Phoenix, Ariz., Jun 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix has established a local house of prayer for priests, where they can come for solitude with Christ and renew themselves for their ministry to the people of God.
Merciful Heart Hermitage is “a place of prayer for priests....to be drawn into Jesus' own heart, and through his heart coming into deep relationship with the Father and the Father's heart,” director Father Eugene Florea, director of the hermitage, told CNA June 19.
“As priests are renewed here, and more deeply united to the heart of Christ, then they're able to go back into their ministry more deeply united to the heart of Christ to bring to the people of God, the Father's love and mercy in a deeper way.”
Merciful Heart was established on May 21, and was named for it's mission to draw priests into the hearts of Christ and God the Father.
The hermitage “has been used” already, Fr. Florea said, and has drawn interests not only from the priests of Phoenix, but those “from different parts of the country.”
The facility consists of a central chapel, with four hermitages, or poustinia, where retreatants can stay in solitude. Each poustinia has its own kitchenette, The Catholic Sun reported June 12; that way, priests are able to maintain quiet and separation as much as possible.
“There's also a main house, with some extra rooms if necessary, but really the central part of the retreat experience would be in those poustinia,” said Fr. Florea.
The hermitage is located in Black Canyon City, just 47 miles north of the center of the Phoenix metro area, where many of the diocese's priests are assigned.
The site was formerly the home of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration of Our Lady of Solitude Monastery, who now have a new location to the west of Phoenix.
“Jesus himself said to the apostles, 'come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile,' and this place kind of answers that need,” Fr. Florea reflected.
The need, he said, “to be renewed in prayer, to be in conversation with the Father, and really be more rooted in that way as beloved sons of the Father, and let all of our ministry flow from that identity.”
On a limited number of occasions each year, the priest will offer some directed retreats in the Ignatian tradition, “so in that case they would meet daily for spiritual direction during that retreat.”
These directed retreats will be a five to eight day experience of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, which were composed to help retreatants choose to live for Christ and meditate on his life.
Fr. Florea was introduced to Ignatian spirituality at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska, noting that he “went through their training program in spiritual direction for diocesan priests.”
A pastor of the Phoenix diocese, Fr. Florea said he “sensed a call to a deeper contemplative life.”
“I brought that sense of a call to Bishop Olmsted, and he asked if I might be able to live that call out in such a way that I could live at this facility and welcome other priests who want to come and pray...and receive spiritual direction and retreat.”
Bishop Olmsted wanted somewhere for his priests to be able to spend in prayer and solitude on monthly “desert days,” or days of recollection.
“Priests are free to come and just be on their own in solitude...some might want to receive spiritual direction,” Fr. Florea explained, or the sacrament of confession.“Others might want to come for a longer time of retreat,” he said, and “they might meet with me at some point during their stay.”
Fr. Florea thinks the hermitage is “going to be a great blessing for the Church.”
“I really see it as being so needed, and I think it'll help contribute in a small way to the renewal of the priesthood.”
Denver, Colo., Jun 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The American Dream is at stake in the debate over immigration reform, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles told a group of journalists, saying the issue provides a chance for the nation to renew its soul.
“Our national debate about immigration is a great struggle for the American spirit and the American soul,” the Mexican-born American citizen said June 21 at the Catholic Media Conference in Denver, Colo.
“It’s also a defining historical moment for America – a moment for national renewal.”
He told those who are engaged in media as a “witness in service to the Church” that the need for immigration reform is, he believes, “the most pressing issue that we face in American public life.”
“There are times in the life of a nation that are a trial. We are living in one of those times,” he declared. “How we respond to the challenge of illegal immigration will measure our national character and conscience in this generation.”
Archbishop Gomez reminded his listeners that most Americans have forgotten their immigrant roots, even though both the Catholic Church and the U.S. have been always based on immigrants.
Since the Church in America is one of immigrants, the immigration debate is indeed one “about the future of the Church and our Catholic people,” he said.
Most Latin American immigrants are Catholic, he noted, adding that members of the faith “need to help our neighbors see that immigration is about more than immigration.”
“Immigration,” he emphasized, “is a question about America.”
During his remarks, Archbishop Gomez addressed the root of the immigration debate by asking the questions that underlie the issue: “What does it mean to be an American? Who are we as a people and where are we heading as a country? What will the 'next America' look like?”
“What should the next America look like?”
The archbishop noted G. K. Chesterton's comment that the U.S. is the only nation founded not on a material basis such as territory or race, but on a belief – a vision.
The Founding Fathers – the writers of the Declaration of Independence – envisioned a nation “where men and women from every race, religion and national background could live in equality.”
“In earlier generations, we welcomed newcomers from every nation in Europe,” he said, and that now, American immigrants are overwhelmingly coming from Latin America and Asia.
The belief that America was to be a place of equality created a nation of “flourishing diversity” through immigration, he noted.
“That’s what’s at stake in the immigration debate – the future of the American Dream.”
The American Dream has always been “a work in progress...not fully delivered,” Archbishop Gomez told his listeners. Slavery, nativism, and race discrimination have always been blights upon that dream, the reality of which has been both “painful and partial.”
Yet that American Dream, which is beautiful and universal despite its imperfect reality, “has always formed our conscience.”
The vision of the Founding Fathers has caused reform in the areas of slavery, of civil rights, of farm workers' rights, and in the pro-life movement.
The recognition of the human dignity of slaves, of people of color, of farm workers, and of unborn children should awaken our conscience, enabling us “to open our hearts to the 11 million people who are living here without authorization.”
Instead of having open hearts to admittedly illegal immigrants, Archbishop Gomez said America has been addressing the issue with discrimination, race-based criminal profiling, random identity checks, commando-style raids of workplaces and homes, and arbitrary detentions.
America has forgotten that illegal immigration “is no ordinary crime,” he emphasized, and that those labeled “illegals” are “the people next door,” who hold down jobs and have kids in school.
“That’s what makes our response to this 'crime' so cruel,” said Archbishop Gomez. More than a million have been deported in the last four years, with thousands more being held without charge or representation in detention centers.
The desire to enforce American immigration law is leading us to break up families, the archbishop said.
“We’re talking about fathers who without warning, won’t be coming home for dinner tonight … about women suddenly left as single mothers to raise their children in poverty.”
Fully one quarter of people who are deported have been taken away from an intact family, he noted.
“Since when has America become a nation that punishes innocent children for the sins of their parents?”
The American soul is becoming a force that deprives children of their parents, he said. “We need to stop ourselves. We are a better people than this.”
Catholics, the successor of the apostles urged, “need to be the conscience of our nation. We need to help our neighbors to remember the founding vision of America – that all men and women are created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights.”
“No matter where they come from or how they got here. No matter what kind of documents they have or don’t have.”
America is called, by the vision on which it was founded, to make room for a rich diversity of people, “speaking different languages, with different beliefs, customs and traditions.”
“Friends, I’ve studied this issue and prayed about it,” Archbishop Gomez concluded, “and I’ve come to this conclusion: Immigration reform offers us a special moment as a nation.”
“We have a chance to create a path to welcome millions of new Americans who would share our national ideals, beliefs and values. This new generation of immigrants promises to help renew the soul of America.”
Washington D.C., Jun 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic and Baptist leaders are collaborating to ask national legislators to support a bill that would offer conscience protections to healthcare workers across the country.
“While Catholics and Southern Baptists espouse different theological views, we are united by the belief that Congress must act to help preserve our freedom of religion and conscience,” Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention wrote in a June 21 letter to members of Congress.
“We urge you to do all that you can to ensure prompt enactment” of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, they said.
Archbishop Lori chairs the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The letter was released on the first day of the 2013 Fortnight for Freedom, a two-week period of prayer, education and action leading up to the Fourth of July, which encourages greater respect for religious liberty both in America and abroad.
The religious leaders explained that the proposed legislation “would address threats to religious freedom and rights of conscience that have become particularly grave in the field of healthcare.”
“As many people are being forced – and many others will soon be forced – to either follow what the government compels or suffer for their faith, now is the time to pass legislation that protects our God-given freedom,” they stressed.
The Health Care Conscience Rights Act has been introduced both chambers of Congress, by Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Deb Fischer (R- Neb.) in the Senate and by Rep. Diane Black (R- Tenn.) in the House of Representatives.
Moore and Archbishop Lori highlighted the “unacceptable” threats to religious liberty posed by the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, which would force employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraceptives, sterilizations and some drugs that can cause early abortions, even if doing so violates the employer’s deeply-held religious beliefs.
They also detailed infringements on the rights of healthcare workers who conscientiously decline to perform abortion procedures and experience subsequent discrimination in the workplace.
Without a law protecting the conscience rights of healthcare workers, “even Americans’ right to serve the sick and needy without violating their religious convictions on human life is not secure,” said the Christian leaders.
The proposed legislation would seek to address threats to religious freedom by extending existing conscience protections to the Affordable Care Act and expanding nondiscrimination laws to protect healthcare workers with conscientious objections to certain products and procedures.
Archbishop Lori and Moore noted that under current law, healthcare professionals “do not even have a right to go to court to defend their God-given rights of conscience,” and they subsequently often face “pressure and threats to take part in the destruction of innocent life.”
“The Health Care Conscience Rights Act would address these serious problems in ways consistent with our federal government’s long history of bipartisan consensus on respect for rights of conscience,” they said.
Archbishop Lori further expressed his support of the bill in a statement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, saying that the “right to live out our faith in the public square – in our churches, our schools, and our places of employment – is too important not to defend.”
Rockville Centre, N.Y., Jun 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop John C. Dunne, who was an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, on June 22, a few months after he turned 75.
Canon law requires that bishops submit their resignation upon their 75th birthday.
Born in 1937, Bishop Dunne was ordained a priest for the Rockville Centre diocese on June 1, 1963. As a priest of the diocese, he served as a pastor, as spiritual director at Immaculate Conception Seminary, and in various positions in the diocesan chancery.
He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre in 1988, and was consecrated on Dec. 13 of that year by Bishop John R. McGann, who was then the bishop of the local Church.
The diocese has 1.7 million Catholics in a population of 3.5 million, making it the fifth most populous diocese in the U.S. It has 133 parishes, 369 priests and over 800 vowed religious.
The diocese is governed by Bishop William F. Murphy, who is assisted by two auxiliaries. Bishop Dunne joins three other men as auxiliary bishop emeriti of the Rockville Centre diocese.
Vatican City, Jun 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Just as God called Abraham by name to receive a promise, so does he continue to call each Christian personally to enter into relationship with him, Pope Francis said at his daily Mass June 25.
“We Christians have been called one-by-one: none of us is Christian by pure chance. No one,” he said during his homily at the chapel of Saint Martha House in the Vatican.
The call of each Christian is “by name, and with a promise: Go ahead, I am with you. I walk beside you.”
“God accompanies us, God calls us by name,” the Bishop of Rome assured his listeners.
The Mass was concelebrated by Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general emeritus of the Diocese of Rome. It was attended by staff of Cor Unum, the Pontifical Academy for Life, and the Vatican Observatory.
Pope Francis explained that being a Christian is “a call of love and friendship” as well as a call “to become a child of God” and a “brother of Jesus.”
“To become fruitful in the transmission of this call to others, to become instruments of this call,” he added.
The Roman Pontiff reflected on the creation account, in which “God creates the stars, creates the plants, creates the animals, creates these, thats and the others” – all in the plural.
“But he creates man in the singular: one. God always speaks in the singular to us.”
Despite problems and difficult times, he said that Christians can always have the confidence that “the Lord has called me” and “has promised me.”
“The Lord is faithful, for he can never deny himself: he is faithfulness,” Pope Francis said.
He stressed the importance of, despite being sinners, “going forward with the Lord” and “recounting to others that the Lord is with us. That the Lord has chosen us and he does not leave us alone, not ever.”
“That certainty of the Christian will do us good.”
Pope Francis compared the anointing of baptism with Abraham's anointing as “the father of peoples.”
The first reading at the Mass told of the discussion between Abraham and his cousin Lot over the division of lands.
“When I read this, I think of the Middle East, and so I ask the Lord intensely that he give wisdom to all of us … to say let's not fight … the wisdom for peace,” the Pope said.
He concluded saying Abraham's response to God is a model for how each of us should walk the path of our lives.
“May the Lord give us, all of us, this desire to move forward, which Abraham had, in the midst of all his problems: to go forward with the confidence that he who called me, who promised me so many beautiful things, is with me.”
Washington D.C., Jun 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Noting significant threats to religious liberty in modern U.S. society, speakers at a recent national conference stressed that all faiths are threatened by restrictions on the freedom of believers.
“Religious freedom is a human right,” said Rev. Eugene F. Rivers, pastor of the Azusa Christian Community, at a recent conference in Washington, D.C.
He stated that “the black churches want to work with those who are serious about fighting” against all infringements upon religious freedom.
“We want to work with all of the religious communities around us, because we understand that there are lines that have to be drawn” in order to support religious freedom for all, he said.
Rivers was one of several panelists of various faith backgrounds who spoke last month at the National Religious Freedom Conference, sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program.
He warned that African-American churches have been threatened with losing tax exempt status for preaching against same-sex marriage.
“We as people of faith must understand that either party will now throw you under the bus,” he said, encouraging leaders who value religious liberty to band together to halt impositions upon religious freedom.
Other speakers pointed to religious liberty threats facing their own respective religious communities.
“Orthodox Christians are like the canaries you bring into the mine,” said the Very Rev. Chad Hatfield, chancellor of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminar. He explained that Eastern Orthodox have historically faced manipulation and persecution at the “hands of Caesar” throughout the world and even within recent United States history.
Amardeep Singh, director of programs for the Sikh Coalition, criticized a recent federal regulation addressing bullying because it does not name religious belief as a protected class under the new law. He noted that the Sikh community is particularly sensitive to this omission because of the violence and persecution faced by Sikhs in the United States.
Shaykha Reima Yosif, founder of the Al-Rawiya Foundation, a group aiming to empower Muslim Women through the arts, noted that many threats to religious liberty come not from government but from society itself.
“Because of the fact that I am easily identifiable, I am an easy target for harassment,” she noted, adding that apathy towards religious freedom “makes our work as faith leaders all the more important.”
Rabbi Abba Cohen, D.C. director of Agudath Israel of America, cautioned that “no faith group can abide the weakening of religious freedom.”
He pointed specifically to the threat posed by the controversial HHS mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraption, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
The greatest threat to religious freedom, he explained, center on the ongoing debate about “religion’s place in society.”
“We see now that religion is often treated with derision and ridicule, treated mockingly and sparingly,” he said.
Legislation to protect religious freedom is particularly important, he said, because “the law is a teacher” and hostile regulations create hostility, which then lead to more restrictive laws against religious freedom.
Elder Lance Wickman, emeritus general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stressed that “there need not be a conflict between differing conceptions of human dignity, but unfortunately, that is a conflict that is rearing its head.”
While historically, religious belief has been valued within society, he said, religious freedom has been portrayed in secular world lately “as something akin to a hobby” that is “less intrinsic to who we are” than other identities.
Instead, religious faith is portrayed “as a mere lifestyle choice,” and “a new closet is being constructed for traditional religious beliefs” within the public square, particularly on contentious public topics such as sexuality.
He warned that “every loss for religious freedom risks emboldening the state” and increasing its restrictions upon religion.
“The right to the freedom of religion requires more than the absence of totalitarian restrictions on the freedom of expression,” Elder Wickman said, emphasizing that people must be able to live their faith freely in society.