Archive of September 2, 2012

Alaska's 'grand lady' remembered for service to church, humanity

Anchorage, Alaska, Sep 2, 2012 (CNA) - Mary Louise Rasmuson was in many ways a larger-than-life figure, a Catholic whose generosity and faithfulness greatly benefited the Catholic Church in Alaska. She was a highly successful professional woman before that became the norm and a philanthropist who influenced the entire state.

But it was her humanity and spirituality that Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz of Anchorage recalled when he spoke of her, following her death at age 101 on July 30.

“To me she was a model of clear thinking and determination as well as one of great faith,” Archbishop Schwietz told the Catholic Anchor. “I think it is out of her faith that she did so much for others to help promote the dignity of the human person. She valued good education and good art as well as charitable service, all working together for the good of people.”

Supporting the Faith

As the widow of Alaskan businessman Elmer Rasmuson, whose family owned National Bank of Alaska, she was a guiding force in the Rasmuson Foundation, the state’s leading philanthropic institution.

A?Catholic, she was always a keen supporter of her parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Anchorage. Rasmuson had recently donated $1.25 million to the parish to help complete financing for the new church building on Wisconsin Drive in Spenard. Rasmuson attended the parish through the years when it gathered for Mass in a multi-purpose room before the new Spanish-style church was erected, and she spoke to the Catholic Anchor in 2010 about the motivations behind her donations.

She emphasized that she was making her latest gift public because she wanted others to consider their own stewardship commitment to their parishes.

“It’s our future,” she said at the time. “Do it for the young people.”

The young people at Holy Rosary Academy in Anchorage were a special focus of Rasmuson’s generosity, and they reciprocated with a great love for her, said Principal Catherine Neumayr.

“She was an unwavering supporter of our school,” Neumayr noted. “She became like family to the kids.”

The students made a CD of all their music as a gift to Rasmuson, and each year elementary students would send Christmas and birthday cards.

When a choir of five high school students went to Rasmuson’s home to serenade her, Neumayr said their benefactor took the time to tell them of her own experiences and of the importance of education.

“She was such a lady, and so genteel,” Neumayr recalled. Rasmuson’s yearly $50,000 matching gift to Holy Rosary’s annual auction moved school parents to stretch to make sure that goal was reached.

“Last year, it took about 12 minutes for us to raise almost $100,000,” said Neumayr, “because her gift was such an inspiration to parents.”

Rasmuson was also a strong supporter of Catholic Social Services. Susan Bomalaski, executive director of that agency, said Rasmuson “had a special place in her heart for our homeless guests at Brother Francis Shelter.”

As a board member of the Rasmuson Foundation, and through her own private donations, “Mary Louise Rasmuson supported the programs of Catholic Social Services and demonstrated great compassion for the poor,” Bomalaski said.

Until very recently, Rasmuson faithfully attended CSS’ Charity Ball, the agency’s premier social fund-raising event.

Alaskan Legend

Rasmuson’s story has been told in numerous media reports, becoming something of an Alaskan pioneer legend. A Pennsylvania native, the daughter of an Irish-American father and a French immigrant mother, the young Mary Louise Milligan first studied education and considered venturing into law.

But World War II set her on a different path. She once told the Catholic Anchor that she “saw no reason why men should be required to serve while women had no obligation to do so.” She was among 440 women chosen out of 30,000 applications for the first Officer Candidate School for the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. What followed was a meteoric rise through the ranks.

During the war, she served as an adviser to the U.S. commander-in-chief of the Army European Command and experienced London in the middle of the German air war. By 1957 she was director of the Corps and knew personally some of the leading figures of the day, including Dwight Eisenhower and later President John F. Kennedy who appointed her to her second term as director.

But then, at age 50, Rasmuson’s life took a distinct turn. In 1961 she married Elmer Rasmuson, a widower who was a leader in Alaskan financial and political circles. She retired from the Corps in 1962, but, always the pioneer, she first helped craft regulations at the Pentagon that gave women greater opportunities for assignments within the military.

Rasmuson seemed to easily make the transition from an office at the Pentagon to a stately home in Anchorage’s Turnagain neighborhood. She served as Anchorage’s first lady when Elmer was mayor after the 1964 earthquake, and until Elmer’s death in 2000, she served with him in numerous civic ventures, including the founding of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. She continued to be active with the Rasmuson Foundation.

Archbishop Schwietz became a personal friend, and he valued the association.

“I found her to be kind and gentle — a grand lady — but also someone who was decisive and capable. I will miss her now that the Lord has called her home, but I’m grateful for the conversations I had with her,” he said, adding, “May we follow her good example.”

A funeral Mass for Mary Louise Rasmuson will be held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on Sept. 10, at 2 p.m.

Archbishop Schwietz will celebrate the Mass. Anchorage Archbishop Emeritus Francis Hurley is scheduled to give a blessing.

Posted with permission from Catholic Anchor, official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

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Church remembers priest-monk St. Cloud on Sept. 7

Denver, Colo., Sep 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Sept. 7, the Catholic Church honors the memory of Saint Clodoald, popularly known as Saint Cloud, who escaped from violent political intrigue to pursue holiness as a monk and priest.

Born in 522, Clodoald was the grandson of the Frankish King Clovis I, whose conversion to orthodox Christianity – rather than the Arian heresy – made him the first Catholic ruler of present-day France.

After Clodoald's father Clodomir was killed in 524, he and his brothers Theudovald and Gunthar were raised by their grandmother Queen Clothilde, whom the Church now honors as St. Clothilde.

Clovis' kingdom had been divided equally among his four sons following his death in 511. In an effort to secure Clodomir's share of the territory after his death, two of Clodoald's uncles plotted to kill the three boys who were under the protection of the queen. While the uncles managed to kill Gunthar and Theudovald, Clodoald fled and was taken in by the archbishop Saint Remigius of Rheims,

Forced into seclusion by the plot against him, the young man became determined to renounce the power and wealth that had brought grief to his family. Placing himself in God's service, Clodoald lived in a small monastic cell where he pursued a life of asceticism and contemplative prayer. He gave his inheritance to the poor, and eventually became a disciple of the hermit St. Severinus near Paris.

No longer pursued by his uncles, Clodoald appeared before the bishop of Paris in 542. He formally received the monastic habit from the bishop, who cut off the long hair that had signified his Frankish royal origins. Clodoald eventually left Paris to live as a hermit in the forest for several years, growing closer to God in his contemplative vocation and studying Sacred Scripture extensively.

During these years, pilgrims began making their way to the hermitage, seeking his prayers which were known to work miracles. Though he had left Paris to live in anonymity and solitude, the hermit now sensed a need to return to the city, where he was ordained a priest in 551. His two murderous uncles are  said to have repented of their deeds during the time of his ministry.

In 554 Clodoald returned to the monastic life, founding and leading a community of monks in the village of Nogent near Paris. There, he was known for his generosity toward the poor, and his attention to the work of religious instruction among the people. He died on Sept. 7, 560, at the age of 38.

Under the name of “St. Cloud,” Clodoald became the namesake of several cities and towns. These include the Parisian suburb of Saint-Cloud, and later St. Cloud, Minnesota, whose Catholic diocese has been placed under his patronage.

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In Hurricane Isaac's wake, prayers and help for victims

New Orleans, La., Sep 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans prayed for victims of Hurricane Isaac, as the archdiocese's Catholic Charities affiliate assesses damage and helps those affected.

“We consciously place ourselves in God’s presence and ask him to give us his protection,” Archbishop Aymond said.

“God has always promised to protect us in challenging times, and we ask that God does that now, especially with those who are struggling. Bless us and help us reach those in need.”

His prayer came in an Aug. 29 conference call with the leadership of New Orleans' Catholic Charities, according to the archdiocesan newspaper The Clarion Herald.

In another prayer published by Catholic Charities, he asked God to bless those awaiting rescue, the elderly, and the emergency crews.

Hurricane Isaac made landfall in the U.S. on Aug. 28. It dropped more than 15 inches of rain and flooded parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, killing at least six. Although the storm knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people, New Orleans did not suffer major damage, the Associated Press reported.

However, Catholic Charities said damage assessments are underway and many residents in the Archdiocese of New Orleans will need assistance. The agency’s leaders and Archbishop Aymond are finalizing their response plan. The agency’s crisis counselors and case managers are working with evacuees while other teams will spread into the affected areas.

“Residents of Plaquemines Parish, the towns of Slidell, LaPlace, Madisonville and Mandeville have suffered the most damage, but the situation remains fluid and assessments continue to identify damage,” the local agency said Aug. 30.

Archbishop Aymond has feared that Assumption of Our Lady Mission in Braithwaite, La. to New Orleans’ southwest sustained heavy flooding. He visited first responders in the affected area on Thursday afternoon, The Clarion Herald reported.

Before the storm made landfall, Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, said the national organization is “ready to meet the needs of those who will be most affected by this storm.”

Experience and investment, he said, will make relief efforts “more effective and better prepared” than they were in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The archdiocese plans to provide direct financial assistance to those most affected by the storm. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans is seeking donations on its website

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Living God's law with integrity brings liberation, says Pope

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI says that God’s law brings personal liberation to each person who embraces it and lives it with integrity.

“God’s Law is his Word, which guides man on the path of life, releases him from the slavery of selfishness and introduces him to the ‘land’ of true freedom and life,” the Pope said during his midday Sept. 2 Angelus address.

“For this reason, in the Bible the Law is not seen as a burden, an overwhelming limitation, but as the Lord’s most precious gift, the testimony of his fatherly love, of his desire to be close to his people, to be their ally and write with his people a love story.”

The Pope made his remarks before several thousand pilgrims who gathered in the courtyard of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. The picturesque town sits in the hills above Lake Albano, 15 miles southeast of Rome.

But the Pope also warned against the danger of God’s law and religion losing their “true meaning” and become reduced to “a secondary habit.” The real meaning of following God’s law is “to live in listening to God.”

As an example, the Pope pointed towards today’s Gospel where Jesus adopted the words of the Prophet Isaiah to describe the relationship of the Scribes and Pharisees to God. “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.” Jesus summarized their disposition by saying, “You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition.”

“This is a serious risk in every religion,” Pope Benedict explained, “which Jesus encountered in his time, but that may occur, unfortunately, even in Christianity.”

Summarizing his thoughts in his address to English-speaking pilgrims, the Pope said that today’s Gospel “spurs all of us to a greater harmony between the faith we treasure in our hearts and our outward behavior.”

“By God’s grace, may we be purified inside and out, so as to live integrally our commitment to Christ and to his message. God bless all of you!”

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