Archive of March 9, 2013

Lifelong friendship with Blessed Virgin inspires book

Anchorage, Alaska, Mar 9, 2013 (CNA) - As he does each day — wearing a sport coat and tie — the ramrod-straight, six-foot-one-and-a-half Ken Wichorek stepped out of his tiny white Geo Metro on a mid-January morning and headed straight for Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Anchorage.

The 81-year-old parishioner arrives early for the daily noontime Mass to lead the rosary aloud beforehand for grandmothers, work-at-home moms and business people who also arrive early. This rosary is a string of prayers Wichorek has prayed for almost eight decades.

That’s thousands and thousands of Apostles’ Creeds, Our Fathers, Hail Marys, Glory Bes and meditations on the mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ — from his divine conception, to his institution of the Eucharist, to his painful steps to Calvary, to his resurrection from the dead.

“The rosary is the life of Christ,” Wichorek said of the prayer that has shaped his long walk with God.

‘A lot to be learned’

After all these years and all those prayers said over and over again, Wichorek remains enthusiastic about the Marian devotion.

“There’s a lot to be learned from the rosary if a person stops to think about it,” he said in a recent interview with the Catholic Anchor.

So the retired civil engineer has written a book to help others mine its riches. “Meditations on the Mysteries of the Rosary” was published in 2012, and is available at St. Paul Corner Bookstore and Gift Shop, on the cathedral’s campus.

Especially as the penitential season of Lent approaches, Wichorek hopes others will pick up their rosary beads and spiritually join the steadfast woman who accompanied her Divine Son through his salvific Passion and who shared his suffering more deeply than any mother could.

“Mary leads us to Christ,” Wichorek observed.

‘A believer from the very beginning’

Wichorek’s walk with Christ seems to have the steady cadence of the rosary he prays.

“I was a believer from the very beginning,” said the now white-haired Wichorek.

The more he studied and researched — and he has read the Bible cover to cover several times — he found nothing to dissuade him from the Catholic Church.

“I’ve always had faith,” he noted, and “I’ve always had a devotion to our Lady.”

“It just happened naturally,” he explained. “If you love Jesus you’re bound to love the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

His first memories of the rosary go back to his Polish-American parish in Cleveland, Ohio, where on Wednesday and Friday evenings parishioners prayed together as World War II raged abroad. Wichorek continued the practice at Purdue University where daily he joined other students at the Newman Center to say the rosary. As a soldier at Camp Pickett, Va., during the Korean War, and later in Germany — where he met his wife and fellow Catholic, Rita – Wichorek continued his prayers.

“As far back as I can remember he’s always had a very deep, strong faith,” explained Wichorek’s daughter Mary Kinder, 47, who is close to her father and who attends Holy Family with her own family. While she was in high school with her dad still working for the Alaska District Corps of Engineers, the two would go to Mass together in the early mornings. And across the years she joined her parents’ pilgrimages to Rome and the shrine to the Blessed Virgin at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.

“I just thought everybody grew up that way,” she recalled.

And since 1991 Kinder has watched her dad spend a prayerful retirement. In addition to leading the rosary and attending Mass every day at the cathedral, Wichorek serves as a parish sacristan, lector and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.

Kinder said that her dad’s strong faith and endurance in the rosary have proved fruitful for her and her three brothers. All are practicing Catholics.

“I’ve been spiritually spoiled,” Kinder added smiling. “I have a deep love and a deep appreciation of my faith. It’s like the greatest gift I could have ever received.”

A?guide to Christ

While the rosary isn’t the only prayer Wichorek prays, it is a priority.

“I couldn’t separate it from my faith,” he said.

That’s because Mary is the picture of what it is to be Christ-like, which is especially important during Lent, Wichorek explained. During the 40-day penitential season leading up to Easter, “we are asked to kind of straighten out our life and become better Catholics,” Wichorek noted, and he believes there is no better guide than Mary.

“She more closely imitated Christ than any other human being in the history of the world,” he said. “Besides being the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God, Mary participated in the sufferings of Jesus during his Passion.”

In fact, the depth of her compassion – which means “to suffer with” as Pope Benedict XVI has noted – goes to her soul.

“Mary feels it in her soul because Mary was conceived without original sin,” Wichorek said.  Like Eve before the Fall, he explained, Mary’s mind, body and soul are “connected completely.”

The Protestant question

Wichorek knows that not all Christians are at ease with a prayer that recalls the Mother of God — despite references to Mary in the Gospels and the long Christian tradition of asking her intercession. It boils down to a different understanding of God and the saints, Wichorek believes. Protestant Christians think God is far off in heaven, and the saints — like Mary — are static, ancient characters that go no further than the pages of a Bible, he said.

But “God is here now” in the Eucharist, Wichorek observed, and Mary continues to make herself known and advocate for humanity.

“Mary has been with us for centuries,” he said. Accounts of Marian apparitions  at sites like LaSalette and Lourdes, France, and Fatima, Portugal – have inspired conversions and healing the sick in body and soul, he noted.

“She’s been very active in helping people and trying to bring them back to Jesus,” Wichorek said.

“When you say the rosary, that’s what we’re trying to do,” Wichorek said. “We’re trying to help people be converted to Jesus.”

Meditations on the mysteries

And that’s what Wichorek hopes to facilitate with his new book, “Meditations on the Mysteries of the Rosary.” It consists of 15 meditations — one for each mystery of the rosary — to reflect on while praying.

Wichorek hopes the book will help others cultivate virtues that correspond to the mysteries. For instance, in the Annunciation Mary’s humility is central.

“She’s asked to receive the Messiah, and she says, ‘Yes’ without asking a bunch of questions,” Wichorek said. The same is true of Saint Joseph, he added. “They don’t question, ‘Why did God do this?  Why didn’t God at least have a place at the inn for us?’ They show unquestioned faith in and obedience to God. This is something that we can look at, and it should help inspire us to be the same — to be like Mary in our humility, to be like Mary in our unquestioned acceptance of what God gives us in our life.”

Spiritually walking alongside Jesus and Mary can be challenging, but Wichorek offers encouragement. In his meditation for the fourth Sorrowful Mystery – the Carrying of the Cross – he writes, “(God) wants us to keep trying. Keep praying. Keep up hope. Go to confession and the Eucharist. Pray daily. You will be triumphant in the end.”

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

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Catholics worldwide mobilize support for new Pope

Denver, Colo., Mar 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - When the white smoke rises from the Sistine Chapel to signal the next Pope’s election, Catholics in some cities can gather at local rally points organized in advance to show their support and love.

Rally founder Seth DeMoor said the new “Rally for the Pope” initiative is intended to show the world “that we stand with and support the new Pope and the teachings of the Church.”

“Rather than let the mainstream media tell our story for us, this is our chance when the whole world will be watching to tell our Catholic story with truth and charity,” DeMoor told CNA March 7.

DeMoor said the conclave helps reminds Catholics they are “privileged” to have “a direct link to Christ himself, through the faithful leaders over the 2,000 years of the Petrine ministry.”

The Papal conclave to elect the next Pontiff will begin March 12 and could last for several days.

When the next Pope is elected, Catholics can gather at the rally point, bringing poster board signs showing support for the new Pope, along with pictures of the new Pope, musical instruments, Vatican flags or banners and even yellow and white face paint in the colors of Vatican City.

“Rally for the Pope” is an initiative of the Colorado-based, which DeMoor heads. That project tells Catholics’ personal stories of faith using streaming video.

DeMoor said the papal election is a chance for Catholics “to support the new Pope as we one billion Catholics attempt to re-propose the hope and truth of our faith to the masses.”

There are three U.S. cities where Catholics are beginning to organize rallies: Boston, Denver and Jackson, Miss. There is discussion about holding rallies to support the new Pope in the Philippines capital of Manila and in Lima, Peru.

DeMoor is appealing for volunteers to organize rallies in other cities as well.

“We need the lay faithful to take a stand during this unique moment in Church history,” he said.

The Denver rally will be held on Lincoln Avenue in front of the Colorado capitol at 4:30 p.m. the day the new Pope is elected. It will then move to the Marian Gardens neighboring the nearby Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Schedule permitting, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver will celebrate Mass for rally attendees and others at the cathedral one hour after the rally begins.

Prospective rally organizers in other cities are asked to contact [email protected].  They can have their rally listed on the initiative’s website.

Because it cannot be known in advance how long it will take for the conclave to choose a Pope, local organizers are being asked to announce a location and time of day, but not an actual date.

Organizers are being encouraged to contact local Catholic radio stations and newspapers and the secular media in advance.

DeMoor said the secular media “will be looking for anything to cover that has to do with the Church the day the new Pope is elected.”

He added that organizers should publicize their local event using social media. The event’s Twitter hashtag is “#RallyForThePope.”

“The more Twitter buzz that the hashtag receives, the better chance the faithful have of getting the media to cover the rallies around the world,” he said.

Organizers should also be aware of local laws governing large assemblies of people, he advised.

More information about the rally can be found at the website,

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Poll shows regular Mass attendees oppose 'gay marriage'

Hamden, Conn., Mar 9, 2013 (CNA) - A majority of Catholics who attend services weekly oppose same-sex “marriage,” according to a poll by Quinnipiac University, even though it's release suggested that Catholics largely support the practice.

Among Catholics who are registered to vote and who attend services weekly, 36 percent support “gay marriage,” while 55 percent oppose it, according to figures provided to CNA by April Radocchio, Quinnipiac University Polling Institute's associate poll director.

The release announcing the poll, by contrast, said that among all registered voters who identify as Catholic – 11 percent of whom never attend religious services – 54 percent support same-sex “marriage,” while only 47 percent of all registered voters are supportive of it.

Based on this finding, Peter Brown, Quinnipiac's assistant director, said that “Catholic voters are leading American voters toward support for same-sex marriage.”

Brown's assertion drew criticism from some Catholic circles, with many suggesting that the poll was flawed in some way.

Pia de Solenni, an ethicist who holds a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, emphasized that the poll, with a sample of less than 500 Catholics, was “hardly representative” of Catholics in America.

“When you ask someone if they're Catholic, you have to further specify, do they attend church regularly or not,” she noted. Survey results are often vastly different between Catholics who do and do not regularly attend Mass.

The poll surveyed 497 Catholics from Feb. 27 to March 4, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent for questions asked of Catholics.

In the release announcing the poll's results, Quinnipiac provided figures for several questions pertinent to Catholics in America. Most of these were issues particular to Catholics, and the answers were broken down so that readers could compare the differences between those Catholics who attend religious services weekly and less than weekly.

However the question asking about support or opposition to same-sex marriage did not have this distinction, merely showing Catholics as a whole.

Radocchio explained the discrepancy, telling CNA that the question about same-sex marriage was asked in the “general issues section” of the poll, and the question was posed to all registered voters.

“We reported them with the breakdowns we generally used with registered voter releases,” she explained.

She said that the remaining questions were all “Catholic issues” which were asked only of Catholic respondents, regardless of their voter registration.

Among Catholics who are registered to vote and who attend services weekly, a mere 36 percent support “gay marriage,” while 55 percent oppose it, the poll found. Among those who attend services less than weekly, 63 percent support “gay marriage” and 29 percent oppose it.

The margin of error for those figures is plus or minus 4.7 percent. Fewer than 497 Catholics were asked the question, because not all of the Catholic respondents were registered voters, though Radocchio said the number of Catholic respondents about “gay marriage” was “not much less” than 497.

Brown told CNA that the breakdown of the same-sex “marriage” results was not in the initial poll release because “we only have so much space, and can only do so many things up front.”

It was “certainly not malicious,” he said, and was a “completely benign decision.”

The poll also found that while 52 percent of respondents think the Church is “moving in the right direction,” 55 percent think the next Pope “should move the Church in new directions.” Sixty-four percent said the next Pope should “relax the church ban on contraception,” and 62 percent responded that he should support allowing women to become priests.

The responses to these questions consistently showed a stark contrast in the opinions of those who attend Mass weekly, and those who attend less than weekly. For example, of those who do not attend services weekly, 73 percent support the priestly ordination of women. Of those who do attend weekly, that figure is only 38 percent.

De Solenni said the poll “shows the importance of more effective teaching” in the Church.

She noted that “when you ask a question of those who attend Mass regularly, the ratios are almost inverse.”

“So if they really want to do a survey that has some integrity, let us know what the standard is for identifying someone as Catholic.”

De Solenni added that these issues are not of interest solely to Americans, but to Catholics worldwide. “It's really important that we take a global perspective on this, and look at what people are saying around the world.”

She said that polls such as the one conducted by Quinnipiac can be useful in terms of “knowing the audience you're speaking to” and “how much teaching needs to be done.”

Such polls, however, are not helpful guides “in terms of telling us which policies we should pursue.”

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Main reason for conclave date revealed

Vatican City, Mar 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - An overwhelming majority of the College of Cardinals agreed on holding the conclave March 12 because the Sistine Chapel and St. Martha House needed more time to be ready for it.

Vatican press office director Father Federico Lombardi told journalists March 9 that the chamberlain of the College, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, updated the cardinals on the status of preparations needed to begin the conclave, which effectively ruled out an earlier date.

At the March 8 evening session, the “overwhelming majority” of the 145 cardinals voted to hold the conclave on March 12. The vote was the first thing on the agenda for the 5:00 p.m. meeting.

During their Saturday morning session the cardinals drew lots for rooms at the St. Martha House where they will be staying during the conclave. The house is located just behind and to the left of St. Peter’s Basilica inside the Vatican and during non-conclave times people who work in the Vatican live there.

The residents of St. Martha will be moved out in time for the cardinals move-in on Tuesday morning, beginning at 7:00 a.m.

On Saturday morning at around 11:00 a.m., workmen could be seen on the roof of the Sistine Chapel installing the famous chimney that will become the focus of hundreds of television cameras next week.

The Mass for Election of a New Pontiff will take place on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. The cardinals will enter the conclave at approximately 5:00 p.m. on the same day.

The first possible smoke sighting will be on Tuesday evening at around 7:00 p.m.

There will be four votes per day, with two in the morning and two in the afternoon. Smoke is always sent up after the two morning votes – around noon – and then again after the afternoon set of votes – around 7:00 p.m..

However, if the first vote of either the morning or afternoon set results in the election of a new Pope, the smoke will be seen earlier.

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Detailed schedule of conclave released

Vatican City, Mar 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Vatican press office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, has revealed details of the daily schedule of the Conclave set to begin March 12.

The Mass for Election of a New Pontiff will take place on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. Beginning at 3:45 p.m., Cardinals will be transferred from the St. Martha House, the building where the Cardinals will reside during the Conclave, to the Vatican.

From there, Cardinals will process from the Pauline Chapel to the Sistine Chapel where they will pray Vespers and officially enter the Conclave at 5:00 p.m.

The first possible smoke sighting will be on Tuesday evening at around 7:00 p.m.

If the smoke is black, the Cardinals will reconvene the next morning beginning with Mass at 8:15 a.m. in the Pauline Chapel and mid-morning prayer. Voting will begin again at approximately 9:30 a.m.

There will be four votes per day, with two in the morning and two in the afternoon. Smoke is always sent up after the two morning votes – around noon – and then again after the afternoon set of votes – around 7:00 p.m..

However, if the first vote of either the morning or afternoon set results in the election of a new Pope, the smoke will be seen earlier.

The Cardinals will follow this schedule until a new Pope is elected.

During the press conference, it was revealed that the main reason for Tuesday start of the Conclave was chosen to allow more time for preparations to the Sistine Chapel and St. Martha House.

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