Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 4, 2013 (CNA) -
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Sunday announced the merger of 24 parishes into 10, saying the changes will “ultimately strengthen parish communities.”
“It is hoped that the result will be revitalized parishes throughout the archdiocese that are better equipped to meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of future generations,” the archdiocese said June 2.
Parishioners at the merging parishes were told about the changes at weekend Masses and in mailed letters. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput approved of the changes, which were recommended by the archdiocese’s strategic planning committee.
The archdiocese said the mergers were driven by factors including demographic change, a decrease in Mass attendance, a lack of priests to staff the parishes, and “increasing economic challenges.”
The merged parishes are in a dense urban environment and most are under three miles from each other. Some parish churches are one mile or less from each other. Mergers affecting five other parishes were announced last week.
Father Thomas M. Higgins, a pastor at Holy Innocents Church in northeast Philadelphia, commented about the changes in remarks to CatholicPhilly.com.
“As painful as it is, it needs to be done,” he said. “We're doing something today that should have been done 20 years ago.”
Holy Innocents Church, with a weekend Mass attendance of about 1,200 people, will merge with three other parishes. Two of the parishes have weekend Mass attendance of about 200 each, while the parish has weekend Mass attendance of about 100.
Across the archdiocese, the mergers mean parishioners will attend daily and Sunday Mass at the church of the newly formed parish. The former parish church will remain open and maintained as a worship site. The pastor and the newly formed parish council may decide to use the former parish church for Sunday Mass.
Parish pastors may choose to use the sites for weddings, funerals, feast days, religious devotions and ethnic celebrations “for the time being,” the archdiocese said.
The newly created parish will assume all parish property, assets and debts of the former parish. The new parish will also have responsibility for all parish sacramental records.
Merging parishes must form a transitional team to assist in the process. The mergers will take effect July 1 and signify that the number of parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will decline to 236.
The archdiocese’s pastoral planning initiative will consider the future of more parishes in fall 2013.
Several dozen Philadelphia Catholic schools have closed in recent years due to factors that include declining enrollment.
Denver, Colo., Jun 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A network of pro-life pregnancy centers in Colorado is the latest to take to the streets with a mobile ultrasound unit that it hopes will help women choose life and reject abortion.
“We want to go to where the women are in their daily routines. Instead of waiting for women to find us, we’ll find them,” said Rick Thielen, executive director of the Longmont, Colo.-based Life Choices.
“We’ll meet them where they are, and hopefully show them that what they are really carrying is life, and isn’t just a mass of tissue as pop culture wants to tell them.”
Life Choices’ new ultrasound unit, housed in a large recreational vehicle, aims to provide free ultrasounds in zip codes with a high proportion of women more likely to undergo abortions. The organization gave a tour of the vehicle outside its new affiliate’s offices in Westminster.
“Our target is the abortion-determined women, who may already have an abortion scheduled,” Thielen told CNA May 31.
He reported that in general, about 70 percent of these women change their minds after viewing an ultrasound, while about 87 percent of women who are unsure whether to have an abortion will choose to carry their babies to term.
The new mobile unit will have a paid nurse manager to oversee the trained volunteer nurses who perform the ultrasound procedure. Ultrasounds will be electronically transmitted to a doctor for review and referral.
The vehicle will also provide free pregnancy tests and host trained volunteer advocates from local pro-life pregnancy centers to help assist the women and provide them with the resources they need.
Life Choices purchased the vehicle from Image Clear Ultrasound Mobile, an Ohio-based Christian organization. The organization designed and built the recreational vehicles and developed the system for targeting zip codes with a high number of women who choose abortions.
“We go into that zip code and look for locations that are visible. Shopping centers are good ones,” Thielen said.
The statistical system also helps Life Choices evaluate its success and whether it needs to change location to attract more women considering abortions. However, the system tends to be less reliable for reaching college students, who typically use their home zip code on reporting forms.
Schedules announcing the free ultrasounds will be posted in places like bars, laundromats and restaurants in the north Denver metro area and in other major towns and cities of Colorado.
The ultrasound vehicle’s inaugural Colorado tour has already attracted two pediatricians who have volunteered to treat uninsured patients without charge. Twenty-one nurses attended the first training session for the vehicle.
Life Choices, which has five centers in northern Colorado, wants to partner with “any Christ-exalting church” to help bring the free ultrasound unit into local communities.
Thielen said the organization already works with well over 200 churches in Colorado. “Churches are our lifeblood,” he noted.
The organization hopes to work with the Lighthouse Pregnancy Center, operated by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver near the major Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Denver. Life Choices especially hopes to use its new vehicle to provide counseling services there on Saturdays, when few pro-life pregnancy centers are open.
Image Clear Ultrasound Mobile has helped provide over 30 ultrasound machine vehicles in operation across the U.S., Thielen said. The vehicle numbers could increase to 55 by the end of 2013.
Life Choices has budgeted $60,000 to pay for its ultrasound vehicle each year, though the budget is dependent on gas prices. The organization also hopes to purchase another vehicle to use in Colorado.
The pregnancy center network will give tours of its vehicle Oct. 4 at the Budweiser Event Center in Loveland, Colo., as part of a fundraiser with former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
Life Choices describes itself as a “Christ-centered ministry,” and Thielen said the organization has a religious motivation in reaching out to women.“The most important thing is that we get to share the Gospel,” he said.
“If they want to talk about that great, if not, that’s great too. Usually it starts with a simple question: ‘can we pray for you’?”
Even if clients go through with an abortion, Thielen added, Life Choices will tell them “We’re here for you.”
“Because we know what they’re going to go through. We want them to know that we still love them, that we care for them, no matter what their decision is,” he said.
“They can come on back, and we’ll be there in the future.”
Baltimore, Md., Jun 4, 2013 (CNA) - In recognition of the 70th anniversary of Catholic Relief Services last week, the mayor of Baltimore declared an official “Catholic Relief Services Day” on May 31.
In an official proclamation, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declared that “the people of Baltimore are proud of their rich and diverse church communities” and “extend their very best wishes” to the organization.
She recognized Catholic Relief Services for its mission of seeking “to assist impoverished and disadvantaged people overseas, working in the spirit of Catholic social teaching to promote the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the human person.”
Observing that the organization was started in 1943 by the U.S. Catholic Bishops to aid World War II survivors in Europe, Rawlings-Blake noted that the agency has since expanded to serve “more than 100 million people in more than 100 countries on five continents.”
The international aid organization is headquartered in Baltimore and has worked for seven decades to offer disaster relief, development and aid to those in need across the globe.
Catholic Relief Services is involved in ongoing community recovery in Haiti after a catastrophic earthquake devastated much of the country in 2010. Efforts include building more secure and sustainable structures, creating a “teaching hospital” and helping farmers add value to their crops.
The agency also played a critical role in responding to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated areas of Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. In addition, it has worked to help meet the needs of people in areas of unrest, such as Sudan and Syria.
Dr. Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, wrote in a May 21 blog post reflecting on the agency’s 70th anniversary.
She explained that “the work that is done here will live for as far as can be seen into the future, and beyond. And it will do that for one reason – because it is not the work of people; it is the work of God.”
Vatican City, Jun 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Imitate Blessed John XXIII by growing in obedience to God and self-mastery to achieve peace, Pope Francis urged as he observed the 50th anniversary of his predecessor’s death.
“If peace was the outward hallmark (of Pope John), obedience constituted his inner disposition,” he said at Saint Peter’s Basilica on June 3.
“Obedience, in fact, was the instrument with which to achieve peace,” he told pilgrims from the Diocese of Bergamo, where John XXIII served before being chosen as pontiff.
The current shepherd of the diocese, Bishop Francesco Beschi, accompanied pilgrims from the northern Italian city, located 24 miles outside of Milan, to join Pope Francis in commemorating the anniversary.
After celebrating Mass with Bishop Beschi in St. Peter’s, the faithful were addressed by Pope Francis, who had just spent a few moments in prayer at the tomb of his predecessor.
The Pope underscored that John XXIII’s obedience led him to live “a more profound faithfulness, which could be called, as he would say, abandonment to Divine Providence.”
Peace as his most “obvious aspect,” Pope Francis underscored.
“Angelo Roncalli was a man who was able to communicate peace, a natural, serene, friendly, peace,” he said of John XXIII.
“A peace that, with his election to the pontificate, was manifested to all the world and came to be called ‘his goodness,’” he noted.
According to Pope Francis, that characteristic was “undoubtedly a hallmark of his personality, which enabled him to build strong friendships everywhere.”
The bishop from Bergamo reigned as Pope for nearly three decades, and Francis noted how he was often in contact with people “far removed from that Catholic universe in which he was born and formed.”
“It was in those environments that he proved an effective weaver of relationships and a good promoter of unity, inside and outside the Church community, open to dialogue with Christians of other Churches, with members of the Jewish and Muslim traditions,” he said.
The pontiff noted he conveyed peace because he had “a mind deeply at peace, the fruit of a long and challenging work on himself.”
“There we can see the seminarian, the priest, the bishop Roncalli struggling with the path to the gradual purification of the heart,” the Pope said.
“We see him, day by day, careful to recognize and mortify the desires that come from his own selfishness, careful to discern the inspirations of the Lord,” he remarked.
Pope Francis believes that his writings show “a soul taking shape, under the action of the Holy Spirit working in his Church.”
He affirmed that his “prophetic intuition of convoking the Second Vatican Council and the offering of his life for its success, remain as milestones in the history of the Church of the 20th century and as a beacon of light for the journey that lies ahead.”
Pope Francis exhorted the faithful from Bergamo to “keep his spirit, continue to deepen the study of his life and his writings, but above all, imitate his holiness.”
“May he obtain for (the Church) from the Lord the gift of many holy priests, vocations to religious and missionary life, as well as to family life and lay commitment (to service) in the Church and in the world,” he added.
Vatican City, Jun 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Instead of sugar-coated words and flattery, when Christians speak they should offer the truth with love, without seeking to serve their own interests, Pope Francis said.
“Let us think closely today: What is our language? Do we speak in truth, with love, or do we speak with that social language to be polite, even say nice things, which we do not feel?” the Pope asked during his June 4 homily in Saint Martha’s House.
Those who are corrupt, he added, “are trying to weaken us with this language” by playing off a “certain inner weakness,” stimulated by “vanity” that enjoys hearing people say good things about us.
The Holy Father’s remarks were spurred by today’s reading from Mark 12, in which a group of Pharisees and Herodians tried to trap Jesus by asking him if Jews should pay taxes to Caesar.
These men approached Jesus “with soft words, with beautiful words, with overly sweet words. They try to show themselves his friends,” the Pope said.
However, all of their posturing is false because “they do not love the truth” but only themselves, Pope Francis stated. This results in the Pharisees trying to deceive Jesus about the reason for their questions.
“Hypocrisy is the very language of corruption. And when Jesus speaks to his disciples, he says: ‘let your language be, Yes, yes! No, no.’”
The Pope then stressed that truth is always accompanied by love.
“There is no truth without love. Love is the first truth. If there is no love, there is no truth. They want a truth enslaved to their interests. There is a love, of sorts: it is love of self, love for oneself. That narcissist idolatry that leads them to betray others, that leads them to the abuse of trust,” he told the congregation.
He highlighted that betrayal by noting that with Jesus, those who “seem so amiable in their language, are the same people who will go to fetch him on Thursday evening in the Garden of Olives, and will bring him to Pilate on Friday.”
Jesus’ command to speak truth with love stands in stark relief to this way of acting, the Pope said, as he described how it is the “language of the simple, the language of a child, the language of the children of God … .”
“And the meekness that Jesus wants us to have, has nothing, has nothing of this adulation, this sickly sweet way of going on. Nothing! Meekness is simple, it is like that of a child. And a child is not hypocritical, because it is not corrupt. When Jesus says to us: ‘Let your speech be, Yes is yes! No, is no! ‘with the soul of a child,’ he means the exact opposite to the speech of these (hypocrites).”
The morning Mass was concelebrated by the Armenian Catholic Patriarch, Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, Bishop Vianney Fernando of Kandy in Sri Lanka, and Msgr. Jean Luis Brugues of the Vatican Library.
Rome, Italy, Jun 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Odoardo Focherini will be beatified in the Italian city of Carpi on June 15 for his life of faith and dedication to helping those in need, including 100 Jews he helped escape the Nazis.
“One of the Jews whom he saved said, ‘we are the miracles of Odoardo Focherini,’ and they saw his as their savior and angel,” said Focherini’s grandson, Francesco Manicardi.
“His neighbors weren’t just Jews, but also his family, of which there are now 21 great grandsons,” he added during a June 4 Vatican Radio press conference.
Focherini, an Italian journalist and father of seven children, died at 37-years-old in the Hersbrueck Nazi concentration camp in 1944, after a wound in his leg became infected.
On Saturday, June 15, he will also be beatified, the step before being recognized as a saint, for having managed his work and family life as an exemplary Catholic.
Focherini married his beloved wife Maria Marchesi in 1930, and by 1943 they had seven children.
During those years, Focherini helped organize important diocesan events, such as Eucharistic congresses, and in 1939 he became the managing director of L’Avvenire d’Italia, a Catholic newspaper.
He first started helping Jews flee the Nazi persecution in 1942, but his large-scale effort did not begin until Sept. 8, 1943, when he asked his wife’s permission to help provide false identity cards so that the Jewish refugees could cross the Italian-Swiss border.
Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi, who also attended today’s press conference, underlined that the beatification “isn’t a fruit of speculation.”
According to the bishop, Focherini showed “no separation between his spiritual and family life.”
“He is a complete man because work, family, apostolate in the Church have been his path to beatification,” he stated.
“He let himself be transformed by Jesus Christ until he, like him, died,” he said.
The postulator of his cause, Franciscan Father Giovangiuseppe Califano, reported that extensive studies clearly showed that his persecutors acted “in odium fidei,” or “in hatred of the faith.”
“The proofs are those (things) he himself revealed (in his writings): that there was an anti-Catholic tone by his interrogators in his first interrogation,” said the Franciscan.
“There was an intention to suppress a Catholic activist,” said Fr. Califano.
According to the postulator, Focherini never uttered “a word of hatred against his persecutors.”
“We can attribute to him, not only the crown of faith, but also the crown of charity,” Fr. Califano said.
He will be beatified in a Mass held at 9:30 a.m. on June 15 in Carpi. Organizers are expecting 4,000 people and around 20 bishops to attend the ceremony.
Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic bishops from across the world joined together to ask leaders of the G8 nations to consider the needs of the poor in developing countries across the globe.
In a June 3 letter, the bishops encouraged the national leaders to work in their upcoming meeting to “take steps to improve nutrition, reduce hunger and poverty, and strengthen just tax, trade and transparency policies for the common good of all.”
The G8 – or Group of Eight – is a forum of major industrialized countries that meet to discuss issues of international concern, such as global security, economic growth and terrorism. Its members include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The G8 nations are planning to meet for their 2013 summit in the United Kingdom later this month.
Amid preparations for this year’s meeting, representatives of national Catholic bishops’ conferences from across the globe urged participants to heed the words of Pope Francis, who has called for special protections of the poor and weak.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, signed the letter, along with the leaders of bishops’ conferences in England, Ireland, France, Russia, Japan and several other countries.
“Your focus on agriculture and nutrition ahead of the G8 Meeting is timely,” the bishops said in their letter. “In a world that has made great strides in improving food production and distribution, far too many of God’s children still go to bed hungry or suffer from a lack of nutrition.”
In addition, the bishops highlighted the problem of tax evasion and the importance of trade in serving the needs of people throughout the world.
“Trade and trade rules must serve the universal common good of the whole human family and the special needs of the most vulnerable nations,” they said.
They also stressed the importance of transparency, saying, “Human dignity demands truth, and democracy requires transparency.”
In order to defend the common good, the bishops asked the G8 leaders to consider “how a given policy will affect the poor and the vulnerable.”
“As a human family we are only as healthy as our weakest members,” they stressed.
Si Racha, Thailand, Jun 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a spirit of jubilation and fervor, Catholics in Thailand celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi with Eucharistic adoration and processions.
The solemn liturgical celebrations at the Sacred Heart Church in Sriracha drew large crowds, despite heavy rain showers. Mass was followed with traditional floral processions and adoration to celebrate the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist.
In his homily, Bishop Silvio Siripong Chartsri of Chantaburi stressed that the Eucharist empowers and transforms lives in order for the faithful to be true disciples, sharing in the communion of Christ.
Bishop Silvio drew his homily from the words of Pope Francis, who spoke before leading a Corpus Christi procession.
The Eucharist motivates and invigorates Christian life, he said, explaining that the sacrament “nourishes” the faithful to “be in close communion with the Lord and His people.”
The bishop highlighted the words of Pope Francis: “The Eucharist is the sacrament of the communion that takes us out of our individualism so that together we live our discipleship, our faith in him.”
He further encouraged the faithful to remember the importance of “Eucharistic Communion with God and the relationship with the neighbor.” Charity is an indispensable virtue in the life of a Christian, he said.
Bishop emeritus Lawrence Thienchai Samanchit joined in the sacred celebration, along with local priests and various religious communities, schools and parishioners.
Parishioners welcomed the Corpus Christi homily of the Pope Francis with enthusiasm, saying they were “happy” to hear the Holy Father’s teachings translated into their own language.
Kanjanee Jokthong, a local catechist said, said that the feast of Corpus Christi “is important to reinforce our spiritual life and interpersonal relationship with our fellow beings.”
“In totality, this sacrament is the center of our life,” she explained.
Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In a talk at the nation's capital, a U.S. scholar argued that so-called private entities – such as the family, religion and interpersonal interactions – involve and are in fact the core of public society.
“Religion itself is a rational insight into what it means to be human: what it means to to live in a particular place, to speak a particular language, to have particular family members, to be here and now,” said Dr. Susan Hanssen, an associate professor of history at the University of Dallas.
“If religion is the primary rational insight into our human condition, then it has to be also central to our public discourse, these are all public relations,” she noted.
Hanssen spoke June 3 at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C.
During her remarks, she argued that the private bonds of religion and family life are the root of public relations, and that historically, America has had “laws that have this sort of reverence” for the family and the Church.
“A father’s relationship to his children is a public relation that has to be respected in law,” Hanssen said, “the marriage bond is a public relation that is of concern to everyone because it is the core of society,” and these relations have been protected in public society.
Hanssen distinguished between the nation and the state, arguing that while the state is a purely political entity, “the nation has to recognize both the natural existence of the family and the church,” incorporating both into the well-being of society.
She explained that historically, the state “was the only corporate sovereign that had any right to exist,” whereas within a nation, “there is, beyond the polis, church and family.”
However, Hanssen noted, the United States and other countries have moved from an understanding of a society that incorporates corporate institutions such as the family and religion towards individualism.
Instead of the nation assisting the task “of creating and sustaining a family” and other corporate entities, instead there the state “tolerates” certain groups and collections of persons, Hanssen said.
She explained, though, that this trend does not ring the death knell for the Church or for families, saying that these social institutions “can’t die unless no one sustains them.”
Hanssen noted that despite popular conception, institutions of popular culture and political power don’t “have actual, human gravitational pull” because of their focus upon the individual.
Interpersonal, social institutions can be maintained and revived, she stated, because people “do still value genuine interpersonal relationships.” Hanssen added that the “the more vibrant” these forces are, “the more it becomes the center of gravity.”
She encouraged young persons to focus upon creating “truly personal communities” and supporting these corporate institutions, saying that the the maintenance of the family is “only thing that will work” in holding together the nation.
She also warned against those who wish to preserve the nation from becoming “desiccated, uprooted, solo, modern, individual yuppies fighting a policy battle to the death of Church, family, and love of patria,” saying that instead “it’s much more important to put effort into creating sustaining those groups.”
“Law follows life,” Hanssen said, saying that the structure of the country follows its lived practices and beliefs, and encouraged young people “to put more of their effort in the myriad of decisions and judgments and life adjustments necessary to sustain churches and families and a nation.”