Anchorage, Alaska, Oct 6, 2012 (CNA) - As if being a homeschooling mother of five kids under the age of eight isn’t enough, Megan Walsted has taken on the task of leading 40 Days for Life, the annual prayer vigil to end abortion which is taking place this year from Sept. 26 to Nov. 4.
Walsted, who has been involved with several previous vigils, embraced the leadership role this year because, as she said, “It was time for a Catholic to step up. We are pro-life.”
Since its beginning in 2004 in Texas, when only a handful of cities and towns participated, this year’s ecumenical prayer vigil will be the largest ever, taking place in 314 locations throughout the United States, Canada and several other countries. Anchorage participants will gather at the offices of Planned Parenthood, 4001 Lake Otis Parkway.
Across the nation, efforts by prayerful participants in the past have resulted in fewer abortions, the closing of several abortion clinics and healing for women who have undergone past abortions, according to the 40 Days for Life website.
INSPIRED TO ACTION
Walsted, a parishioner of Anchorage’s Holy Family Cathedral, said her passion for 40 Days for Life grew out of her own experience of three miscarriages between the births of her fourth and fifth children. While she came to terms with the death of the first baby in her womb and contemplated undergoing a procedure to remove the body — known as dilation and curettage — she was struck by the irony of how that same procedure is often used for the abortion of a living unborn baby.
Walsted reflected on the personhood of the child she lost and of those elsewhere who would be aborted. After two subsequent miscarriages she realized that God used those losses to spiritually change her. She felt as if voting pro-life simply wasn’t enough, that she needed to literally get out on the sidewalk. It was a pivotal moment in her life, she said.
Content initially to pray and fast with others during previous vigils, she took on the leadership role this year when the former director moved to the Mat-Su Valley, Alaska. Walsted hopes to bring a vibrant Catholic presence to the upcoming campaign, which began Sept. 26.
In keeping with its ecumenical roots, a rally with participating churches will be held midway through the campaign on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood, Walsted said.
The organizers have contacted 21 Catholic and Protestant churches throughout Anchorage, many of which are past supporters of the campaign. The ecumenical community has offered tremendous support to the vigil and is expected to do so again. Several Catholic churches have committed to the vigil with volunteers signing up to spend at least an hour in prayer at the site.
At Holy Family Cathedral, the Knights of Columbus have stepped up with material support as well with offers of water and refreshments for participants. Walsted is hoping for increased participation from Catholic churches in the Anchorage area. Her goal is to have every Catholic parish represented. She has contacted each of them, asking churches to adopt a specific day, citing the example of St. Patrick Church in Anchorage, which has chosen each of the Sundays during the campaign when volunteer parishioners will take their place on the sidewalk. A minimum of 24 people is needed for each day — at least two per hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the campaign’s duration.
While Walsted’s focus is on the involvement of the Catholic community, she is quick to emphasize that abortion “is a human issue, not a denominational issue.”
STEPPING OUTSIDE THE COMFORT ZONE
As a veteran of several campaigns, Walsted said, “Standing on the sidewalk is one of the hardest things I have done in my life. It is uncomfortable and cold.”
But she added, “I think we need to get scared, uncomfortable, imagine what it’s like for the baby. I’d rather be uncomfortable than have a baby killed.”
Many passing drivers give the “thumbs up,” Walsted said. A few choose to extend another digit and infrequently shout obscenities or confront participants. The majority of drivers, however, silently pass by and “pretend they don’t see you,” Walsted said.
While Walsted has never been approached, some others have, by women who have said, “I am keeping mine,” referring to their unborn child.
She clarified that the vigil is not a protest.
“What we are doing is praying to end abortion,” she said.
If she can get one person to reflect on their own life and that of an unborn child, she has her reward.
Walsted acknowledged that family life can be busy and unpredictable but that it is important to be open and generous regarding pro-life work.
In fact, it is her own children who inspire who to do pro-life advocacy — work for which she makes the time when others say they do not have any. She wants her kids to know how deeply she values them and all children.
Posted with permission from Catholic Anchor, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage.
Baltimore, Md., Oct 6, 2012 (CNA) - Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore last week told a large gathering of Maryland religious leaders opposed to Question 6 that it is urgent to organize voters opposed to the ballot measure, which would recognize “gay marriage” in the state.
“Those who are trying to redefine marriage are the politically powerful, and are raising money from Hollywood to Madison Avenue and throughout the country,” he said in his introductory comments at the Sept. 26 Interfaith Gathering on Marriage.
“What a powerful message it should send that so many people from so many faith traditions would gather together in this, the oldest Catholic seminary in the United States, in support of such a critical issue for our society.”
Over 200 attended the meeting at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. Catholic bishops from Maryland and nearby states joined Protestant, Evangelical, Mormon and Muslim leaders at the event.
The Orthodox Jewish community also supported the gathering, but did not attend because it coincided with the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, a leading rabbi from Baltimore sent a message of solidarity.
Archbishop Lori said backers of traditional marriage have an “urgent” task. They must raise the funds to challenge the media campaign in favor of the referendum and they must get their allies to the voting booth. Catholics are contributing “significant financial support” and are organizing volunteers.
The archbishop said the defense of marriage is “a message that is profoundly good.”
He also observed that those of different faiths believe in marriage as “the unique relationship” between a man and a woman and in the “vital and unique role” that both mothers and fathers have in raising children. This relationship is “the foundation of all society” because it brings life into the world, he said.
“The union of man and woman, then, is not only a good for the couple but for the entire community of the Church and of humanity, for marriage serves as a model and a point of reference for all that God calls humanity to be,” Archbishop Lori stated.
On May 1, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law a bill that recognizes “gay marriage” in the state. The bill passed the Maryland House of Delegates by a 72-67 vote and the Maryland Senate by a vote of 25-22.
Opponents of the bill turned in over 113,000 signatures to challenge the bill on the November ballot, about twice the number required by law. The successful petition drive means the law will not take effect until January 2013.
A vote in favor of Question 6 would recognize “gay marriage” in the state, while a vote against Question 6 would defeat the bill and preserve marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
New Haven, Conn., Oct 6, 2012 (CNA) - Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, will release an e-book of his three recent major speeches on responsibility in the voting booth, asserting that Catholics can transform politics by withholding votes from “candidates and propositions that oppose Church teaching on matters of intrinsic evil.”
“Catholics and other Christians will find in this e-book a thought-provoking conversation about our political situation today and how we ought to approach our responsibility in voting,” Anderson said.
He said faith should transcend party affiliation “in every case.” Religious believers should approach politics “from the point of view of their Bible and religion,” and not see their religion through the lens of politics.
Anderson’s e-book “Proclaim Liberty: Notes on the Next Great Awakening” will be released by the Random House imprint Image Books on Oct. 9. It contains three speeches Anderson has given in the last year: his National Catholic Prayer Breakfast speech, his Catholic Press Association speech, and his speech to the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders.
The e-book will be available from online booksellers for those with e-book readers or the appropriate computer, tablet or smartphone software, the Knights of Columbus said.
Anderson said Catholics should withhold their votes from candidates and ballot measures that support intrinsic evil “in every case, in every race for political office, regardless of the party of the candidate.”
“Though it is impossible to say which party might benefit most in the long run, if Catholics take such a stand, we could literally change the face of our country’s political debates,” Anderson stated.
The speeches in his e-book examine how to vote with a well-formed conscience.
He also discusses the religious freedom controversy surrounding the Department of Health and Human Services mandate, which forces many religious institutions and individuals to provide insurance coverage for abortion-causing drugs, sterilization and contraception against their conscience.
Anderson said Catholics make up 25 percent of the U.S. population and are “uniquely suited” to transform the political process. He urged Catholics to vote in a manner consistent with their faith on “core issues” and to bring charity into the political process.
The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal charitable organization with over 1.8 million members worldwide.
Vatican City, Oct 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Paolo Gabriele, the Pope’s former butler, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after being found guilty of stealing confidential Vatican papers -- but it is likely that the 46-year-old Italian will receive a pardon from Pope Benedict XVI.
Eyewitnesses said that Gabriele sat impassively as Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre handed down the sentence. The three-year prison sentence was reduced to 18 months due to “mitigating circumstances,” including Gabriele’s lack of previous convictions, years of service and admission of wrongdoing.
Following the verdict, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the possibility of a papal pardon for Gabriele was now “very concrete and very likely.”
In his final address to the court Gabriele told the panel of three judges “I do not feel like I’m a thief,” adding that he “acted only out of visceral love for the Church of Christ and for its visible head on earth.” He said that he had acted alone and without accomplices.
During the week-long trial, the judges had heard how Gabriele stole copies of confidential documents from the Papal Apartments. These included personal correspondence between Pope Benedict and various cardinals along with encrypted communications from papal ambassadors across the world. Some of the papers were marked in German “to be destroyed” and were written in the Pope’s handwriting.
The butler’s Vatican apartment was searched by police officers on May 23, following the publication of several confidential letters in Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi’s book “Your Holiness.” In total, officers removed 82 crates of material from the Gabriele family home, including approximately 1,000 incriminating documents.
Paolo Gabriele worked in the Papal Household under both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. He was one of very few individuals who had daily access to the Pope. Within the close-knit family atmosphere of the Papal Apartment, Gabriele was affectionately nicknamed “Paoletto” or “little Paul.” He is married and has three children.
His defense lawyer, Cristiana Arru, described today’s verdict as a “good sentence” but did not rule out an appeal against the decision.