building.
The Archdiocese of Denver is also offering counseling for survivors and victim’s family members at 720-377-1398 and spiritual direction from a priest at 303-715-3197.