Archive of October 21, 2012

Attorney struggles to pay off student loans to enter cloistered monastery

Anchorage, Alaska, Oct 21, 2012 (CNA) - Like many young urban professionals, Anchorage attorney Tara Clemens is gradually chipping away at her burdensome student loans.

Unlike everybody else in town, though, Clemens’ motive for paying off the debt has to do with a desire to become a cloistered Dominican nun.

Having already been accepted into the Dominican convent in Menlo Park, Calif., Clemens has been forced to put her religious vocation on hold until she pays off the debt.

Clemens, who has been profiled in two previous Catholic Anchor articles, is not alone in her situation of having to postpone a religious vocation because of large student debt.

According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, one third of people inquiring about potential study at Catholic training institutions already had student debt averaging $28,000. Although some dioceses and religious orders are willing to help with debt, it’s a financial burden few can carry. Given that many enter religious life at an older age with advanced degrees, student debt is a growing obstacle to religious vocations.

Clemens, however, speaks with optimism about her present situation and her desire to enter the cloister. Raised as an evangelical Christian, in college she found herself searching for the right church. She asked God to lead her.

When a classmate invited her to Mass she went, confident it would verify her conviction that the Catholic Church was the wrong church. Instead God began to pull her towards conversion, and she entered the Catholic Church in 2008.

“I’ve been discerning religious life ever since I entered,” Clemens told the Catholic Anchor.

And she felt called to the Menlo Park Monastery, where she found a profound sense of peace in the monastic community, which she visited several times before making her decision to apply. She was accepted by the order for her aspirancy, in which she spent a month living in the cloister.

But then it was back to work to get rid of the debt that’s standing between her and the Dominican community. She’s living with her parents to cut costs.

Although Clemens’ parents are not Catholic, she says they’re supportive.

“I love my family, and I know how much they love me,” she said. “Ultimately they want me to be happy.”

Keeping in touch with her new religious family is important to Clemens as well.

“I keep up with the nuns through correspondence and email,” she said. “This year I’ve been down to visit twice, with another trip planned this fall.”

A native of Wasilla, she grew up and did her post-high school education in Washington and Oregon. After college she worked for an Anchorage law firm, briefly founded her own firm, and now she works as a paralegal, all the while chipping away at a mountain of debt, which at one point topped $114,000. She has reduced that to under $100,000 and hopes her involvement with the Laboure Society will pave the way for what she feels is her true calling.

The very existence of the Laboure Society underscores the growing problem of pursuing a religious vocation while straining under oppressive student debt. Founded in 2003 by two Minnesota Catholic businessmen, the Laboure Society is a non-profit organization that has assisted over 230 people in paying off loans before entering religious life.

Clemens belongs to an “aspirant class” at Laboure. Stories about Clemens and the 10 other people in her Laboure group are on the organization’s website. Members of her class met in Minnesota, and they continue to support each other through correspondence, calls and prayer.

“We all meet once a month via telephone. It’s been a way to support each other, and build our relationship as the Body of Christ.”

Each member of her Laboure class has a goal to raise $45,000 this year. Clemens has about $38,000 to go. Grant determinations will be made in January or February, and Clemens has her hopes set on a positive outcome.

With the crushing debt burden and the realization that she won’t be practicing law, does she regret her law school education?

“Sometimes, because of the debt, I wonder,” she said thoughtfully. “But I see how God used my law school education to bring me to the Catholic Church. Law school teaches you to think analytically, and it developed my logic and reasoning skills. This helped me in my search for the truth.”

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

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Oct. 23 marks feast of military chaplains' patron St. John of Capistrano

Denver, Colo., Oct 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Oct. 23, the Catholic Church celebrates the life of Saint John of Capistrano, a Franciscan priest whose life included a political career, extensive missionary journeys, efforts to reunite separated Eastern Christians with Rome and a historically important turn at military leadership.

Invoked as a patron of military chaplains, St. John of Capistrano was praised by Blessed John Paul II in a 2002 general audience for his “glorious evangelical witness,” as a priest who “gave himself with great generosity for the salvation of souls.”

Born in Italy during 1385, John lost his father – a French or possibly German knight who had settled in Capistrano – at a young age. John’s mother took care to have him educated, and after learning Latin he went to study both civil law and Church law in Perugia. An outstanding student, he soon became a prominent public figure and was appointed governor of the city at age 26.

John showed high standards of integrity in his civic career, and in 1416 he labored to end a war that had erupted between Perugia and the prominent House of Malatesta. But when the nobles had John imprisoned, he began to question his life’s direction. Encountering Saint Francis of Assisi in a dream, he resolved to embrace poverty, chastity, and obedience with the Franciscans.

Abandoning his possessions and social status, John joined the religious order in October 1416. He found a mentor in Saint Bernardine of Siena, known for his bold preaching and his method of prayer focused on the invocation of the name of Jesus. Taking after his teacher in these respects, John began preaching as a deacon in 1420, and was ordained a priest in 1425.

John successfully defended his mentor from a charge of heresy made against his way of devotion, though he found less success in his efforts to resolve internal controversy among the followers of St. Francis. A succession of popes entrusted important matters to John, including the effort to reunite Eastern and Western Christendom at the Ecumenical Council of Florence.

Drawing immense crowds in his missionary travels throughout Italy, John also found success as a preacher in Central Europe, where he opposed the Hussites’ error regarding the nature and administration of the Eucharist. After Constantinople fell to Turkish invaders in 1453, Pope Nicholas V sent John on a mission to rally other European leaders in defense of their lands.

Nicholas’ successor Pope Callixtus III was even more eager to see the Christian world defend itself against the invading forces. When the Sultan Mehmet II sought to extend his territorial gains into Serbia and Hungary, John joined the celebrated general Janos Hunyadi in his defense of Belgrade. The priest personally led a section of the army in its historic victory on Aug. 6, 1456.

Neither John nor the general, however, would survive long past the battle.

Weakened by the campaign against the Turks, Hunyadi became sick and died soon after the victory at Belgrade. John survived to preach Janos Hunyadi’s funeral sermon; but his own extraordinary life came to an end after a painful illness, on Oct. 23, 1456. St. John of Capistrano was canonized in 1724.

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Head Anglican archbishop makes final push to ordain women bishops

London, England, Oct 21, 2012 (CNA) - The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is trying to persuade members of the Church of England’s upcoming General Synod to back the ordination of women as Anglican bishops, putting further strain on the theologically divided Anglican Communion.

In an article published in the Anglican newspaper The Church Times, Archbishop Williams said the church legislation “will shape the future of the Church of England for generations.” He contended that a vote against the proposal “risks committing us to a period of continued and perhaps intensified internal conflict with no clearly guaranteed outcome.”

The archbishop is trying to push through the measure at the General Synod in November. The synod is the last gathering of Anglican leaders before he leaves office in December 2012 after 10 years as the leading clergyman of the Church of England.

The failure of the legislation would mean it cannot be revisited until the next general synod in 10 years.

Archbishop Williams said the ordination of women as priests but not bishops creates an “anomaly” that introduces “unclarity” into Anglican theology, which he said accepts only “the priesthood of Jesus Christ.” He said it is “inconsistent to exclude in principle a baptized person from the possibility of ordained ministry.”

The archbishop denied that the effort is a concession to “secular egalitarianism” but he said the Anglican Church must admit that “without secular feminism we might never have seen the urgency of this or the inconsistency of our previous position.”

One major controversy in the Anglican legislation is whether it offers adequate protections to Anglicans with theological objections to women bishops. Some proponents of women bishops view the accommodations as discriminatory.

The Anglo-Catholic group Forward in Faith and the evangelical group Reform have both opposed the legislation.

The group Women and the Church, a major proponent of ordaining women bishops, has said its members are divided over the issue and is not taking a position, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports.

The legislation risks further alienating traditionalists, many of whom have already left for other churches because of objections to leading Anglicans’ theological and moral differences with historic Christianity.

Pope Benedict XVI has created a new Church structure called an ordinariate for converts from Anglicanism who wish to join the Church while retaining many of their customs and liturgical practices.

Archbishop Williams’ push for women bishops will be one of his last major actions as Archbishop of Canterbury.

His replacement will be nominated through the British Crown Nominations Commissions, which will submit a preferred candidate and a second acceptable candidate to the U.K. Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will then advise Queen Elizabeth II, the head of the Church of England, on the appointment of the archbishop’s successor.

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Pope canonizes seven saints for the New Evangelization

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has canonized seven new saints and prayed that their intercession may “strengthen and sustain” the Church “in her mission to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world.”

The Pope addressed a crowd of tens of thousands on a sunny, Oct. 21 Mass at St. Peter's Square, raising seven men and women to the altars.

Those included Jacques Berthieu, Pedro Calungsod, Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Marìa Carmen Sallés y Barangueras, Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Anna Schäffer.

The Filipino delegation in honor of Pedro Calungsod was extraordinarily strong, as was the American contingent, here for the canonization of the first ever native American saint, Kateri Tekakwitha.

“On the happy occasion of the canonization today…may the holiness and witness of these saints inspire us to draw closer to the Son of God who, for such great love, came to serve and offer his life for our salvation,” the Pope said.

Two pilgrims of native American descent came on Sunday from Arizona for the canonization of the 17th century saint, Kateri Tekakwitha.

Glenn and Shirley Stoner arrived from a Navajo reservation in the U.S. state. Both Catholics, this was their first visit to Rome.

“This is our first time, but for what an occasion,” Glenn Stoner told CNA.

Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” St. Kateri converted to Catholicism at age 18 and lived a remarkable life of prayer and penance before her death at age 24.

The square outside St. Peter’s Basilica was packed with pilgrims flying flags from the U.S., but those from South America and the Philippines as well.

The canonizations took place during World Mission Sunday and also while the synod of bishops on the new evangelization continues to meet until Oct. 28.

During his homily, Pope Benedict called the “coincidence between this ecclesiastical meeting and World Mission Sunday” a “happy one.”

Those who evangelize, he added, are “called to bear witness and to proclaim the Christian message, configuring ourselves to Christ and following his very path.”

“This is true both for the mission ad Gentes and for the new evangelization,” he said.

Among those canonized Sunday was Marianne Cope, a 19th century Franciscan sister who ministered to Hawaiian lepers.

St. Marianne was born in western Germany in 1838 and entered religious life in Syracuse, New York, in 1862. She served as a teacher and principal in several schools in the state and established two of the first hospitals in the central New York area: St. Elizabeth Hospital in Utica and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse.

Attendee Darlene Delacruz, a journalist for the Hawaii Catholic Herald, said she was overwhelmed by the day's events.

In Rome both as a pilgrim and covering the event as a member of the press, she noted the significance of a “second saint having Hawaii ties,” after St. Damien of Molokai.

“Father Damien and Mother Marianne worked on a little five mile stretch” on the island, and to see both at different times canonized in Rome with “millions of people honoring them” just shows “what good you can do.”

“It's been amazing,” Delacruz said of the experience, “a whirlwind, but amazing.”

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Missionaries under the care of Mary, Pope says

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Marking the celebration of Missions Sunday, Pope Benedict encouraged the faithful to entrust all missionaries to the guidance of Mary, Queen of all Saints.

In his Oct. 21 Sunday Angelus address following the canonization Mass of seven new saints, the Pope called on all “to entrust to the protection of the Virgin Mary all missionaries – priests, religious, and lay – that in every part of the world sow the good seed of the Gospel."

As he addressed the English-speaking pilgrims, “especially those from the Philippines, Canada and the United States of America,” the Pope encouraged them to draw inspiration from their newly-canonized countrymen.

“May the holiness and witness of these saints inspire us to draw closer to the Son of God who, for such great love, came to serve and offer his life for our salvation,” he said.

Those canonized Oct. 21 were Jacques Berthieu, Pedro Calungsod, Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Marìa Carmen Sallés y Barangueras, Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Anna Schäffer.

Pope Benedict noted the Oct. 20 flooding of the Shrine of Lourdes in southwestern France which, after the overflow of the Gave river, has left the Grotto of the Apparition under roughly three feet of water.

The Pope also prayed for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, which will conclude its General Assembly in Rome on Oct. 28.

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