La Crosse, Wis., Apr 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Diocese of La Crosse has opened the beatification cause of Wisconsin priest Father Joseph Walijewski on March 19, a missionary known as a humble man who helped the poor of Latin America.
“This guy was a saint,” Father Sebastian Kolodziejczyk, Executive Director of the Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II orphanage in Lima, Peru, told CNA April 1.
“He was all about doing God’s will as a priest,” Fr. Kolodziejczyk said. “He was always working with the poor, sharing the hardships of the poor people.”
Bishop William P. Callahan of La Crosse opened the cause for beatification, another step on the priest’s path to possible canonization. Canon lawyer Dr. Andrea Ambrosi will be the postulator for the Wisconsin priest’s beatification cause.
An edict tacked to the front door of La Crosse’s Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker asked for anyone with positive or negative testimony about the priest to give testimony to a diocesan tribunal investigating his cause.
Fr. Kolodziejczyk, who worked with Fr. Walijewski and succeeded him as orphanage director, said the opening of the beatification cause was not a surprise to him or to those who knew the priest personally.
“With Fr. Joe, what you saw was what you got,” he said. “He was a man without guile. He was very hardworking, very simple in his expectations. He lived in a very simple room.”
Fr. Kolodziejczyk said the missionary was “unpretentious” and “very humble.”
Fr. Walijewski was born to poor Polish immigrant parents in Grand Rapids, Michigan on March 15, 1924. He sold newspapers beginning at the age of five, during which time he decided he wanted to be a priest.
In the face of academic difficulties, he promised God that he would serve in Latin America if he were ordained.
He was ordained for the Diocese of La Crosse in April 1950, served as a pastor or assistant pastor at several Wisconsin parishes, and began missionary work in Bolivia in 1956.
Fr. Walijewski founded Holy Cross Parish in the unpopulated jungles of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The parish he founded is now part of a high density urban center, the Father Joseph Walijewski Guild says.
After further missionary work in Ecuador and pastoral work in Wisconsin, he traveled to Peru to minister to earthquake victims in 1971. He became pastor of a new barrio called Villa El Salvador, located on the outskirts of Lima. While there he helped organize breakfast stations that fed 8,000 children per day.
He founded the Lima orphanage Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II, the House of John Paul II, in 1987. The orphanage housed six to seven children with a married couple in an apartment. The married couple would help teach them life skills, while the orphanage helped catechize the children and gave them access to the sacraments.
At the age of 76, Fr. Walijewski helped establish a home for the elderly staffed by consecrated religious. Undaunted by age, he still drove into the rain forest on Sundays to celebrate Mass for small communities of Ashiko Indians.
He died aged 82 on April 11, 2006 at a Lima hospital after suffering pneumonia and acute leukemia. He was a priest for 56 years of his life.
Fr. Kolodziejczyk said Fr. Walijewski was regarded as “a very holy person.” When the priest died people from Villa Salvador took his body on a tour through areas he used to work so that others could pay their respects and say their goodbyes.
Thousands of people, including several bishops, attended his massive funeral procession.
“His priestly life was entirely at the service of the poor, and everything that comes with it,” Fr. Kolodziejczyk said. “He was not just preaching poverty, he lived it. It was not just something for show. He was actually doing everything he was preaching in his personal life.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 2, 2013 (CNA) -
After hearing about Pope Francis' Holy Thursday Mass where he washed the feet of juvenile detainees, imprisoned youth in Los Angeles wrote letters to the pontiff thanking him for giving them hope.
“Thank you for washing the feet of youth like us in Italy,” one prisoner wrote, “We are also young and made mistakes. Society has given up on us, thank you that you have not given up on us.”
Pope Francis made headlines recently after deciding to celebrate Holy Thursday Mass on March 28 at Casal del Marmo youth detention center in Rome, instead of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran.
During his leadership of the Buenos Aires archdiocese, then-Cardinal Bergoglio was known to preside over the Holy Thursday liturgy in a prison, a hospital or a hospice for the poor and marginalized people.
He offered an explanation behind the gesture, telling the youth, “This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty, as a priest and bishop I must be at your service.”
“But it is a duty that comes from my heart and a duty I love. I love doing it because this is what the Lord has taught me,” he added.
The Pope encouraged the young people in Rome to become more self-giving and helpful. “And thus,” he added, “in helping each other we will do good for each other.”
Just before performing the ceremony of the Washing of the Feet, Pope Francis told the youths to ask themselves ‘Am I really willing to help others?’
In an act of solidarity with the Holy Father, members of an organization dedicated to ministering to imprisoned youth – the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative – washed the feet of L.A. juveniles on the same day and read letters from the teens to the Pope in response to his gesture.
One inmate said that Christ’s example of washing the Twelve’s feet taught him “something very different” than what he was taught growing up which was that respect is earned by “hurting your enemy.”
“When Jesus washed the feet of his friends he gave an example of humility,” the teen wrote. “I hope we kids can learn from this.”
Another inmate who said he has “grown up in a jungle of gangs and drugs and violence,” asked the Pope to pray for him that, “that one day I will be free and be able to help other youth like you do.”
One youth asked for prayers for “all the victims of violence” especially the families of those he and other inmates “have hurt.”
Pope Francis' act of service encouraged the fight against addiction, one teen said.
“Drugs have been part of (my) life for so long,” he said, “But you inspire me and I promise to be sober and help others with the cruel addiction of crystal meth.”
Some of the prisoners thanked the Pope for his example in choosing the name Francis after the Saint of Assisi.
“He was a man of peace and simplicity,” one said as he asked the Pope to “pray that we have peace in our gang-filled neighborhoods.”
“I have never been to Rome,” one youth told the Holy Father, “I do not know if it is near Los Angeles because all my youth I have only known my neighborhood.” The prisoner said he hopes to one day receive a “second chance” and to perhaps “receive a blessing” from Pope Francis.
Another simply stated that he knows the Holy Father must “have a good family” and admitted that “my family is suffering because of me.”
“I know I have done bad things but I am not a bad kid,” the letter read.
One teen asked Pope Francis to “help us” by helping others “understand that we can change and want to change.”
The harshest sentence an Italian minor can receive is 20 years in prison, one inmate noted. “I wish this was true here,” he said, adding that he is “glad” to be Catholic “because I have a pope like you.”
Washington D.C., Apr 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Former abortion clinic manager Abby Johnson is organizing a day – called “Exodus 2013” – for abortion workers seeking to leave the industry to band together in solidarity and encouragement.
“We kind of thought picking one particular day might bring about a sense of camaraderie,” Johnson told CNA, “that they might all feel a little more courageous if they know they’re doing it with other people.”
“Exodus 2013 – National Leave the Abortion Industry Day” will take place across the country on April 8, helping workers wishing to leave the abortion industry to gather both the courage and resources to do so.
Johnson said that contact with pro-life organizations, including 40 Days for Life, helped her to leave her job as the director of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in 2009.
She later became a pro-life advocate and founded an organization called “And Then There Were None” to help abortion workers find the information, support and funds to leave the abortion business.
The group offers emotional support and arranges for counseling, because “these workers have seen and participated in things the general public wouldn't be able to stomach,” Johnson explained. In addition, spiritual care from one’s religious tradition can be arranged for those who want it.
The organization is also able to provide pro-bono legal assistance through its partnership with legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom for individuals who are prosecuted by the abortion clinics. Since the ministry’s start last June, 47 abortion clinic workers have left the abortion industry with Johnson’s help.
“We've had amazing success through our ministry,” she said, “and we just kind of thought - maybe if we could get a day where we asked people to just pick up and leave the abortion industry...it would at least be good exposure to let clinic workers know that there is a resource for them.”
The name “Exodus 2013” was initially chosen simply to suggest a large number of people leaving the abortion industry in 2013, Johnson explained, and the date of the event was picked purely at random.
Later, however, Johnson realized that April 8 would be the celebration of the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, which was moved in the Catholic liturgical calendar from its normal date of March 25 due to Holy Week and the Octave of Easter. The Catholic feast day celebrates the announcement of the archangel Gabriel to Mary that she was to conceive Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
In addition, Johnson later found out that April 8 is also the date for “Holocaust Remembrance Day,” a correlation that she describes as “pretty significant,” since “we wholeheartedly believe that abortion is a holocaust in our country.”
Furthermore, she said, after picking the name “Exodus 2013,” the organizers realized that in the Bible, Exodus 20:13 is “Thou shalt not kill.”
After discovering these meaningful connections, Johnson said that her coworkers didn’t “believe that there's any coincidence.”
“We thought that was pretty powerful,” she said.
Johnson explained that And Then There Were None is “hoping for big things” to happen with Exodus 2013. The organization is working hard to promote the event through Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets.
In addition, the group is “sending flyers about Exodus 2013 into every abortion clinic across the country.”
“We're hoping someone will open it, read it, and share it with someone in their clinic that would want to utilize the service,” Johnson said of the flyer campaign.
“We're really excited, looking forward to seeing what will take place.”
Vatican City, Apr 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican is observing World Autism Awareness Day by calling on Christians to recognize the Risen Christ in autistic people and increase solidarity with them.
“The Council wishes to share with people who suffer because of autism, the hope and certainty that adherence to Love enables us to recognize the Risen Christ every time that he makes himself our neighbor on the journey of life,” said the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski.
“Setting oneself to listen must necessarily be accompanied by an authentic fraternal solidarity,” the archbishop said in his April 2 message.
Today is the sixth year of World Autism Awareness Day, and the Vatican released the message to express solidarity with those suffering from the disorder and their families.
“Such solidarity (…) becomes a loving presence and compassionate nearness for those who suffer, following the example and in imitation of Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan who by his passion, death and resurrection redeemed humanity,” said Archbishop Zimowski.
“The Church with humility proposes the way of service to the suffering brother, accompanying him with compassion and tenderness on his tortuous human and psycho-relational journey,” he added.
Archbishop Zimowski advocated for people with disabilities being allowed to participate in social life as far as they are able. The “world of rights,” he said quoting Blessed John Paul II, cannot be only for the healthy.
The message also quoted from Pope Francis, who said in the first days of his papacy, “we must not allow a one-dimensional vision of the human person to prevail, according to which man is reduced to what he produces and to what he consumes: this is one of the most dangerous snares of our time.”
The pontifical council president also noted that the Church supports people affected by autism through parishes, associations and Church movements, and he encouraged them to “take advantage” of what is being offered.
Those who care for people with autism were also on his mind.
He counselled them that “no procedure, however perfect it may be, can be ‘effective’ if it is deprived of the ‘salt’ of Love … .”
“(E)very worker, each according to his or her role, must know how to transmit to the sick person and his or her family, not making that person feel like a number but making real the situation of a shared journey that is made up of deeds, of attitudes and of words.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On the eighth anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s death, the Vatican official in charge of overseeing his canonization process says that people see some of him in Pope Francis.
“I see that people remember his words and his gestures, and I think that in many actions you can see similarities with Pope Francis,” Monsignor Slawomir Oder told CNA April 2.
“We can perceive that both are similar in their openness, in their simplicity in approaching people and in their prayer,” he said.
“Pope Francis invites each person to hope and to have the courage to embrace God in his life,” he added.
April 2 marks the eighth anniversary of Blessed John Paul II passing away, and he could be proclaimed a saint if a second miracle, currently under study, is proven.
Bishop Emeritus of Rome Benedict XVI beatified him on May 1, 2011, after a French nun with Parkinson’s disease was miraculously cured through his intercession.
“Now we’re at the phase where it’s necessary to wait for one more miracle,” said Msgr. Slawomir Oder.
“I chose a few cases and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints chose one of those, which they are currently evaluating,” he explained.
At 26 years, John Paul II’s pontificate was the third longest in the history of the Catholic Church.
Msgr. Oder told the Italian publication Avvenire that cases which could be labeled as miraculous came from different parts of the world, including Poland, Italy, Spain, the United States, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil.
Lima, Peru, Apr 2, 2013 (CNA) - Health and legal experts throughout Peru are denouncing a recent recommendation by the U.N. Human Rights Commission that the nation loosen its laws regarding abortion.
In a report presented on March 28, the United Nations commission recommended that Peru “revise” its laws on abortion to allow the procedure in certain cases such as rape and incest.
“Abortion should be allowed in these cases because they are performed anyway, but in a clandestine, illegal and unsafe way,” the report argued.
Peru “should adopt a national protocol to regulate the practice of therapeutic abortion,” it stated.
Abortion remains illegal in Peru, but it carries no sanction in cases when the life of the mother is in danger. Various feminist organizations are pushing for abortion to become legally viewed as a woman’s “right.”
In statements to the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, constitutional expert Victor Garcia Toma said the Peruvian government is free to ignore the U.N. recommendation because it is not binding on the nation’s law and “does not conform in any way to what our Constitution says regarding the principle of the right to life.”
The former president of the Council of Ministers in Peru, Luis Solari, also criticized the commission, saying, “The U.N. itself is violating the Convention on the Rights of Children and the American Convention on Human Rights.”
“This is where one realizes that abortion supporters have installed themselves in the United Nations and are using that forum to pressure countries to legalize abortion,” he added.
Solari said the Peruvian government should respond that “the laws of Peru apply within Peru and that the United Nations has no right to interfere in that.”
Peru’s former foreign relations minister, Jose Antonio Garcia Balaunde, also noted that the U.N. statement is merely “a recommendation and is non-binding.”
“The government will decide what it will do,” he said.
Peruvian Congresswoman Martha Chavez observed that the report was presented just 10 days after the country’s current minister of justice, Eda Rivas, attended a U.N. conference on human rights in Geneva.
“It would be interesting to know what her position was before this Human Rights Commission,” Chavez stated. “Did she succumb to pressure from pro-abortion NGOs?”
“No international organism can force Peru to go against what its constitution says,” Chavez added.
“Out of natural wisdom – and not because of religion – we Peruvians are not going to allow ourselves to be turned into Sweden or Finland, where the abortion rates are higher than the birth rates,” she emphasized.
The vice president of Peru’s Congressional Committee on Justice, Heriberto Benitez, said, “The political constitution is very clear when it says that the supreme purpose of society is the human person.”
Washington D.C., Apr 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - With six days remaining to file public comments on the federal contraception mandate, one Catholic leader is calling on Americans to join more than 140,000 concerned citizens in speaking out against the regulation.
Brian Burch, president of non-partisan advocacy group Catholic Vote, told CNA on April 2 that “input from the public is essential to making the case that the mandate must be repealed.”
Catholic Vote said in an email to its supporters that “as of Easter Sunday 80,901 people have registered comments on the latest HHS proposal, bringing the total comments the proposed ‘accommodation’ to 147,000.”
According to Catholic Vote, this is “the largest number of comments on a government regulation in our nation's history.”
In January 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would require nearly all private insurance plans to offer free contraception, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs.
The announcement was immediately controversial and has led to lawsuits from more than 150 employers, non-profit organizations and other groups and individuals who claim that the mandate violates their religious freedom by forcing them to act against their deeply-held religious convictions.
Although a religious exemption was included in the mandate, it was narrowly worded and would not apply to most religious organizations, such as schools, hospitals and charitable groups. Nor would it offer any protection to for-profit businesses run by religious individuals.
After a wave of protest, the federal government announced that it would offer an “accommodation” for the religious freedom of non-profit groups.
Over the past year, the accommodation has gone through various stages of development. Initial proposals from the government were criticized as an “accounting gimmick” that would fail to adequately address religious liberty concerns.
Under the proposed accommodation, insurance companies would offer coverage of contraception and related products for free. The government argued that such coverage can be given for no cost because women enjoy “tremendous” health benefits from contraception and will have fewer children as a result, leading to lower overall healthcare costs.
However, opponents argue that the objectionable products and procedures will ultimately be funded through increased premiums paid by the objecting religious employers.
The final details of the accommodation have not yet been worked out but will be released in coming months. The new policy will go into effect for religious employers on Aug. 1, 2013.
Each major stage in the mandate revision process has included a period for the public to file comments on the proposed changes. The current comment period is open until April 8.
Burch explained that the record number of comments “demonstrates that Americans have deep reservations over the reach of the mandate and that a sufficient number of people believe it is misguided, unconstitutional, and that the mandate ought to be revisited.”
He added that lawmakers “and the courts are both actively looking at the impact of the proposed mandate and how it might impact the religious freedom of both religiously affiliated institutions, but also individual citizens.”
“The Administration has every right to ignore the wishes of the public and proceed with the regulation as proposed,” he said, “but the number of comments sends an unmistakable message to elected officials, and even to the courts, that the regulation is deeply divisive and deserving of careful evaluation before proceeding.”
Burch also encouraged more individuals to submit comments to the government before the upcoming deadline.
Those who wish to submit comments on the mandate can do so at the government’s regulation comment website.
“Failure to respond adequately will send the unfortunate message that Americans are ready to roll over and accept the mandate as proposed,” he warned.